UK

Chris Bryant Sparks Immigration Row With 'British Workers In British Hotels' Comment

23/04/2013 13:06 BST | Updated 23/04/2013 15:03 BST

Chris Bryant, Labour's immigration spokesman, has sparked a row by calling for "British receptionists" in British hotels, during a debate about Romanian and Bulgarian migrants.

The Rhondda MP claimed his comment, on the BBC's Newsnight, had been taken out of context - but critics said it was "dangerously close" to Gordon Brown's "British jobs for British workers" soundbite.

Bryant said: "I do get quite angry with some British employers who have decided not to bother with British youngsters to work in the hospitality industry and the construction industry.

"It would be nice sometimes when you go into a British hotel if the receptionist was British."

Asked whether this was the same as Brown's quote, which saw the former Labour leader compared to BNP leader Nick Griffin, Bryant replied: "No it's not. It's just saying, we need to give our young people the skills and the opportunity to go out and get those jobs."

Sunder Katwala, who runs the British Future think tank, said: "Chris Bryant's remarks on Newsnight seemed quite off-the-cuff to me.

"I hope he isn't being too nostalgic for the days of Basil Fawlty and Fawlty Towers. I think people's expectations of hotels have moved on from that.

"I doubt it undermines the Britishness of many of the hotels that tourists and the rest of us enjoy staying in around the country if there is a mixed workforce, including young Brits, Poles and Latvians helping to bring you a full English breakfast."

On Twitter, Bryant asked critics whether they had seen the full interview and claimed he had been making a specific point about certain industries.

The British Hospitality Association hit back at this claim.

Spokeswoman Tabitha Aldrich-Smith said: "These comments show Chris Bryant is out of touch with the hospitality industry.

"Right now hotels, restaurants and catering companies as well as attractions have joined together in a campaign that’s been running since January this year to encourage more young people to work in hospitality.

"Our aim is to show how it can be a fantastically varied and rewarding career for anyone, no matter their skills. It’s not about where you come from, it’s about having a positive attitude.”

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