Letters: Cost of emigration

Rising tide of people leaving the UK costs business many millions
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The Independent Online

Sir: Nigel Morris's article "Migration watch" (16 November) revealed some startling trends about the UK population leaving these shores, but perhaps fell short in discussing what that means in real terms.

Research by prospects.co.uk in the spring of this year reveals a cost of £7,000 per staff member leaving. The cost of phasing out the outgoing staff member and replacing them quickly adds up. If, as the Office of National Statistics states, 600 people are emigrating each day then, assuming these people were employed, this means British business is footing a bill of over £1.5bn annually to counter the effects of that outbound flow.

As a removals firm that specialises in domestic, business and international relocations, we have first-hand experience of how these numbers are rising. In the second quarter of 2007, our overseas moves were up 24 per cent over those in the first quarter, and bookings for July to September were more than 75 per cent higher than the previous two quarters combined.

Year-on-year to date, overseas moves are so far 12 per cent higher than for the similar period in 2006.

Grant Bishop

International Director, Bishop's MoveChessington, Surrey

Sir: Adrian West (letter, 20 November) is not qualified to sit in judgement on British expats. I am one of those who left because, after a year of trying, no one I approached in the UK was prepared to give me a job. Just about the first German employer I approached took me like a shot. I have since moved to France.

What I have found since are countries which are more free and more democratic than the UK. The quality of life, too, is considerably better. My employers trust me to get on with my job without continually looking over my shoulder to be sure I don't make some sort of mistake. I am not constantly snubbed because I don't have the right accent.

Apart from France being a far better place to live, it is much the same as the UK; the difference is a language. Those unable to master that usually leave; the rest of us just get on with our lives.

Terence Hollingworth

Blagnac, France

'Free speech' debate at the Oxford Union

Sir: Though you say "free speech also means listening to what you don't want to hear" (leading article, 24 November), you appear to be trying to have it both ways, by questioning the motives of the Oxford Union and by traducing the past of its president. I hold no brief for Tories either but, like controversial speakers, they need to be exposed to debate and required to justify their views. Luke Tryl has done so, with rather more dignity than his detractors. He may actually be starting to grow up, which would make him nigh on unique in the history of past presidents.

The cause of free speech (and intelligent debate) is strengthened by making the holders of distasteful opinions justify them and prove them in debate, not by wailing, "This is wrong; they must not be heard".

Neither Irving nor Griffin will succeed in changing the minds of any of their listeners; their views are repellent and lightweight. It is the puerility and intellectual sterility of the naysayers, the "right-on" approach of those who cancelled their appearances, that is most offensive and damaging.

Adam Walker

Framwellgate Moor, Durham

Sir: Luke Tryl, president of the Oxford Union, may refer to himself as "the last bastion of free speech" (letter, 24 November) but the invitation to Nick Griffin and David Irving to speak at the Union amounts to little other than intellectual entertainment and the legitimisation and promotion of fringe racist views.

David Irving, a discredited historian and a falsifier of history, as described by a High Court judge in 2000, has repeatedly tried through the courts to deny freedom of speech to individuals who have criticised him. Griffin is a fringe politician who seems to respect the freedom of only people he deems fit in his narrow view of Britishness. How all this qualifies them to speak at one of the world's most revered educational institutions on freedom of speech baffles me.

The best vehicle for challenging racism and Holocaust denial is through educating future generations about the lessons of the Holocaust, not by giving a voice to those who seek to renounce it. Mr Tryl should think about the consequences of his actions.

Karen Pollock

Chief Executive, Holocaust Educational Trust, London WC1

Sir: I hope the threatened violence does not materialise. As a life member of the Oxford Union, I support the decision to invite David Irving and Nick Griffin to debate their views. Those who advocate boycotts, utter veiled threats or organise angry demonstrations play right into their hands. Imprisoning them makes them into martyrs.

The best way to deal with such people is simultaneously lampooning them and demolishing their arguments. Those who suggest that the Union should have ignored the existence of the BNP haven't read their history. Nearly 80 years ago, many Germans discounted Hitler and tried to ignore him.

I D Craddock


Sir: The Union of Jewish Students cannot believe the insensitivity shown by the Oxford Union, who seem more concerned about cheap publicity than the offence caused to hundreds of members from minority backgrounds. Jewish students should not be made to feel unsafe and uncomfortable at their own university simply for the sake of entertaining the membership of the Oxford Union. The president has made a grave error by pushing welfare, security and his own minority members to one side for the sake of a night's disgusting entertainment.

Yair Zivan

Campaigns Director, Union of Jewish Students, London N1

Sir: While in no way condoning the repellent fascism and bigotry of Nick Griffin and David Irving, it is crucial for any self-respecting democracy that they should not be prohibited from addressing the Oxford Union, provided that compelling options are also presented.

Not only is it their fundamental prerogative in terms of British legislation, but they are also entitled to voice their obnoxious bile according to Islam's transcendent text. The Holy Qur'an makes it incontrovertible that all people have the legitimate right to choose their own path and perspectives in life (2:256; 10:99; 18:29; 109:6;etc).

It is a total fallacy that pristine Islam denies the vital principle of freedom of speech. Our progressive Oxford organisation has always endorsed the concept of undiluted free speech. Either there is free speech for everyone or there is free speech for no one. Today, abhorrent right-wing racists are targeted. Who will be proscribed tomorrow?

Dr Taj Hargey

Chairman, Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford

Sir: Please leave the Oxford Union alone. Surely our brightest and best can be trusted to deal with a pair of pathetic right-wing cavemen. Anyway, they are students; they have a right to be annoying. It's their job.

