Friday, March 8, 2013

Chinese visa rules 'are not working'

Ms Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, has strongly hinted that a future Labour government would reform the UK’s cumbersome visa system, which is costing the UK economy £1.2billion in lost tourist revenue.

Both the Conservatives and Labour are focusing heavily on immigration in the wake of their parties’ poor performance in the Eastleigh by-election, where Ukip proved a popular choice for disaffected voters.

Labour is attempting to shift its position on immigration, with the party admitting that it should have been more “ready to talk about the problems in the system”.

Ms Cooper will today promise to keep the Coalition’s cap on immigration and bring in tougher checks to stop bogus students coming to Britain for short courses.

However, Labour appears to be backing calls to relax Chinese visa rules in a bid to boost growth.  The Daily Telegraph is campaigning to relax visa rules for Chinese visitors.

Currently, Chinese nationals wishing to visit Britain on holiday have to get their fingerprints taken at one of 12 authorities in China.

They also have to fill out a lengthy application form and pay more than if they were to visit the Schengen area of 26 European countries, including France and Italy.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Ms Cooper called the current visa regime a “genuine problem” and said that relaxing the system would boost trade and investment.

“I think that is a genuine problem because you’ve got huge delays in getting visas for people who legally should be coming, who the Government agrees should be coming,” Ms Cooper said.

“It’s not just actually the tourist visas, you’ve also got business visas. The delays have doubled, for entrepreneurs the delays have tripled, so it is taking people much longer to get the basic visas that they need.

“So the system is really not working effectively enough. The reason you want people to come from China either as tourists or as university students is that [it] also is a way of building up those links with those countries that are going to be huge sources of trade and investment in the future.”

The UK is perceived as unwelcoming by many Chinese tourists and business leaders, which has made some investors reticent to engage with this country, experts have warned.

Last year, the Government announced some changes intended to simplify the rules, including that the visa application form would be translated into Chinese from April. But businesses warn the changes do not go far enough.


Labour let too many low-skilled migrants into Britain, admits Miliband as he promises to give local people 'a fair crack of the whip'

Ed Miliband will admit today that Labour was wrong on immigration and let too many low-skilled migrants into Britain.

In a party political broadcast tonight, the Labour leader will say that communities struggled to keep up with the speed of new arrivals to Britain.

And he will concede that the scale of immigration meant workers' wages have been undercut.

Mr Miliband will pledge to introduce a ‘One Nation immigration policy’ for the many and not the few.

But his party, which has consistently refused to support a cap on numbers, will again fail to spell out any firm policies to cut immigration.

In an astonishing about-face, Mr Miliband will say: ‘Low-skill migration has been too high and we need to bring it down.

‘That means the maximum transitional controls for new countries coming in from Eastern Europe, it means properly enforcing the minimum wage so people aren’t brought here to undercut workers already here, and it means proper training for people here so that they have a fighting chance of filling the vacancies that exist.

‘There’s nothing wrong in employing people from abroad but the rules need to be fair so that local people get a fair crack of the whip.’

In an attempt to distance himself from Labour’s ‘open-door’ immigration policy, which let hundreds of thousands of migrants from new EU countries come to Britain, he will add that it is ‘not prejudiced when people worry about immigration, it’s understandable’.

Mr Miliband will say that every foreigner who settles in Britain should learn English, and all public-sector workers who deal directly with the public must be able to speak English.

And he promise to step up enforcement of the minimum wage to ensure that migrant workers are not paid less to undercut Britons.

But a Tory source said: ‘Vague rhetoric about One Nation does nothing to explain how Labour would control the number of people coming into Britain.’

And UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: 'What will you do Mr Miliband, about the relaxing of controls on Bulgarians and Romanians? Are you prepared to defy the EU treaties and take back our border controls? If not these comments are mere crocodile tears.'

Diane Abbott appeared to torpedo Mr Miliband’s change of tack, insisting Labour would not pander to ‘anti-immigrant’ feelings.

Writing in the New Statesman magazine, Labour’s public health spokesman wrote: ‘There is no path to victory for the Labour Party through the thickets of anti-immigrant politics.’

Mr Miliband will attempt to distance himself from Labour’s ‘open door’ immigration policy which led to hundreds of thousands of migrants from the new EU countries coming to Britain as the UK did not introduce transitional controls.

Nearly 600,000 European migrants came to the UK in 2010 alone, making Labour’s predictions of just 13,000 incomers from the new EU countries laughable.

Mr Miliband will say: 'One of the things I've done since I became the leader of the Labour Party is understand where we got things wrong in government, and change them.

'And one of the things we didn't get right was immigration, and that's why I've got a new approach. Millions of people in this country are concerned about immigration and if people are concerned about it, then the Labour Party I lead is going to be talking about it.'

He will add: 'Britain's diversity is a source of our great strength. It makes us a more successful country.  'But people can lose out if migration isn't properly managed. The pace of change can be too fast or people can see their wages undercut.'

The party political broadcast was filmed at Acton College in West London, where Mr Miliband’s late, Polish father the academic Ralph Miliband came to study English 70 years ago after fleeing the Nazis.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, will make a speech on immigration tomorrow in which she will unveil plans to crackdown on unscrupulous employers who force migrants into overcrowded housing and pay them below the minimum wage.

She will also target 'gangmasters' employing illegal migrants in the social care, hospitality and construction industries - including a ban on housing workers in over-crowded accommodation.

Ms Cooper is also expected to detail proposed reforms of the immigration system and action to improve the training of UK workers so they can fill jobs in shortage occupations.

The news came as Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said migrants could face a minimum period before they could claim tax credits and out-of-work benefits.

Sources said it could be introduced before the lifting of restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants this year.


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