Responding to the Government’s “consultation” on “earned citizenship”; simultaneously, banging head against rock

In Governmental stupidity, Politics on Saturday 22nd August, 2009 by Guy

After the recent passing of the Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Bill — already the eighth or so immigration law passed since 1997, and during its passage a lovely example of Bismarck’s attributed quotation concerning laws and sausages — the Government is now, in its usual kind concern for the well-being of everyone, canvassing opinions on what to do next. You see, even eight or so immigration laws isn’t enough, because they promised earlier on to have a Super-Duper Immigration Simplification Bill! And the BICB certainly didn’t simplify much, including as it does provisions such as:

(8) In paragraph (d) of that sub-paragraph—

(a) for “1(2)(d)” substitute “1(2)(f)”, and

(b) for “period there mentioned” substitute “qualifying period”.

At least the citizenship part of the Act version of the Bill (Part 2, if you’re counting) is so complicated that it prompted the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association to say of it,

This Part is also testimony to how, without consolidation, clauses are so unintelligible on their face that any scrutiny requires an advanced degree in immigration and nationality law.

So good going all round there on the simplification front. And so now more time has to be spent on writing and passing another law. Hence the need for “consultation”. Maybe I’m getting cynical at my young age, but I’m pretty sure the Government would skip this consultation step if there wasn’t a law somewhere that they had to have it. I’ll explain why I think this in a moment / a few paragraphs (please delete as appropriate, but don’t damage your computer screen).

The consultation documents are available at the Home Office website. It’s as full of guff as you might expect. One prime idea they’re “consulting” on is (from the Executive Summary):

28. A further means to promote integration might be for local authorities to run orientation days for migrants, to provide information about local services and resources to help them integrate more quickly. This would also deliver benefits for the local authority by providing data about newcomers to the area. Orientation days could be either voluntary or compulsory, and could be linked to a points test for citizenship. We would expect local authorities to recover their costs by charging for attending orientation events.

We would welcome views on whether orientation days should be introduced and how they should be organised – including whether they should be compulsory and whether they should attract points.

My view is that it’s an idiotic idea and a waste of everyone’s time, and that a compulsory orientation day that must be paid for by the immigrant is ripe for abuse, as well as being immoral. But why should my view matter? What are the criteria by which submissions are judged worthy or otherwise? Except to the extent they agree with the Government’s position already, of course.

But you are all fired up either way and want to tell them exactly what you think about their proposals, and being tech-savvy, you opt to “Respond to the consultation online”, only to be confronted with this. “This” is an online questionnaire run by…! They are the refuge of every social sciences graduate student who needs some data, and fast. They are free up to 100 responses, beyond which they can cost up to $200 a year. This is the kind of efficient government I like to see, except… surveymonkey is based in the US. No, I’m not protectionist at all, but I am worried about data privacy. Data protection are utterly different in America than in the UK (or indeed the EU in general), and yet here our political opinions are being sent across the Atlantic without so much as warning as to the consequences.

And now for the justification of my earlier cynicism regarding why this “consultation” is only so much a waste of everyone’s time and that the Government will only draw conclusions that it would have anyway. Consider the very first question of the survey — I mean, “consultation” — and the possible responses:

1. Do you agree that we should operate a flexible system that allows us to control the number of migrants progressing to probationary citizenship?
* Yes
* No
* Don’t know
If no, why not?

First, the question is put in terms of an agreement with the Government’s position, rather than just asking straight about the consultee’s opinion. Secondly, the biased language: who would be against a “flexible system”? Only crazy ideologues.

But lastly and most crazily: They only ask “why” you answered a particular way if you answered that you don’t agree with them. Just, wow.

Suffice to say I didn’t send my pointless response to HMG and the CIA. Instead I just pointlessly wrote about it here. But ceteris parabus, Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi!


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