Sunday, 17 November 2013

The age of consent

Apparently a barrister in a set of chambers known as Hardwicke (it used to be Hardwicke Building but decided to get trendy and have a single word title, perhaps paying pretend experts a lot of dosh for the idea) has suggested that the age of consent for sexual intercourse should be reduced to thirteen.  On reading of her suggestion I cast my mind back more than forty years and tried to remember what happened in terms of jiggy-jiggy among my classmates.  

It was not difficult to remember.  There were the religious ones, saving themselves for the person their god has chosen for them.  There were the demure ones for whom sexual activity was not appropriate at the time.  There were the ugly (and usually spotty) ones who had no chance whatever they might have desired.  And there were those who felt it right at the time to have a stab at it, or, as the case may be, receive a stab.  

Names could be named because those who "did it" at the age of 13 were known to be doing so, but nothing would be served by giving the names.  What matters is the truth of what was happening and why.  

The why is really simple.  They did it because they decided to do it.  They knew it was against the law but they felt it was right for them at the time.  I have no idea how many, if any, now regret those actions, what I do know is that those who did it were among the most self-assured and wordly-wise boys and girls in my year.  

Needless to say I was in the ugly and spotty category and had to wait several years to learn the inadequacy of my sensual performance.  

The barrister who spoke-out is called Barbara Hewson.  You can read a little about her here.   I know Barbara Hewson and I know Hardwicke very well.  Barbara is not a crank she is a highly intelligent woman and thoroughly practical.  She knows that teenagers will play the jiggy-jiggy game whether or not their parents or the law like it and suggests that it would be better for the law to reflect reality than for it to criminalise something that involves no abuse and will happen regardless of any outside influences intended to prevent it.  

Naturally the BBC has swooped on her expression of opinion and given tacit support to those who criticise it as a molesters' charter.  No doubt they believe there is a host of dirty old men currently suppressing their urge to seduce thirteen year-olds who would lose all inhibitions were the age of consent reduced by three years.  We have to be realistic, no doubt there are some in that position.  Currently they fail with sixteen year-olds and will fancy their chances with younger prey.  But why will they fancy their chances with younger prey?  It seems to me there is only one answer, namely that younger girls or boys will have less strength to resist their "grooming".  Since we have to be realistic it seems inevitable that this would be the case because that is how human being are.  Yet it does not justify teenagers who in fact consent to sexual activity being subject to criminal prosecution simply because the law decrees their consent to be inoperative.  

Perhaps studies have been conducted into the effect of previous reductions to the age of consent.  If so it is tolerably clear they have not produced alarming results or they would have been all over the press and I cannot recall reading anything of the sort. In particular the age of consent for male homosexual activity has been reduced from twenty-one to eighteen and then to sixteen within the last fifty years, each proposed reduction being met by howls of indignation from those who predicted an epidemic of middle-aged men in dirty macs inviting impressionable young boys back to view their etchings.  As far as I know nothing of the sort has happened, although it is inevitable that more approaches will have been made than before and that more will have succeeded, the numbers of such do not seem to have caused panic in the police so it might be reasonable to infer that no real problem arose.  

I think it important not to be too flippant about this issue.  It is easy to say that using the power of age to make a sexual conquest is not a problem because abuse of that power is a criminal offence and anyone doing so is liable to prosecution.  That is the case but prosecuting such matters is difficult because everything usually happens between the participants with no external witnesses and the young complainant is, rightly, subject to cross-examination in court that he or she is usually less able to deal with than the older defendant.  

Barbara Hewson raised a point that is a true dilemma.  How do we de-criminalise genuinely consensual sexual conduct between young people and, at the same time, maintain protection against the exploitative dirty mac brigade, however large or small their brigade is? 

That dilemma actually raises a a false dichotomy.  Preventing the young from being exploited by older people is a matter of effective enforcement of the law whereas de-criminalising consensual activity is a matter of the law reflecting what actually happens and will always happen and, I would suggest, harms neither of the parties involved.  

