By politics.co.uk staff
Jobless youths should be given preference over migrant workers by UK firms, Iain Duncan Smith has said.
The work and pensions secretary suggested businesses in the UK need to give young people the chance to work in a speech to the Spanish Foundation for Analysis and Social Studies.
"If we do not get this right then we risk leaving more British citizens out of work, and the most vulnerable group who will be the most affected are young people," he said.
"But government cannot do it all. As we work hard to break welfare dependency and get young people ready for the labour market, we need businesses to give them a chance, and not just fall back on labour from abroad."
The comments return to a theme which generated considerable controversy in 2007, when former prime minister Gordon Brown promised to create "British jobs for British workers".
"We have to ensure that our immigration system works in the interests of Britain, enabling us to make a realistic promise to our young school-leavers," Mr Duncan-Smith added.
"It is part of our contract with the British people. This government is reforming welfare to make work pay, and to help people back to work.
"We are toughening sanctions against those who refuse to take jobs when they are available. But we also need an immigration system that gives the unemployed a level playing field."
Director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, David Frost, told the Today programme that businesses were aware of the problem of youth unemployment, but had to find the best people to fill their available roles.
Many eastern European workers are able to read, write, communicate effectively and work hard, but that is not always the case with British workers, he added.