There is “real panic and despondency” over labour shortages in sectors of the economy, the chief of a major high street retailer has warned.
Lord Wolfson, chief executive of Next and a Conservative life peer, urged ministers to sit down with business to “design a system that delivers the best of both worlds”.
Asked if big business does not want any control on immigration, he told BBC Radio 4 programme: “Absolutely not. What I’ve suggested is that we have a market-led solution whereby businesses can get visas for the skills that they desperately need, but with two conditions.
“The first is that they have to pay those people who are coming from overseas the same wages as they pay UK workers and over and above that they have to pay a visa tax on top of that, let’s say 7% of wages.
“That way we can have a market-led solution that ensures that people aren’t being brought into the UK to undercut UK workers, because they’ll always be more expensive and it provides the skills that Britain desperately needs to keep its industries moving.”
He was speaking ahead of the Prime Minister’s Conservative Party conference speech.
Lord Wolfson said: “I think that that approach leads to queues at petrol stations and pigs being unnecessarily shot, so I don’t think that’s a particularly constructive approach.
“Rather than try and solve this problem with people throwing brickbats at each other, we sit down together, work through and design a system that delivers the best of both worlds.”
Lord Wolfson said he has “not yet” received a response from ministers after raising the issue.
Asked about the outlook for the next few months, he said: “What we’re experiencing is relatively mild, in terms of the business that I work for we will get through Christmas, our next day delivery may deteriorate, it may not be quite as good a service as our customers are used to and that would be a shame.
“But when I talk to people who are in the restaurant industry or the hotel industry or the care home industry, there is real panic and despondency.”
Stuart Patrick: COP26 can bring a new start for Glasgow if we rise to challenge
After a year’s Covid-19 break, Glasgow’s annual State of the City Economy conference returned for its 23rd edition last week.
The City Council had already launched its ‘greenprint’ net zero investment prospectus, so there were no eye-catching announcements from the Leader of the Council Susan Aitken on the day. But two primary themes emerged as the common message from the morning’s agenda – collaboration and innovation in the face of historic challenges, alongside a call for Glasgow to use COP26 as the best opportunity it will likely ever have to tell its story on a world stage.
Dundee in contention for smart battery ‘Gigafactory’ boost
Smart battery developer AMTE Power has said it has made good progress in the latest year as the company develops plans for a mass manufacturing plant, which it may build in Dundee.
Caithness-based AMTE noted the batteries it is developing have generated strong interest among potential users in sectors such as automotive and oil and gas ahead of its planned move into commercial production while the company recently received a vote of confidence from the UK Government.
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