Sunday, 30 November 2008

I’m inside so shut the door

I was saddened to read comments today by the Indian-born entrepreneur Sir Gulam Noon.

According to the Daily Mail, the “controversial Labour donor” has called for a ten year ban on immigration to the United Kingdom so as to give time for the current immigrant population to settle in and integrate and to make sure that there are enough jobs to go around.

In his modestly titled autobiography, Noon, with a View: Courage and Integrity, the so called ‘Curry King’ writes “Bluntly, I think we are self-sufficient now. We should wait for five or ten years, until all the newcomers have been properly integrated and assimilated into the country. Until then we should just shut the door.”

This is a shame, as Noon is a perfect example the benefits of immigration to the UK economy and society. Arriving in 1966 with just £50 in his pocket, he has since made a fortune of £65m, employed thousands of people and satisfied many thousand more customers. He has contributed hugely to the economy and (through taxation) to the funding of public services. A few more Noons (Labour donations notwithstanding) would be welcome.

However, it a sad example of double-standards, he would now seek to deny that opportunity to other would-be immigrants and entrepreneurs.

His thinking is clearly flawed, resting on common errors such as the idea that the UK is ‘full’ (we in fact have far lower population density that the Netherlands, Belgium or Taiwan and approximately the same as Germany) or that there are only so many jobs to go round.

He also cites the rise of the British National(ist) Party as an example of the dangers of “disturb[ing] the balance and upset[ing] the … host community”, as though those fascist thugs represented mainstream opinion. Sadly, his comments are more likely to play into their hands – I can already imagine them reproducing his words on their literature.

The truth is that the quantity of work available in an economy adjusts with demand, so that the more people one admits the more work is needed. Of course it would be harmful to the economy if immigrants did not work, but the suggestion that immigrants arrive to take advantage of our welfare state and live I life of idleness is simply not born out by evidence. Many immigrants pay several thousands of pounds to reach the UK, which they would hardly do just for the privilege of living off £60 a week.

There is a regrettable tendency among some immigrants to wish to close the door after them, stemming the competition from the next wave of immigration. It seems that Sir Gulam has decided to throw his lot in with those who oppose immigration even though he is himself a prime example of how it benefits the UK . It is both ignorant and hypocritical.


James Schneider said...

Very well said. I always find it bizarre, yet totally explicable, why immigrants often don't support more immigration.

dreamingspire said...

UK may have the population density that you state, but I remember reading that England has the highest population density in Europe.
Interestingly, I hear that Wales is on line to issue bus passes to 20% of its 3M population, Scotland has already issued them to at least 20% of its 5M, while England expects (once the London Freedom Pass holders can join the scheme) to issue them to 16% of its 51M.

John said...

This discussion is so 1980s. You seem to have no idea of the scale of immigration since 1997. British population growth is a disgrace, it represents 30% of the population growth in Europe. We are no longer talking about whether we are pro or anti diversity, immigration is now at a level where it is fuelling such population growth that it is endangering the lives of our children. You seem to forget that Britain can only sustain 40 million people from its own resources so any truly major economic downturn or even medium scale climatic change may kill large numbers of of your fellow British. Supporting further immigration into the UK is not rational.

See ONS Predicted Population of Britain

Tom Papworth said...

Nice to see that my articles are still being read, three years after they were written.

John, "The scale of immigration since 1997" represents an increase of just 6.6 per cent over 13 years. That's hardly catastrophic. Over the same period between 1960 and 1973 the population of the UK rose by 7.35 per cent and we coped perfectly well.

See World Bank, World Development Indicators.

The idea that "population growth ... is endangering the lives of our children" and that "Britain can only sustain 40 million people from its own resources" is melodramatic, uneconomic and unscientific.

Firstly, "the UK" no more needs to "sustain people from its own resources" than does England or London or Tottenham. These areas trade with other areas, exchanging goods and services for mutual benefit. That's the division of labour, which many Greens seem to object to but which is the foundation of human civilisation.

Secondly, the extent to which "Britain can only sustain 40 million people" depends on human ingenuity. Just as with the agricultural revolution of the C18th and the "Green Revolution" of the 1960s, human innovation can and will improve our productivity.

I'm sorry if you think this discussion is "so 1980s", but it's better than a discussion that's "so 1790s".