So, the general election has come and gone, returning a large Conservative majority. On Thursday Her Majesty the Queen made her speech setting out the legislative programme for the coming year.
I would like to pick up on one point which, as far as I can make out, politicians and journalists regard as completely uncontroversial. The Conservative party manifesto (pages 21-22) promised an 'Australian style points based system' for immigration which will prioritise, among other things, people who 'have good education and qualifications', looking to attract also 'the entrepreneurs of the future who want to start great businesses here in the UK'. The Labour party manifesto promise on this point is broadly similar (page 70): 'Our immigration system must allow us to recruit the people we need, and to welcome them and their families. Our work visa system must fill any skills or labour shortages that arise.'
The commitment in the Queen's speech to implement this aspect of the Conservative manifesto gets only the briefest mention in Friday's edition of 'The Times' newspaper (page 8) with no associated commentary that I could find. And today's edition contains an editorial, commenting on the shortage of general practitioners (GPs), including, '[The Government] also needs to attract more [GPs] from abroad' (page 33), stated in a manner which implies there is no need for further discussion.
But I'm really uncomfortable with this. Firstly, why are we not recruiting, training and retaining the skilled professionals we need from within the country? Would this not imply that there is something wrong with the pay and conditions of such posts which needs urgent consideration? Should we not be highly embarrassed to be dependent on other countries in this manner?
Which raises other questions. Do we seriously imagine that the countries from which we're recruiting highly skilled professionals are in a position to be sparing them? Is it not grossly irresponsible for us, as a matter of national policy, to be inducing doctors, nurses and other professionals who have been trained at huge expense in their own countries then to come and work here? Does this not undermine work going on, by the Department for International Development, OXFAM and many other agencies, to work with other countries as they look to develop their economies and well-being of the population?
So, in the highly unlikely eventuality that Boris Johnson reads this, can I make some suggestions at the beginning of this new parliament. Firstly, let's regard our inability to be self-sufficient in the recruiting, training and retention of highly skilled professionals as a massive problem in need of urgent attention. But if we are to look to abroad for support from other countries which can ill-afford to be subsidising us, how about, over a period of time look to recompense the sending countries in accordance with the cost of training and lost work that having them here represents. Or, rather than having people coming here to work, instead put on practically based advanced training courses with a view to upskilling people to return to their own countries. We then get the extra help we need, the people involved are able to save some money from the increased salaries they will be paid compared to their own countries, they will return in a position to take up more senior posts to everybody's benefit. Whether this is a practical solution I don't know, but it's worth considering, isn't it?
Thank you for reading this far, aware that I've not yet engaged in the Christmas spirit but maybe will do so in my next blog post. As always, very interested to know what you think about what I've written. Merry Christmas!