Business cheers exclusions from migration cap

UK Border Agency reflective jacket The coalition government has committed itself to reducing net migration

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Business groups have welcomed the exclusion of intra-company transfers (ICTs) from the government's cap on skilled migrant workers from outside the European Economic Area.

Businesses had argued that if the cap included workers from different countries moving within the same firm it would leave them less competitive.

The decision to exclude ICTs follows much lobbying from various industries.

But the NHS voiced concerns the cap would harm its ability to recruit.

"The intra-company transfer route is not available to the NHS and as such a 25% reduction has effectively been applied to the supply of visas available," Karen Charman, head of employment services at NHS Employers, said.

"We remain concerned that this substantial reduction in staff supply may adversely affect the ability to deliver patient care in many NHS trusts.

But the CBI said this was a "good result" for the economy and for the country, while the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said it would help the UK remain competitive.

A substantial proportion of skilled workers entering the UK from outside the European Economic Area come in on ICTs.

In 2009, they accounted for 22,000 out of a total of 50,000 skilled migrants.

'Listened to business'

The government has capped the number of skilled workers allowed into the UK from outside the European Economic Area at 21,700, a reduction of 6,300 on the equivalent figure for 2009.

There had initially been fears that the cap would include ICTs. But the announcement from the Home Secretary Theresa May said that, in future, such employees would be allowed to stay for up to five years if their salary exceeded £40,000.

Pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) said it was pleased with the move.

"[It] appears to reflect the needs of global businesses such as GSK to move key talent between our international sites, including the UK, as well as recognising that on occasion we will need to recruit the brightest and the best from outside Europe".

John Cridland, director-general designate of the CBI, said: "This announcement shows that the government has listened to the needs of business and has acted to support the recovery.

"Crucially, the design of the new system prioritises the routes of entry that matter most to the economy."

Flexibility needed

David Frost, director general of the BCC, said: "Business will be pleased to see that the government has taken its concerns on board."

But he added: "At the same time, businesses will hold the Home Secretary to her pledge to ensure that businesses will still have the flexibility to hire according to their needs."

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) were also pleased with the announcement.

"Today's announcement by government is welcome news for the UK automotive industry as highly skilled employees from across the world are essential to maintaining and improving our global productivity and competitiveness," SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt said.

Relocation?

The BBC spoke to one small business who was also concerned about the cap.

Media Analytics Limited, which publishes information and analysis on the water industry, employs 30 members of staff in the UK. About a quarter of those are recruited from Oxford University, and many of them are from outside Europe.

Its managing editor Christopher Gasson said he was told he could sponsor "zero applicants" for tier two (skilled) workers.

"I'm not prepared to fire people because the government says I have to," Mr Gasson told the BBC.

He said he was considering moving the business outside of the UK.

"I'm prepared to do what it takes to keep our people even if that means relocating."

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