The Immigration debate stinks, says Des Mclaughlin

There’s no two ways about it. Some of the stuff I hear and read on immigration really gets up my nose. That’s right, it stinks.

The hospitality sector in the UK thrives on migrant workers. In both a professional and personal capacity my best experiences seem to be consistently delivered by those who were not born here.

I start my day with coffee from Artisan cafe around the corner served by helpful, friendly Australians. I get my lunch from Pret a Manger, often served by East Europeans who are always charming and polite. And when the wife and I go out to dinner, the best restaurant in the area is Enoteca Turi – staffed exclusively by Italians who really know their food. I suppose I could still have an ‘English’ experience if I went to the local fish & chip shop, but it does not to look that appetising. The other bastion of Englishness in the area, The Wimpy, fortunately closed a long time ago.

It’s not just the hospitality sector that relies on our overseas workforce. In a recent live debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage, Clegg reminded the audience that the NHS would collapse overnight if the UK “pulled up the drawbridge”. He also reported that migrants made a net contribution of £22bn between 2001 and 2011 to the country through taxes. Yes, they take jobs, but as we know only too well in the hotel industry, these are often ones that the British worker doesn’t seem to want.

Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors, hit the nail on the head at a recent debate in a City of London forum hosted by the Evening Standard when he claimed the welfare state put Britons off applying for lower-paid jobs. It’s as straightforward as this, he explained: “The reason that every Cafe Nero and Starbucks in London tends to employ foreigners is not because they are choosing to employ foreigners, it’s because young British people don’t apply”.

Many born outside of the UK see the hospitality industry as a worthy career. They take pride in providing excellent service and contributing positively to society. Contrarily, our ’job seekers’ largely hold the bizarre view that employment as a waiter is beneath them and the pay doesn’t match their deluded demands.

We absolutely need migrants if our industry is to function. In the extremely unlikely event that our welfare state was abolished, we would simply be faced with a new set of challenges, such as whether those that now needed to work, were educated enough to do so.

Thank God then for immigration!

Any comments? Email jdavis@mashmedia.net

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Conference News hosts great guests on its pages. Our Blog section is the collection of the best opinions in the UK and international events industry.

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