Gordon Brown's jobs drive 'undermined by immigration policies'
Gordon Brown's drive to create new jobs for British workers and get the unemployed back in work risks being undermined by his immigration policies, an influential coalition of MPs, peers, churchmen and business experts warn.
By Tom Whitehead and Rosa Prince
Last Updated: 6:52AM GMT 12 Jan 2009
The Prime Minister will today announce sacked workers will receive a guarantee of intensive personalised support to find a new job after six months on the dole as he holds an emergency jobs summit.
And with a string of leading companies going into administration, he will pledge again to deliver 100,000 new jobs, mainly in public works such as school and hospital repairs, environmental projects and IT schemes.
But the cross-party group on balanced migration warns the promise is “completely undermined” by an immigration policy that gives 130,000 foreigners a work permit every year, not including the hundreds of thousands of European workers who are free to come here.
It has written to the Prime Minister urging him to review parts of the work permit system so that unemployed Britons can have “a first crack” at any new jobs.
As the Organisation for Economic Co-ordination and Development warned one in ten people could be on the dole in Britain by next year, the Government's immigration and asylum policy also came under fire by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears who admitted it had resulted in a “free-for-all” allowing people in to the country under false pretences.
She warned the economic downturn could also lead to tensions boiling over among the British working class and migrants.
The cross party group includes Labour and Tory MPs as well as the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, former head of the armed forces Field Marshall Lord Inge and Lord Jordan CBE (former President of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union).
Co-chairman of the group, Labour MP Frank Field said: “We welcome the Prime Minister's pledge to create 100,000 new jobs at a time when so many people are becoming unemployed. But the Prime Minister's good intentions are completely undermined by his own Government's immigration policy.
“In one of the worst recessions in living memory, it is unbelievable that we allow non-EU economic immigrants to come to look for work, or to take up jobs for which British unemployed people have not had the chance to apply.”
The number of work permits handed out each year has trebled under Labour from around 42,800 in 1997 to 129,700 in 2007.
The group warned in November how tens of thousands of immigrants are taking jobs in Britain every year without them being advertised here first.
The supposedly tough new immigration points system is also allowing thousands of foreign workers to come to Britain just to look for work.
The two loopholes involve around 75,000 or more workers from outside the European Union every year.
The Daily Telegraph told last month how virtually all the growth in new jobs in the past seven years has been accounted for by migrants.
Co-chairman, Tory MP Nicholas Soames added: “Unless the Government immediately reviews this work permit system so that British unemployed individuals have a first crack at all jobs that become available, how can the Prime Minister's emphasis on safeguarding the employment prospects for British workers be taken seriously?”
Mr Brown will today unveil a 500 million package for bespoke personalised support for people still on the dole after six months on the dole the hardest group to get back in to work.
It will include further education colleges providing training and re-training courses, which the unemployed worker will be able to complete even if they find a job part way through.
Places for up to 75,000 unemployed workers are to be funded and colleges may even be handed financial bonuses if they are successful in getting those on the courses back in to work.
Employers will get 2,500 “Golden Hellos” as an incentive and there will also be help to set up a small business with the unemployed still getting benefits paid while in the start-up phase.
And people who can't cope with normal working environments will be sent on volunteering jobs to show they how they should behave.
The moves will be announced as Mr Brown and his ministers meet with employers and trade union leaders today to draw up crisis plans.
Addressing the jobs summit, Mr Brown will promise those who become unemployed in the coming weeks that there will be bespoke Government help to find a new position if they have not found a new post by the autumn.
He is expected to say: “We cannot always prevent people losing the last job but we can help people get the next job. And because we are determined to prevent short-term unemployment leading to long-term unemployment with all its consequences and, because we know that the risk of long-term unemployment increases as skills and confidence depreciates, we are today setting out a new guarantee of intensive support for anyone still unemployed after six months.”
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “The Government must strain every economic muscle to make sure the recession is as short and shallow as possible.”
But Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Chris Grayling, said: “With unemployment rising faster than anytime for a generation just holding a job summit is hardly going to solve the problems we face.”
The immigration and asylum system suffered a separate blow from within Mr Brown's own Cabinet after Ms Blears admitted the Government had failed to properly manage it.
She said: “Initially it was a kind of free-for-all. We had a big surge of asylum-seekers, a lot of people coming as economic migrants, but through the route of asylum seekers.”
In October, immigration minister Phil Woolas admitted Labour had made a string of failures in its management of the asylum and immigration system.
Ms Blears also warned the recession could tear communities apart as tensions over migrants and a declining number of jobs grow.
She added: “It could go either way. You either end up as a fragmented society or you come out of it stronger.”