Within a week of the Vague Film Club’s homage to Brief Encounter at Carnforth, at least twenty Chinese cocklers drowned in Morecambe Bay, with the first body washed up at Silverdale where we had taken our walk. More bodies may yet be found, in what ranks as the UK’s most serious accident at work in many years. All who drowned were illegal immigrants who endured the most horrific working conditions.
One might think that a Labour government would be particularly shamed that such a thing could happen on its watch. Yet it seems that nothing could be further from the truth with ministers unable to agree responsibility for designing measures to prevent a re-occurrence, and one admitting that parliament may not have time to pass a law to control gang masters like those responsible here.
With the British economy at near full employment and no sign of a recession, and the birth rate too low to maintain the population, economics and demographics will continue to ensure we import workers. Yet our immigration policy is based on the hysteria of a right wing media. We should be looking at George Bush’s solution and giving illegal immigrants the right to work as soon as they arrive. Then they wouldn’t need gang masters to protect them from the authorities, would receive the benefits of a minimum wage and reduced working hours. And our economy would legitimately enjoy the benefits of their labour.