London business group criticizes UK Home Secretary on immigration

London First, an association of London businesses, has criticised Theresa May, the United Kingdom's Home Secretary for her 'constant finger pointing' and for making 'a succession of changes to the immigration rules'.

Yesterday, Baroness Valentine, the chief executive of London First, issued a statement 'responding to Theresa May's comments that business must stop complaining about the immigration cap'. The Coalition government introduced a cap on the number of visas it would offer every year when it came to power in 2010. Since then, various business figures have protested that the cap is damaging British industry; in 2011, Sir Richard Lambert, a former director-general of the Confederation of British Industry said that the cap was making it harder for firms to recruit.

The government has responded robustly. In June, Mrs May spoke to journalists at Westminster and said that the number of applications for tier 2 skilled worker visas had not reached the government cap. She said 'that suggests to me that there's headroom for business to get people into the UK'

In July, Mrs May introduced a new, revised temporary cap which reduced the total number of skilled migrant visas to be granted in the next nine months by 1,300 to 24,100. However, intra-company transfers were exempted from the cap. A new regime will be introduced in 2013. British universities have objected that the cap will stop them from recruiting academic staff from abroad.

Baroness Valentine said, in her statement, 'Government makes all the right noises in speeches –acknowledging the benefit of attracting talent from around the world – but it must now match its rhetoric with actions that demonstrate that the UK is open for business'.

London First claims that its 'members represent over a quarter of London's GDP'. Members include all London-based universities, as well as banks, hospitals, solicitors, utilities companies, large retailers and property companies. The timing of the statement may have been influenced by the recent decision of the UK immigration authorities to withdraw the licence which entitled London Metropolitan University to sponsor students from outside the European Economic Area to study in the UK.

Baroness Valentine's statement included these words; 'In education, recent changes to the student visa system have created a perception that genuine students aren't welcome. 65% of international students in a recent NUS survey said they would not recommend, or are unsure whether they would recommend, the UK as a place to study, as a direct result of government policy.' London Metropolitan is a London First member.

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