Row over immigration crackdown
Rudd demands “British jobs for British workers”
In a controversial response to calls for curbs on immigration, Ms Rudd said foreign workers should not be able to “take jobs that British people should do”.
There will be curbs on the number of overseas students entering Britain from outside Europe with a new student immigration system. Students on “low-quality courses” could also face tougher entry rules.
Companies will face new restrictions on recruiting employees from overseas, as part of the plan to cut net migration from 327,000 to what Prime Minister Theresa May called “sustainable levels”.
Ms Rudd launched a consultation on entry rules for foreign workers and students and criticised current tests that employers had to undergo before recruiting from abroad. She said they had become “tick-boxing exercises” which favoured overseas workers.
She told the Conservative party conference: “The test should ensure people coming here are filling gaps in the labour market, not taking jobs British people could do.
“I want us to look again at whether our immigration system provides the right incentives for businesses to invest in British workers.”
The plans came in for widespread criticism.
Josh Hardie, CBI Deputy Director-General, said: “Following the EU Referendum, we need an approach to migration that both supports the economy and deals with public concerns. In this regard, the Home Secretary’s announcement on more funding to support public services in key areas of the country is welcome.
“But it is also time to be clear about the value of migration to the UK, as well as its challenges. Businesses will not welcome further restrictions on high skilled migration from key trading partners around the world, especially as a series of changes were only announced earlier this year.
“At a time when we need strong links globally to seize new opportunities after the referendum, being seen as open to the best and brightest is vital. And we should be clear that business does not see immigration and training as an either/or choice. We need both.
“The UK’s universities are a crown jewel in supporting innovation, growth and skills development. Many courses are sustained here in the UK because we can attract students and faculty from around the world. The Government must tread carefully on any changes to student immigration to make sure we don’t undermine this critical sector for national prosperity.”
“We’ve already seen the Tories happily exclude Scottish universities from a visa scheme they were crying out for – so it’s not hard to figure out what courses Amber Rudd is likely to consider ‘high quality’ and ‘low quality’. This is a classic divide and rule tactic from the Tory playbook.
“International students make a significant contribution to our universities financially and in research, as well as having a wider positive economic impact. They should be welcomed, not demonised.
“If the only answer the Tories have to the problems caused by Brexit is to close the door on migrants then we should be very worried.”
Paul Blomfield, co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on international students condemned the plan as “spectacularly ill-informed”.
He said international students bring £8 billion a year to the UK economy, creating tens of thousands of jobs across the economy.
“Education is one of our most successful export industries. The only people cheering today’s announcement will be our competitors,” he said.
Lib Dem universities’ spokeswoman Lorely Burt said: “Cutting down on international student numbers would rob our economy of millions of pounds and do untold damage to Britain’s world-leading universities.”
In recent weeks a new pilot post-study work visa scheme has been criticised by the principals of several Scottish universities – as it only extended to a select number of universities in the south-east of England.
A report released last month by the IPPR think tank argued that restrictions on international student numbers are harming the education sector and forcing well-integrated and highly-skilled migrants to leave the UK after their studies.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union. said: “International students make an enormous contribution to UK higher education, both educationally and economically. As highly skilled people, they make an invaluable contribution to our economy.”