Letter to Home Secretary
Business tells Patel: ‘we can work out new immigration plan’
Letter: Carolyn Fairbairn and Karen Betts (pics: Terry Murden)
Britain’s most powerful business organisations have offered to work with Home Secretary Priti Patel to design a new immigration system.
They have welcomed recent indications from government about removing the £30,000 salary threshold and scrapping the net migration target.
Now they want a new system that satisfies public demands for greater controls while ensuring businesses are not starved of the labour they need.
Message: Priti Patel
In a letter to Ms Patel they say the government’s plans to replace the salary test and target with an Australia-style points system “have sent positive and important signals around the world that the UK is open for business.”
Among the signatories are CBI director general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, British Chambers of Commerce CEO Adam Marshall, Scotch Whisky Association CEO Karen Betts and Oil & Gas UK CEO Deirdre Michie.
The letter continues: “Business understands that the immigration system must change in order to re-build public confidence.
“Insight from enterprise can help build a points-based model that provides greater control, whilst providing access to the labour and skills needed to support the economy. And this can go hand in hand with a continued determination to invest in training home grown talent.”
The letter sets out four key priorities to help ensure the new system works on day one for all UK regions and nations. It says:
- A minimum salary threshold can work if it is set at a level that supports the economy and protects wages
- Flexibility for skilled workers to enter the UK through a points-based system
- A temporary visa route which supports all sectors of the economy
- A radically reformed sponsorship process in place for the first day of operation
Dear Home Secretary,
Fair and sustainable immigration is critical for growth across the UK. It is a top priority for businesses and the signatories of this letter. Together, we represent hundreds of thousands of firms of every size, sector and region, employing millions of people. We are writing to offer our help to make the new immigration system a success.
Recent announcements have increased optimism about how a system might work. A new two-year post-study work visa for international students, dropping the target to reduce net migration to the “tens of thousands” and signals that the £30,000 minimum salary test may change are welcome and have sent positive and important signals around the world that the UK is open for business.
Business understands that the immigration system must change in order to re-build public confidence. Insight from enterprise can help build a points-based model that provides greater control, whilst providing access to the labour and skills needed to support the economy. And this can go hand in hand with a continued determination to invest in training home grown talent.
There are four key priorities that will help to ensure the new system works on day one for all UK regions and nations:
- A minimum salary threshold can work if it is set at a level that supports the economy and protects wages – the right threshold can provide confidence that migrants are not accepting wages lower than those of UK workers. This is currently achieved in the non-EU immigration system by requiring a salary that is both higher than 25% of people in the same occupation and higher than 25% of jobs across all occupations of the relevant skill level. The Migration Advisory Committee already recommends lowering the skill level to ‘A-Level’ or equivalent to secure a work visa post-Brexit. Following this tried and tested formula would mean that a worker from overseas would have to earn both more than £20,100 and more than 25% of people doing the same job. This would protect wages and ensure that shortages in jobs such as technicians, carpenters, translators and care-home managers can be addressed.
- Flexibility for skilled workers to enter the UK through a points-based system – salary isn’t the only way to predict somebody’s contribution, so an ability to hire people with lower salaries based on their qualifications, work experience and other attributes is welcome. This must add flexibility for businesses to hire the labour and skills they need, rather than be an additional requirement. A new unsponsored points-based route for skilled workers is particularly important for smaller businesses and should also be added. Additionally, lowering the salary threshold for shortage occupations is a principle we warmly support.
- A temporary visa route which supports all sectors of the economy – extending this unsponsored route from one to two years will encourage migrant workers to integrate into local communities whilst also ensuring they are more productive, rather than businesses having to constantly start over by hiring new people. Making this route available to all sectors, with a cooling-off period reduced to six months, will help companies plug vital skills and labour gaps. In-country switching to the skilled worker visa, if the eligibility criteria is subsequently met, should also be allowed.
- A radically reformed sponsorship process in place for the first day of operation – the government’s ambition to radically simplify the current sponsorship system is both welcome and essential to reduce cost and complexity for firms hiring from overseas. Completing and testing these reforms before switching to the new system will help smaller companies avoid expensive legal advice. Minor adjustments to the existing non-EU visa route would be insufficient and act as a major barrier to accessing the skills needed to grow the economy.
The economy needs a simple, streamlined and affordable system that meets business’ needs of all sizes, sectors and across all UK regions and nations.
We look forward to working with the new government to inform the detailed design of a new immigration system in a way that commands public confidence and supports the UK’s global ambitions.
Paul Everitt, Chief Executive Officer – ADS Group
Stephen Woodford, Chief Executive – Advertising Association
Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive – British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA)
Dr Adam Marshall, Director General – British Chambers of Commerce (BCC)
Dr Laura Cohen MBE, Chief Executive – British Ceramic Confederation
Tom Bowtell, Chief Executive Officer – British Coatings Federation (BCF)
Dave Dalton, Chief Executive – British Glass (BG)
Graeme Trudgill FCII, Executive Director – British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA)
Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive – British Ports Association
Melanie Leech CBE, Chief Executive – British Property Federation (BPF)
Charles Jarrold, Chief Executive – British Printing Industries Federation (BPIF)
Michael Moore, Director General – British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVCA)
Suzannah Nichol MBE, Chief Executive – Build UK
Anne Kiem OBE, Chief Executive – Chartered Association of Business Schools (Chartered ABS)
Peter Cheese, Chief Executive – Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)
Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General – Confederation of British Industry (CBI)
Peter Caplehorn RIBA, Chief Executive – Construction Products Association (CPA)
Brian Berry FRSA, Chief Executive – Federation of Master Builders (FMB)
Mike Cherry, National Chairman – Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)
George A. Lee, Chief Executive – Highways Term Maintenance Association (HTMA)
Neil Jefferson, Managing Director – Home Builders Federation HBF
David Hare, Chief Executive – Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN)
Jonathan Geldart, Director General – Institute of Directors (IoD)
Jasmine Whitbread, Chief Executive – London First
Stephen Phipson CBE, Chief Executive – Make UK
James Selka DL, Chief Executive Officer – The Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA)
Chris Aylett, Chief Executive Officer – Motorsport Industry Association (MIA)
Deirdre Michie OBE, CEO – OGUK
Neil Carberry, Chief Executive Officer – Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC)
Karen Betts, CEO – Scotch Whisky Association (SWA)
Anne Marie Graham, Chief Executive – UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA)
Nigel Lugg, Chairman – UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT)
Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive Officer – UK Hospitality
Dr Jo Twist OBE, Chief Executive Officer – The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie)
Helen Fairfoul, Chief Executive – Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA)
Helen Brocklebank, Chief Executive Officer – Walpole