October 9, 2012 6:11 pm

May attacks Labour over migrant workers

Therasa May©PA

Theresa May has accused the last Labour government of using immigrant workers to keep UK wages artificially low, in a speech to the Conservative party conference on Tuesday.

The home secretary’s address included a rousing passage on her department’s immigration reforms – including a cap on low-skilled migrants and a crackdown on abuse of student visas – which aim to reduce net migration to less than 100,000 in the next three years. But Ms May also spent time attacking the previous government’s record.

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Ms May’s attack was based on research by the government’s independent migration advisers, which found that contrary to Labour’s claim that immigration did not displace domestic workers, there are in fact 23 fewer UK-born people in work for every 100 non-European working age immigrants employed.

She also had words for business and higher education groups that have criticised the Home Office’s policy changes.

“I know there are powerful vested interests who will oppose our immigration policies every step of the way,” Ms May said. She added that there wasn’t a “shred of evidence” that uncontrolled mass immigration made the UK better off.

Striking a lighter and slightly irreverent note in his speech to conference, Damian Green, the newly appointed policing minister, said relations between the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice had changed very much since Chris Grayling took over from Ken Clarke as justice secretary in the September reshuffle.

“In previous times both Theresa and Ken used to point out how well they worked together: Theresa locked them up and Ken let them out. Under the new regime, I discover it’s a bit different: Theresa locks them up and Chris throws away the key.”

Mr Grayling was true to his “tough justice” persona in his speech to delegates on Tuesday.

He announced that people who commit “the most serious” violent or sexual crimes more than once will face automatic life sentences. This would instil a “two strikes and out” regime, that would deter future criminals, the justice secretary said.

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