Belfast Telegraph

Fund manager launches attack on Amber Rudd over foreign worker lists

The manager of a fund which has backed the likes of Secret Escapes and snacking brand Graze has ripped into Home Secretary Amber Rudd - dubbing her proposals for counting foreign workers "irritating".

George Whitehead said UK businesses want to welcome, not shut out, foreign talent.

"It was irritating to see Amber Rudd mention....the kind of throwaway comments without policy behind them, about measuring the number of foreign workers that are working in companies," said Mr Whitehead, partner manager at Octopus Ventures.

"But I like to see the business community's roaring response to say no, that's not what we want, and we should be looking at talent and welcoming talent into the UK," he added.

Mr Whitehead also serves as chairman of the Government-backed Angel CoFund, which co-invests alongside business "angels" - wealthy individuals who tend to pour money into start-ups in exchange for a stake in the burgeoning business.

Speaking at the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVCA) conference in London, h e warned that the Government should think carefully before putting forward similar proposals.

He said: "I'm hoping the Government...will pause for thought when they're thinking of other policy announcements in that space."

Home Secretary Amber Rudd came under fire earlier this week after announcing that a consultation would be launched on proposals that could see businesses forced to reveal how many foreign workers they employ.

The move is part of a package of measures being considered as part of a bid to encourage companies to recruit local workers and reduce immigration in the wake of the Brexit vote.

The proposition drew fierce criticism from the likes of the British Chambers of Commerce, which said that businesses would be "saddened" if they were made to feel that having an international workforce was a "badge of shame."

Jon Coker, a managing partner at venture capital fund MMC Ventures, said he was most worried about having an adequate talent pool after Brexit.

He added: "My biggest concern is talent and making sure that we continue to get good access to world class senior operators into our businesses

"I look at the top teams of the companies that we've invested in, there are quite a lot of people in those teams that have international skill sets that we need to have available to us."

Ms Rudd said that the controversial Government target of cutting net migration to below 100,000 still stands, though the figure - which accounts for the difference between the number of people arriving and leaving - was running at an estimated 327,000 in the year to March.

Mr Whitehead said that it is important for the business community to have their voices heard when it comes to immigration policy.

"There seems to be a kind of an open door from the Government, to say yes we do want to encourage entrepreneurship. It's just (about) trying to nip these sorts of things in the bud when they make announcements that are going to be kind of anti-immigration and anti-bringing talent in," he said.

"I do want an instinctive roar to come from the businesses community... to nudge them back on track, because when they do put their minds to supporting entrepreneurship, they can be so powerful."