22 June 2012

Labour admit immigration failures

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Leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband is to give a speech today in which he will admit the previous Labour government's failings on UK immigration policy and outline his party's new policies.

UK immigration

Leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband will admit past mistakes and outline new immigration policy today at the IPPR.

The current coalition Government has made significant changes to UK immigration policies which have seen new restrictions added to visa policy, intra-company transfer policy and the increased removal of foreign criminals. The efforts are a part of a long term goal of reducing current levels of net migration, approximately 250,000, down to the 'tens of thousands'.

The Government blames its predecessor for allowing uncontrolled immigration from new EU states in 2004 which saw an influx of Eastern European migrants come to the UK.

In a speech at the Institute of Public Policy Research think tank (IPPR) to be given today, Mr Miliband is expected to acknowledge those errors.

Lost sight

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said in 2004 that free migration would benefit Britain's economy and improve diversity.

However, Mr Miliband will say that the Labour Party was 'dazzled' by the promise of a globalised country.

"It was a mistake not to impose transitional controls on accession from Eastern European countries," Mr Miliband is expected to say. "We severely underestimated the number of people who would come here. We were dazzled by globalisation and too sanguine about its price."

Initial Labour estimates in 2004 predicted just 13,000 people a year would come to the UK; this figure reached a peak of over 250,000 in 2010.

"By focusing exclusively on immigration's impact on growth, we lost sight of who was benefiting from that growth, whose living standards were being squeezed. We became disconnected from the concerns of working people."

Not racist

Mr Miliband claims Labour told people to 'like it or lump it' when it came to the migration influx and were chastised for voicing their concern; the most telling example of which was when former Prime Minister Gordon Brown was overheard calling one woman who told him of her concern foreign workers were having on her community a 'bigot'.

Mr Miliband will say people, particularly working class people, are justified in their concerns that migrants who are willing to work longer hours for less pay pose a threat to their incomes, and that doing so does not constitute racism:

"They are worried about the future. They want there to be good jobs, they want their communities to grow strong once again. And they worry about immigration.

"Worrying about immigration, talking about immigration, thinking about immigration does not make them bigots. Not in any way. They are anxious about their future."

New policies

Mr Miliband will say Labour need to listen to previously ignored concerns while they are in opposition and formulate new policies which will reflect voters' concerns over the issue.

Having previously criticised the current Government's policies, Mr Miliband will today outline his party's own which include:

Forcing employers of a certain size to declare if their workforce is more than 25% foreign, allowing British workers to be trained to fill positions.

Preventing employment agencies from solely recruiting from overseas

Establishing an 'early warning system' to highlight areas becoming 'dominated by low wage labour from overseas'

Unrealistic promises

Mr Miliband says promises Gordon Brown made, such as 'British jobs for British people', were unrealistic and could not be kept, adding that there is "nothing wrong with anyone employing Polish builders, Swedish childminders or French chefs".

"We are not calling for 'British jobs for British workers' because you can't do that and we shouldn't promise it," the Labour leader will say.

Not to be trusted

The Conservatives, who have consistently blamed Labour for the need to introduce their new tougher policies claim Labour is 'not to be trusted' with immigration.

"They still don't think immigration was too high when they were in power and they still won't say that immigration needs to come down," said Immigration Minister Damian Green.

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