He announced that the next government will establish a special Home Office Enforcement Unit with more than 100 staff to root out the illegal exploitation which undercuts wages and conditions for local workers. The new unit will bring together teams from the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and specialist police units with additional Home Office enforcement staff. It will have the powers needed to investigate abuse and the clear task of increasing the number of prosecutions and fines against bad employers and gangmasters who exploit workers to undercut conditions.
Mr Miliband also announced new measures to champion integration in our communities and public services by ensuring all NHS staff have good standards of English so they can care better for patients. In a major speech in the North West, Mr Miliband condemned David Cameron for making false promises on immigration at the last election when the Tories promised to cut levels to tens of thousands. Pointing out how since then the Prime Minister has presided over a rise in numbers to 300,000, he will say the politics of broken promises from the Conservatives, and seeking to exploit legitimate concerns by UKIP, corrode public trust in our democracy.
He made clear that, as the son of immigrants himself, no government he leads will ever turn away from Britain’s traditions of openness, tolerance and diversity. But he will also emphasise that it is not prejudiced to be concerned about immigration and that the system does need to change. He set out how he will control immigration with a better plan based on five, clear Labour principles:
- Rebuilding trust.
- Securing borders.
- Restoring contribution.
- Championing integration.
- Ending exploitation.
Highlighting how Labour has plans to employ 1,000 more border agency staff to increase border security and enforcement, Mr Miliband will say that controlling immigration does not stop at the border but also means action in every town and city where low-skilled migrant labour is exploited and local workers see wages and conditions undercut. He explained that the proliferation of low paid and insecure jobs, often paid less than the minimum wage or on zero hour contracts, are symptoms of a deep problem in sectors of our economy, such as food, hospitality and care, that are increasingly reliant on low skill migration.
And he set out plans to bring together teams from the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, specialist police units and other anti-exploitation officials with new Home Office enforcement staff in a new unit. This team will have full investigatory powers to enforce Labour’s exploitation law – criminalising, once and for all, the sort of practises used by unscrupulous employers and gangmasters. Mr Miliband announced further measures to implement Labour’s manifesto commitment for better integration in our communities by ensuring public sector workers in public-facing jobs have minimum language standards.
Recognising the huge contribution immigrants have made – and continue to make - to the NHS, he said they will be able to care better for patients if they have minimum standards of English. He announced the next government will legislate to extend English language requirements, currently limited to just a few occupations, to all health and social care professions.
Mr Miliband said immigration can benefit Britain but that he has changed Labour’s approach on this issue to drive out exploitation and help build a country where working people succeed: "Labour’s vision is a future that works for working people, with a recovery that reaches every part of our country. And as we seek to build that future: one issue that working people need the next government to deal with is immigration. I am the son of immigrants. I know immigration can benefit our country. I will never denigrate the contribution immigrants have made to our country or seek to exploit people’s legitimate concerns. But Labour got this wrong in the past. We have listened. We have learned. And we have changed."
Mr Miliband said that, unlike David Cameron, Labour’s plan will show it will only to make promises it can keep: "David Cameron made a promise before the last election. ‘No ifs, no buts’, he said. He told us he would get net migration down to the tens of thousands, not the hundreds of thousands. He even invited us to kick him out of office in five years if he didn’t deliver. But net migration rose to 298,000 last year. Almost exactly three times higher than he promised. The Tories’ target is in tatters."
"Britain needs a Prime Minister who will only make promises on immigration that he can keep. Real promises that will make a real difference: a better plan; a plan that starts with strong borders; so people have confidence that we control who comes into the country; a plan that’s founded on fair rules, where wages can’t be undercut and benefits must be earned; a plan that’s based on the right values."
Mr Miliband said that the Tories and UKIP will never be able to tackle immigration properly because they don’t understand that an epidemic of exploitation is driving up the number of low-skill workers who come here. "Too often, this is an anything-goes economy: people who live in the most appalling, cramped conditions, sleeping 20 to a house; people who are paid well below the minimum wage; people who have their wages stolen. It’s exploitation of the worst kind. But it isn’t just bad for those people directly affected, it drives down standards for everybody else, undercutting local workers, and making life harder for responsible employers. It is an epidemic of exploitation and we will end it."
"This Labour Party will fight exploitation wherever we find it. And to enforce this, I can announce today, that we will establish a new Home Office Enforcement Unit. This will be a unit of at least 100 officers who will have one overriding duty: to stop the abuse that makes the working families of Britain poorer. This new unit will have the powers and funding it needs to increase the prosecutions and convictions of Britain’s worst employers: those who exploit workers and drag down the wages of everyone else."
Mr Miliband set out how he says Labour will strengthen social integration and ensure that everyone, including those who come to work here in our vital public services, can play their part to the full. "Our communities are changing but we don’t cope with change by closing our doors to each other and living our lives in separate worlds. We must live together across communities. And it is why I believe a simple principle: everyone in Britain should know how to speak English, it is something we should expect from everyone who comes here, especially those who work in public services in public facing roles, and nowhere is that more true than in our NHS."
"We all know the crucial contribution that people from overseas have played in our NHS and continue to play today. I will never demean or devalue their contribution to our country. But it is also crucial that people who come to fulfil these roles don’t just have skills to care for people but also the skills needed to communicate with those for whom they care. So in the future all healthcare professionals will be required to speak English to a sufficient standard so they can care effectively for patients. And we will legislate to give all the healthcare regulators - not just some - clear powers to enforce this rule."