The Government has U-turned on controversial plans to force companies to draw up lists of their foreign-born employees – just a week after it unveiled them as Tory conference.
The policy, trailed after a speech by Home Secretary Amber Rudd in Birmingham, had originally mandated firmed to “be clear about the proportion of their workforce which is international”, with suggestions that firms with the highest proportions could be shamed for not investing in the local workforce.
Though public opinion polls suggest widespread support for the anti-immigrant measure, the move attracted widespread criticism from all corners of the political spectrum for its apparently authoritarian and sinister approach.
Ukip MEP Roger Helmer on Saturday said the proposals were a “step too far” and would be branded “fascist” had they been announced by his party; Labour’s Andy Burnham said he was “not having this”. Scottish First Minister said the policy was an “appalling, regressive, and hugely troubling development”. Lib Dem leader Tim Farron branded the proposal a “nasty little policy”.
After a week of criticism over the move the Government however said the data collected under the policy would in fact not be made public and would be for internal policymaking purposes only.
Education Secretary Justine Greening told ITV1’s Peston programme on Sunday morning: “This is not data that will be published. This is about informing policy so that we understand particularly which areas and parts of the country there are skills shortages evidenced by the fact employers are not taking local workers as much as they might do.
“It then enables us really to tailor policy in those areas so that we can respond to that – and make sure that people can take advantage of opportunities economically in their area.”
When it was pointed out that Ms Rudd and her staff had not made this clear when the policy was initially announced, Ms Greening said: “I’m saying it absolutely clearly now and the consultation will be coming out shortly that makes that clear too.”
In her speech before the policy was unveiled the Home Secretary had promised “incentives for businesses to invest in British workers”.
The policy is unlikely to be a gamechanger under its new guise because the Office for National Statistics already holds data about the proportion of foreign born people living in various local authority areas across the country.
Despite causing an outcry on social media polling by YouGov conducted last week found that a majority of voters from all parties except the SNP supported the plans to draw up public lists of foreigners.
Theresa May used her speech at conference to attack “politicians and commentators” who spoke up in favour of immigrants.
“Just listen to the way a lot of politicians and commentators talk about the public,” she said.
“They find their patriotism distasteful, their concerns about immigration parochial, their views about crime illiberal, their attachment to their job security inconvenient."
The PM has pledged to end freedom of movement from the EU to Britain after the country leaves the trading bloc.
In the last week she clarified that she would begin the process of leaving in the first quarter of 2017, when she would trigger Article 50.
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