A labour market economist and King’s College London professor has been named the interim chair of the Migration Advisory Committee, the independent body that advises the Home Office on immigration policy.
Professor Brian Bell, who has been a member of the MAC for just over two years, is a professor in KCL’s King’s Business School. He has also worked for both the International Monetary Fund and the Bank of England.
Before moving to KCL in January 2017, Bell spent four years as an associate professor in the University of Oxford’s Department of Economics. His academic research focuses on wages and inequality, and on the economics of crime, and he has published papers on the links between immigration and crime and the progress of immigrants in the UK labour market.
Previously he was an economist for the IMF in Washington, DC and a senior economist for the Bank of England. He has also spent time as a trader for a number of hedge funds and investment banks in London.
He succeeds Professor Alan Manning, who stepped down in January. after just over three years as chair of the committee. His three-year tenure was due to finish in October, but was extended while the MAC completed a report on the UK’s post-Brexit immigration policy plans.
The report recommended a number of changes to the Home Office’s plans, including the raising of salary thresholds for prospective migrants with job offers and for an end to talk of an “Australian-style” points system, which the MAC dismissed as a meaningless “soundbite”.
The Home Office did adopt the MAC’s recommendations on salary thresholds but has retained plans for a points-based system, a policy paper published in February showed.
The MAC has since been tasked with refreshing the “shortage occupation list” that it produces for the department, of jobs requiring more workers. It will present its proposals to the Home Office in September. Jobs on the existing list include chefs, speech and language therapists, veterinarians and secondary-school teachers.
Recruitment for Manning’s permanent replacement is underway, according to the Governance Code on Public Appointments. A job advert for the £40,000-a-year post went live in January.