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Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Corbyn in pledge to restore fund to help communities deal with immigration

Written by The Press Association

Jeremy Corbyn is to announce plans to restore a multimillion-pound fund to help local communities deal with the impact of immigration.

But the Labour leader risks sparking a row within his own party, as aides said he was not making it an objective to reduce the number of migrants coming to the UK.

The announcement, in a keynote speech wrapping up Labour's annual conference in Liverpool, will come just hours after shadow home secretary Andy Burnham warns the party must "face up fully" to the fact that millions of its supporters "voted for change on immigration" in the EU referendum.

And it follows a warning from prominent backbencher Rachel Reeves of "bubbling tensions" over immigration which could explode into riots on the streets of Britain.

Mr Corbyn will also call on rebel MPs to "end the trench warfare" and accept the decision of members and supporters who backed him over challenger Owen Smith by 62%-38%.

He promised on Tuesday to announce new recruits to his depleted shadow ministerial team by the time Parliament returns on October 10, some of whom are expected to be among the dozens who quit the front bench in June in protest at his leadership.

And he will put the party on notice to prepare for a snap general election in 2017, with aides making clear he is ready to vote for an early election if Prime Minister Theresa May seeks the dissolution of Parliament.

In a round of TV interviews, Mr Corbyn explained that he had been talking with socialist parties around Europe about the need for what he termed "co-terminosity" - harmonisation of wages and conditions - which he said could reduce incentives for workers from countries such as Poland or Bulgaria to come to the UK.

Addressing the conference on Wednesday, he will call for action to stop employers using migrant workers to undercut the pay and conditions of home-grown staff.

And he will say Labour would reinstate the Migration Impact Fund introduced by Gordon Brown in 2008 to help local communities respond to pressure on services such as schools, health and housing, but abolished by the coalition government in 2010.

Mr Brown's £50 million scheme was funded by a £50 visa levy on non-EU migrants. Mr Corbyn will boost its resources with a new citizenship application fee.

He will say: "A Labour government will not offer false promises. We will not sow division or fan the flames of fear. We will instead tackle the real issues of immigration - and make the real changes that are needed."

Asked whether the Labour leader believed that immigration levels - last month standing at 633,000 - needed to come down, an aide told reporters: "Jeremy is not concerned about numbers. Jeremy wants to ensure that people who come to work here have the same rights as British people and there is no undercutting of pay or conditions, which is driving wages down."

He added: "It is not an objective to reduce the numbers, to reduce immigration. It is an objective to address the issues that are caused by immigration."

Speaking to the conference shortly before Mr Corbyn's address, Mr Burnham is due to say: "Labour must face up fully to this fact: millions of our lifelong supporters voted to leave the EU and voted for change on immigration."

And Leeds West MP Ms Reeves told a meeting on the fringe of the conference that the party must listen to voters' concerns, warning: "We have got to get this right because there are bubbling tensions in this country that I just think could explode.

"You had those riots in 2011 ... if riots started again in Leeds and bits of my constituency - it's like a tinderbox."

Ms Reeves is one of a group of Labour moderates who have suggested that free movement must be restricted, even if it means losing full access to the single market.

Setting out his plans, Mr Corbyn will say: "We will act to end the exploitation of migrant labour to undercut workers' pay and conditions. And we will ease the pressure on hard-pressed public services - services that are struggling to absorb Tory austerity cuts, in communities absorbing new populations.

"Labour will reinstate the Migrant Impact Fund, abolished by the Tory government. That will give extra support to areas of high migration. We will use the visa levy for its intended purpose. And we will add a citizenship application fee levy to boost the fund."

After a conference which has seen centrist MPs vow to "stay and fight" rather than split the party and Corbyn supporters stage an alternative left-wing political festival, Mr Corbyn will urge Labour to come together behind 10 key pledges which will underpin the party's programme for office.

These are full employment; a secure homes guarantee; security at work; a strong public NHS and social care; a National Education Service; action on climate change; public ownership and control of services; cuts in income and wealth inequalities; action to secure an equal society; and peace and justice at the heart of foreign policy.

He will say: "The central task for the whole Labour Party is to rebuild trust and support to win the next general election and form the next government. That is the government I am determined to lead, to win power to change Britain for the better.

"But every one of us knows that we will only get there if we accept the decision of the members, end the trench warfare and work together to take on the Tories.

"Anything else is a luxury that the millions of people who depend on Labour cannot afford."

Mr Corbyn will insist there is "every chance" Mrs May will "cut and run for an early election".

And he will add: "I put our party on notice today. Labour is preparing for a general election in 2017, we expect all our members to support that effort, and we will be ready whenever it comes."

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: "All this shows is that Jeremy Corbyn wants unlimited immigration - and presides over a Labour Party that is too divided, incompetent and distracted to lead our country.

"While Labour have lurched from one disaster to another this week, we will get on with the job of building a country that works for everyone."

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said the current immigration system was in "chaos" and insisted there must be "controls".

"We have to have controls on immigration, that's quite clear," she told BBC News.

"You have to know who is coming in to your country and who is leaving your country.

"We have to got to make sure that our economic situation is good for everybody because immigration is a good thing for us, but what undermines (that) is when people feel that it is unvetted and that we are not able to deal with the issues and the concerns that people have around that."

Ms Rayner said investing in public services would help ease "tensions" around immigration and insisted it was "important" that there were controls on migration.

Asked if she meant there should be controls on numbers, she replied: "I believe that you do need controls and we have always had controls on immigration."

She added: "Immigration is a good thing for the UK but what is not good is when people don't know about what numbers we have. I think you do have to talk about those things. People raise that on the doorstep all the time and it is important that we deal with those concerns."

Ms Rayner said Mr Corbyn must "prove himself" and admitted that voters would not support Labour while it was "squabbling".

She told BBC Radio 5 Live: "We have got a long way to go. Jeremy needs to prove himself and earn that respect of the general public, which he hasn't been able to sell that to the general public yet and he's got some work to do on that.

"I hope he can lay out his plans and be given that opportunity to do that.

"Divided parties never win. The fact that we are squabbling amongst ourselves, you are not going to vote for us.

"I have been embarrassed by the way things have gone on over the summer and I want us to come back together."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2016, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Nick Ansell / PA Wire.