20 June 2012

Theresa May slams City critics

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The Home Secretary Theresa May has rebuffed comments made by British businesses that the Coalition's immigration restrictions are hurting the UK's international reputation.

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The City of London Corporation criticised Theresa May's immigration changes.

Immigration was a major factor in the Conservative's election campaign in 2010; accusing Labour of having lax immigration policies, the Conservatives promised to reduce net migration figures from approximately 250,000 to the 'tens of thousands' by the time of the next general election.

In line with this, the Home Office, led by the Home Secretary Theresa May and Immigration Minister Damian Green, has made substantial changes to immigration policies which have ostensibly been to tackle abuse of the system, but which have left many claiming the measures are too far.

The changes have so far included annual limits on the number of foreign workers who can enter the country each year in certain occupations, an extension on waiting periods before foreign citizens can apply for settlement, a proposed limit on Intra Company Transfers and salary thresholds on British citizens wanting to bring in a foreign partner.

However, businesses feel these changes limit the ability to bring in highly skilled foreign workers who can help companies expand, contribute better to the British economy, create jobs for British citizens and improve the country's international reputation.

The City of London Corporation, which represents many of London's leading banks, said this month that the Coalition's rules make it harder for companies to bring in the talent they need and are 'giving the impression that we aren't open for business'.

The Liberal Democrats are also uncomfortable with the Conservative's policies and several ministers have criticised their Coalition partners for their tough approach, comments which have reportedly been echoed, albeit privately, by certain Conservative ministers.

Doubts increased last month when the Office for National Figures (ONS) published the latest UK immigration figures which showed that net migration had decreased by just 3,000, and even remained higher than two years previously.

Yet the Government remained bullish in the face of such criticism and the apparent lack of progress, claiming the effect of the rule changes will be felt slowly and promising further changes.

And now Mrs May has spoken out against City critics, saying the rules do not inhibit businesses as the changes still leave plenty of scope for businesses to bring in foreign workers; she accused businesses of fostering the negative impression they are complaining of.

"They are sending a negative message," said Mrs May from Westminster. "They should be doing their bit to show we're open for business as well."

Last month Foreign Secretary William Hague said British businesses should 'work harder' to promote their businesses and services around the world rather than taking it for granted that foreign workers would want to come to the UK and blaming immigration caps for their inability to do so.

The Home Secretary said the Tier 2 visa route for skilled workers which businesses should be using to bring in foreign workers remained well under the cap and the limit can tackle abuse of the system without causing economic harm.

"That suggests to me there's headroom for business to get people into the UK.

"We can bring business to Britain. We can show Britain is open to business and deal with net migration."


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