British Labour leader outlines firmer immigration policy
The leader of Britain's main opposition party on Monday vowed to crack down on employers who pay migrant workers less than Britons in a speech toughening up his immigration policy before next year's general election.
Ed Miliband vowed that a future Labour government would protect lower paid British workers from being undercut by unscrupulous employers by making this a criminal offence, as well as strengthening border controls.
"When people can be exploited for low wages or endangered at work, it drags the whole system down, undercutting the pay and conditions of local workers," he said during a speech in Great Yarmouth, eastern England.
"We must end the epidemic of exploitation. We must stop people's living standards being undermined by scandalous undercutting."
Immigration is expected to be a hotly debated issue at the election in May as the main parties fight to stem the flow of voters to the UK Independence Party (UKIP), which advocates a hardline stance.
The latest YouGov poll published in this week's Sunday Times put Miliband's Labour neck-and-neck with Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives on 32 percent, with UKIP on 16 percent.
Labour members canvassing on the doorstep are being advised not to bring up the issue of immigration due to fears it could lose them support, according to a leaked party document published in Monday's Daily Telegraph.
The document concedes that Labour cannot win a "bidding war" with UKIP, telling activists to "move the conversation on" to other subjects.
A Labour spokesman accused the newspaper of "taking only a few lines out of context."
Miliband has been under increasing pressure to explain his position on the issue, particularly after the party only narrowly held off UKIP's challenge at an October by-election in a Labour stronghold.
He has already outlined plans to deny migrants from the European Union access to benefits for the first two years they are in Britain.
"It isn't prejudiced to worry about immigration, it is understandable," he said Monday.
"I am proud of the contribution that immigrants of all origins, races and faiths have made to Britain over the years. But for that contribution to benefit all our citizens and not just some, immigration has got to be properly managed."
The Labour leader also promised to increase fines for firms that ignore minimum wage rules, stop agency contracts being used to undercut permanent staff and to ban recruitment agencies from hiring only from abroad.
© 2014 AFP