Business reservations over immigration cap

Business groups have expressed concerns over government plans to introduce a ceiling on non-EU immigration to the UK.

Home Secretary, Theresa May has announced that migrants from outside the EU will be limited to 24,100 between now and next April, a drop of 5 per cent on the figure for last year.

She said: "Immigration into the UK has been good for us but uncontrolled immigration is not, so we need to bring in these controls."

The interim cap will be in force while the government consults on migration levels and a permanent ceiling.

A government spokesman acknowledged that any decision may have an impact on UK firms suffering skills shortages: "We always said that we wanted to recognise the needs of business and we want the brightest and the best to come into this country. That's why there is a consultation process before the cap is set."

The Business Secretary, Vince Cable also moved to reassure the business community, saying that "the new regime has to accommodate those concerns" and that it "has to be implemented in a flexible way".

But the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (RED) warned that a cap on migrants from outside the EU will lead to greater skills shortages, with the impact on sectors where in-demand skills are already difficult to find locally becoming even deeper. 

Kevin Green, the REC's chief executive, commented: "There were huge skills shortages before the recession and if the private sector is to grow rapidly out of recession, it will need skilled workers to do so. An artificial cap on immigration will affect business growth and delivery of core services such as social care.  

"Therefore, we need train up our young people to fill these gaps, but this will take time. We ask that the government seriously considers the impact of preventing skilled workers coming into the country if the positions they are being recruited for cannot be filled locally."

David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), added: “It is essential that British businesses that require highly skilled workers are able to meet their recruitment needs. Firms should be able to employ the best possible talent to ensure the UK remains competitive.

 “The stakes for the UK economy are very high. If restrictions on the entry of highly skilled non-EU migrants are too strict, there could be damage to the economy and to future economic growth. It is absolutely essential to get the balance right.”