With the Conservative leadership election now settled, and mercifully quickly, we have a new PM in Rishi Sunak. We can get back to normal and deal with important issues such as the channel migrant debacle, cost of living pressures, tax and spending.
These are big issues requiring a solution. I hope to find myself in agreement with my government on all issues but I may well have something to say if the Autumn Statement (another mini-budget) on 17th November looks like a path to more tax. I’m not going to cry before I’m hurt, but I maintain there are spending ‘cuts’ which are preferable to additional taxes, not least cuts which are actually nothing of the sort – that is government procuring goods and services better and cheaper, making sure that fraud is rooted out and recovered and taking a serious look at the layers of bureaucratic jobs across all departments with a sober consideration as to whether all are truly necessary or desirable. This isn’t an attack on the Civil Service; many could put their ample skills to better use in the productive private sector. We must never forget that every public sector salary and future pension provision has to be paid for out of the profits and tax receipts generated in the private one.
The government department that could deliver huge budget savings is the DWP. Despite the Governor of the Bank of England doing his best to talk the country into a recession, there are still over a million unfilled jobs available; Kent has more vacancies than available applicants. Rather than reach for the easy fix of simply importing new workers via work visas, it must be a more elegant solution to encourage UK workers to take a job or do a few more hours in existing ones. There are 5.3m across the country on Jobseekers Allowance or Universal Credit. If a tougher approach was taken, which is not unreasonable, the costs of such ongoing support would diminish and there’d be more money in people’s pockets which would be a beneficial growth measure.
The dominant issue this week is the migrant crisis. The Manston processing centre, now back to a semblance of normality, had been overwhelmed because of the volume of arrivals by dinghy and the decant of 700 from the Dover centre in the wake of the firebomb attack. It’s all very well the usual suspects huffing and puffing but if they have a plan to spirit out of thin air thousands of new beds overnight I’d be pleased to hear of it.
Accommodating these people came closer to home over the weekend with an outsourced company, Clearsprings, appointed by the Home Office, taking over the old Christ Church University student accommodation in Broadstairs and allocating it to asylum accommodation. This has obviously caused local concern.
I’m very unhappy about it, situated as it is close to numerous schools and in a residential area. There is some uncertainty as to whether the building has appropriate planning consents for this use, which is being pursued. This chaotic situation has to stop. French authorities could stop the beach launchings, stopping the people traffickers lucrative trade and preventing the inevitable loss of life that we’ll see again over the winter. Seeking asylum is not a shopping choice, a claim should be made in the first available safe country of which claimants will have travelled through many on the way to the UK. The new dynamic of Albanians making up the biggest single cohort this year, now 12,000, is beyond bizarre. I don’t understand how a refugee claim can be made by citizens from an EU applicant country, NATO member and member of the Council of Europe. Both Germany and Sweden refuse such applications.
All European countries use the same framework of the 1951 Refugee Conventions and the European Convention on Human Rights. Why is our interpretation leading to a higher number of successful asylum claims, some five times higher than EU countries? The Home Secretary needs to act to close loopholes, and urgently.
I take part in many political Q&A sessions. I was impressed with the knowledge and depth of questioning at such a session with the 6th Ramsgate Royal Harbour Sea Scouts. Many questions were related to climate change and energy, which must indicate what is being taught in schools. All very relevant at the time of the COP27 conference in Egypt. My interpretation of these annual jamborees is that they are a waste of time, especially as China and India are not in attendance, and the easiest CO2 saving would be for them to take place, if they must, online.