ES Views: Major is right - immigration has not hurt the economy

Changing times: immigration to the UK increased to a third of a million last year

I read with weary disappointment Melanie McDonagh’s column [“Sir John’s Brexit bashing had just one major flaw”, February 28].

Instead of trying to understand Sir John Major’s carefully balanced and thoughtful speech at Chatham House, she repeats the immigration rhetoric Brexiteers wheel out when confronted with reason.

Forget the complex, amorphous thing that we call the economy which even analysts find hard to fathom — for some people, because immigration has increased but living standards have not, immigrants must be to blame.

This is wrong — disposable incomes have stagnated for decades and there has not been enough house-building. As a result, housing costs have risen dramatically.

Immigration rose after 2004 with the admission of Eastern European countries to the EU and then again following the financial crisis. However, even with relatively high immigration in the past two years, unemployment has fallen.

Sir John was right to say it is the economy and other areas such as underfunding of education and healthcare that are the cause of our shared unhappiness. Rather than vent our anger on immigrants, why not focus on these areas instead?
Andrew Haslam-Jones

Earlier this year, Theresa May spoke about “making Brexit a success”. But what would make it so? It would not be simply exiting the EU.

Leaving without a trade deal would have a damaging effect on our current trade in cars, financial services, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, while there could be more austerity measures and further devaluation in the pound. Would this be regarded as successful?

Perhaps this is something we have to wait for when, in 10 years’ time, our GDP has recovered to where we were predicted to have been in three years within in the EU?

Without clear criteria, “making Brexit a success” is as empty and misleading a statement as “Brexit means Brexit”.
Mike Snowden


Keep water clean in poorer nations

Boris Johnson is spot on when he says giving girls an education is key to helping developing countries help themselves [“The world would be a better place if all girls went to school”, February 27]. One crucial factor that needs to be addressed is ensuring every household and every school has access to clean water and toilets.

Women and girls must collect the water in nearly three-quarters of households in developing countries, leaving them little time to go to school. Those who do attend often drop out when they hit puberty due to the lack of safe and private toilets.

WaterAid has been working with the UK Government in poorer nations to improve access to water, toilets and information on menstruation. Such projects not only help transform the lives of girls but whole communities.
Barbara Frost, chief executive, WaterAid


Afghans need our long-term support

Sarah Sands’s article [“Will Afghanistan ever escape being a pawn in the Great Game?”, February 28] reminds us that conflicts do not cease when the “captains and kings” depart.

The lesson of what happened when the Russians left Afghanistan should be sobering enough. Most of its combat forces left in 1989 but it still backed the Najubullah regime until 1992. It was the collapse of the Soviet Union and demands from the West that it stop supporting Najibullah that led to his fall in 1994, allowing the Taliban to seize power in 1996.

We should therefore support the Afghans for a generation if necessary. The lives of our soldiers lost there demand nothing less.
Simon Diggins


We must use our libraries if we are to keep them open

When I was told Charing Cross Library was “about to be closed”, a flurry of protesting emails and concerned calls ensued. Located on the edge of Chinatown, this library is home to the largest collection of Chinese books in the UK.

Spurred into action, I went there on Sunday and signed up for a library card to show my support. During my visit, however, I found that the rumours were untrue. Yet I reflected it was only because of the false rumour that I took the trouble to discover the extraordinary resources of our local library.

Our usual instinct is to spring into action only when public services are under threat, but they are under threat often because we do not value them. So I want to thank Westminster City Council for maintaining this amazing resource and to urge fellow Londoners, especially from the Chinese community, to use it so we can continue to keep it.
Lady Xuelin Bates

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Barbecues do not cause air pollution

Having spent my career working for environmental NGOs and children’s charities, I take London’s air pollution levels very seriously. As the Evening Standard’s excellent campaign has shown, we are risking our health by not tackling this issue.

That is why it is so infuriating to see some campaigners who live around Highbury Field hijack this vital issue for their own ends. This group is trying to use air pollution as an excuse because they don’t want people to use barbecues in the area — barbecues are not a serious cause of air pollution.

To exploit one of the greatest threats to Londoners’ lives for selfish reasons is shameful, and local politicians should treat their arguments with contempt.
Alastair Harper

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