Alex Depledge, founder of recently acquired on-demand cleaning service Hassle.com, has attacked the Conservative party for failing to acknowledge the UK tech sector’s overwhelming need to bring in highly-skilled technology workers from overseas.
Following the general election, the Tory government revealed that it planned to “significantly reduce” the number of skilled workers coming to Britain from outside the EU. Prime Minister David Cameron said this was necessary as net migration levels were at record levels.
But Depledge — who is also chair of the Coalition for a Digital Economy [Coadec] organisation, board member of the Sharing Economy UK trade body, and board member of Tech North — argues that the UK technology sector needs more workers from outside the EU, not less.
“What I’m about to say next is why I’ll never be a politician or favoured by government,” Depledge told Business Insider at a sharing economy event in London last week. “I think inside the Conservative party, they know that this is b——-, they know we need highly skilled immigration, but they can’t say it because they’re too afraid of upsetting the right wing and all that ugliness that sits right on the far right.”
This month the government’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) will submit its review on how the UK can further tighten rules around the entrepreneur visa, which allows those outside the EU to come to Britain and start a business, and the Tier 2 visa, which enables UK technology companies to hire 20,700 skilled workers from outside the EU and bridge skills gaps.
Companies like Google and Facebook rely on the Tier 2 visa to bring staff from their US offices to their London offices.
The government is exploring whether it should raise the minimum salary threshold on the Tier 2 visa so that it only applies to people working at director-level roles.
“I don’t think for a second David Cameron really believes that shutting Tier 2 immigration or reducing it is the right thing but he’s stuck in a political rock and a hard place,” said Depledge. “I think they will do the right thing in the end because I don’t think they want to see businesses crippled because they can’t find the right talent.”
Coadec, the pro-startup organisation that Depledge chairs, has launched a campaign called Save Skilled Migration in a bid to raise awareness of the issue and put pressure on politicians in the Home Office, including Home Secretary Theresa May.
A decision will be made on the proposals in the MAC report next year.
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