October 14, 2014

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Every day I hear how people feel they have been let down by all of the political parties. The other day, a woman told me she was trapped by low pay, high energy prices and was worried about immigration. She felt that the main parties had nothing to offer her.

I told her that Labour would introduce new laws to stop employers exploiting migrant workers to undercut local wages. 

I told her we would stop agencies who exclusively recruit foreign workers; that we would force employers to take on a local apprentice for every non-EU worker they employ to plug skills shortages. 

I told her we need enough staff at HM Customs and Excise to make sure that the rules are enforced. 

I told her we need to enforce the rules so that people can’t just claim benefits or use our health service without us recovering the costs from their country. 

And I told her that the rules should be enforced so migrant workers can’t get social landlord housing as soon as they come to the country. 

I told her that to help her deal with the problem of having to work long hours to meet rising costs, we will freeze energy prices and then change the way the energy companies work so that everybody pays a fair price.

The woman I spoke to told me she had no reason to believe me. She had not heard of any of our policies, and didn’t see why she should trust what I said as no one had ever done anything for her. The fact that the last Labour government brought in the minimum wage on which she relies was irrelevant to her as wages have fallen behind prices for many years. 

It was very clear, talking to her and others who voice the same concerns, that something has gone badly wrong. 

The problem isn't just on immigration, but on how politicians act on what you tell us you are concerned about. It is also about making sure that politicians make sure that they have something real to offer. 

I know that Labour has policies that will deliver the help my constituents want. But it is clear that we are not doing enough to show that we are addressing the issues that you are most concerned about.

For our policies to be effective, we need to do something about the problems which you raise. To put it bluntly, the time has come for politicians to face reality.

The Labour Party won't let employers abuse migrant workers to put local people out of jobs. The exploitation which many of you describe is no good for either migrants or locals and this behaviour by employers has to stop. We have to change the European Union works so that it works for British people, not for the institutions. 

Some immigration is essential when we don’t have the skills we need in this country. Some businesses rightly say they need to recruit some people from overseas and our NHS brings in nurses and doctors because of shortages. Controlled immigration of workers adds to our economy and our society: the idea that we can just pull the drawbridge up makes absolutely no sense for our local or national economy or for our NHS. 

But this has to be alongside decent work for decent pay, removing the financial incentive for employers to take on migrant workers at the expense of people who have been priced out of a job. And we need to make sure that we train people so we have the people with the skills we need in this country as far as possible by having proper training and apprenticeships. 

So every time a business employs someone from overseas, they should hire a local apprentice to develop the skills which are missing.

But we also need to address underlying concerns about immigration. If we really are listening, then the time has come to say that we will only allow people to come here to work if they have a job offer, and if the employer cannot fill that job locally. 

At present that is the case for people from outside the EU, but one way for my party to show we are on the side of ordinary people is for us have the same policy for all foreign workers and to put an end to open-ended immigration from within the EU as well. 

Then perhaps the woman I met and her neighbours will be more interested in the policies that I tried to explain to her.

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