Firms furious over plan for migrant cap

BUSINESS and industry yesterday reacted angrily to government plans to cut the number of workers it allows in from outside the EU by a fifth, insisting they would stop Britain from recruiting global talent.

Home secretary Theresa May said the number of workers entering Britain from outside the EU will be capped at 21,700 a year from April 2011.

That compares to around 28,000 economic migrants who entered the country in 2009, although this figure was historically low due to the impact of the financial crisis.

Those allowed to enter without a job offer will be slashed by 13,000 from last year’s level to 1,000 and permits will be limited to “exceptional talent” such as scientists, academics and artists.

The number of workers with job offers allowed in will be increased by nearly 7,000 to 20,700, although permits will be restricted to graduate-level jobs, May said.

Business groups welcomed the decision not to limit company transfers for those earning more than £40,000 a year, but said the planned cap had been set too low.

Jo Valentine, chief executive of City lobby group London First, said: “In limiting the number of skilled migrants which business can recruit, to the numbers they needed at the depths of the recession, government is basically capping economic growth, capping UK jobs and capping tax receipts.”

She added: “Government seems to be saying: ‘if your business is flourishing, please grow it outside the UK’.”

And Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the plans would “deprive London of some of the brightest and best professionals in the world”.

Meanwhile, May announced a consultation into student visas, amid concerns that some entrants are using them to bypass the immigration system.

Home office officials suggested that May might scrap visas for students not studying at degree level.