The Prime Minister says young Brits cannot “fully” compete with hard-working immigrants from Eastern Europe
By Steven Swinford, Senior Political Correspondent
12:38PM GMT 28 Oct 2013
British youths are not “fully capable” of competing with hard working immigrants from Eastern Europe because they lack the basic skills and qualifications, David Cameron has said.
The Prime Minister said it was a “cruel fact” that a generation of young Britons could “left behind” and fail to share in the benefits of the economic recovery.
He said that in factories across the country up to half of the workforce is from Eastern European countries such as Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
He said that Britain must learn to say “no” to foreign workers and do more to ensure people leave school with good qualifications and don’t spend their lives on benefits.
Speaking at the launch of an event to celebrate apprentices at the Mini plant near Oxford, Mr Cameron said “you can’t blame” immigrants for wanting to work hard and get on.
He said: “You can go to factories in our country where half the people come from Poland, Lithuania or Latvia. You can’t blame them, they want to work, they see the jobs, they come over and they do them.
“But as a country what we ought to be saying is ‘No, let’s get our education system right so we are producing young people out of our schools and colleges who are fully capable of doing those jobs’.”
Mr Cameron’s tone is in stark contrast to Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, who said earlier this month that he is “probably the only” politician in Britain to admit to be prepared to “stand up and say” he is pro-immigration.
He has said that young Britons are “wet behind the ears” and lack the work ethic of immigrants, who are prepared to do “menial” jobs that locals refuse.
Mr Cameron said that the welfare system needs to be reformed so it “does not pay to be out of work”, adding that immigration needs to be restricted.
“Let’s have sensible controls on immigration, particularly from outside the EU where we can cap the number of people who come,” he said.
He added: “Immigration, welfare and education are totally linked. Crack those three problems together and we can really get an economy that generates wealth for our people.”
He defended the government’s controversial work experience programme, which encourages people to take unpaid internships.
He said: “Getting people into the workplace, giving them experience of work, of timekeeping and all the things it means to have a job is a really good way to help get people started.
“It’s a cruel fact but it’s true that the best way to get a job is to have one already.”
He said: “The danger for a country like Britain is yes, you see the economy recover, yes you see jobs coming, but you leave behind people who have not got the right qualifications from school. I don’t want that to happen in our country.”
Matt Hancock, the skills minister, expanded on Mr Cameron’s comments. He said: We have a record number of jobs in this country and we’ve got to make sure that as people leave school, they are in a position to take those jobs. Likewise the employers should look at local young people when they’re trying to fill these jobs.”
More than 60 of the UK’s leading businesses have signed up to deliver new-style apprenticeship schemes, including Mini owners BMW, BAE Systems, Microsoft and Barclays Bank.