Leading article: Hindrance not help

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Workers at the East Coast Rail call centre on Tyneside are facing redundancy. Their employer is moving the call centre to Mumbai, where costs are cheaper. But the blow will be cushioned, according to the Transport Secretary, Theresa Villiers, because these workers have the legal right to request a job at the new office.

Ms Villiers' suggestion is, of course, ridiculous. As keen as these Tyneside workers are to keep their positions, they are most unlikely to up sticks and move to Mumbai to do so. But, at least, one might argue, a minister is standing up for the principle of the free movement of workers across national boundaries – a principle that is both humane and economically efficient.

Except, of course, that this Government is not really doing that either. Instead it has imposed an arbitrary cap on the number of migrants who will be permitted to come to work in Britain. The cap is already proving a headache for businesses and is likely to stunt growth in the medium term. This policy is about as useful to the British economy as Ms Villiers' suggestion is to call-centre workers on Tyneside.

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