I do not believe there is a massive horde of dirty old men in dirty old macs just waiting for the age of consent to be lowered so they can realise their previously unfulfilled dream of a bit of teenage totty quivering beneath their flabby torsos.  

Look, your old pervs fall into three categories.  There are those, very few in number, who don't care about the law and try it on anytime they can, for them the age of consent is irrelevant.  In reality they are of the same mind-set as the rapist.  Then there are those who keep to the law and will try their luck with anything legal, for them the age of consent is important because it draws the line between legal and illegal.  And there are those who just fancy someone regardless of age and law, for them it is an emotional matter of the connection they have (or think they have) with the object of their desires.  The second and third categories would never force themselves on anyone although they might be a terrible nuisance.   

An age of consent is an arbitrary line.  There is an argument - the argument made by Barbara Hewson - that it should reflect what young people do these days.  That is the view to which I subscribe, although I know too little about young people today to say whether it should be sixteen, thirteen or lower.  The threat of the dirty mac brigade falls away once one realises that they will only get some legal jiggy-jiggy with the consent of the other person.  Indecent approaches will be made and some will succeed and leave the young recipient of their two inches slightly upset and very disappointed, against that must be weighed the young people who have sexual intercourse because they both want to.  It is difficult to understand that their consensual activity should be a crime. 

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Moronic Mess from Miliband the Millionaire Marxist

Those of us interested in matters political feel a strange compunction to listen to speeches uttered by those who might be in position to turn their desires into law.  Today it was the turn of Miliband the Millionaire Marxist.  Today he showed what commentators on the radio seemed to consider his true colours.  

The speech itself was actually quite interesting with a sickly amalgam of sentimental sob stories, prices and income policies straight out of HG Wells' time machine, a novel variation on British Jobs for British Workers, proposals to nationalise land and wholescale criticism of the very policies he personally supported and put to the British people at the last two general elections (and some which he helped to create as a Labour Party policy advisor in the election of 2001). 

How refreshing it would be to hear a senior politician say "We introduced a policy which didn't work, we took a lot of advice, considered it carefully and thought it would work but we were wrong.  We are very sorry for our mistake and understand what you are entitled to doubt our judgment.  Nonetheless we now put forward a different policy and ask you to consider it carefully".  But no, for Miliband his previous policies are all the fault of the current government and he is and always has been right.  This fundamental and transparent dishonesty is displayed by the leaders of both main parties, less so by the leader of the third party, but is shown in full measure by the leader of the fourth party (the current Deputy Prime Minister).  One day they will realise people see through them and laugh at their inability to admit they make errors of judgment - we all do it, usually several times a day, and the absurdity of these superannuated oafs pretending to be different does them no favours.  

At the core of every one of Miliband's policy initiatives announced today is the belief that government has magical powers to influence the private sector economy for the good.  Now it goes without saying that different people will have different ideas of what is "for the good", but my point is valid regardless of anyones opinions on that.  You see, I ask what government can do and it is the answer to that question that explains why magic has nothing to do with it.  The answer is obvious provided you start from the correct position.  

The private sector comprises businesses providing goods and services (usually but not necessarily for profit).  By definition these businesses incur costs in making their goods and services available and can continue in business only for so long as the selling price matches or exceeds all the costs (they can, of course, run at a loss for a while but will eventually have to fold when lines of financial support are exhausted).  A business that makes a profit can do various things with it - retain profits for investment with a view to expanding the business, pay a dividend to investors and/or a bonus to staff, retain it to provide a cash buffer in case things turn south, give it to the Battersea Dogs' Home and more. 

From that starting point it becomes clear that the only things government policies can affect are costs, selling prices and profits.  Don't get it wrong, don't think government can do anything that affects a business other than to influence costs, selling prices or profits.  It cannot.  

We had examples of policies intended to affect all three of these in Mr Miliband's speech.  

Small businesses are to be taxed less.  The idea is to reduce costs by reducing the amount of tax that must be paid as everyday overheads.  He promotes this as a benefit being provided to small businesses by his government.  It is nothing of the sort.  He is proposing reducing an impediment to business that the current government, and the government of which he was previously a part, impose on business.  

