Yet another jaw dropping response from the Government to a brilliant question posted by Lord Roberts of Llandudno yesterday in the House of Lords. The exchange (citation: HL Deb, 12 November 2013, c614):
Lord Roberts: "To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of recent analyses of the value of immigration to the United Kingdom economy; and whether they have any plans to revise their target to reduce net migration in response to those analyses."
Earl Attlee: "My Lords, the Government have made no official assessment of the recent analyses of the economic value of immigration to the UK economy. Each policy that influences immigration is assessed using the impact assessment process. The Government have a commitment to reduce net migration to tens of thousands by the end of this Parliament and believe that that will be achieved without an adverse impact on the economy."
Lord Roberts [reply]: "I think I thank the Minister for that Answer, but it is disappointing. It seems that the only real criterion that the Government have in dealing with immigration is in numbers, not in need. Do they have any other policy at all to tackle immigration positively? This morning a news item stated that 20,000 nurses were needed for the NHS. In north Wales I know of three general hospitals where a third of the consultants come from overseas. Is it not short-sighted to deal only in numbers and not look at this in a positive and long-term way?"
So there we have it. The Government lacks an official assessment about the economic value of immigration to the UK economy. Or you might say that it merely lacks an official assessment about only some "recent analyses" of this issue. But it is clear given the strong endorsement - perhaps mirroring praise - for certain analyses that demonstrated high costs (because these analyses failed to account for any benefits -- which is itself a major blunder for any purported "cost-benefit analysis" used in impact assessments as I noted elsewhere) by ministers that some within the Government clearly had a view about the validity of the numbers announced by them on several high visibility media engagements.
And now we now these numbers largely hypothetical, if not only false, and the Government never appeared to have an official assessment of figures all along. Call it the Politics of Beguilement.
All the Government can do is try to throw around more contested figures about net migration without any clear larger framework for how this policy fits into some larger vision. Or how this might simply make sense (which it doesn't).
It's time for the Government's policies on immigration to be called what they are: ill-thought nonsense.