Vince Cable seems to be very happy drawing down a ministerial salary whilst criticising the policies for which he is collectively responsible. This time he is getting peeved about the limits on non-EU migration.
"A lot of damage is being done to British industry,” the business secretary told the Financial Times on Thursday. He said companies were moving jobs overseas in response to punitive caps that left them unable to hire key staff. “I’ve got a file full of examples. This is not just people whingeing,” he said.
The cap on non-EU workers was a manifesto pledge for David Cameron and proved popular with voters: it was reluctantly accepted by Lib Dems in the May coalition negotiations. Mr Cable said he was fully signed up to the coalition’s plan for a permanent immigration cap but wanted to see it applied flexibly.
“I was talking to people in the City and there were two investment banks that recruit hundreds of people from the non-EU area, Indians and Americans. They were allowed only 30-40 [visas]. They have moved some operations to Hong Kong.”
Mr Cable said in one instance a UK company needed 500 specialist engineers but was given a quota of four. He spoke of an entrepreneur who ditched plans to open a factory and create 400 jobs in northern England after failing to secure visas for key staff.
Not quite true, Mr Cable. The people are usually out there but not necessarily at the wage levels some companies would like. Believe me, there are no companies that need 500 "specialist" engineers of a type that are unavailable in the UK. Sure enough there are probably plenty of Indians prepared to work for 80% of the salary that a UK engineer would think necessary to house, feed and cloth a family, but if a company was so desperate to access cheap highlyt skilled labour, perhaps they should have set up in India in the first place. If you want companies to employ UK staff on their own merits, perhaps you should look at ways to reduce the costs of doing business in the UK (rates, NI, realistic capital allowances, simpler tax compliance and less red tape).
As for US bankers, well all that takes is the same sort of system that the US applies for all immigrants working for US firms - the B-1 visa. It worked for me and I have never heard any US firm complain that it was too restrictive.
So, Mr Cable, instead of whining to the newspaper (essentially about yourself), get out and do the ministerial job that you are being paid to do.