Illegal policy is all the whistleblower's fault

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The Independent Online

That was being caught to rights with a terrible bang. The Home Office must be reeling backwards reaching for its brain.

A young immigration processor has revealed that his office has been running its own, independent immigration policy. Would-be immigrants from the accession countries have merely to say they are setting up a business, write a business plan on a sheet of A4 with the words "plumber", and "Target market: people who need plumbing" and they are approved for entry.

This is very shocking. As the Ministry of Defence's job is to attack foreign countries, and the National Health Service makes people sick, so the Immigration Service's job is to keep immigrants out, not let them in. Ministers were astounded. Beverley Hughes told us she'd been working all Sunday to try to get to the bottom of it. She was against it, by the way. But why? This practice would provide great support to the Government. Ninety-eight per cent of Eastern European applications were being approved. This would brilliantly conceal any surge in numbers come May (when citizens of the new EU members will be allowed to come here to work as a matter of course).

"I refute categorically that it was to reduce immigration levels by 1 May," Ms Hughes said, confirming that it was to reduce immigration levels by 1 May.

The Liberal Democrat MP David Heath used his bulk to make the best point. The whistleblower's documents were genuine. The practice he exposed was a scandal. The poor fellow had been prevented from meeting the minister by his managers and had tried to inform the minister by sending her an e-mail two months ago. The practice he exposed was unconstitutional, contrary to the Civil Service charter, and possibly illegal - and yet it was he who'd been suspended! The most important thing Ms Hughes wanted to impress on us was that it wasn't her fault. None of them had any idea it was going on. Neither ministers nor senior managers. No, it was a "local guidance". The fact that local autonomy is Labour's Next Big Idea needn't detain us.

Mr Heath also pointed out that the Lib Dems had questioned her about this very case in the middle of last year but they had got no answer. They got no answer this time either.

The Conservative MP David Heathcoat-Amory suggested that the House had accepted her figures (between 5,000 and 13,000 immigrants from Eastern Europe a year) but that it had probably been misled. Ms Hughes said it was an isolated case. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't.

And that's the large, almost philosophical point that comes out of this: it's not that politicians lie, it's that they don't know if they are telling the truth. They perceive the world through statistics that have been processed by collaborators who are more or less "subconsciously influenced" to manufacture the required facts. Everything from the inflation index to waiting lists is derived from data ontologically perverted by the political process.

Anyway: the department will hold its inquiry. No one will be blamed - not ministers, not department heads, not the senior manager who devised the policy. The whistleblower, of course, has had it.