Home secretary Amber Rudd’s policy to force businesses to reveal how many foreign staff they employ has been branded as “xenophobic” and “the return of the Nasty Party”.
Ms Rudd has hit back saying it is “disgraceful” that people cannot talk about immigration, adding: “Don’t call me a racist.”
The Government plans to force companies to take on more British workers, Ms Rudd said yesterday. She used her speech at the Conservative Party conference to warn that foreign workers should not be able to “take the jobs that British people should do”.
She revealed that companies could be forced to publish the proportion of “international” staff on their books in a move which would effectively “name and shame” businesses which are failing to take on British workers.
Andy Burnham, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, described the policy as “xenophobic”.
He said: “The tone of the Conservative conference has become increasingly xenophobic. Theresa May has presided over the return of the Nasty Party. Whether it’s doctors, migrants or Europe, the Tories are blaming anyone but themselves for their failure.
“The idea of British companies producing lists of foreign workers runs counter to everything that this country has ever stood for. It would be divisive, discriminatory and risks creating real hostility in workplaces and communities.”
The SNP, Green Party and Plaid Cymru also issued a joint statement describing Ms Rudd’s announcements as the “most toxic rhetoric on immigration seen from any government in living memory”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Conservative Party leaders have sunk to a new low this week as they fan the flames of xenophobia and hatred in our communities and try to blame foreigners for their own failures.
“Drawing up lists of foreign workers won’t stop unscrupulous employers undercutting wages in Britain. Shutting the door to international students won’t pay young people’s tuition fee debts, and ditching doctors from abroad won’t cut NHS waiting lists.
“The Conservatives will instead foster division and discrimination in our workplaces and communities.
“Once again, they are making false promises on immigration they can’t deliver. Instead of turning people against each other, ministers should take action now to deal with the real impact of migration.
“They should stop the abuse of migrant labour to undercut pay and conditions, which would reduce numbers.
“They should support communities with high levels of migration and they should set out a positive agenda for fair migration rules as part of the Brexit negotiations for a new relationship with the European Union.”
Ms Rudd hit back at criticism of her remarks, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it is “disgraceful” that people felt they can no longer talk about immigration without being branded a racist.
“We should be able to have a conversation about immigration and what skills we want in the UK,” she said. “I don’t think we should have a situation where we can’t talk about immigration.
“I put this in the context about it very clearly being about boosting the economy. I am aware of the language and I looked at my speech and I was very thoughtful about not falling into that trap.
“What it seems to highlight is that we mustn’t ignore the fact that people want to talk about immigration.”
In September Andy Burnham called for English football to consider a “quota” on foreign players in the wake of Brexit.
The former culture secretary proposed a debate on a measure that could stop clubs continuing to hoover up the best overseas talent.