The Labour Party signaled a u-turn on immigration policy with leader Ed Miliband announcing a new policy to dissuade businesses from employing predominantly overseas workers. Miliband conceding the party was wrong on immigration when they were last in government.
Miliband argued that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown made a mistake in allowing unrestrained immigration from the newly admitted EU states in 2004. The main target of the new policy was immigration companies that recruited overseas at the expense of local workers.
The Conservatives responded with a claim that Labour couldn’t be relied on when it came to immigration. In 2004, a Labour government allowed free access from new EU states Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic.
At the time, Labour calculated the policy would result in only another 13,000 people per year coming to the UK. Those forecasts were wildly astray with immigration from those regions peaking at over 250,000 in 2010.
Miliband argued the country should have imposed upper limits on immigration numbers, in the same way other major EU countries did. The government of the day lost sight of the impact large numbers of immigrants would have on ordinary workers, driving down wages and increasing unemployment amongst locals.
Critics have argued the effect of immigration policy, especially on wages and social services was the main cause for Labour’s landslide defeat in 2010. Miliband, while conceding the point stressed that some employers had a selfish attitude to employees, preferring the option of low-pad workers at the expense of developing a high-wage economy.
Labour’s new immigration policy would target several key issues. Miliband said that as well as reducing immigration, his party would ban agencies from recruiting 100% from overseas and declare when their overseas quota of workers reached 25%. An early warning system for regions dominated by foreign workers would also be introduced.