Sometimes there can be no greater show of strength for a man than admitting you simply got it wrong. If the Prime Minister’s recent hints that he will listen to the protests from major international firms and look to water down the planned immigration cap tell us anything, it’s that he’s not afraid to reconsider his policies. Or do they?
David Cameron’s announcement that intra-company transfers “should not be included in what we are looking at [for the immigration cap]” will almost certainly be heralded as good news for the outsourcing industry. But is it a coincidence that this news comes amidst new warnings that a forthcoming European trade treaty with India will circumnavigate the proposed cap in any case, by allowing multinational firms to transfer unlimited numbers of Indian employers to the UK?
Perhaps - perhaps not. What’s clear is that any immigration cap as initially proposed by the coalition government would have been very bad news indeed. In a worst-case scenario, it could have played a major part in ensuring that a number of industries were short of skilled workers. For instance, both the healthcare and IT sectors are hugely dependent on the influx of highly skilled workers from abroad. So perhaps the announcement of the government’s about-turn was inevitable?
Either way, it’s clear that if the government is to find a way a way to make the recently announced public sector cuts work, it will have to lean heavily on suppliers of outsourcing, many of whom are dependent on the specialist skills provided by those from other countries. In this context, it makes more sense that the government would make a U-turn on its all-inclusive attitude towards the cap - the last thing they want to be seen to be doing is throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and they will understand that they need to make full use of all resources at their disposal if the cuts are to be seen as a success.
Perhaps, then, it’s not impossible to speculate that the government has, not, in fact demonstrated the laissez-faire attitude towards its policies that many have credited them with? The proposed immigration cap as it stood was a big mistake for them - but let’s be honest, this about-turn perhaps has had very little to do with consulting the outsourcing industry for their views, and much more to do with the fact that they have realised that the government has backed itself into a corner.
Maybe this was signalled last week when the Government CIO John Suffolk, said that he had told Indian companies to “Bid, bid, bid” for government business!