Work permit system reconsidered
3 October 2001 - Home Secretary David Blunkett is to review the
work permit system for skilled economic migrants.The Home Secretary said:
"Tackling illegal immigration is a vital part of my overhaul of our
asylum and immigration system. The scale of our clandestine economy
means workers are exploited for poverty pay; the minimum wage and
fairness at work legislation is undermined and British tax-payers are
defrauded by those avoiding the system.
"Where there are shortages I want to ensure that our economy can
benefit from both skilled and lower skilled workers on a sensible and
managed basis for those who wish to be employed legally in this
country. I want to encourage these workers to apply to work in
Britain through the proper channels so our country is as strong as
possible in the global economy."
The Home Secretary continued:
" I want to look at managed opportunities for economic migrants who,
through a sensible work permit system, could seek and obtain a job
legitimately and contribute to our country as well as their own well
being. We will start discussions with employers and trade unions on
ways in which we can allow skilled migrants into the country; deal
with pressures in sectors of the economy where there are labour
shortages and allow temporary workers into the country for seasonal
"In January 2002 we will implement the Highly Skilled Migrants
Programme. This will allow highly skilled people who meet certain
criteria - high level qualifications and specialist skills - to come
to the UK to seek work without a specific job offer from an employer,
provided that they can support themselves in the meantime.
"We are exploring whether overseas students who graduate in the UK
should be able to apply for a work permit without first leaving the
country and then reapplying.
"And we will consider the potential for building on the seasonal
working scheme which already exists in agriculture - to cover other
temporary jobs which cannot be filled by resident workers.
"In addition, we will open discussions with trade unions and
employers about how we might meet the needs of specific employment
sectors facing severe labour shortages in particular parts of the
country such as London and the South East.
"A properly managed system of legal migration would be a body blow to
the gangmasters and people traffickers who bring people to this
country illegally. I want to move forward with urgency. "
The Home Secretary added:
"We need also to focus hard on the lives of those living in the
shadows of our economy in the sub economy. They are often exploited
by employers who in the words of Winston Churchill in the House of
Commons in 1909 are 'the worst undercut by the very worst'.
"I welcome the Prime Minister's decision to set up a
cross-departmental ministerial group chaired by Home Office Minister
of State, Jeff Rooker, to examine ways to toughen up the law on
illegal working and enable the Immigration Service to act more
swiftly against workplaces with illegal workers."