He said this is a way to create more jobs.  For once I agree with him.  If you reduce the costs of business the prospect of profit is increased and, inevitably, so is the prospect of that business expanding and taking on additional staff.  The same applies to all cost imposed by government as overheads - land taxes, employer's National Insurance contributions, VAT and countless regulations that require expenditure to be incurred (usually pointlessly) on monitoring compliance with random targets and standards that have no substance beyond the egotistical commands of single-issue bigots. 

For big businesses he wants to take more of their profits in tax.  No reduction in costs for them, jobs that might be created by reducing the costs of big businesses are of no interest to him.  To the Millionaire Marxist big business is just a cash cow, to be milked and punished to the fullest extent possible.  How ironic it is that his plans require the big businesses he despises so much to make the largest profits possible.  

Having said that, taxes that apply before sales are made increase the prices businesses have to charge to break even.  An example I have given before is of a furniture manufacturer that spends £50 on raw materials and £50 on labour to create a table, leaving aside other overheads the table cannot be sold at £100 to achieve break-even.  Because VAT at 20% will have to be added the sale price must be £120.  There might not be a market at that level, although there might be at £105 or £110.  If you get rid of VAT and tax profits instead the business has an increased chance of expanding and creating more jobs.  Get rid of land tax (business rates) as well and and pre-sale costs fall further.  I am all in favour of taxing profits and dispensing with all taxes that stress profit-margins.  

Mr Miliband has put on the metaphorical hat he bought when supporting the policies of East Germany in his youth and decreed that electricity and gas prices will be frozen for 20 months if he becomes Prime Minister.  

Give me strength. Government dictating sale prices of any goods or services is a truly desperate policy.  Some of us are old enough to remember the prices-and-incomes policies that formed a cross-party consensus in the 1960s and 1970s.  Lest anyone does not know how it operated, by law prices and incomes could only be increased by the maximum figure dictated by government.  Yes, you read that correctly.  No matter how much the cost of imported raw products increased, that increase could not be passed on to customers if it resulted in the finished product going up in price by more than the percentage the government decreed to be acceptable, the manufacturer had to bear the cost or go bust.  No matter how much more profit a business earned in one year compared to the last, employees could not be given a pay rise greater than the percentage decreed by government.  It was utterly mad.  

Yet Mr Miliband obviously thinks it wonderful because he wants to do it again.  The first basis on which he sold it is entirely meritworthy, he claimed to want to keep energy costs down for the little people.  So say all of us, except those who supported the appalling Climate Change Act 2008 that requires the cost of energy to rise again and again.  Oh hang on a moment, the Climate Change Act was the only major piece of legislation piloted through the House of Commons by a certain Marxist Millionaire called Miliband when he was in government.  No qualms about hitting the little people in the pocket then, so what has changed?  If what has changed is that he has become an honest politician he would want to repeal all parts of his own legislation that increase cost for Mr & Mrs Ordinary, but no.  He wants to punish energy companies because they make profits.  It is no more sophisticated than that, as he admitted when giving the second reason for this proposed policy.  

He does not understand profit - he doesn't need to because he and his slimy brother inherited a fortune through careful tax avoidance and has oiled his way onto the political gravy train so there is no need for him to understand anything about anything other than his own self-interest.  

The full consequences of freezing electricity and gas prices cannot be foreseen although some things are pretty obvious.  Prices are likely to rise in advance of the freeze at least to counter 20-months of inflation, investment by the energy companies is likely to be reduced because they will have less money to invest and the pressure for crippling price rises once the freeze is lifted will be difficult to resist since 20 months of investment activity will have to be caught-up as soon as possible to try to keep the lights on. 

The Labour Party professes the desire to seek full employment.  For decades their means of seeking this has been to increase tax and create public sector jobs of little or no value.  Despite that unemployment has been higher at the end of every Labour government than at the beginning.  The only realistic chance of increasing employment is by reducing government impediments to business - both taxes that increase day-to-day overheads and taxes that reduce the funds available for investment.  You cannot expect a Millionaire Marxist to understand that, and poor Mr Miliband is no exception.  

