Brown gets tough on immigration
By Doireann Ronayne
The prime minister adopted a tough line on immigration today, while praising a Britain characterised by diversity.
Instead of an annual cap, he proposed a ‘labour market test’ to ensure that migrant workers are recruited for skilled jobs only when no qualified worker living in Britain can fill it.
Gordon Brown used his first major speech on immigration to recognise the growing concern around the subject.
“People ask me do I get it,” he said.
“Yes I get it. I’ve been listening. I understand.”
“People want to be assured that newcomers will accept the responsibilities as well as the rights that come with living here,” he said.
The prime minister plans to tighten up Britain’s border control, requiring every migrant who enters the UK to have ‘permission’ to stay.
This ‘permission’ will be valid for a limited period of time and will be granted for a particular purpose – work or study.
However Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne criticised what he called ‘”catastrophic mismanagement” of the immigration system.
“Gordon Brown is attempting to shut the stable door long after the horse has bolted,” he said.
Hospital consultants, civil engineers and aircraft engineers would be removed from the list of jobs for which recruiters in Britain can seek workers from abroad.
“One of the reasons for the points system is to make sure that nobody without a skill will come into the country,” Mr Brown said.
Employers will be required to set up accredited skills training schemes in areas of the economy where there is a shortage of skills to further reduce the number of workers recruited from abroad.
There will be penalties for employers who undercut the minimum wage, mandatory English language testing for student visas and a change in the law to prevent agency workers from receiving less pay than their colleagues.
The new “labour market test” means that from next year a job vacancy must be advertised for one month before a migrant worker is recruited.
“This government has implemented the biggest overhaul of the immigration system for a generation and it is important that UK laws reflect these changes,” Phil Woolas, minister for border and immigration.
A new power of expulsion will replace the current measures of deportation.
Individuals issued with an expulsion order will be required to leave the UK and will not be allowed to re-enter while the order is in force.
Controversially, today’s package of announcements also includes restrictions on those applying for asylum in the UK.
The asylum support system will be shaken up to include restrictions on residence, work or study, and access to public funds.
“We expect those who apply for asylum to abide by the rules,” Mr Woolas said.
“If their claim has been refused, we expect them to leave the country.
“If they do not, we will enforce their return.”