الأربعاء , يونيو 17 2020

Labour plans exploitation crackdown

David Miliband

Immigration has featured prominently in the TV election debates

A unit to prosecute gangmasters who exploit workers and “drag down” others’ wages would be set up under a Labour government, Ed Miliband is to announce.

In a speech on immigration, he will also say all healthcare professionals should speak good English.

David Cameron will pledge to make pensions campaigner Ros Altmann a minister for consumer protection, if the Conservatives are re-elected.

Meanwhile the Lib Dems are to outline plans to boost apprenticeships.

In other election news:

  • UKIP’s Nigel Farage will be among leaders to face audience questions in regional election programmes, the BBC has announced
  • Conservative Chief Whip Michael Gove has appeared to rule out any deal with UKIP, telling the Telegraph: “We’re not going to get into bed with them”
  • The latest poll for the Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft suggests the SNP has made gains in Labour strongholds and Lib Dem territory

On a visit to the north west of England, Mr Miliband will repeat his admission that Labour has made mistakes in immigration policy and say it is an issue the next government must deal with.

But he will warn that the Conservatives will “never be able to tackle immigration properly because they don’t understand that an epidemic of exploitation is driving up the number of low-skill workers who come here”.

Describing people living in cramped conditions, paid below the minimum wage, he’ll add: “It’s exploitation of the worst kind. But it isn’t just bad for those people directly affected, it drives down standards for everybody else, undercutting local workers, and making life harder for responsible employers.”

‘Crucial contribution’

The new task force – or “Home Office Enforcement Unit” – would have more than 100 staff “to root out the illegal exploitation which undercuts wages and conditions for local workers”, says Labour.

It would bring together teams from the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and specialist police units with extra Home Office staff.

The coalition has increased penalties on employers who pay less than the legal minimum and has placed a cap on non-EU migration.

UKIP has said the the new policy on gangmasters is necessary only because of Labour’s lax control of Britain’s borders in the past.

The Labour leader will also say the party would empower all the UK’s healthcare regulators to require all health professionals to have a “sufficient knowledge of English” before they could care for patients.

The coalition government has given some health regulators the power to impose language tests, but Labour says the process has been too slow and does not cover all staff, such as paramedics, social workers and physiotherapists.

Fruit picker

Farms in some areas rely on workers from overseas who, if paid through agencies, can get less than the minimum wage

Mr Miliband will say that everyone knows that people from overseas have made a “crucial contribution” to the NHS, but that “everyone in Britain should know how to speak English… especially those who work in public services in public-facing roles, and nowhere is that more true than in our NHS”.

The Liberal Democrats also mention English language in their manifesto, saying people who cannot speak good English and want to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance should have to attend courses.

The Conservatives say EU migrants should have to wait four years before they can claim certain benefits or social housing and that child benefit payments should not be made for children living outside the UK.

Recently, some Labour figures complained about the party’s messages on immigration. David Lammy warned that the party should not be “trying to out-UKIP UKIP”.

Pensions help

The Conservatives’ key announcement on Saturday is that pensions campaigner Ros Altmann would be made a Tory peer and given responsibility for financial education and consumer protection.

David Cameron says he wants the “country’s leading expert” on these issues to be at the heart of government, helping give people “more power to save, to access their pension, to pass their pension on to their children”.

The Liberal Democrats’ focus will be on apprenticeships, with a promise that the party would double the number of employers offering apprenticeships to young people. Business Secretary Vince Cable will say this would mean 360,000 firms offering on-the-job training.

Companies would be offered exemptions from National Insurance and apprenticeship grants as extra incentives. The policy would mean the creation of “more apprenticeship starts per year than Germany”, he will say.

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