Hundreds of foreign workers are being put up in student halls of residence in Birmingham while they carry out repair work on the city’s tunnels.

Around 200 have been brought in by Amey, a firm which handles many government contracts, less than a week after business minister Matthew Hancock said firms had a “social duty” to hire British staff.

Amey said the foreign workers were specialist staff on short-term contracts and that 70% of the 1,000 workers were from the Midlands, the Birmingham Mail reported.

In a joint statement, Amey and Birmingham City Council said: “Over 70% of the workforce on this project is based in, or has been recruited from, the Midlands area with the remainder made up of a combination of specialist skilled and short-term labour.

“We encourage all suppliers and subcontractors to recruit from the local area and support the local economy whenever possible.

“For the refurbishment of the tunnels, active recruitment by subcontractors has been taking place in the region.”

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Last week, Matthew Hancock said that companies needed a “change of culture” and heed their social responsibilities by hiring British people.

"This is about a change of culture. I'm arguing that it is companies' social responsibility, it is their social duty, to look at employing locally first,” he told the BBC.

"That may mean that they have to do more training. It may mean more training in hard skills, in specific skills. Or it may mean training in the wherewithal, the character you need in order to hold down a job.

"The responsibility of employers is to the community that they live in as well as to pure profit."

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