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What Starmer will tell CBI about need for business to end its ‘immigration dependency’

According to the extract from Keir Starmer’s speech to the CBI released by Labour in advance, he will say that a Labour government would be “pragmatic” on the shortage of workers in the economy and would not ignore the need for “skilled people’ to come to the country. But he will go on:

But I want to be clear here: with my Labour government any movement in our point-based migration system, whether via the skilled occupation route, or the shortage worker list, will come with new conditions for business.

We will expect you to bring forward a clear plan for higher skills and more training, for better pay and conditions, for investment in new technology.

But our common goal must be to help the British economy off its immigration dependency. To start investing more in training up workers who are already here.

Migration is part of our national story – always has been, always will be. And the Labour Party will never diminish the contribution it makes to the economy, to public services, to your businesses and our communities.

But let me tell you – the days when low pay and cheap labour are part of the British way on growth must end.

Now, I know most businesses get this. But when we look at our economy as a whole, it can seem like we’re more comfortable hiring people to work in low paid, insecure, sometimes exploitative contracts than we are investing in the new technology that delivers for workers, productivity and our country.

And we can’t compete like that. Britain’s low pay model has to go. It doesn’t serve working people. It’s not compatible with grassroots growth.

Labour says Starmer’s pledge to end firms’ ‘immigration dependency’ does not make its policy same as Tories’

Good morning. Keir Starmer is addressing the CBI this morning, and, as my colleague Jessica Elgot reports in our overnight report, he will say that “our common goal must be to help the British economy off its immigration dependency. To start investing more in training up workers who are already here”.

And here is another quote from the speech.

We are not going back to the same old broken model with low wages, low growth, low skills, and low productivity, all of it enabled and assisted by uncontrolled immigration …

The answer … is not to reach for that same old lever of uncontrolled immigration, to keep wages low.

The answer is to control immigration, to allow people of talent to come to this country, but not to use immigration as an excuse for failure to invest in people, in skills and in the equipment the facilities the machinery they need to do their jobs.

Oops, sorry, wrong speech. That is not Keir Starmer to the CBI in 2022. That was Boris Johnson to the Conservative party conference in 2021.

The comparison shows how – quite deliberately – Labour is engaged in an important piece of repositioning, on an issue at the heart of the Brexit debate and central to the concern of voters.

But that does not mean the Conservative and Labour parties’ positions are now identical. Jonathan Reynolds, the shadow business secretary, was giving interviews this morning and on the Today programme Amol Rajan, the presenter, put it to him that it was now very hard to see the difference between the two parties on their approach to immigrant workers. Reynolds replied:

I would say on the issue of better pay and conditions in something like the care sector, we’ve got clear employment policies that we’ve put forward, things like fair pay agreements, which would drive up [pay] across the sector. [On] pay and conditions, there is no approach from the government at all on that. They have not even fulfilled their promise of an employment bill.

On things like better skills training, the apprenticeship levy was a good policy, but it’s led to a massive decline in the number of apprenticeships since it was introduced. Our policy to give businesses more freedom would, I think, strengthen apprenticeships, but also allow them to spend some of that levy on other forms of training.

I don’t think anyone can say right now, if you look at the shortages in the labour market, but also the situation with skills training in the country, that these things are being delivered now. So I think ours is a clear plan, a clear improvement on what is happening at the moment.

9.45am: Keir Starmer gives his speech to the CBI conference.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

11.30am: Dominic Raab, the justice secretary, takes questions in the Commons.

2.30pm: Raab gives evidence to the Commons justice committee.

Afternoon: Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African president, gives an address to MPs and peers in the royal gallery at Westminster as part of his state visit.

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