Robbie Jones


Cut the criminal cost of addiction

Sir: It comes as absolutely no surprise that acquisitive crime and purchasing of "street" heroin have dropped significantly in the trial "shooting gallery" schemes (report, 20 November).

I would not hesitate to implement this approach nationally, and as quickly as possible. Here in Birkenhead (known as "Smack City" in the 1980s) we have lived with heroin-related crime and street dealing for as long as I can remember. Liverpool University's research in the late 1980s concluded that acquisitive crime was the only significant impact that long-term heroin users had on the wider community. Removing the need to pay for street heroin through ill-gotten means is now proven to reduce such crime. Those who doubt this link should come and see the shutters, window bars and alarms on virtually every shop and business in Birkenhead.

Bring on the full roll-out, but let's stop using the term "shooting galleries"; that's way too scary for Middle England.

Paul Johnson

Birkenhead, Merseyside

The Branson bid for Northern Rock

Sir: David Prosser's report (26 November) of the Virgin bid for Northern Rock says: "Shareholders plan to take action to protect the value of their holdings".

Unless their intention is to pump more money into the company, it is difficult to see what "action" shareholders can take. The law permits individuals to subscribe to shares in a limited company on the understanding that they can never lose more than the value of those shares. That limits an investor's potential loss. But there is no legal provision for guaranteeing a free lunch.

Terry Eaton

Milton under Wychwood, Oxfordshire

Sir: Having started his entrepreneurial career selling records from school, is Sir Richard Branson now about to realise his ultimate dream of being a Rock star?

Robert Whiting

Newbury, Berkshire

Careless? Not in signing warrants

Sir: Just what does J Carne (letter, 21 November) think a judge or magistrate can do to be less "careless" when granting a search or entry warrant. Invariably, the telephone rings at 3am and a voice says, "I'm sorry to wake you sir, but Special Branch have a warrant application under the Terrorism Act and say they can't wait until court tomorrow".

Shivering in your dressing-gown, you assemble these tough young men and women around the dining-room table. There is a sense of great urgency.

"We have reason to believe ..."

"What reasons, which sources?"

"Well-known and trusted sources whom we cannot identify, sir, as you will understand."

"Why do you need a warrant etc ...?"

"Entry would be denied, evidence destroyed, risk of escape etc ..."

You ask many more questions. ("Are there children involved?" So forward steps a uniformed woman PC). Eventually you have to decide whether to grant or refuse the warrant.

Judicially, what reasons do you have for refusing? How can you check that the address is correct? That the occupants are as stated? That the information laid before you, on oath, is correct?

Thankfully, I have retired, but, please, J Carne, tell today's judges and magistrates how to be less "careless" when hearing such warrant applications.

David Greenwell JP

Cirencester, Gloucestershire

Asylum-seekers need a future

Sir: Meltem Avcil spent her 14th birthday last week in hospital undergoing mental health assessments after a failed deportation attempt from Yarl's Wood detention centre ("Two pictures of the UK's brutal asylum policy", 21 November). Visiting the centre that day with a European Parliament delegation was a sobering experience.

The removal centre for women and families has relatively good facilities, including a creche, schooling, on-site nurses and an in-house social worker. But detention will likely have long-term psychological effects on children.

When families are well-established in the UK and children have no significant ties to other countries, as in Meltem's case, what purpose is served by deporting them? With the countries to which they were to be sent often refusing to take them, people can be confined in limbo.

I believe the children and their families, who have remained here contributing to society for many years, should be allowed to become full citizens. As such, they would have the protection of the law and the possibility of a stable future.

Jean Lambert MEP

(Green, London), Brussels

Back again?

Sir: The expression "back-to-back" derives, I imagine, from back-to-back housing (letter, 26 November). It is a useful addition to the language; what other usage so succinctly conveys the sense of "immediately consecutive, without intervening hiatus"? Back-to-front meetings are the ones which start with Any Other Business and end by agreeing the agenda.

Rob Churchill

Worthing, West Sussex

Light-bulb dangers

Sir: Your article "Not such a bright idea" (22 November) overlooks the health implications of the phasing-out of incandescent light-bulbs. Thousands of people will be unable to use electric light in their homes, visit family and friends, or have access to employment and public services. They are those with light-sensitive conditions including lupus, polymorphic light eruption and Xeroderma pigmentosum, who often suffer severe reactions to fluorescent lighting. Provision must be made to ensure this group still has access to traditional light-bulbs.

Andrew Langford

Chief Executive, Skin Care Campaign, London N19

Cheers, America

Sir: The observation by the judges of "The 50 Best Beers" (The Information, 24 November) that the US is a "beer graveyard" is a disservice to the truth. There are some 1,200 craft breweries in the country, producing some spectacular beers. To choose Michelob Lager produced by global giant Anheuser-Busch is an insult to such craft beers as Brooklyn Lager, Goose Island IPA and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, all available in Britain.

Roger Protz

St Albans, hertfordshire

Give Paris a miss

Sir: I am baffled why anyone going to Marseilles should want to go via Paris (Traveller, 24 November). For the past decade, I have been taking the (Brussels-bound) Eurostar to Lille International. There you go up the escalator or lift to the café for a delicious baguette or pastry, keeping your eye on the departure board above your head. When your train is announced, you go back down the escalator to the platform indicated and get on the train to Marseilles, or anywhere south. It couldn't be easier. You can even go to Italy.

Jane Burlinson

London SE24

China lost, too

Sir: Amid all the fuss about England's failure to qualify for next year's European Football Championship, no one appears to have considered the cost to the Chinese economy. Now there'll be no call for the tacky England flags patriotic Englishmen and women attach to their Japanese, Korean and German cars every two years.

Tym Honeybone

Doncaster, Yorkshire