In Defence of Liberty

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Curries and Conundrums


Contrary to popular beliefs, curries require skill. (Edited: Wikimedia Commons)

Sometimes, the lines between politics and satire can dissolve. During a House of Commons debate on 9th December 2015, Dr Rupa Huq MP (Labour, Ealing Central and Acton) asked the Chancellor about the “curry crisis” [1]:

They are a great British institution and earn billions for our economy, so I am sure the Chancellor will share my concern that two curry houses a week are closing due to Government policies and the fact that the proposed specialist colleges have failed. As a fan himself, will he review the situation? He once likened the elements of a strong economy to those of a good curry, so will he take action to head off the coming curry crisis?

The Chancellor, George Osborne MP (Conservative, Tatton), replied to this question:

We all enjoy a great British curry, but we want the curry chefs to be trained in Britain so that we can provide jobs for people here in this country. That is what our immigration controls provide.

This has been compared to Rowan Atkinson’s Not the Nine O’Clock News sketch, satirising a conference speech:

I like curry, but now that we’ve got the recipe, is there any need for them to stay?

(Video: Red Cubed)

“Raised its projections”

This was an unfortunate turn of phrase from the Conservative Chancellor, whose fiscal strategy is predicated upon high net migration into Britain. These changes to the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts was summarised in the Guardian [2]:

The OBR has raised its projections for inward migration twice this year. Eight months ago, its projection went from 105,000 people a year to 165,000. The figure was revised again to 185,000 as part of the OBR’s economic and fiscal outlook published alongside Osborne’s spending review and autumn statement last week.

As a result of the extra jobs and tax incomes, and changes to the composition of the UK’s working-age population, generated by the influx, the OBR has revised up the level of potential economic output for the UK by 0.9%.

The constant demand is for authenticity and high quality in our foods. The Raj in Chippenham reached the national final of the Tiffin Cup, an annual British competion to find the best South Asian restaurant [3]. There are many successful restaurants and curry houses across Britain, relying on immigration to open and expand.


Michelle Donelan MP (Conservative, Chippenham) held a public vote to find the best restaurant.

“Restaurants without chefs”

A curry is more than a recipe, and requires knowledge and expertise to innovate on. A pizza from a standard restaurant may bear little resemblance in taste to one cooked in Rome.

Whilst net migration into Britain remains high, unskilled immigration from outside the European Union has been greatly restricted. The dearth of curry chefs is being caused, in part, by government policy. As Isabelle Fraser reported in the Telegraph [4]:

This crisis is due in part to the retirement of the original wave of immigrants in the 1970s who set up curry houses.

But the industry is also suffering due to immigration which make it difficult to bring chefs to the UK from abroad.

The government puts a cap on skilled migrants coming from outside the EU, and they must earn at least £29,570 – £5,000 more than the average salary for such a job.

In a further bind, these skilled workers cannot work in a restaurant that also does takeaway food. It takes up to seven years to train a curry chef.

There has also been a failure to attract young people already in Britain into becoming curry chefs, potentially due to current pay levels. Pasha Khandaker, the President of the Bangladesh Caterers Association, concluded: “Now the industry is in a mess – you simply can’t run restaurants without chefs.”

Whilst the similarity between George Osborne and Rowan Atkinson may raise laughs, the conundrum facing British curry houses is not so humorous.


[1] UK Parliament, 2015. House of Commons Hansard Debates for 09 Dec 2015 (pt 0001). Available from: [Accessed: 7th February 2016]

[2] Nardelli, A., 2015. Osborne reliant on immigration levels to achieve budget surplus. The Guardian. Available from: [Accessed: 7th February 2016]

[3] Lawton, A., 2015. Raj restaurant in Chippenham reaches national final at House of Commons. Gazette & Herald. Available from: [Accessed: 7th February 2016]

[4] Fraser, I., 2015. British curry houses in crisis due to lack of chefs. The Telegraph. Available from: [Accessed: 7th February 2016]



This entry was posted on February 26, 2016 by in National Politics and tagged , , , .
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