Software and services industry body Nasscom has hit back at a British parliamentary committee report that criticised the sector's use of an entry route for its workers into the UK.

In a report on the Government's immigration system, the House of Commons Committee, which traditionally scrutinises the way government departments spend their money, criticised the system of intra-company transfers, which allows multinational firms to transfer their workers to the UK temporarily for work.

The Government has revised the system but exempted it from the immigration cap introduced earlier this year, on the proviso that those brought in are paid at least £40,000 a year (to stay longer than 12 months), and at least £24,000, if they are to stay for less than a year. There are also other constraints, including a 12-month “cooling off period” during which the worker cannot apply for a further transfer to the UK.

The constraints weren't enough to satisfy the PAC, which in a report earlier this month slammed the “lack of control of workers” entering under the new system.

The PAC argued that because living allowances could be included in the £40,000-minimum, it provided a route for firms to use cheaper non-EU workers rather than hire local people. “Tens of thousands of IT workers have been brought in through intra-company transfers at a time when the UK residents with IT skills are struggling to find work,” said Chair of the committee, Ms Margaret Hodge. The committee has called for the Government to consider excluding allowances.

Nasscom dismisses this suggestion. “Allowances are critical part of the salary of the foreign workers and cannot be excluded as it is a significant cost that sponsor has to bear to fill in the position by ICT worker,” said a spokesperson for the industry body. “We also believe that the current mechanism has enough controls already at the hands of the UK Government — including audit rights — to ensure that the system is not misused,” he said.

Nasscom said it regretted the fact that the committee had not had the opportunity to examine the issue in similar depth as the Migration Advisory Committee, an independent body that advises the Government on migration matters.

For the moment, at least, there is unlikely to be action from the Government, which reviews the immigration system – including ICTs – annually, in co-operation with the Migration Advisory Committee.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated May 28, 2011)
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