UK businesses must end their ‘immigration dependency’ and adopt a ‘pragmatic’ approach to recruiting from overseas, Sir Keir Starmer is to say when he sets out Labour’s immigration policy today.
In his speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) annual conference, the Labour leader will call for a plan to train British workers and move the economy away from its “low pay model”.
Organisations including the CBI have called for reforms to the immigration system to support employers to fill skills gaps from overseas, but Sir Keir does not believe this is always the answer, according to reports.
He will set out what Labour’s immigration policy would look like if it won the next general election. It will recognise the need for skilled workers from abroad, but any changes to a points-based migration system will come with “conditions” for businesses, he will say.
“We will expect you to bring forward a clear plan for higher skills and more training, for better pay and conditions, for investment in new technology,” he is expected to tell business leaders.
“But our common goal must be to help the British economy off its immigration dependency. To start investing more in training up workers who are already here.”
Labour would also like to see reforms to the Migration Advisory Committee – which produces the shortage occupation list – to project future trends more accurately, and for visas to be granted sooner to avoid damage to the economy from labour shortages.
Yesterday, CBI director-general Tony Danker said the current immigration regime was a barrier to growth and claimed that there were not enough British people to fill the vacancies that exist. He suggested there should be fixed-term visas for areas where there is a shortage of skills.
Responding to Sir Keir’s speech, CBI president Brian McBride said: “Business welcomes Labour’s pledge to establish a modern industrial strategy focused on new technology and green opportunities around the UK.
“The commitment to looking at skills and migration together is also very welcome and exactly what the CBI has called for now for more than a year.
“We look forward to hearing more detail on how we can deliver a proper workforce strategy for Britain. Labour shortages are fuelling inflation and preventing growth and all parties must come forward with solutions.”