Swraj Paul breaks ranks over Lords immigration report

April 2nd, 2008 - 5:38 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Gordon Brown

London, April 2 (IANS) Indian-born industrialist Lord Swraj Paul has broken ranks with an influential House of Lords committee that suggested placing a cap on immigration in Britain. Paul, a member of the Lords Economic Affairs Committee, said he had strong reservations about a key recommendation and that his own Caparo Group of Industries would be closing down its British factories were it not for skilled migrant workers.

His comments came as Prime Minister Gordon Brown rejected the report’s recommendation for capping immigration and Labour MP Keith Vaz described it as “rubbish”.

The report by the Lords committee rejected government claims that immigration benefited the British economy to the tune of six billion pounds a year, saying the benefits were negligible if individuals were taken into consideration.

Paul, a steel tycoon and member of the committee, said he had strong reservations about the report’s recommendation that the benefits of immigration should be measured by the impact on income per head of existing resident population - rather than on the overall economy.

Paul said he was among a minority of committee members who had doubts on this recommendation, which was the basis for Tuesday’s headline-grabbing call for a cap on immigration.

“The report does really concentrate on the benefits of immigration per capita, which I don’t really agree with myself,” said Paul.

“We have a strong economy, we want a competitive economy and one of the things is that jobs will go to the immigrants. So what, as long as the country is happy with low inflation and a strong economy,” he added in comments published in The Guardian Wednesday.

He said Britain’s strong economy and low inflation depended on its ability to attract “younger workers who are filling shortages”.

“My company is short of people, skilled people. If we did not have the choice of migrants we would be closing factories and going overseas for production,” Paul, the founder of Caparo Group, warned in comments published in The Times Wednesday.

Prime Minister Brown told his monthly news conference Tuesday his government will control immigration by a new Points Based System, rather than a cap.

“Most people who are proposing a cap are seeking a cap of only 20 percent of possible migrants into this country. Many of these people are the highly skilled workers who are important to the economy,” he added.

Keith Vaz, Chairman of the British Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee, told IANS Tuesday: “This report has shown a complete lack of understanding about what has been a driving force of Britain’s economic success, and I will be pushing for a House of Commons debate on it. It’s rubbish.”

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