30/10/2007

Smith Apology For Foreign Workers Gaff

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has apologised after it emerged that there were 300,000 more foreign workers in the UK than government figures had previously revealed.

The number of foreign workers in the UK is now thought to be 1.1 million, not the 800,000 originally recorded in official figures.

Ms Smith said that it was "bad" that the figures on the number of foreign nationals working in the UK since 1997 were incorrect, but stressed that there were now 2.7 million more jobs in the country.

Speaking to the BBC, Ms Smith said: "That is more jobs, yes, that have been filled by those that have come from abroad, but many more jobs that have been filled by UK nationals, and vacancies still out there for UK nationals."

However, the Conservatives criticised the government. Shadow secretary for work and pensions Chris Grayling said that the fact that the government did not know the real number of foreign workers who had come to the UK in the last ten years was "profoundly worrying" and suggested that ministers had "lost control of our systems for migrant workers".

Mr Grayling said: "It really does call into question the competence of ministers and of the government as a whole."

Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrats' work and pensions secretary, said: "Getting these figures so wrong further undermines the credibility of the government's claims to be able to deliver a well-managed system for foreign workers.

"Sneaking the figures out when there is no possibility of parliamentary debate for over a week only adds insult to incompetence.

"Britain has benefited enormously from the labour of foreign national workers and, if we are to continue to benefit, the public must have confidence in the system. Getting the basic facts rights is essential to that task."

(KMcA)


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