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10 October 2011

Cameron’s bizarre immigration speech

The PM's odd plan to crackdown on migrant sponsors.

By George Eaton

David Cameron is making something of a habit of rewriting his speeches. Last week, he hastily withdrew his politically insensitive and economically illiterate call for people to pay off their credit cards, now, ahead of his speech on immigration at 1pm, he has abandoned plans to require all firms to publish a list of migrants working for them (an attempt to shame companies into taking on more “indigenous labour”).

At a time when the government is ostensibly cutting red tape, the proposal was rightly opposed by industry as a unnecessary regulatory burden. But even with this last-minute revision, there are still plenty of odd passages in the speech.

For instance, according to the Guardian, he will warn that of 500 family migration cases checked, more than 70 per cent of UK-based sponsors had post-tax earnings of less than £20,000 a year. He will add: “When the income level of the sponsor is this low, there is an obvious risk that the migrants and their family will become a significant burden on the welfare system and the taxpayer.” In response, the Migration Advisory Committee will look at the case for “increasing the minimum level for appropriate maintenance.”

Yet as Cameron may or may not be aware, the median wage in this country is £26,000, meaning that most people have a post-tax income of little more than £20,000 [net take-home pay for someone on £26,000 is £19,811.48]. If Cameron really believes that anyone earning this much is at risk of becoming a “significant burden” on the taxpayer shouldn’t his government be doing more to boost real incomes? Since it is not, the suspicion remains that this is merely a poor excuse for another crackdown.

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The PM’s doomed attempt to reduce net migration to “tens of thousands” a year is yet another example of a government policy that strangles growth rather than encouraging it.