CBI conference

Starmer: Immigration ‘comes with conditions’

Sir Keir Starmer will demand conditions on immigration

Sir Keir Starmer told business bosses that a Labour government is ready to allow skilled migrants into the country if companies invest more in training and raise the wages of those already here.

The Labour leader wants to see an end to low pay and a new partnership with business to confirm his repositioning of Labour’s relationship with business after the Corbyn years,

But he warned delegates attending the CBI conference: “The days when low pay and cheap labour are part of the British way on growth must end.”

The Labour leader responded to the CBI’s call for a relaxation of immigration rules by saying that “our common goal must be to help the British economy off its immigration dependency.”

His comments follow the prime minister’s pledge to expand visa schemes for entrepreneurs and “highly skilled people” but only after restoring the public’s confidence in the system by tackling illegal migration.

Sir Keir said Labour will make the immigration system work better for the needs of business – but will demand that business needs a plan to train up British workers.

The labour market is one of the supply-side reforms the Labour leader spoke about alongside bold action on skills, childcare, climate change and technology to grow our long-term potential.  

Sir Keir echoed the demand of CBI director general Tony Danker who called for a “practical” response to immigration.

The Labour leader said that under him the government would be “pragmatic” on the basic shortage of people and will not ignore the need for skilled people to come into the country. 

“But I want to be clear here: with my Labour Government any movement in our point-based migration system, whether via the skilled occupation route, or the shortage worker list, will come with new conditions for business.

“We will expect you to bring forward a clear plan for higher skills and more training, for better pay and conditions, for investment in new technology.

“Migration is part of our national story – always has been, always will be. And the Labour Party will never diminish the contribution it makes to the economy, to public services, to your businesses and our communities. 

“But let me tell you – the days when low pay and cheap labour are part of the British way on growth must end.

He will said that it appears the country is “more comfortable hiring people to work in low paid, insecure, sometimes exploitative contracts than we are investing in the new technology that delivers for workers, productivity and our country.

“And we can’t compete like that. Britain’s low pay model has to go. It doesn’t serve working people. It’s not compatible with grassroots growth.”

Critics will note that Sir Keir’s government would be guided by similar principles to those of the Conservatives: economic stability, higher skills and green growth.

He said the Tory idea of “trickle down” economics had been “tested to destruction”, while rejecting a system that relied on growth in London and the south east, with the state redistributing that wealth around the country.

On Brexit, Sir Keir said the current trade deal with the European Union is “not working well”, but vowed not to take the UK back into the single market.

He said: “We are not going back to the EU, that means not going back into the single market or customs union.

“But we have to make Brexit work, the deal the government has got us is not working well, it’s holding business back, it’s holding growth back.”

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