Keir Starmer says UK must wean itself off 'immigration dependency'

The Labour leader has warned bosses the days of “low pay and cheap labour” must end

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Sir Keir Starmer has warned bosses the days of “low pay and cheap labour” must end as he tells them to train up UK workers to end Britain’s “immigration dependency”.

In a speech on Tuesday the Labour leader said he would be willing to accept increased skilled immigration on the path to his vision of ending the “low pay model”.

Addressing the Confederation of British Industry conference, he set out plans to “start investing more in training up workers who are already here”.

Sir Keir Starmer speaking at the Confederation of British Industry conference in Birmingham
Sir Keir Starmer speaking at the Confederation of British Industry conference in Birmingham

Sir Keir vowed to be “pragmatic” about the shortage of workers and not to ignore the need for skilled individuals to come into the country if he forms a Labour government.

But he stressed that any changes to a points-based migration system “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,” he told business leaders gathered in Birmingham.

“But our common goal must be to help the British economy off its immigration dependency. To start investing more in training up workers who are already here.

“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.”

Sir Keir Starmer speaking at the Confederation of British Industry conference in Birmingham
Sir Keir Starmer speaking at the Confederation of British Industry conference in Birmingham

The Labour leader also accused the Government of having “archived Britain’s growth”.

Sir Keir said he searched for the Government’s industrial strategy on the Gov.uk website on Monday.

Its stated aims, he said, “was” to boost productivity to create good jobs.

“And scratched across the top is one word – I kid you not – archived,” Sir Keir said.

“Archived? Doesn’t that just tell you everything. The Government has archived Britain’s growth.”

Sir Keir set out Labour’s plans for reform, which include:

  • Ensuring all employers able to sponsor visas are meeting decent standards of pay and conditions
  • Speed up visa delays to avoid labour shortages damaging the economy
  • Introduce training and plans for improving pay and conditions for roles that require international recruitment
  • Reform the migration advisory committee that reports to the Government so it better projects future trends.

He also warned that businesses cannot be “more comfortable hiring people to work in low paid, insecure, sometimes exploitative contracts” rather than investing in new technology to boost productivity.

Sir Keir’s speech comes as Rishi Sunak moved to deny plans ministers could look to realign Britain with EU laws.

Some Tories have been angered by suggestions the Government was weighing up a Swiss-style relationship with Brussels.

But the Prime Minister told the CBI conference on Monday that the UK “will not pursue any relationship with Europe that relies on alignment with EU laws”.

Sir Keir is understood to be sticking to his opposition of rejoining the EU’s single market.