Immigration cap threatens £100m wind turbine project

One of the world's largest companies has warned the Government in face-to-face talks that its cap on immigration risks jeopardising investment worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

Senior representatives from General Electric (GE), which announced its intention to build a £100m offshore wind-turbine factory in Britain in March, last Wednesday met privately with the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Chris Huhne, to issue the warning.

The company warned it would find it difficult to fill some specialist jobs without bringing experts from overseas. It is the first major firm known to have directly lobbied the Government over the controversial immigration cap.

In an interview with The Independent, Mr Huhne said the cap – pushed by his Conservative cabinet colleagues – was a source of concern to him. He said he would be holding urgent meetings with the Home Secretary, Theresa May, and the Immigration minister, Damian Green, to relay his fears.

Mr Huhne also questioned the Tories' environmental credentials. He said that GE was not the only large investor in Britain's green energy industry to have warned him that the cap on migrants would lead to the withdrawal of investment. GE's wind-turbine plant will provide 2,000 jobs if it goes ahead, supposedly contributing £600m to the economy through the boost it would give to local businesses.

"I have been personally lobbied by some major investors, pointing out the problems that face them if we have an inflexible immigration cap," Mr Huhne said. "That was a point made to me very forcefully by GE.

"They are about to be, I hope, a very significant investor... One of the issues they raised was whether they were going to be able to get key skills in and out of the country, given our commitment to an immigration cap."

He is the second Liberal Democrat cabinet minister to speak out against the cap, after the Business Secretary Vince Cable warned it would be "very damaging to the UK economy".

Mr Huhne said the ability to secure relevant skills was "absolutely essential to any project".

"When I was in the City, I had to hire an Arab-speaking economist who knew about the Middle East and there wasn't one in the UK. If I had not been able to hire that person, I would not have been able to do the business. That business ensured that all sorts of British people had jobs.

"I do think we need to look at this in the round. I think when most people consider immigration, what they want is for us to be extremely tough on people who do not have skills to offer the country. But where there are very high-level skills that are needed to make the economy work and be competitive, I think we need to be flexible enough to welcome those people in."

He added that a Liberal Democrat plan to set immigration quotas regionally, allowing more workers to settle where skills are needed, would be "one way of introducing some flexibility".

"A deal is a deal," he said. "We agreed in the coalition agreement to have a cap. The question is how the cap is applied, and whether the cap going to be on the people my constituents actually want to see controlled."

Mr Huhne argued that many Tories are still yet to be converted to green causes. "I can go to pretty much anyone in the Liberal Democrats and I know that they will be extremely sympathetic to green goals," he said. "The Conservative Party isn't green in the same way. I'm sure the Prime Minster and the mainstream of the party is committed. But the Conservative Party as a whole still has a lot of people who wonder why on earth we are doing this green agenda."

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Life and Style
i100

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 General

NQT Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Crawley: Randstad Education can provide you wit...

MATHS TEACHER, PERMANENT VACANCY, TONBRIDGE SCHOOL

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad Education is currently ...

HR Advisor - HR Officer - Employment Law - East London - £25000

£25000 per annum + 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: *** HR Advisor - HR Office...

ENGLISH TEACHER, FULL TIME SUPPLY ROLE, DOVER SCHOOL

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: TEACHER OF ENGLISH NEEDED for lo...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week