Chris Bryant forced to back down over claim Tesco and Next use cheap migrant workers

 

Shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant has backed down from his blunt claim that the supermarket giant Tesco had undercut the wages of its British employees by recruiting from eastern Europe.

The allegation was in a version of the speech briefed to a Sunday newspaper but was missing from the actual speech that he delivered this morning.

His earlier reported comments had produced a swift reply from Tesco, whose management contacted Mr Bryant's office to protest. They contested the allegation, and pointed out that though Mr Bryant was reported to be saying that the distribution centre in question was "in Kent", it is actually north of the River Thames, in Essex.

According to the briefed-out version of the speech, Mr Bryant had intended to say that staff working at the Tesco centre in Harlow, which was being moved to Dagenham, were told that "they could only move to the new centre if they took a cut in pay. The result? A large percentage of the staff at the new centre are from (the) Eastern bloc."

When he came to deliver the speech, his comments about Tesco were more guarded. He said: "Even good British companies are affected by the impact of low-skilled migrant workers. Take Tesco, a good employer and an important source of jobs in Britain and an important source of jobs in Britain. They take on young people, operate apprenticeships and training schemes and often employ unemployed or disabled staff through job centres.

"Yet when a distribution centre was moved to a new location, existing staff said they would have lost out from the transfer, and the result was a higher proportion of staff at the new site from (eastern European) countries taking part of the jobs. Tesco are clear that they have tried to recruit locally, and I hope they can provide more reassurance for their existing staff, but the fact that staff are raising concerns shows how sensitive the issue had become."

He also admitted that he had always meant to refer to Tesco's distribution centre in Essex, and did not know how it had come about that he was reported to think it was located in Kent.

The mix up will be frustrating for Labour, whose leader Ed Miliband has returned from a family holiday today amid accusations that the party has not been making any impact on public opinion over the this summer.

Mr Bryant's speech was a bold attempt to move into political territory in which it is usually assumed that Labour is on weak ground, and on which the Tories have been vociferous, notably by sending a van into areas where there is a high concentration of immigrants warning those who are in the UK illegally to "go home".

Rather than appear to be attacking immigrants for taking 'British' jobs, the shadow immigration minister aimed his fire at "unscrupulous" employers who undercut wages, use agencies that do not attempt to recruit in the UK, take on foreign workers for only a weeks at a time, and house them in crowded sub-standard accommodation.

But he was careful to stress today that he had never intended to lump Tesco, or the Next chain - also mentioned in his speech - among the 'unscrupulous' employers, none of whom he named.

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + echSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, Linux, Shell, Bash)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...

Data Scientist (SQL, PHP, RSPSS, CPLEX, SARS, AI) - London

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A prestigious leading professiona...

Financial Technical Consultant (C++, C#, Finance, MSc, PhD)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Financial Technical Consultant (C++, C#, F...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone