Commenting on the speech by Ed Miliband on immigration today, John Longworth, Director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“Ed Miliband is right to say that we cannot close Britain off from the world, and that we need a grown up debate on immigration. But for too long, UK firms have struggled to find the skilled workers they need locally, and in some sectors are forced to recruit from overseas. Employers are concerned about high levels of unemployment, particularly among the young, and want to help local people into work. However, they often find that domestic candidates lack the skills, experience and work ethic they need – it has nothing to do with costs.*
“The government must work together with business to identify skills gaps and to ensure the education system is responsive to the needs of the economy. It should not be about protecting UK workers from foreign competition, but instead we must ensure they are equipped with the right skills to compete with the best in the world.

“Measures to crack down on any businesses that are flouting the rules on national minimum wage are welcome, but it would be wrong to suggest this is a widespread issue. Our members tell us they hire based on skills, not on wages.”