Business leaders back Cable in immigration row

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The Independent Online

A raft of senior business figures yesterday backed Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, in a row over immigration that threatens to split the Coalition Government. While a Downing Street spokesman rejected Mr Cable's warning on Thursday that caps on immigration to the UK from non-European Union countries would do "huge damage" to the economy, business leaders supported him.

"There is a serious risk that an adverse immigration climate will damage the UK's reputation as a global business hub and spill over to other countries where British staff are assigned," Gill Gordon, chairman of the Permits Foundation, a group set up by 40 large companies, said. "This could cause a double rebound for the UK economy."

While the Government is still consulting on the final detail of its plans, an interim cap on immigration introduced in July with limits based on immigration during 2009, an unusually quiet year, has upset many firms.

Mr Cable has warned that several companies, particularly in sectors such as finance and engineering, have been unable to bring skilled workers to the UK as a result of the move and thus decided to take work elsewhere. Yesterday, John Cridland, the deputy director-general of the CBI described the interim cap as a "blunt instrument".

A spokesman for the EEF, the engineering employers group, added: "Multinational companies can invest anywhere in the world and the reality is employers do need to bring in workers to the UK, where there are skill shortages, particularly in our sector."

Caroline Waters, director of people and policy at BT, said: "Employers are in the best position to judge whom they should employ and when to transfer overseas staff; we know self-regulation works from the statistics on the UK's points-based migration system – last year, the economic slowdown led to a reduction of 12,000 skilled migrants without a need for caps."