Industry scheme could act as ‘preferred template’ for Home Office’s Australian-style immigration policy

The government is set to use the CSCS’ skills classification system as the basis for deciding whether to allow foreign construction workers into the UK.

The move is part of home secretary Charles Clarke’s five-year immigration plan, announced this week. This envisages a two-tier system in which skilled workers would be allowed to settle while unskilled workers would have to leave after a certain time.

Under the proposal, the UK would switch to an Australian-style system where points would be allocated on the basis of skills. Potential immigrants would have to cross a certain threshold to be allowed into the country.

A senior Whitehall source said the plans were subject to consultation but noted that there was a credible mechanism in the CSCS scheme for the construction industry.

The source added that CSCS representatives always sat on the Home Office’s steering group on immigration and noted that work was being carried out by CITB-ConstructionSkills to harmonise criteria for determining skill levels within the European Union and with other countries.

The source said: “The government will certainly be looking towards CSCS as the preferred template for the future. But first the CSCS management board will have to sort out its own internal problems over ownership and make sure it has an adequate business case to move forward.”

It is understood that the points system is to be introduced for all non-EU and European economic area migrants. However, such is the complexity of construction skills qualifications across Europe that the Home Office might also introduce some kind of monitoring of EU construction workers.

The Whitehall source added: “One thing is for sure – this is a prime opportunity for CSCS to expand internationally but there has to be the political will within the organisation for this to happen.”

A Home Office spokesperson said that the government had not been in talks with construction companies or official bodies. “Our next move, however, is to open a consultation period with companies that employ construction workers,” he added. The points system would be examined by a labour market advisory group.

Clarke’s new rules

  • Economic migrants to be awarded points depending on their value to the economy

  • Any unskilled workers permitted entry to be allowed in for short periods only

  • Skilled workers who want to settle permanently to be tested on their knowledge of English language and British culture

  • Employers using illegal workers face instant £2000 fines