Keir Starmer: Common goal is to 'help immigration dependency'
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Sir Keir Starmer told business chiefs the time the days of “low pay and cheap labour” must end and they should instead train up UK workers to end Britain’s “immigration dependency”.
But the Tories accused him of being a “dyed-in-the-wool open borders advocate” whose party cannot say if it wants migration levels to fall.
A Conservative Party spokesman said: “Keir Starmer talks tough on immigration, but all his ‘policy’ amounts to is giving big business all the cheap, low-skilled, foreign labour it asks for.
“The Labour Party wouldn’t lift a finger to support our domestic workforce to fill vacancies
“Starmer is a dyed-in-the-wool open borders advocate who wants to give illegal migrants priority access to work permits.
“His shadow Home Secretary won’t even say if she wants to see the level of immigration fall.”
Sir Keir last year said the government should consider changing the rules to allow people seeking asylum to work before their case has been concluded, saying the regulations stopping them “defy the common sense test”.
The government believes such a move would “create a pull factor” for illegal immigration.
Labour’s leader told the Confederation of British Industry conference that he wants a “pragmatic” approach to economic migration.
Sir Keir said firms had to wean themselves off reliance on low paid, cheap labour from overseas.
But he acknowledged the need to allow them to recruit the staff they needed now, while ensuring that in the longer term Britons had the skills needed to fill vacancies in the economy.
“Of course we will be pragmatic. Of course we understand that we need to act now so that we help business and drive growth.
“But we have to address and run towards the challenge that is skills, run towards the challenge that is ensuring we have everybody back in the workforce, because there are hundreds of thousands of people who aren’t working now who were working just a few years ago.
“This is, for me, an economic argument, not a push for political tactics.”
He said trade unions “must be a crucial part of our partnership”.
“Our common goal must be to help the British economy off its immigration dependency.”
But he would not commit to “arbitrary” numbers on bringing down immigration.
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