Daniel Kawczynski MP: BBC wrong to single out Poles
Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham and founder of Conservative Friends of Poland, criticises negative coverage of Polish immigrants.
On the BBC’s Question Time on 3rd April the writer and commentator, Rod Liddle, when discussing the recent House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee report into immigration, decided to focus on the role of ‘Polish plumbers and Polish waiters’ in driving down the wages of British workers. This is despite the fact that Poles are not the focus of the report, and are, in fact, only mentioned 5 times in all of its 84 pages. Former Labour MP, Clare Short, who was also on the panel, also kept her comments almost exclusively restricted to migrants from Eastern Europe. This is just the latest example from those on the Left of the unreasonable and ill-informed comment about Polish immigrants which has recently begun to circulate.
From Question Time to Panorama, these attacks on the Polish community in the UK have been particularly prevalent on the BBC. For the politically correct liberal elite who now realise that immigration is an issue which must be discussed, Poles are a soft target. Were the Pakistani or Chinese communities to be attacked in this way accusations about racism would be levelled against the BBC from bodies representing these communities. However, with no high-profile, national organisation to represent their interests, white Poles are constantly the target of reports about the problems of immigration. It is worrying to note the anecdotal evidence suggesting that there has been a rise in the number of racist attacks against Poles in the last year.
It is important to remember that the relationship between Poland and Britain is a strong and proud one, no more so than during the Second World War. In the Battle of Britain, around 150 Polish airmen flew with the RAF, and were responsible for an astonishing 12 per cent of total victories. Following their involvement during the War, many Poles settled in the UK, particularly in West London where they had been based. They opened businesses and integrated well into the local communities.
Now, if the BBC wants to talk about Polish immigrants, I’m more than happy for them to point out some of the actual facts about these hard working people coming to the UK for relatively short periods of time to work and to fill gaps in the labour market. According to evidence submitted by Dr Stephen Drinkwater of the University of Surrey to the House of Lords Select Committee, migrants from Poland have a higher employment rate than those from the other Eastern European countries which joined the EU in 2004, with 84.3 per cent in employment, compared to 73.1 per cent. When compared to migrants from non-EU, non-English speaking countries this rate looks even more favourable, with only 50.1 per cent of these migrants in work. The statistics also point to Poles working longer hours and for less pay than their counterparts from other countries. Whilst Rod Liddle and Clare Short might want to believe that Poles are stealing the jobs of British workers, we all know that there are certain, essential, jobs which the indigenous worker simply refuses to do.
The Polish Labour Force Survey suggests that 66 per cent of polish migrants to the UK in 2006, and 77 per cent of those coming in 2005 were short term migrants, i.e. they were staying for between 2 and 11 months. Despite coming here for short periods, Poles integrate well and contribute to their local communities. They also contribute substantially to the exchequer and their talent for entrepreneurialism has led to the opening of countless Polish businesses which have added to the rich variety of shops in high streets throughout the UK. Even Andrew Green of Migrationwatch has said that Poles are “cheap, flexible, over-qualified [and] motivated workers”.
Those working in the agriculture and construction industries are now beginning to grow concerned that shortly the tide will turn and large numbers of those who came over in 2004/05 will return home. As the Polish economy grows, and the exchange rate continues to worsen for Poles, fewer people will want to come to the UK, and I suspect we will see UK workers and businesses moving to Poland to work and invest in the growing country.
Unlimited immigration is, of course, wrong, but I think we have to bear in mind the facts when making comments about individual groups. Poles work hard and are, currently, essential to the operation of many businesses throughout the country. It is time the BBC focussed their attention on other groups who are less deserving of our hospitality, rather than picking an easy fight with our loyal and historic friends.
What the BBC fails to explain is that we have now reached a point where more Poles are returning home than are coming over and the tide has turned so that there are fewer and fewer Poles in the country as of the beginning of this year. When many of them have gone we will miss their hard work and contribution.