UK Politics

UK ministers 'stoking fires' with non-British worker numbers plan

Tomas Prouza Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tomas Prouza said there had been an "enormous" increase in attacks on Czechs living in the UK

The government is "stoking the fires" of anti-immigrant feeling by proposing to make firms say how many non-British workers they employ, top Czech minister Tomas Prouza has said.

He urged Theresa May to "condemn these ideas", saying they were very similar to events in Europe in the 1930s.

He said there had been an "enormous" rise in attacks on Czechs in the UK since the referendum.

The government says firms will not have to list individual foreign staff.

At the Conservative Party conference last month, Home Secretary Amber Rudd proposed that firms could be forced to disclose what percentage of their workforce was non-British as a way to encourage them to hire more locals.

She told the BBC she wanted to "flush out" companies abusing existing rules and "nudge them into better behaviour".

Briefing notes from her department also suggested they could be required to "be clear about the proportion of their workforce which is international", a practice which the Home Office said was standard in the US.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon later clarified that, if the plan went ahead, it would mean firms providing numbers overall rather than individual names.

'Very dangerous'

But, speaking to BBC Radio 4's Analysis, Mr Prouza, the Czech Republic's state secretary for European affairs, said: "I think the performance at the Conservative Party conference was again stoking the fires.

"When you had all these ideas of British companies that would have to report the number of foreigners they employ, maybe even the names of the foreigners they employ, that is very similar to what we have seen on the continent in the 1930s.

"I think we all remember what it led to. So I think we see it as very dangerous and I was really hoping that Prime Minister May would condemn these ideas very quickly and it's not happened. So that is a worry."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Amber Rudd has said discussing immigration should not be regarded as "racist"

A UK government spokesman said: "There is no plan to list foreign workers and never has been. The proportion of international workers in a company is one of the pieces of information that companies may be asked to provide to the government. This information will not be published.

"This already happens in the US and is one of several proposals we will be consulting on as part of our work to ensure that companies take reasonable steps to recruit at home before looking to bring in workers from abroad.

"The purpose of having a consultation is so that we can listen to business and use that feedback to inform our decisions".

Racist or religious abuse incidents recorded by police in England and Wales increased by 41% in the month after June's EU referendum, according to Home Office figures.

It said the sharp increase had declined in August but had "remained at a higher level than prior to the EU referendum".

'Negative experiences'

Mr Prouza said: "At the moment we need to support the security of Czechs. We've seen an enormous increase in attacks on Czechs and other foreigners on British soil.

"We've had dozens and dozens of people complaining to the Czech embassy in London, sharing their negative experiences in places where they have lived for five or 10 years and never had a problem.

"In the last six months there is more and more of these issues."

Mr Prouza said that, in a recent conversation with Mrs May, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka had told her: "We would really like to see the British government doing something about these xenophobic, nationalistic attacks."

Ms Rudd has said: "We should be able to have a conversation about the skills we need.

"I don't think we should have a situation where we can't talk about immigration.

"We must not ignore the fact that people want to talk about immigration and if we do talk about immigration, don't call me a racist."

Analysis is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Monday from 20:30 GMT and will be available on BBC iPlayer and the programme's own website.

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