Firms have a 'social duty' to hire British workers, says Conservative minister Matthew Hancock

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Companies have a "social duty" to employ young British workers rather than better-qualified immigrants, a Conservative minister said today.

Matthew Hancock, a Business Minister, said employers have a responsibility to ensure young people in their local community are given the opportunity to get a job and get on in life. He said firms should invest in training British staff rather than simply seeking "pure profit".

Mr Hancock, a close ally of the Chancellor George Osborne, denied he was repeating Gordon Brown's ill-fated "British jobs for British workers" slogan. "This is about a change of culture. I'm arguing that it is companies' social responsibility, it is their social duty, to look at employing locally first," he told BBC Radio 4. "That may mean that they have to do more training. It may mean more training in hard skills, in specific skills. Or it may mean training in the wherewithal, the character you need in order to hold down a job."

He said many employers had told him that such an investment led to more motivated employees with a greater attachment to the company.

Mr Hancock added: "During the last boom there was a lot of recruitment from abroad and, in fact, youth unemployment went up, even during the boom. As the amount of jobs in the economy grows everybody should be given the chance to get on in life and get one."

His comments comes amid fears among Conservative MPs about a new influx of workers from Romania and Bulgaria when they get the right to work in Britain from next January.

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, dismissed the minister's intervention as "totally, utterly meaningless rubbish". He said: "He is not allowed to put the interests of British workers first because we are members of the European Union and 800,000 British jobs are today being advertised across the whole of the rest of the EU."

Mr Farage added: "They [the Conservatives] know they have lost the argument on immigration and jobs, they know Ukip have stolen a march on them, they are attempting through rhetoric to take that territory back. They are raising expectations, but when people realise that actually they cannot deliver, then I think a lot of people will feel very angry indeed."