Monday, 6 August 2012

Saturday with Sir Mo

Saturday evening was rather good fun.  I went to a favourite local restaurant to watch the athletics because there seemed a decent chance it would be a good night for the Brits and best enjoyed in company.  

What was rather strange was that Miss Ennis's romp to triumph was met with smiles and a sense of inevitability, while Mr Rutherford's success in the leaping game caused an almost unanimous reaction of "never heard of him".  By marked contrast Mr Farah's long trot captivated people from the start.  The telly is in the bar area of a very large restaurant divided into a number of sections, a few minutes before the race started diners moved from their tables and crammed into the bar (I was eating at the bar - I've played this game before and guaranteed myself a prime seat).  As he accelerated to victory over the last three laps the atmosphere was quite frenetic.  Lots of "come-ons", "he's in control" and similar sentiments.  When Mr Farah (or Sir Mo as he must surely become if he can nail the 5,000 metre race as well) made his final move at about 200 yards from the tape people were cheering and shouting and even I abandoned my normal reserve by applauding as he crossed the line.  

There is something about running that excites people and there is something about Sir Mo that people like.  It cannot just be his silky smooth running style or the fact that he sometimes wins the most important races.  He does it all with a smile on his face and makes it clear to everyone how grateful he is for the support he receives, that cannot be it either because others do the same. Perhaps the secret to his popularity is that he came to this country as a youngster and was given a home free of the poverty, misery and violence that dominated his early years in Somalia.  Not for him moans about discrimination and attachment to the cult of victimhood, he tells us all how lucky he feels and how welcome he has been made here. He is married to a pudgy white girl and has a pudgy brown daughter.  He is just like a normal person with an engaging air of modesty about his extraordinary sporting achievements and we all enjoy someone like him being British and running for Britain.  

The greatest thing is that his dietary advisor has the surname Fudge.  

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

An Olympic Fuss over Nothing

I'm rather keen on a nice bit of sport and the Olympic games provide a nice bit of sport.  Yesterday afternoon it was a real pleasure to follow the gentlemen's artistic gymnastics team event final and see our boys win bronze then silver then bronze.  

Gymnastics is rather like athletics in that it can be understood by anyone.  We all have experience of running and jumping and are able to look at these events from a perspective of personal knowledge (for those unfortunate few not in this boat the raspberry games will follow the real sport in a couple of weeks).  That Louis Smith performing on the pommel horse bears no comparison to a short chubby schoolboy failing to do anything more than sit on one decades ago does not diminish my admiration for his efforts, indeed it is precisely why I admire them.  

I hate swimming.  It's the water.  Gets up your nose.  Very nasty and uncomfortable.  But a smile crosses the full width of my flabby jowls when I see magnificent athletes splashing through the pool faster than I can drive to Morrisons, especially when they are like that lovely girl Rebecca Adlington who reacted to being third (rather than first as she was four years ago) with the broadest possible grin and recognition that she had achieved something very rare by winning an Olympic medal.  

Unfortunately, exposure of the British public to the Olympic games is in the hands of the BBC so there is always an agenda lurking behind the coverage.  Commenting on the sports while they are taking place gives little leeway for even the BBC to promote its editorial policy so gaps in and between events have to be utilised and they have done extraordinarily well in their "empty seats" campaign.  It was evident in the first couple of days that a chunk of seats in prime locations were not occupied by spectators, this was most apparent during the qualifying competitions in gymnastics.  It really looked very shabby and disrespectful both to the competitors and to those who had applied for tickets and been unsuccessful.  

The BBC's editorial line was apparent from the off, big business had bought the seats for fat cats who were too busy eating babies to attend thereby depriving lesbian unpartnered mothers of what was rightly theirs.  An enquiry was demanded.  Of course when the enquiry took place it was discovered that the gaps were caused not by drunken indolence on the part of rich corporate sponsors but by members of the so-called "Olympic Family" not taking-up free tickets that had been made available for them.  It's their official title, not a piss-take by me, certain people involved in Olympic sports are categorised by the International Olympic Committee as members of the "Olympic Family".  Quite sickening.  

That seats are kept aside for those the organisers consider worthy of a free ticket does not rankle with me at all, it would be extraordinary and irrational if that didn't happen.  A long-deceased comic drunk and wife-beater is reputed to have once asked the Queen whether she likes football.  On her replying that she didn't he asked if he could have her tickets to the FA Cup Final.  As far as I can recall the Queen hasn't attended the Cup Final for a very long time but there would be a seat available if she wanted to, just as seats were found for Princes William and Harry at the gymnastics yesterday afternoon.  It is a relatively small extension of the same principle for seats to be left for those of importance in various national Olympic Committees.  If they don't take the seats there will be gaps.  It's not a tragedy, it's just a few empty seats.  

Having gaps where big-wigs could be sitting has been a common feature of major sporting events for as long as I can remember.  I've seen it in person at Wembley stadium, Wembley arena (the Empire Pool as it was known the first time I encountered the phenomenon), the Docklands Arena (which, I believe, no longer exists - it used to be opposite Asda on the Isle of Dogs) and even the Royal Albert Hall.  This time a big mistake was made.  Having those seats placed immediately in front of the main television cameras covering an event is novel.  Usually they are spread around the arena in little clumps or placed en masse behind the main cameras in order to avoid exactly the fuss over nothing that has so excited the BBC. Placing the non-existent big-wigs immediately in front of the cameras gives the impression of a stadium half-empty because only 15% of the crowd is accommodated within the main shot, when they switch to a camera showing the whole arena you see it packed to the gills and can hardly notice a little bald patch.  

I am really enjoying watching supreme athletes competing at the very highest level and also enjoying those trail-blazers who have no hope of finishing their race before the winners have had time for a shower and a three course meal.  Over the weekend the rowing events included a gentleman from Niger and a lady from Iran who trailed in long after their opponents and received justified rapturous applause for having the guts to turn up and do their best.  They are a much better story for the BBC than a few empty seats.  

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Let's not have a referendum

I suppose it should be mildly encouraging that the House of Commons is to debate and vote on whether there should be a referendum concerning the UK's membership of the European Union. The BBC informs me (here) that what will be debated is whether a referendum should be held giving the great British public three choices: (i) remaining in the EU, (ii) withdrawing from the EU and (iii) staying in but renegotiating the terms "in order to create a new relationship based on trade and cooperation".

My initial reaction was to wonder at the absurdity of offering three options. Nothing seems to be said about the proportion of votes required for any single option to be deemed the winner. Will it be more than one third or more than half? If the former it will lack legitimacy, if the latter it will set a very high hurdle for each option. 40% for staying in, 30% for withdrawal and 30% for renegotiation could be contrued as 70% for staying in but trying to change the unchangeable or as 60% for changing the status quo without any obligation on government to do anything about it. Either way it is completely unsatisfactory.

My second reaction was to ask whether there is any difference between the first and third options and, indeed, between the second and third options.

Staying in does not prevent renegotiation of the terms of membership, so option (iii) (if acted on by the government) merely adds a requirement to enter negotiations. What it cannot do is dictate the outcome of those negotiations because, by definition, negotiations only lead to a change if all parties to the discussion agree on a specific outcome. As I understand it an outcome in favour of option (iii) would not require the government to do anything, although it would be bad politics for them not to make at least a token gesture of trying to change the terms of EU membership. And even if they were constitutionally obliged to negotiate that would not guarantee any particular result.

Leaving the EU cannot take place in a vacuum. The UK has numerous trade treaties with countries around the globe, absent such treaties practical business cannot be conducted and just those sorts of treaties will be required if we are to deal in a sensible manner with the remaining EU nations. Withdrawal from the EU necessarily requires new treaties to be negotiated with the new, slightly smaller, EU because country-by-country treaties with EU members are not an option - the EU as a conglomerate has control over such matters. In other words, withdrawal will require negotiation "in order to create a new relationship based on trade and cooperation" - so what of option (iii)?

