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New laws could hit supply of overseas engineers

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NEW IMMIGRATION legislation could cut the supply of skilled engineers entering the UK, legal experts warned this week.

According to Mark Barnett, head of immigration at law firm Steels, public pressure has forced the government to tighten immigration controls.

'Because of the inux of eastern European unskilled workers, there is the perception that immigration is out of control, ' he said. 'They are trying to appease public opinion, ' he added, pointing out that Home Of ce proposals to tighten the rules could in fact hit the ow of skilled workers coming to the UK.

The Home Office proposals, titled 'Simplifying Immigration Law' went into consultation last week. They promised an 'Australian-style' points system to decide who should enter the country.

Engineers are already underrepresented in the Home Office National Shortage Occupation List (NCE 18 January).

But Barnett feared that the new system could in fact see more construction workers fall short of the requirement, not through lack of skills, but in other areas.

However the Home Office denied that there would be additional diffiulties. 'It's not about increasing or decreasing the numbers of people coming to the UK, it's about ensuring we have the right people coming to the UK, ' said a spokesperson.

Andrew McNaughton, chair of the infrastructure forum, also cautioned against over-reaction and called for the industry to be patient and to wait and see whether points could actually favour engineers.

'I still believe that engineering, especially civil engineering is a scarce resource and should be recognised as such.'

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