A crossbench peer and leading entrepreneur has criticised the UK’s “madcap” immigration controls, warning they are damaging business prospects. Lord Bilimoria, founder of Cobra Beer, condemned the government’s immigration cap as a “crude and blunt instrument”.
Opening a Lords debate on the contribution of minority ethnic and religious groups to the cultural life and economy of the UK, the crossbench peer said foreign students brought up to £80 million a year in revenue into the country. “And yet potential foreign students are asking themselves: ‘does Britain really want us?'” he said, Urging ministers to think again about the “short-sighted” and “madcap idea”, Lord Bilimoria said it was also affecting business. He argued that Indian restaurants were unable to bring in the skilled staff they needed and “suffering” as a result.
Lord Bilimoria, who came to Britain as a student from India 30 years ago, said the “glass ceiling” had been “shattered” and the country transformed into a “meritocracy where there is opportunity for all regardless of race, religion or background”. He forecast that a member of the ethnic minority community would become prime minister during his lifetime.
Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town, winding up the debate for Labour, warned the “scar” of youth unemployment could lead to more racism and called for ministers to take action to cut down on joblessness. “I feel no anger from the government on this, I feel no fear of what this will do for communities,” she said. Minister without portfolio Baroness Warsi, replying to the debate, told Lord Bilimoria the government had no wish to cut down on genuine students from overseas. She said: “This country will always remain open to genuine students who are coming here to study a genuine course at a genuine university. “It should not follow that, if this county is open and welcoming to students coming to this country to study, there is an automatic right that you can remain here forever.” The debate was held to mark the 150th anniversary of the formation of the Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe (ZTFE), which exists to protect and enhance the interests of followers of the Zoroastrian religion in Europe.