Comings And Goings
The debate about illegal immigration into the UK having led us into a seemingly impenetrable thicket, many people may be relieved to note that the matter was recently referred to that prince of puzzlers, Sir Bertram Utterside, former professor of social studies at one of our top seats of learning. Not for the first time, the arch-arbiter interrupted one of his breaks from intense cerebration to deal with this pressing issue. He gave it short shrift, as his comments below confirm:
Let me start by addressing the feverish media speculation concerning the origin of my brief. The newshounds may make their guesses, but I am in the same position as certain other professionals, in that I must respect client confidentiality. What I can say is that the solution to this supposed problem is simplicity itself, the only complication being that the statistics are unclear. However, that is not important, as the principle is the same over a wide range.
My researchers tell me that estimates of unauthorised UK residents vary from a trivial level to the allegedly significant one of about 400,000. This is a side-issue, as the method I suggest would be valid for all practical purposes. I will take a middling figure of 200,000. After all, the government picks its numbers out of the air, so why shouldn’t I?
Despite the lamentable record of the Home Office in keeping track of such things, I am prepared to accept that that authority will manage to trace the shadowy types I have in mind. Then what? It’s simple. We need to corral these people by offering them an amnesty, conditional on their joining a new body. Draft dodgers would have to be caught and summarily expelled. Anyone who suspects that I have not thought this through might care to note the strictures I propose, which are as follows:
Those taking advantage of the scheme would be offered secure employment as overseers at our points of entry – not only harbours and airports, but all inlets around the coast – their work being to intercept unapproved incomers, for whom they would arrange immediate deportation. The main condition would be that any infractions by the officers would result in graduated punishments, on the ground of negligence. I envisage a quota system, under which those not nabbing a fair share would face their own expulsion. I advocate this way of encouraging compliance, as it rests on the ‘I’m all right, Jack’ mindset – usually a powerful incentive.
In order to avoid nepotistic ‘oversights’, members of the new force might need further inducement to do their work efficiently. There would be an economical answer to this. Still thinking of a strength of 200,000, I suggest that we pay each of them a basic £20,000 a year, plus bonuses for those showing the zeal necessary to apprehend numbers above a given level. The annual cost of rather over £4bn. would amount to less than half of one per cent of GDP – surely a fair price.
I mention in passing that our population is a little over 60 million. and that life expectancy here is around seventy-five years. Though I do not have our mortality figures to hand, it is no great feat to calculate that by natural attrition we lose annually about four times as many people as would be employed in the proposed service. Therefore, any possible increase in our number through unlawful immigration could not be significant.
This is all I have to say in answer to what is hardly a taxing question. However, I hope readers will not mind my stating that I received quite a lot of mail following my recent paper concerning the jailing of miscreants. Happily, and I venture to suggest predictably, the response was overwhelmingly supportive, but there were several letters containing adverse comments, including one which I would like to mention here. I will not reveal the writer’s identity – you know who you are, sir – but would say this: I shall write to you in detail, but please note now that you do not appear to grasp the difference between rebuttal and refutation. Let me clarify that the former is simply a statement that a given proposition is wrong, while the latter proves it to be so. You have offered no proof, but merely what is commonly called a gut reaction. Well, you are about to receive a thirty-six-pounder just below the centre of your main yard arm, and we shall then see how you cope with a hundred feet of large-diameter timber athwart your beam and a ton or two of uncontrolled canvas flapping around your gunports. I hope the nautical analogy is not beyond you.
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