Labour Party conference: Ed Miliband says he would force firms that hire foreign workers to take on British apprentices

Ed Miliband also pledges to 'crack down' on companies that fail to pay the minimum wage.

Companies will be forced to train a British apprentice for every foreign worker they take on if Labour win the next election, party leader Ed Miliband has said.

Speaking in Brighton, where Labour is holding its party conference, Mr Miliband said the proposal was designed to reduce low-skill immigration and help create a “high wage economy”.

The party's plan would compel firms that hire workers from outside the EU to take on a similar number of apprentices from the UK. It claims that the policy would create up to 125,000 high quality apprenticeships over the next parliament.

“In our first year in office we will legislate for an immigration bill which has secure control of our borders, cracks down on exploitation of workers coming here undercutting workers already here, and says to big companies that bring in people from outside the EU that they can do that, within a cap, but they have got to train the next generation,” Mr Miliband said.

“I think that's the right approach. Why is that so important? It's about making our economy really work for working people in our country and training up our people, that is the way to tackle our standards of living issues that so many families are facing in this country.”

“I do want to get low skill immigration down and therefore overall immigration down, yes.”

Mr Miliband arrived in Brighton with the party's poll lead dwindling and internal critics warning he has failed to set out a clear strategy for the 2015 general election.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr show, Mr Miliband said Labour intended to increase the minimum wage and that his government would “crack down” on companies that failed to pay workers the minimum wage.

On Saturday, Mr Miliband said his government would raise fines for employers who deliberately broke minimum wage legislation from £5,000 to a maximum of £50,000.

“The minimum wage must be set at a level where it is not going to cost jobs, that's really important and so that's what we have got to look at,” he said.

He refused to give any specific figures for the extent of any increase, telling Mr Marr,“I want to see the minimum wage go up over time but if I was coming on this programme and saying I'm just going to pluck out of the air a figure of how much the minimum wage will go up by, you would say 'is that really responsible?'.”

Among a raft of policies being unveiled as his party's annual conference, Mr Miliband has also pledged that a future Labour government would scrap the coalition's so-called “bedroom tax”.