I am proud to run a business with staff from twenty-two different countries, as well as many from the UK.
I run a global financial service and I need the best people in the world working with me to help develop and grow the business in a highly competitive market.
My company is not unusual. Many British businesses, large and small, face the same challenges and need for world class talent. This is most serious in science, tech and engineering, where there are significant home-grown skills shortages.
It therefore seems illogical to me that the Conservative Party, the self-proclaimed champions of business, have imposed a net migration target of “tens of thousands“ and generated such a negative narrative about this country’s openness to foreign workers. Not only is a net migration target impracticable within the EU. It also creates nonsensical pressure to restrict much needed skilled migration from the rest of the world and in doing so creates a very real barrier to business growth at a time when the economy needs it most.
The Conservative inclusion of students within their immigration targets and restricting entitlement to work after graduation, is particularly short-sighted. International education has for decades been a key British “export” industry and one in which the UK otherwise had a natural competitive advantage. The current government’s anti-migrant rhetoric has sent a very damaging message about this country to the brightest young people around the world. Last year alone saw a 15% fall in student numbers from India and a 35% drop in those from Pakistan. This talent will only be welcomed by other countries and Britain may find the implications long lasting.
It is important that Britain has control over immigration, especially at a time where unemployment has been relatively high and where public services are feeling the squeeze from budget cuts. These pressures have generated some legitimate public concerns. The Labour Party has always been more open to recognising the significant contribution made by immigrants to British business, public services and cultural life, not to mention the Exchequer. As an immigrant myself this is important to me.
At this election Labour are offering a smarter approach to immigration, more open to the talent and investment needed by British business, while prosing measures to control low skilled migration, tackle employment abuses and get a grip on rising illegal entries. They also understand the need to promote integration, such as improving English language skills. The British public are concerned about immigration and no party can ignore this, but what is needed is a measured response and firm but fair policies based on the needs of the economy. This is the choice that Labour offer at the election ahead.