Politics

Ed Miliband Promises New Immigration Measures In IPPR Speech

Ed Miliband has promised new measures to prevent British people being "locked out" of jobs by foreign workers, including forcing firms to declare if they employ high numbers of immigrants.

Overseas-only employment agencies would be banned and an early-warning system set up to highlight areas where locals are "dominated" by an influx of overseas labour under the proposals.

While there could not be set quotas on home-grown workers, urgent action was required to identify where British jobseekers need better training to compete, the Labour leader said.

Miliband will admit Labour made mistakes on immigration

Demanding that job centres be told of all firms where more than one in four staff was from overseas would form part of the new system to provide Whitehall and town halls with vital information.

Miliband hopes to shift the focus of the debate from border controls, and what he says are ineffective Government caps on arrivals, towards the impact on people's daily lives.

While restrictions on new arrivals, including caps on people from any new EU member state, were necessary, reforming the jobs market is just as important, he will argue.

Stricter enforcement of minimum wage laws and doubling fines to £10,000 would also form part of an effort to stop firms using cheap foreign labour to undercut domestic jobseekers.

"We need to talk about one of the biggest issues facing our country: immigration from eastern Europe has collided with a labour market in Britain which is too often nasty, brutish and short term," he declared in a speech to the left-leaning IPPR thinktank in London.

"If we are to address people's concerns, Labour must change its approach to immigration. But we will only be able to answer people's concerns on immigration if we change our economy too."

Hailing the role of immigrants, he said that there is "nothing wrong with anyone employing Polish builders, Swedish childminders or French chefs".

He added: "But the problem we need to address is in those areas and sectors of the economy where local talent is locked out of opportunity.

"The idea that in core sectors of our economy, industries like construction or agriculture, you can get recruitment agencies who boast all their workers are Polish or denigrate the talents who are living locally, is deeply wrong.

"It's not the right way to extend opportunity. It's not the right way to guarantee people a fair chance of a job. And it's not going to help us rebuild our economy."

"Instead of paying higher wages, too many companies are forced to compete by paying lower wages. Not enough are encouraged to offer good training."

Under his blueprint, the Migration Advisory Committee would gather data to alert Whitehall and local councils to areas becoming "dominated by low-wage labour from other countries".

Miliband said: "This is not about imposing quotas. It is not about stopping firms hiring foreign workers. It is not about demanding employers fill in dozens of new forms. It is about improving the information we collect, enabling job centres to identify where there is a high dependency on foreign labour and see if there is better training that can be offered to help local workers fill the gap."

He acknowledged that the last Labour government made mistakes on immigration, saying: “It was a mistake not to impose transitional controls on accession from Eastern European countries. We severely underestimated the number of people who would come here. We were dazzled by globalisation and too sanguine about its price."

In a swipe at Gordon Brown, he said voters have legitimate fears about overburdened public services and community cohesion and expressing them "does not make them bigots, not in any way". The then prime minister was widely condemned during the 2010 election campaign for being caught on a microphone dismissing a voter who raised the issue as "bigoted".

Miliband, who made re-connecting with party supporters on immigration a central plank of his leadership campaign, will also rule out a Brown-style "British jobs for British workers" approach.

"But we do need to offer working people a fair crack of the whip and set out a new approach to this issue which can offer real ways of addressing their legitimate concerns," he said.

As the son of immigrants himself, he had to be "true to my heritage, to my mum and dad" by recognising the value that foreign arrivals brought to the UK and its economy.

"But it must also be true to other parents too, like those I talk to in my constituency, Doncaster North. They are worried about the future. They want there to be good jobs. They want their communities to grow strong once again. And they worry about immigration.

"Worrying about immigration, talking about immigration, thinking about immigration does not make them bigots. Not in any way."

Addressing those concerns was not "bowing to the right", he insisted. "It's doing what Labour does best."

A Home Office source said: "Ed Miliband says he is not going to promise British jobs for British workers but he seems to have fallen into the same trap as Gordon Brown.

"He still opposes everything the Government is doing to cut and control immigration and still isn't offering a single credible immigration policy of his own."

Miliband said in his speech that Labour would only keep the Government's existing cap system if there was evidence that it had proved effective.