This week's big questions: Does immigration policy make sense? Was the Daily Mail wrong?

This week's questions answered by Oxford Professor and author Paul Collier


What would be the consequences if Ukip’s policies on immigration were implemented?

As far as I can see, Ukip want a five-year “freeze” on immigration. I do not know what a “freeze” would mean in practice. Quite aside from legal issues, it could not possibly mean zero immigration. As I say in Exodus, we should greatly expand the inflow of foreign students studying here, since this is beneficial all round. Closing it down would wreck our universities. Skilled migrants stimulate innovation and ease bottlenecks, so closing this down suddenly would damage the economy.

However, reducing it gradually may well make sense because British employers have done too little training of young workers. Employing ready-trained foreigners has been too easy. This extends beyond the technical skills to the health sector. It is ridiculous that an advanced society such as our own is dependent on doctors from desperately poor countries such as Sudan.

A final comment on Ukip. That a quarter of English voters chose to waste their vote on this upstart party tells us that, however ineptly, it is trying to address concerns that are very widely shared.


Do the immigration policies of any UK political party currently make moral or economic sense?

I don’t think so. Conservative policies seem to be reactive to the threat from Ukip and the tabloids; Labour policies when it was in power were frankly cavalier:  it decontrolled migration in much the same way it decontrolled the financial sector. Now it seems to be in a muddle of hesitant repentance.

Underlying this, policies are so inept, inappropriate and changeable because they are not based on any analytic and ethical foundations. That is what I try to provide in Exodus.


Is David Cameron right to ringfence Britain’s foreign aid budget?

Rather heroically, both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats made a commitment at the election to raise the aid budget. Having done this, there is a strong case for sticking to it. Governments need to build credibility by doing what they said they would do.

Fortunately, the aid budget is only a tiny part of public spending, and so it is feasible to ring-fence it, and the Department for International Development is a well-run ministry: it has become the global role model. Aid money is being well-spent and has a multiplier in influencing other aid agencies. Many young people are proud of what Britain is doing on development, and this is worth a lot.


Should Britain repeal its Human Rights Act, as the Conservatives are threatening to do after the next election?

Human rights have been one of the big advances of the last half-century. However, I am anxious that lawyers are manipulating European human rights law in a way not intended and actually detrimental. I have seen what lawyers have done in the fields of corporate tax avoidance and money laundering: they chipped away at reasonable interpretations and gradually eroded them. I wonder whether something analogous has started to happen with European law.

As I write, the tragedy of the boat full of migrants in Lampedusa is just unfolding. Why do hopeful young people from Eritrea spend their accumulated family savings on buying a ticket from Tunisian criminals to end up drowned and burnt? It is because one of the absurdities of European human rights law privileges them if only they can put a foot on any European territory. This is not to say that Britain should withdraw from the Human Rights Act, but it does suggest that it is an ill-considered piece of legislation that needs rethinking.


Was the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson correct to suggest that Britain might benefit from global warming?

With climate change what matters is not what will happen but what might happen. We don’t know what will happen, but we do know that the outside risks from climate change are alarming and so it is sensible to head them off. Panglossian speculation that Britain might benefit misses this essential point, but does probably succeed in further confusing people.


What are the implications of the decline in the memberships of political parties?

It is worrying because it hands the selection of political leaders to a fundamentalist fringe in each party which then gets reflected in their leadership and policies.

The Conservative Party had two rounds of self-indulgence before it finally conceded that it should choose someone acceptable to the centre. Labour members have already had one round of self-indulgence, compounded by an indefensible voting system, and we look to be stuck with its result because Labour is slow to dump bad leaders.


Was the Daily Mail wrong to call Ed Miliband’s father “a man who hated Britain”?

Trying to brand Ed as somehow foreign was ridiculous and debasing. He does seem to have been heavily influenced by his father, and I think his father’s views were seriously misguided. But they chimed perfectly with an entirely British strand of Marxist thinking.

Of course, the subtext of the innuendo is that Ed is Jewish, and that is contemptible. I am particularly sensitive to such stuff because my grandfather was a victim of a racist media attack far more vicious, direct, and effective than the Daily Mail’s effort.


Paul Collier is Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Oxford. His latest book, ‘Exodus: Immigration and Multiculturalism in the 21st Century’ is published by Allen LanePaul Collier is Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Oxford. His latest book, ‘Exodus: Immigration and Multiculturalism in the 21st Century’ is published by Allen Lane

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

QA/BA - Agile

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently seekin...

PPA Supply Teachers

£121 - £142 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Early Years, KS1 & 2 Prima...

Primary Supply Teacher

£121 - £142 per annum: Randstad Education Luton: Early Years, KS1 & 2 Prim...

Primary Supply Teacher

£121 - £142 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Primary supply teacher Hertford...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron gives his keynote speech to the Conservative party conference in Birmingham  

Conservative Party Conference: Here's what David Cameron said in his speech…and what he meant

John Rentoul

Ebola virus in the US: How did the disease ever spread this far?

Sophie Harman
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?