UK Politics

Labour 'apprentice for each foreign worker' scheme

  • 22 September 2013
  • From the section UK Politics
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Media captionLabour leader Ed Miliband: "It is wrong that millions of people in our country are going out to work, unable to afford to bring up their families."

Labour has said it plans to make large companies train a new apprentice for each skilled worker they hire from outside the EU.

The policy would create up to 125,000 high quality apprenticeships over the next parliament, the party said.

Labour leader Ed Miliband also pledged to increase the minimum wage to help with the cost of living.

He was speaking ahead of the start of the Labour Party conference in Brighton.

The apprenticeship scheme would affect foreign nationals brought in under Tier 2 of the points-based immigration system - those offered a skilled job to fill a gap in the workforce that cannot be filled by a settled worker.

Labour said its research had found that many recently created apprenticeships have been for low-quality courses, and demanded that the number of high-quality apprenticeships be doubled.

'Brutish economy'

Speaking to the Sunday Mirror, Mr Miliband said: "I want a high-wage British economy, not a low-wage brutish economy, and we've got plans to make that happen to drive up skills.

"So we're going to say to any firm who wants to bring in a foreign worker that they also have to train up someone who's a local worker, training up the next generation.

"We think that can create up to 125,000 new apprenticeships over the course of five years. And that is a massive boost in skills for our young people and that is really important."

But business lobbying group the CBI warned that Labour's plan could lead to more red tape.

Neil Carberry, CBI's director for education and skills, said: "We'd like to see more apprentices being taken on and agree that training through schemes such as apprenticeships are the long-term answer to skills shortages.

"However, we'd be concerned these proposals could add to red tape for firms.

"If we want to get more businesses offering more apprentices, it will be crucial to keep bureaucracy to a minimum and to make sure employers are in the driving seat when it comes to targeting funding."

Budget 'black hole'

On Saturday, Mr Miliband said Labour would increase fines for employers who deliberately broke minimum wage laws from £5,000 to a maximum of £50,000.

He told a crowd in Brighton that the national minimum wage was "one of the proudest achievements of the last Labour government" but it was falling behind price rises under the coalition government. He pledged to strengthen it.

If the national minimum wage had risen in line with the cost of living it would be 45p an hour higher than the current level, which is due to rise next month from £6.19 to £6.31, he said.

And he said the housing benefit cut - affecting social tenants in England, Scotland and Wales deemed to have spare bedrooms - would be scrapped.

Also in the Sunday Mirror, former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott wrote that Labour should use the conference to talk about "all the good things" it did in power and how it could repeat that success, rather than reaching out to the Liberal Democrats about a potential coalition.

It comes as Mr Miliband rejected the prospect of former spin doctor Damian McBride - whose new book is being serialised in the Daily Mail - of ever working for Labour again.

Mr McBride resigned in 2009 after he was caught planning to smear senior Conservatives.

Meanwhile, Conservative Justice Secretary Chris Grayling wrote in the Daily Telegraph that Labour and the Liberal Democrats wanted to "clobber the rich" with tax plans he says would "penalise wealth creators".

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