A newly-elected Ukip MEP has admitted his businesses employed “dozens” of workers from eastern Europe and the Philippines who were kept in “bunkhouses” – but insists this is not inconsistent with his party’s anti-immigration policies.
Nathan Gill, elected to represent Wales in the European elections last month, ran a number of care homes and other family businesses providing services for Hull City Council and brought employees in from overseas.
He conceded “this could look bad” for a politician who campaigned on Ukip’s anti-immigration message, but insisted that the family firm had been unable to “find local workers to do the jobs”.
And he said that the party had “never said it wants to stop all immigration – it wants to limit the numbers”.
As director of the various businesses, Mr Gill oversaw the employment of dozens of people from Poland and other new EU countries and others from the Philippines.
He said that they were kept in bunkhouses as “temporary accommodation… until they could get something more permanent”.
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He told the Western Mail that he actually envied the quality of life he provided them, saying: “We charged £50 a week inclusive of electricity to people who would be earning between £200 and £300 a week. I wish I had that proportion of spending money left after paying my mortgage.”
Mr Gill said it was “not at all easy to get work permits” for the Filipino employees after demonstrating “the lengths we had gone to in trying to recruit local labour”.
But he also said that he was sure there “would have been no difficulty” getting permits for the EU workers “if that had been necessary” – as it would be under Ukip policy.
He said: “My focus at the time was to employ people who would enable us to fulfil as a business the care contracts we had. I can see how this could look bad, but it’s a case of ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’.
“If we hadn’t employed people from overseas, we’d have been called racist. The fact that we did employ immigrants is leading to charges of hypocrisy. But Ukip has never said it wants to stop all immigration – it wants to limit the numbers.”
Twitter users did not seem convinced, with one describing it as an example of Ukip “telling us to do one thing then doing another”. Another described it as “unbelievable hypocrisy”.
A spokesperson for Welsh Labour called for Mr Gill to apologise and said: “That Nathan Gill cannot see the hypocrisy of his actions is totally unbelievable. This is hugely embarrassing for him given only two weeks after he was elected on an anti-immigration platform.”
This is not the first time Mr Gill has been accused of apparent hypocrisy. In an ITV debate in the run-up to the European elections he said that the poll was “not necessarily about sending people over to Brussels who are going to have a 100 per cent attendance record”.
His fellow MEP candidates questioned whether the people of Wales would be very happy that Ukip was saying: “Please vote for us – but we aren’t going to represent you.”