Immigration Row Engulfs U.K. Minister, Ian Duncan Smith

I am afraid that I agree with British business rather than IDS on this. I think most Australians would. Because of the huge and constant flow of people between the two countries, Australians know Britons very well and the slangy Australian verdict on Brits is that "they wouldn't work in an iron lung". That expression probably makes sense to Australians only but what it means is that Brits are seen as usually lazy and workshy. And their useless public educational system doesn't help either. So I would tend to hire a foreigner in preference to a Brit too. In think it's only immigrants and private school graduates who keep Britain going -- JR

U.K. business organizations have fiercely criticized a senior government minister for telling them to employ more British people rather than hiring "labor from abroad."

In a speech Friday at the Spanish Foundation for Analysis and Social Studies in Madrid, Mr. Duncan Smith said if the immigration system wasn't more strictly controlled, increasing number of U.K. citizens would be left out of work, in particular young people.

Mr. Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said the government is doing its bit to control immigration by placing an overall limit on the number of non-European Union workers allowed into the country each year, but that British businesses also needed to help.

A former leader of the Conservative Party, Mr. Duncan Smith risks inflaming tensions with coalition partners the Liberal Democrats over immigration policy—a subject which has been one of the most contentious areas for the one-year-old government.

He said in his speech: "As we work hard to break welfare dependency and get young people ready for the labor market we need businesses to give them a chance, and not just fall back on labor from abroad. "If Government and business pull together on this, I believe we can finally start to give our young people a chance."

Under EU law it is illegal for the government or employers to discriminate against workers from EU countries.

David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said businesses in the U.K. need to have a highly skilled workforce, and for many firms that means employing migrants. "Highly skilled foreign workers are important to our economy, and it is vital that they are allowed to enter the country so businesses can hire the workers they need."

He said many young Britons lack the basic skills needed in the workplace—such as reading, writing and communication. "Getting more young people into work in this country doesn't rely upon stemming the flow of skilled migrants coming to the U.K.," he added.

Neil Carberry, director for employment at the Confederation of British Industry, said employers should be able to choose the best person for the job, and that the challenge for the government was to ensure more young Britons were in a position to be the best candidate.

The pro-business Conservatives have to balance private sector demands for open markets with party promises to clamp down on immigration after a decade of record new arrivals caused increased complaints by voters.

Mr. Duncan Smith, who is considered on the right wing of the party, said that coming out of the last economic down turn in the early 1990s, employers looked abroad as they struggled to fill jobs at home and have yet to get out of the habit.

Youth unemployment is an issue that has dogged successive U.K. government. However, the problem has become acute since the recession with one-in- five people in the 16-to-24 age group unemployed. In comparison, the overall unemployment rate in the U.K. is 7.7%.

The government has attempted to tackle the problem by promoting apprenticeships and internships for young people but to date its policies have had limited impact.

Further fueling the immigration debate are figures from Labour lawmaker Frank Field showing that 87% of the 400,000 new jobs created during the coalition government's first year in office went to immigrants.

Liberal Democrat lawmakers, in particular Business Secretary Vince Cable, have previously sided with business groups to argue that changes to immigration policy could hurt British competitiveness.

A row over immigration policy erupted within the coalition in April after Cable publicly criticized Prime Minister David Cameron's comments about mass immigration as being "very unwise".


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