Call for migrant worker levy gets thumbs down

The government has poured cold water on the idea of allowing employers to pay to breach immigration quotas, put forward by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

Last week, the government extended restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian workers until at least the end of 2008. The curbs limit the number of unskilled workers and could be in place for a further three years.

Conservative leader David Cameron also said last week that immigration to the UK should be “substantially lower” amid concerns over the impact on public services.

This led to calls by the CIPD for the government to introduce a system that would allow employers the flexibility to breach any quota.

John Philpott, chief economist at the CIPD, said: “To avoid individual employers being hamstrung by labour shortages by virtue of needing to recruit after the limit has been reached, any quota should be accompanied by a migrant worker levy that allows them to hire migrants in excess of the quota.”

But speaking exclusively to Personnel Today, employment minister Caroline Flint said she was unconvinced by the CIPD’s proposal. “Before moving to a system of paying to bring more migrants in, let’s get the baseline right about actually what level is needed here, and be clear about that,” she said.

“If organisations like the CIPD want to make a proper case, they can. But [the government] really has to be clear about what is needed.”

Flint said the CBI had indicated that employers could cope with the restrictions being extended.

Her comments follow confusion last week over the true number of migrant workers that have entered the UK since 1997.

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