The terms proposed for a referendum look like a hopeless and confused committee-created fudge. A referendum on the terms proposed is likely to achieve only one thing, namely to kick the issue into the long grass for the foreseeable future. Only a straight in/out question is appropriate.

Friday, 30 September 2011

80mph? Oh no, the planet is at risk.

The government has suggested that the national maximum speed limit might be increased from 70 mph to 80 mph in two years' time, in the interim they propose a consultation exercise. Whether the outcome will be a change in the maximum permissible speed of motorcars on our roads is pretty much irrelevant to me. I have held an unblemished driving licence for decades and will not knowingly exceed a speed limit because I want it to remain unblemished. Consider me a boring prig if you will, but I prefer to live within the law whether or not I agree with it.

Today on my way back from a hack around the golf course I heard an item on this issue on BBC Radio 5 (actually not so much of a hack, I went round in 78 gross on a par 72 course, something went wrong with my usual ineffectual sporting technique - I only throw this in because I'm very proud of it and will almost certainly never do it again).

A number of statements issued by people and organisations involved in the motoring business were read and a few people were interviewed, including a former racing driver and the current Secretary of State for Transport. Some supported the proposal, some opposed it and some said it was necessary to investigate the likely consequences before changing the law. Fair enough.

What was not fair enough was that almost all contributors, including the Secretary of State, said a relevant consideration was the effect of an increase in the maximum lawful speed of motor cars on British roads on the amount of carbon dioxide exuded into the atmosphere.

It really is quite flabbergasting that the anti-carbon dioxide religion has taken hold to such an extent that a minor change in the law of England, Wales and (I believe) Northern Ireland should be thought to have a potential impact on emissions of CO2 that can be of relevance to the well-being of our planet and/or human life on our planet.

The UK (including Scotland which is in charge of speed limits through its own so-called Parliament and is unaffected by the proposed change) produces less than 2% of all carbon dioxide spewed forth by human activity. Traffic on roads carrying a speed limit lower than 70 mph will not be affected by the proposal and not all those travelling on roads to which the national speed limit applies will drive faster and spew more CO2 as a result of the maximum permissible speed being 80 rather than 70.

Against that background it is obvious beyond doubt that any additional CO2 coming from those cars that will be driven at higher speeds because of the proposed change will be such a small amount that it can make no difference to anything. It will be a small percentage (if, indeed it even reaches 1%) of the less than 2% of world emissions coming from the UK.

You can close down all human activity in the UK and the result will not have any measurable effect on the climate. Even if we accept the very direst predictions of those who claim additional human-produced carbon dioxide will cause great changes to the climate and that those changes will be detrimental to human existence, the removal of the 2% currently produced by the UK cannot affect matters to a measurable degree because other countries (especially China and India) are increasing their emissions by far more every year.

To take a proposal that might increase the UK's emissions by a tiny amount and seek to include that effect as a consideration that should affect the decision to accept or reject the proposal is, frankly, moronic.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

An Immigration Fraud

Immigration is a curious issue in British politics. Twenty and more years ago it was a core issue about which senior politicians would debate vigorously on national television and gain headlines in newspapers. Today there is the occasional soundbite but nothing more than that. All parties say they will be strict on abuses of the system but put forward nothing other than generalisations about how they will do it. When the party in power changes, nothing of any real substance ever seems to change.

In one important respect there is nothing any UK government can do because citizens of member States of the European Union have an almost unfettered right to come to this country. In another important respect there is nothing they should do because genuine refugees from the grimmer areas of human habitation must always be given a safe haven.

The point of today's waffle is something called the Ankara Agreement (for a summary of the parts that matter for present purposes, see here). One provision of the agreement allows Turks to apply for permission to enter and work in the UK if they intend to establish a business and show they have the financial means to do so. It is important to understand that an applicant who meets the criteria will be given the right to come and work here, there is no residual discretion to refuse an application that ticks all the boxes. What is required of an applicant is the intention to set-up a business and the money necessary to do so. The whole thing is about allowing in entrepreneurs, joining an existing business or working for a new business set-up by someone else is outside the Agreement. One might think very few people would qualify.

