Foreign workers should be required to belong to unions, says Labour shadow Business Secretary Clive Lewis

Conservative Craig Tracey said it was astonishing that Mr Lewis did ‘not care how many people come to this country’

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Foreign workers coming to Britain should be required to belong to a trade union, according to an idea floated by Labour’s shadow business secretary.

Clive Lewis, who is also tipped by some as future leader of the party, made the comments in an interview with Sky News but emphasised it was his personal view, not party policy.

The proposal echoes a similar call from Len McCluskey, the Unite general secretary, who wrote earlier this month that any employer wishing to recruit labour abroad can only do so if there are covered “by a proper trade union agreement”.

“Put together with trade unions own organising efforts this would change the race-to-the-bottom culture into a rate- for-the- job society,” Mr McCluskey wrote on Labour List.

Speaking on Thursday, Mr Lewis added: “What you’ve got to understand is that immigration into this country – it’s been a net benefit, it’s about who benefits. And I personally think that the restrictions should be – this is my personal view – that if companies want to bring in people from abroad, those people should have to belong to a trade union.

“And I think that that will in turn mean that companies will want to begin to take people more often from this country.”

Mr Lewis also said immigration had worked in Britain, in terms of increasing prosperity.  He added: “We’ve been saying, I’ve been saying we need to look a lot closer at the way our workplaces operate and how they operate. So we want to see more people in trade unions, we want to see better rights at work.”

He added that he understood a lot of people who “genuinely have concerns” about immigration. But, he added: “You can’t poo-poo them, you can’t knock them out of the way”.

Craig Tracey, a Conservative MP on the Commons business committee, said: “It is astonishing that the shadow business secretary does not care how many people come to this country, as long as they are a member of a trade union.

“It is clearer than ever that Labour are completely out of touch with working people - as they keep demonstrating they have neither the plan nor the desire to reduce immigration into our country.”