Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Labour's pledge to control immigration with fair rules

Labour will control immigration with clear, fair rules. People who come here won't be able to claim benefits for at least two years and we will make it illegal for employers to undercut wages by exploiting workers.

 

Last week Ed Miliband set out Labour's first election pledge: to build a strong economic foundation by dealing with the deficit and balancing the books. And just as we will apply the values of the British people in the way our economy is run, so too on immigration.

  • Not turning our back on the world, but ensuring our borders are properly managed.
  • A sense of fairness means that we can't simply allow wages to be undercut.
  • A sense of fairness means that entitlement to benefits should be earned, so you contribute for longer before you claim.
  • And belief in community means that people should learn English and be part of our society.

We are proud to stand up for those values because they are Labour's values. Our pledge shows how we will put these values into action. With Labour, controlling immigration is one part of a bigger plan to raise living standards, invest and improve the NHS and turn Britain around for everyday working people.

 

Labour's immigration plan will be based on five principles:

  1. Stronger border controls: making it easier to deport foreign criminals, check people in and out of the country, and stop illegal immigration. Not putting up with continued under-investment, chaos and failure, presiding over a borders agency that is clearly unfit for purpose.  
  2. A smarter system of controls: so we get the top talent and investment we need, whilst controlling low skilled migration. Not setting an undeliverable 'net migration' target, which has ended up forcing the government to reduce the number of students, even though they bring contribute millions to Britain, simply because they are the easiest to control, whilst doing nothing to stop low skilled migration.
  3. Fair rules at work: a new law to prevent employers undercutting wages by exploiting immigration and banning agencies from recruiting only from abroad. Not shrugging our shoulders as this government have done – refusing to act because they are ideologically opposed to any strengthening of workers' rights.
  4. Earned entitlements: changing the rules so that people coming here won't be able to claim benefits for at least two years. A real plan to deliver change in Europe, not putting Britain on a path to exit from the European Union, which would put at risk 3 million jobs.
  5. Integration, not divided communities: people working in public services in public facing roles required to speak English. Not simply crossing our fingers and hoping that integration will occur on its own.

Exploitation law to prevent undercutting of workers

The next Labour government will introduce fair rules to tackle people's concerns about the impact of immigration in our economy, our social security system and our communities. Including the way some employers have systematically exploited people from other countries, enabling them to pay lower wage rates and offer worse conditions  than for their existing workers. This leads not only to the exploitation of migrants, but the undermining of wages for local workers.

Labour has already promised to increase the fines ten-fold for firms paying below the National Minimum Wage, close down loopholes in agency worker laws that allow firms to undercut directly employed staff, ban recruitment agencies from hiring only from abroad, and calling for a new law  against extreme cases of exploitation. On top of that we have announced how the next Labour government will stop employers exploiting foreign workers. The new law would define different forms of exploitation.

To prove that a criminal offence has been committed, evidence would have to be provided that some abuse of power had occurred and that migrants were employed on significantly different terms to local workers. For the first time, it means that undercutting of wages and conditions, although it will not be sufficient on its own, can be used as a piece of evidence of exploitation.

Earned entitlements

Our social security system needs to be based on our values of fairness, work and contribution, and must work alongside economic reforms to make work pay. But it was never designed for the level of migration we are now seeing and the way it interacts with EU rules is creating anomalies and injustices that are damaging public trust.

A Labour government will work with other European countries to extend the period that EU jobseekers wait before claiming out of work benefits from three months to two years, to put the same system in place for in-work benefits, and to stop child benefit and child tax credits being claimed for children living in other countries. 

These are real changes that Britain needs, not the kind of unworkable, hollow and vague promises made by David Cameron.

 

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