UK immigration rules ‘spell disaster’ for care and hospitality sectors
Lib Dems say plan based on xenophobia, as Patel says firms should employ more British
UK home secretary Priti Patel. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
The UK’s home secretary, Priti Patel, has hit back at business critics of the government’s newly announced immigration system, telling private sector chiefs it was “about time” they started training up British citizens.
Industry leaders warned that changes to UK immigration rules could “spell absolute disaster” for the care system as well as farmers, builders and hospitality businesses.
But Ms Patel said industries relying on a migrant workforce should look closer to home when recruiting new employees.
“It is about time businesses started to invest in people in this country,” she told Sky News.
“We have over eight million people – that is 20 per cent of the workforce – aged between 16 and 64 that are economically inactive right now.
“It is down to businesses to work well with the government and join us in investing in people, levelling up across the UK so we can have wage growth across the entire country.”
The changes are designed to cut the number of low-skilled migrants entering the UK but aim to make it easier for higher-skilled workers to get UK visas.
A policy statement outlining a new points-based system after freedom of movement ends said the economy needed to move away from a reliance on “cheap labour from Europe”.
The salary threshold for skilled migrants will be lowered to £25,600 (€30,600) for those coming to the UK with a job offer, and there may be concessions for those earning no less than £20,480 as long as they still meet certain requirements or their occupation is short of staff.
The Confederation of British Industry warned that care, construction, hospitality and food and drink companies could be most affected by the changes.
Industry and union leaders hit out at the lack of provision for low-paid workers in the proposals.
Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said the plans “spell absolute disaster for the care sector”.
Macmillan Cancer Support called for a “separate migration route” for social care workers to ensure the UK’s three million cancer patients could continue to access support.
Moira Fraser-Pearce, director of policy at the charity, said: “Any immigration reform that prevents social care workers from working in the UK could mean some of the most vulnerable people, including those living with cancer, suffer the consequences.”
Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, raised concerns that the proposals would “not meet the health and care needs of the population”.
National Farmers’ Union president Minette Batters expressed “serious concerns” about the government’s “failure to recognise British food and farming’s needs”.
Mark Harrison, of the Food and Drink Federation, raised concerns about bakers, meat processors and workers producing food such as cheese and pasta not qualifying under the new regime.
Employers have until January 1st to meet the requirements and ensure their staff have a right to work in the UK.
The Liberal Democrats claimed the proposals were based on “xenophobia”, and Labour said the system would need so many exemptions it would be “meaningless”.