Of all the terrible policies bandied around at the Labour conference, from price controls to land grabs, from huge regulatory burdens to tax hikes, the most offensive by far is the one that very few people seem to be talking about. I refer of course to Labour’s proposed ‘Immigration Tax’.
Like most things at a party conference, it was announced to widespread support and a good reception, with lots of uses of the word ‘British’ involved, just so we know it’s a good thing we can all get behind. However a quick glance at what the policy would actually mean shows that it’s one of the nastier things announced by a major party in recent times.
The policy states that for every (non-EU) foreign worker a company hires, they will have to pay to train a British apprentice at the same time. Even if we put aside the huge cost to business generally, the fact that they no longer have proper control of who they employ, the fact that maybe they don’t need dozens of apprentices and this will require a huge cost to manage etc, we have the issue that it’s outright discrimination against foreign workers, making it next to impossible for companies to hire them.
Imagine if a company could hire a man or a woman, but were told that if they hired the woman, they would also have to pay to train a male apprentice. However if they hired the man, they would have to pay no extra cost. People would see two things in this policy. Firstly, that it provides an obvious disincentive against hiring the woman, because assuming an equal skill level (or even with the woman having a higher skill level) it still costs thousands more per year to employ her than the male worker.
The second thing people will realise is that this is clearly an unreasonable and discriminatory policy. It is the government centrally planning a desired workforce, and that desired workforce is British. Never mind skill level or merit or anything like that, Labour wants its workforce to be British, and a company that dares to think workers from abroad have things to offer as well will have to pay through the nose for the privilege.
The plan is an obvious attempt to win back both a disillusioned, anti-immigration set of voters that abandoned the party under Tony Blair for a perceived ‘weak’ attitude towards immigration, and win favour with the unions by removing competition from foreign workers. The sheer nerve of Ed and his team has to be admired, as soon after announcing this policy, he was criticising the Tories for a negative attitude to immigration because of the anti-immigration van campaign (which also is a bad idea).
The effect economically will be a disaster. Firms either having to pay huge costs for teams of apprentices they can’t afford, or else massively reducing their potential recruitment network to one country, while our neighbours can reap the benefits of the best talent the world has to offer for their top companies.
Ed has taken to using John Major’s strategy of speeches on a soapbox, and has taken the slogan ‘One Nation’ from Benjamin Disraeli, but with this policy and others announced at the conference, he’s managed to steal one more association from the Tories. It’s evident now, if it wasn’t before, that Labour are the real nasty party.
Joe Markham is a contributor for The Libertarian.