Page last updated at 16:05 GMT, Tuesday, 9 September 2008 17:05 UK

New migrant worker rules outlined

Home Office Minister Tony McNulty welcomes the report

The list of UK jobs likely to be open to workers from outside the EU has been unveiled as part of a new "points based" migration system.

A panel of experts was asked by ministers to work out which type of jobs had shortages.

The list includes skilled nurses and consultants, some engineering jobs, maths and English teachers.

But the Tories said it was "pointless" without an annual cap on the number of immigrants entering the UK.

The list is likely to come into force in November, after the government have studied the recommendations.

'Sensible'

The government says it wants to cut the number of workers coming to Britain from outside the 30-nation European Economic Area (the European Union plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway).

The new rules are expected to come into force at the end of November and will make it harder to employ skilled workers from outside the EEA in trades not on the list.

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Border and Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said: "Our new Australian-style points system is flexible to meet the needs of British business while ensuring that only those we want and no more can come here to work. This tough new shortage occupation list supports that."

But shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve, for the Conservatives, said: "A points-based system without an annual limit is pointless.

"The government need to understand that sound immigration policy is not just about admitting the right type of people to Britain but the right amount."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Tom Brake said the government's efforts would be undermined by its "persistent failure to reintroduce exit checks".

Chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants Habib Rahman said the proposals unfairly discriminated against migrant workers from developing countries.

It appears attracting British workers for British jobs can come at a price
Mark Easton
BBC home editor

But Nur-Ur Rahman Khondaker, secretary general of the Bangladesh Caterers Association, welcomed the inclusion of chefs on the list - provided they earn 8.10 an hour or more - as he had feared ethnic restaurants would be permanently barred from hiring staff from nations.

Citizens of other EU states - except Bulgaria and Romania - are already entitled to work in the UK without restrictions.

Unskilled workers from other parts of the world are currently banned but highly qualified migrants or those with substantial sums to invest are allowed to live and work in the UK.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) list refers to "skilled workers" - those with the equivalent of two A Levels or NVQ Level 3. They must also have a good grasp of English, a job offer with potential earnings of 24,000 and enough money to support themselves until their first pay cheque if they want to work in the UK.

Among the occupations on it are:

  • Consultants and specialist nurses
  • Some engineering jobs, including chemical and civil engineers
  • Quantity surveyors
  • Maths and English teachers
  • Ship and hovercraft officers
  • Veterinary surgeons
  • Sheep shearers
  • Jockeys and horse trainers

Doctors from outside Europe will no longer be able to work in Britain as salaried GP, under the new rules.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the panel set up to establish which sectors of the UK job market are short of workers, also said a bar should be imposed on social workers, most skilled construction workers, IT specialists and architects.

It said it did not want to deter firms from training British workers to fill vacancies.

Other jobs such as chefs and care workers would only be allowed if they paid enough.

Inter-company transfers will be exempt from the restrictions and firms will still be able to recruit for jobs not on the list, if there are no suitable applicants when advertised in the EU.

About 700,000 people currently work in the professions listed - less than the million covered by the existing system, of which about 7% are non-EU workers.

MAC chairman, Professor David Metcalf, said an employer would have to clear three hurdles to be able to hire somebody from outside Europe.

The changes will result in a more skilled labour supply, he added.

'Not set in stone'

According to the list, maths and science teachers are still needed, but secondary school teachers in other subjects will face restrictions.

Midwives, social workers and IT technicians from outside the EU are all no longer needed, according to the list.

Professor Metcalf said the list was not "set in stone" and a new one would be published every two years.

For example, he said he would be talking to the energy sector to decide whether nuclear power workers should be included in future, given the government's plans for new plants.

The list for Scotland includes all of the UK-wide professions, plus fish filleters, senior elderly care workers and speech therapists.

Only care workers earning at least 8.80 an hour will be allowed to come to Britain according to the list - a salary level most care-home owners say they will not be able to pay.

"It is so far above what the medium pay levels are within care homes for senior care workers, it is just not going to be achievable," said Mandy Thorn, a board member of the National Care Association.

'Monitoring needed'

Professor Metcalf said that care homes that increased their wages may find their vacancies can be filled from within the UK.

He also said there was evidence in the past the care sector and catering firms had attempted to abuse the system by claiming workers had more skills than they actually possessed to get work permits.

"It is vital the Home Office monitors people and deals with this rigorously," said Professor Metcalf.

On Sunday an all-party group of MPs called for "balanced migration" and four-year limits for foreign workers.

The group said Britain will not be able to cope with an estimated seven million additional migrants forecast to arrive by 2031.


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