Care system 'needs foreign workers'

Updated: 

Jim Murphy helps home care helpers

The care system would collapse without migrant workers, Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb has warned.

Mr Lamb's warning came a day after official figures showed a surge of more than one-third in net migration to 212,000 in the 12 months to September 2013.

The increase - including a large leap in the number of Romanians and Bulgarians arriving ahead of their new rights to work in the UK from January 1 - dealt a near-fatal blow to Prime Minister David Cameron's promise to cut net migration to the tens of thousands by 2015 and sparked questions over whether EU migrants were taking jobs from British workers.

But Mr Lamb, who has ministerial responsibility for the care system, said the UK benefited from the arrival of foreign workers.

The North Norfolk MP told the Eastern Daily Press: "I'm acutely aware, for example, in my own area of interest that the care system in Norfolk, let alone everywhere else, would collapse without workers from other countries.

"The vast bulk of people who come to this country come to work and we benefit from that.

"What we have been clear about is that our youngsters need to have the skills to compete for jobs. It is very tempting to claim that these people are coming into our system to take our benefits, but most are doing pretty vital jobs in care, in the hotel and hospitality industry. Most of these people are working very hard and contributing to our economy."

Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable said yesterday that the immigration figures were "good news for British workers" and showed that the Conservative drive to get net migration under 100,000 - which has never been accepted by the Lib Dem side of the coalition Government - was "unworkable".

"What is striking about the employment figures is that, contrary to popular myths, 90% of British jobs being created are going to British workers," said Mr Cable. "This shows how important it is for employers and Government to continue investing in skills and is good for the economy and our society.

"This is further proof that any quota on migration, such as the one Conservatives are pushing to get net migration down to tens of thousands, is unworkable and contradicts our aims of getting Britain back on its feet."

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "As we have often said, we recognise the contribution of those who come here to work hard as part of a controlled immigration system."