Dismore questions Mayor over Conservative threat to London’s economy

At today’s Mayor’s Question Time, Andrew Dismore AM, Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden questioned the Mayor Sadiq Khan over the implications of the Home Secretary’s proposal to increase the earnings threshold for overseas workers.

Mr Dismore asked:

‘What would be the impact on London’s economy of increasing the salary threshold for overseas workers coming to London to £36,700, as proposed by the new Conservative Home Secretary Priti Patel?

‘Do you agree that there is a significant risk to London’s services and economy if we cannot recruit the skilled workers we need whose incomes would not meet the Conservatives’ threshold, for example those in the social care and the NHS where a junior doctor’s starting pay is £35,750 and a nurse £21,347, both below the Conservatives’ threshold. London has the highest vacancy rate in the country at 14% with 9,316 posts are unfilled and 51% of those EU  nurses and midwives who left the register gave Brexit as a reason; and what do you say to those, such as Assembly Member Bailey, who have said that the poorest Londoners suffer as a result of immigration because foreign citizens compete with Londoners for jobs?’

The Mayor said that it was economic madness. Half of Londoners earn less than £30,000, including many EU workers. If they don’t continue to come, the economy and services would suffer. He also said he would be surprised and disappointed if any Assembly Member thought that the poorest Londoners suffered as a result of immigration, and that they would not win an election in this City if that was his view.

After MQT Mr Dismore added:

‘The Conservatives’ obsession with immigration is already creating major risks to London’s services and economy, as employers struggle both to recruit and retain the skilled staff they need, especially in services that are traditionally not highly paid but essential to Londoners’ wellbeing and the capital’s success. Priti Patel’s scheme to increase the proposed earnings threshold will make the problems even worse and must be resisted if London is not to suffer even more in the post Brexit world.

‘I support the Mayor’s calls for Boris Johnson to adopt an alternative immigration plan and reduce the skilled salary threshold to £21,000, and to introduce a ‘Fast-track’ visa proposal to allow the Capital to bring in vital skilled workers which are necessary to keep the capital functioning.’


Notes for editors

The government published a White Paper on 19 December 2018 proposed stricter immigration and citizenship rules to come into place after Brexit, including the end to freedom of movement. The home secretary, Sajid Javid, and the prime minister announced proposals for a single immigration system that treats people from EU countries the same as those from non-EU countries. Highly skilled workers would be given priority, while low-skilled immigration would be curbed.

Since then, the new Home Secretary Priti Patel has proposed increasing Sajid Javid’s proposed salary minimum of £30,000, to £36,700 for all new foreign workers.

A significant number of jobs in London – some 600,000 – are carried out by EU-born workers and certain sectors in the capital are especially reliant on EU-born workers, the NHS and social care in particular. There is a significant risk to the London and the UK economy if London’s economy cannot recruit the skilled workers it needs. Whilst EU citizens’ rights remain unchanged from the March draft deal, a lack of security over the deal is a worry for EU nationals in London many of whom are returning to their home countries; and recruitment is suffering as EU workers do not apply as before.

Business groups have slammed proposals to raise the salary threshold for immigrant workers to £36,700 after Brexit, warning the move would harm British companies. For example, the Institute of Directors said “With unemployment at record lows, skills gaps are already holding businesses back.” And London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that even the £30,000 threshold would limit companies’ access to talent. “The proposed threshold should be coming down, not going up.”

The Mayor has urged the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to ‘fully recognise the positive impact immigration and Freedom of Movement has had in London and the UK’ and come forward with anew plan to ensure the capital and UK can continue to attract European and international workers following Brexit.

City Hall research shows that sectors such as construction, social care and hospitality could struggle to fill key posts under the proposals outlined in the Government’s Immigration White Paper. The study finds that employers could struggle to fill vacancies in occupations that account for around half of all jobs in the capital. Nurseries, cleaning firms and homebuilders and employers with roles regarded as ‘lower-skilled’ risk being unable to make long-term hires from abroad under the Government’s plans.

In particular, the previously proposed £30,000 minimum salary threshold for Tier 2 skilled worker visas would prevent the recruitment of long-term migrant workers in roles where almost 150,000 European Londoners are currently employed across the capital -with a quarter of the ineligible jobs found in construction and hospitality occupations alone. This will only worsen if the Home Secretary increases that further.

London has the highest NHS vacancy rate in the country at 14%. 9,316 posts are unfilled. Across the UK, the number of nursing and midwifery professionals from the EU continues to decline. Since March 2017, the number has reduced by  13 percent (nearly 5,000) over two years.  The NMC asked over 11,000 people who left its register over a six month period in 2018 the reasons why they left. 51 percent of those nurses and midwives from within the EU who left the register stated Brexit as a reason for encouraging them to consider working outside the UK.