Labour ‘would put time limits on hiring of overseas workers to curb migration’

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Labour would impose time limits on the hiring of overseas workers in shortage occupations to restrict immigration, the shadow home secretary has said.

Yvette Cooper told the Sunday Telegraph the party believes the measure would give an incentive to companies to train more British staff.

The party would use a strengthened Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) – which provides independent advice to the Government – to guide on appropriate “timescales” for importing labour, she suggested.

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Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

She told the paper: “It (the MAC) only does very periodic reviews, and we want it to be able to look at not simply which occupations are on the shortage occupation list, but also what would be a sensible timescale.

“How long should they be on the shortage occupation list for?”

It forms part of Labour’s wider efforts to project a toughened stance on migration, with Sir Keir Starmer writing in the Sun on Sunday that hiring overseas workers on cheap wages is “no substitute for a proper plan”.

The Labour leader suggested he would focus on apprenticeships as “a ticket to a better future” as he branded the current system a “travesty” and said immigration must “come down”.

Meanwhile, in an op-ed for the Mail on Sunday shadow health secretary Wes Streeting criticised the “overreliance” on overseas recruitment within the NHS and promised Labour would focus more on “homegrown talent”.

It comes after the party announced last week that it would scrap rules allowing firms to pay 20% below the going rate to hire overseas workers for jobs on the list in another sign of its toughening stance on migration.

The measures would form part of its proposed reform of the points-based system to create a “fair” but controlled system, Labour said.

Healthcare, engineering and IT are among the sectors where someone can be paid 80% of the usual going rate to qualify for a skilled worker visa.

Rishi Sunak has said legal migration is “too high” and has repeated a commitment to achieve a 2019 Tory manifesto pledge to bring it down after figures revealed record-high levels.

But the Government is facing pressure from businesses to ensure there are not labour shortages in key industries.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been publicly pushing for lower immigration, saying more Britons should be trained to be lorry drivers and seasonal workers to plug demand.

But the Prime Minister has taken a more pragmatic approach, having made clear to farmers that more overseas fruit pickers will be allowed into the UK if they are needed.

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