UK hints at rethink on cap on Indian professionals

In a major speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Cameron outlined his government's "forensic, relentless approach" to ensuring the UK's future economic growth. He said the government would offer help to ensure new companies can prosper.

Acknowledging the concerns of many British companies who have not been able to recruit professionals from India and elsewhere due to the annual cap, Cameron said: "And let me give you this assurance, as we control our borders and bring immigration to a manageable level, we will not impede you from attracting the best talent from around the world."

Imposing an annual limit on non-EU migrants was one of the key items on the coalition government's agenda. The government introduced the controversial cap of 24,100 non-EU migrants until April 2011, by when a permanent limit will be imposed.

Urging British companies to trade more with India, he said it was "shocking" that the UK exported more to Ireland than to Brazil, Russia, India and China, combined. Cameron said: "Last year the share of UK exports to China and India was just 3.2 per cent. These are shocking figures. My approach is clear, British business should have no more vocal champion than the British government and that's why I have put the promotion of British commerce and international trade at the heart of our foreign and economic policy.

He added: "So when I went to India this summer, I took the biggest visiting delegation of business leaders and entrepreneurs of any Prime Minister in recent memory." However, the prime minister's spokesman said Cameron's mention in the speech about immigration did not mean "rethink" on the issue of imposing annual limits on the migration of non-EU professionals.

The spokesman said: "It is not a rethink, because the position at the present time is that we have got a temporary cap which runs until next spring, and we are consulting on a cap for future years."

"We will be looking obviously at the level of that cap and at the way in which it operates and making sure that works in a way that allows business to bring the people that they need into the UK."

Business secretary Vince Cable is among senior government figures who have opposed the annual limit while major companies such as GE have abandoned expansion plans in Britain due to their inability to recruit skilled people from outside the EU.

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