Theresa May under fire over 'xenophobic language' on foreign workers
Theresa May has been accused of using “xenophobic language” and appeasing the “nationalist” wing of the Conservative party in heated exchanges in the House of Commons.
Jeremy Corbyn, Tim Farron and the SNP’s Angus Robertson all laid into the Prime Minister over the Conservatives’ proposals for companies to detail the proportion of foreign workers on their books.
Ministers have since rowed back on the plan, which was aired at the Conservative conference as part of an upcoming consultation on reducing immigration, with Ms Rudd saying it may now only be "voluntary".
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mrs May insisted there had never been any plan to “name and shame” companies.
She said the Government was consulting on following practices used in countries such as the USA to determine areas where there are skills shortages among the local population.
But Mr Robertson, the SNP’s Westminster leader, accused her of fanning the flames of prejudice.
In the first of his two questions he pointed out there had been a rise in hate crimes recently, before following up by telling Mrs May:
“The crackdown and the rhetoric against foreigners by this government has even led to Ukip – Ukip! - saying that things have gone too far.
“Can I tell the Prime Minister that across the length and breadth of this land, people are totally disgusted by the xenophobic language on display from this Government.”
Kicking off his own questions to the PM, Mr Corbyn claimed Home Secretary Amber Rudd had made “naming and shaming” companies her “flagship announcement”.
Mrs May rejected the characterisation of the policy, insisting there was never any plan to publish lists of workers.
“The policy he has just described was never the policy the Home Secretary announced - there was no naming and shaming, no published list of foreign workers, no published data,” she told MPs.
“What we are going to consult on is whether we should bring ourselves in line with countries like the US which collect data in order to be able to ensure that they’re getting the right skills training for workers in their economy.“
Lib Dem leader Mr Farron was scathing about the Government’s apparent ambivalence over remaining in the single market.
Ministers have yet to commit to staying in the trading area, with Mrs May saying only that the Government wants the “maximum” access to the trade area as possible.
“The Prime Minister appears to have made a choice and that choice is to side with the protectionists and nationalists who have taken over her party as surely as Momentum has taken over the Labour party,” Mr Farron said.
“She has chosen a hard Brexit that was never on anybody’s ballot paper and she has chosen to turn her back on British business in the process. As a result, petrol prices and food retailers have warned of huge price rises at the pumps and on the supermarket shelves in the coming days. When will she put the interests of the British people ahead of an extremist protectionism that absolutely nobody voted for?”