Government is listening to business on immigration cap, says Cable

The Prime Minister’s hint at concessions on the proposed immigration cap proves that the Government is listening to the complaints of employers, according to business secretary Vince Cable.

Speaking at the CBI conference in London yesterday, David Cameron promised business leaders that “as we control our borders and bring immigration to a manageable level, we will not impede you from attracting the best talent from around the world”.

The comments follow a swell of complaints from employers and business groups, including the CBI, warning that the temporary cap of 24,100 was already causing companies “significant pain”, which would be exacerbated when the permanent cap is introduced in April 2011.

Cable, who has himself warned that the cap was “very damaging” to the British economy, said that the Government has listened to the business community.

“The message has been heard loud and clear,” he said. “Executives have to come and go. That has to be done in the framework of an overall cap on immigration.”

The Prime Minister’s spokesman stressed that the policy was not yet formulated and that the objective remained to bring net migration down to “tens of thousands”.

Nigel Lynn, managing director at recruitment consultancy Barclay Meade, said that Cameron’s comments should be placed in the context of the Government’s claims that the private sector will be able to pick up the jobs slack created by public sector cuts.

“It is ironic that the Government may yet ‘rethink’ its manifesto pledge to introduce a permanent cap on the number of people from outside the EU able to take up work in the UK, at a time when it is apparent UK firms may face a skills shortage,” he said. “Perhaps Mr Cameron is anticipating a short-term need for more skilled workers from overseas?”

For the private sector to take on those left unemployed by the cuts, firms need to have an incentive, Lynn added: “We urge the Government to subsidise both in-house training schemes and vocational qualifications to help these workers ensure their skills are matched to the needs of potential employers.”

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