Employers “have not even bothered to look” at British workers for vacancies currently filled by EU workers, Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith has said.
Speaking on the BBC yesterday, the former work and pensions secretary blamed employers for not hiring British workers and dismissed business chiefs’ call for immigration targets to be scrapped after Brexit.
Instead, he said a system of work permits should be extended to all foreign workers wanting to come to the UK.
“A lot of employers simply have not even bothered to try and find UK people to work,” he said.
“I think the best thing to do is work with what we have got and make it work for everyone around the world,” he said. “You basically extend the work permit process across the EU and the rest of the world. People can come here for work but they need to have work to come to and that work needs to have been agreed and accepted that there isn’t a person in the UK that could do that work and has the skills to do that work.”
Mr Duncan Smith, the founder of the troubled universal credit benefits scheme currently being rolled out, went on to claim the current welfare system was distorting the employment market.
He said: “What’s happened is access to benefits, including child benefits even if you don’t have your children with you, has distorted the whole system around them being able to offer much cheaper wages and have them completely topped up.
“In the last year figures were available, and this is important, more than £4.1 billion was spent on people from the EU who have come over here getting tax credits, child benefits, housing benefits. That’s one of the great pull factors.
“Leaving the EU, we should not be offering for people to come over here just looking for work and to claim benefits.
“We need a living wage that does not require people to come over here and claim benefits to top up.”
But the CBI, representing business leaders across the UK, has called for politicians to recognise the value of immigration to the UK economy, which they said should include scrapping immigration targets after Brexit.
Businesses need a new immigration policy, avoiding visas for EU citizens and putting migration on the table for trade talks, according to the CBI’s new report Open And Controlled - A New Approach To Migration.
Evidence from 129,000 firms across 18 industry sectors in the report showed the importance of migration at all skill levels, said CBI deputy director-general Josh Hardie.