Firms have 'social duty' to give new jobs to Brits, Business Minister argues

UK businesses advertising new jobs should prioritise locals for the roles instead of taking on more qualified foreign nationals, a Government Minister has claimed.

Firms have a "social duty" to ensure locals from the communities in which they are based are given the opportunity to build a career and get on in life, Conservative Business Minister Matthew Hancock believes.

He argues that instead of focusing on "pure profit" companies should be looking to invest in training British workers.

Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that large numbers of staff were recruited from other countries during the last boom and youth employment actually increased despite the economic growth.

He said "everybody should be given the chance" to go out and get a job as the economy starts to improve again.

"This is about a change of culture. I'm arguing that it is companies' social responsibility, it is their social duty, to look at employing locally first," he explained.

"That may mean that they have to do more training. It may mean more training in hard skills, in specific skills. Or it may mean training in the wherewithal, the character you need in order to hold down a job," he said.

It does not mean that firms will lose out by focusing their recruitment efforts locally, he argues, as he believes that they will end up with more motivated workforces that are more "connected" to their employer.

"If you, as the company, put something in, then you get somebody with a great attachment to you in return," he said.

Mr Hancock rejected the suggestion of a similarity between his approach and the controversial "British jobs for British workers" campaign that was run by Gordon Brown's Labour Government.

He said Labour's suggestion was this should be made law whereas he is more interested in generating a change in culture.

"I see immigration and education reform and welfare reform as very much integrated to make sure that everybody in Britain has the chance to get on. That is what this is all about," he added.

Mr Hancock made the comments at a time when a number of Conservative MPs have expressed fears that there will be an influx of migrant workers from Bulgaria and Romania when employment restrictions are lifted next year.

The Government has faced pressure from Nigel Farage's UK Independence Party, which has been calling for tighter controls.

Copyright Press Association 2013