Barlow's Beef: It's time to be honest about immigration


Immigration is a topic on everyone's lips but impossible to discuss with objectivity. Any suggestion of a meaningful immigration policy triggers outbursts of indignation and accusations of xenophobia.

Business leaders continually assert that any control would stifle their ability to recruit the 'right staff.' Whilst it's true key management are often recruited from oversees the 'right staff' to which they allude are often desperate individuals prepared to work under whatever conditions employers dictate.

Last month a car wash franchise operating on a local Tesco site was investigated by the BBC Inside Out programme revealing their Romanian workers earned half the minimum wage.

A large national retailer with huge UK warehousing facilities has been under fire by MP's for operating 'Dickensian' standards of employment amongst staff many of whom are immigrants.

Can we dispense with this hypocrisy and recognise that these so-called 'businesses' would simply not exist were it not for the exploitation of migrant labour.

Do we really need these companies? If they can't compete offering decent working conditions and a living wage they should close. Are we so desperate for a cheap car wash that we condone paying poor desperate souls £3.63 an hour?

Of course we need to do our share of caring for those in need but net immigration of 330,000 a year means a new city the size of Bristol every 18 months which is clearly unsustainable.

Apart from a few zealots no one wants to close our borders completely but we do need a sensible well-managed immigration policy and we have not had a government of any persuasion that has proved anything but totally inept.

It's this lack of credibility that fuels public distrust especially in those communities struggling to cope. It's fine for the chattering classes to spout open-door theories whilst their own children attend good schools and BUPA picks up the slack. It may not be so fine if they were to share the burden.

It's weird don't you think that we hear so much from those whose lives are relatively untouched by immigration and so little from those living with it?

We have thousands of hard working responsible immigrants now residing in the UK surely their opinions and those of their communities would be more informative than the sanctimonious babble we hear via the media.

Perhaps during refurbishment Parliament could move to one of those struggling communities and gain a better sense of perspective on the immigration issue?

The host town/city would receive a huge financial boost and MP's would gain first-hand experience.

Everyone's a winner.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of

Barlow's Beef, Vic Barlow


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Bob Bracegirdle
Tuesday 25th October 2016 at 11:31 am
You need to discuss the 330,000 figure for a start. Next stop fomenting wars that displace people just for oil profits.
Vic Barlow
Tuesday 25th October 2016 at 12:01 pm
'Formenting wars that displace people is definitely the major issue.

Have the Billions we have spent on Iraq and Afghanistan made the world a safer place?

Answers on a postcard to Mr Tony Blair (Envoy for Peace!)
Graham Nicholson
Tuesday 25th October 2016 at 9:17 pm
As Vic exhorts us to be honest about immigration perhaps we ought to be a bit more careful and balanced in our analysis. Vic does say that the subject is difficult, and I agree - there are many sides to it. Vic has chosen to concentrate on the minority of immigrants who are 'desperate' and work for a pittance in basic jobs. Actually the considerable majority of the immigrants including those from Europe are educated and skilled and make a very positive contribution. I was in an NHS hospital today and it was clear that from consultants down it could not operate without them. The same is true for other industries such as construction, agriculture, education, social care and transport.

Look at the demographics: the population aged 65 and over has grown by 47% since mid-1974 to nearly 18% of the total population in mid-2014. The median age has increased from 34 to 40. The birth rate per UK woman is now 1.8 - below replacement level. Without immigration of young, capable people our society and economy will be heading for a shaky and arthritic future.

There is clearly not 'a new city the size of Bristol every 18 months'. The immigrants spread out across the country, going particularly where there are jobs to be filled. Even at the high current level the new immigrants represent an additional 0.5% population a year. Sure, some places have attracted many immigrants and a wise policy would be to channel the extra tax and NI receipts they generate to expand schools and hospitals and other services in those areas.

I trust Vic won't brand me as one of the 'chattering classes' or my comments as 'outbursts of indignation' . Just trying to discuss this, Vic, with the some objectivity.
Gary Thomas
Wednesday 26th October 2016 at 8:37 am
Finding an immigration policy that the country can agree upon is going to be difficult as different geographic areas, age groups, economic and political classes seem to be split down the middle. Agreeing the causes of immigration and understanding them would be a start. Why do businesses claim difficulty finding the people they need? Is it just lower paid jobs or are there shortages across the board? Is it historical under-investment in doctors, nurses, health care workers, scientists, engineers as well as apprenticeships? Are people really unwilling to do lower paid jobs in agriculture, hotels, construction, healthcare and so on? The ONS shows London with the greatest skills shortages and the highest net migration at 107,000 followed by the South East. However, Scotland, Wales and the North East seem to have the lowest, with Northern Ireland in the middle. Perhaps London is the best place for Parliament, although Birmingham or Manchester would provide a welcome alternative. Businesses that break the law and exploit migrants by paying below the minimum age are really an issue for our legal system, although I can see that this would remove jobs that locals might otherwise take.
Vic Barlow
Wednesday 26th October 2016 at 1:42 pm
No problem Graham appreciate your input.
We have a good discussion going on here. Be interesting to get contributions from communities most affected by the immigration issue. Clearly we aren't one of those so our comments are somewhat theoretical.
Harry Martin
Tuesday 1st November 2016 at 5:04 pm
I am wondering how London would run without people who weren't willing to work for the min wage.Take cleaners , retail workers .At least in a bar or restaurant you get tips but many cannot afford to work for £7.20 per hour and live close to the city so in come foreigners who are poorly housed -something us Brits just wouldn't put up with .
Most have such mixed feelings .Happy to watch Premier league football or be treated by a foreign medic but sneer at anyone else .
Look at the new housing being built nearby .
Who on the min wage could even afford a 3 bedder in Woodford ?