Monday, 9 January 2012

The 'curry house crisis' and British immigration policy

One of the worst elements of the Government's crude and completely unrealistic targets for non-EU immigration (to reduce it to below 100,000 a year by the end of this Parliament) is the effect this has on key parts of our economy.

Universities, of course, squeezed just at the moment when foreign students might be making up for the stagnation or fall in the numbers of home students put off by very high fees.

But also the food industry - a key part of British culture, as well as of its economic success. Want to know one of the key reasons why the British tourist industry is so successful? Yes, it's the different types of food one can get here - including the 'Indian' curries cosmopolitan French shoppers recently scrambled for at the re-opened Paris M&S.

The problem? New visa rules mean that only the top five per cent of all Asian chefs can now come to Britain to work. That's made it very, very difficult to get good staff - for Indian restaurants in particular. It's given rise to howls of pain and rage from across the industry.

Clearly it's important to train our own chefs, from across Britain's racially diverse culture. Many Further Education colleges have been trying to step into the breach - a gap of long-standing that's frustrated employers since the early years of this decade.

But will a more self-sustaining sector be achieved by a less skilful and less successful sector that starts from a lower base and is less productive to start off with? And can training pick up the slack caused by such a rapidly-imposed and arbitrary limit on skilled migration?

I don't think so.

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