A whole industry has grown up around this aspect of the Ankara Agreement. There are firms of so-called immigration consultants who formulate applications for anyone who will pay them a fee.

These firms have template business plans they print-out with little or no amendment for scores of applicants. It goes without saying that the applicants are almost exclusively young men. One business plan that has been doing the rounds is the establishment of a bicycle taxi service in the West End of London. This was devised by one of the consultancy firms and has formed the basis of applications for permission to stay in the UK by dozens of men who came initially on student visas. It should be no surprise to anyone with a smidgen of common sense that most of them were not genuine students at all, they were the nephews (or sons of friends) of Turkish people already settled here and came to be part of their established businesses. They signed on as students at a language college of greater or lesser repute and worked in the uncle's (or father's friend's) restaurant or shop and then wanted to find a way to stay here when the period of their student visa was due to expire. From the beginning they came here to work and establish a life rather than to study, the student visa was simply a means to an end.

The Ankara Agreement is also treated as a means to an end. Recently I met a friend of a friend who used the bogus bicycle taxi business plan and was refused permission to stay because the judge saw through the scam. The applicant himself was disappointed but not surprised, he knew his intention was to continue working in his uncle's restaurant in the midlands and that he would rather smear his scrotum with toothpaste than operate a bicycle taxi. He knew the application was a scam, took his chance and lost.

I know others who have been given leave to live and work here under the Ankara Agreement despite having no intention at all to set-up their own business. Some just want to live a western life rather than a repressive Islamic life, others simply want to avoid national service in the Turkish army, most want both.

When discussing this topic with local Turks it is obvious that there is no desire to harm the UK behind the fraudulent applications that are made. There is no intention to scrounge benefits or to engage in criminal activity, the intention is simply to come here, work hard and make a life in the UK rather than in Turkey. A few days ago the excellent Mr Raedwald wrote about the Turks (here), his piece encouraged me to write on the subject because his positive view of Turks is the same as mine.

In the normal run of things I would be inclined to denounce systematic fraud of the type behind the hundreds of bogus applications made under the Ankara Agreement each year. I find it hard to denounce people who come here under student visas to see whether life here will suit them and, when they decide it will, want to find a way to remain so that they can earn an honest living. Of course there is a conflict between the honest lives they want to lead and the dishonest means they use to secure a right to remain here. It could be said that they do not want to lead honest lives at all because the lies told in their applications show them to be seriously dishonest. I understand that argument entirely and part of me agrees with it, the other part of me asks why people who want to work for a living should not be allowed to do so. Although their applications are fundamentally fraudulent they are not intended to harm anyone and, as far as I can tell, they do not harm anyone.

Until a few weeks ago I had never heard of the Ankara Agreement. Since then I have been talking to a number of local Turks I have known for years, what they told me about the way the Ankara Agreement has been used for decades accorded exactly with the way it was used by people whose applications were recently allowed or refused and who allowed me to look at the paperwork. Some of it was quite astonishing, particularly the successful application of one man who applied on the basis he was planning to start a website design business when he has worked as a waiter in a Turkish restaurant since he came here two years ago and still does the same job today. He just wanted to stay here and continue his life here, the alternative was at least a year in the army followed by starting from scratch. He was lucky, his bogus application succeeded. Frankly, this country is better for having him here because he is good at what he does and benefits the business that pays him. It sould surprise no one that a Turkish restaurant keeps its customers happier by having good Turkish waiters rather than employing Wayne or Jermaine, why should there be any obstruction to a good Turkish waiter living here so that he can provide that service?

The Ankara Agreement induces fraudulent applications because it establishes an avenue for people from one culture to live a new life in a more appealing culture. Indeed, so appealing is the new culture that a whole business has developed around finding ways to use the opportunity provided by the Agreement. It is a massive fraud.

A better course would be to allow everyone in provided they pay their way - no benefits, no right to housing, no hand-outs. Earn your way or go home. The young Turks wouldn't be going home in a hurry.