John McDonnell says migrants not to blame for low pay in the UK

The shadow chancellor's words may put him at odds with shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Thursday 27 October 2016 15:06
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Shadow chancellor John McDonnell
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has said migrants are not "to blame for low pay and insecurity" at work.

Mr McDonnell used a keynote speech to hit back against what he called the "cynical" policies of the Conservatives on immigration.

It comes after Theresa May's Tories launched proposals for a wide-ranging new crackdown on immigration at their party conference in Birmingham.

But Mr McDonnell's move may strain underlying tensions over immigration with other key Labour figures, including shadow Brexit secretary Sir Kier Starmer who has said numbers coming into the country should fall.

Mr McDonnell said: "Labour are not about to make cynical promises like the Conservatives on reducing migrant numbers, knowing full well they can't be met on the scale, or time scale, with the methods they propose.

"It is not migrants to blame for low pay and insecurity at work, or the high cost of housing, it is the failure of our whole economic model, which is not supplying the investment in work, or in housing, that people need. We have to change the model."

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Addressing concerns raised in the EU referendum about migration levels, the shadow chancellor said: "Labour's policy has always been about managed migration, about what the economy needs and what society needs overall.

"What we experienced during the referendum...people voted on a whole range of issues, one of which was their concern about the low standard of living. They actually looked at migration being exploited by employers and others to undermine that standard of living.

"What we will negotiate is a future with Europe that protects people's standards of living, that doesn't allow migration to be used and exploited in that way. And in that way I believe we can build a coherent, cohesive Britain in the future."

His tone mirrored that of Jeremy Corbyn, whose spokesman at party conference said he would be "relaxed" if migrant numbers rise.

But Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said earlier this month there had been a "huge amount of immigration over the last 10 years and people are understandably concerned".

He added: "I think it should be reduced and it should be reduced by making sure we have got the skills in this country that are needed for the jobs that are needed to be done."

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