UK & World News
Labour: UK Apprentice For Each Foreign Worker
Ed Miliband has launched a Labour fightback after a difficult summer - with policy pledges on the economy and immigration.
The party leader announced plans to increase fines for employers who fail to pay the minimum wage and force bosses to train an apprentice if they hire a foreign worker.
The moves come on the opening day of Labour's conference in Brighton, at which the party will attempt to spell out a series of policies which appeal to voters.
The conference begins with the party's high command reeling over the damaging revelations of plots, smears and feuds in the memoirs of Gordon Brown's spin doctor Damian McBride.
It also follows a summer in which senior party figures were accused of being invisible and a gradual shrinking of Labour's opinion poll lead over the Conservatives.
Senior Labour figures claim the new policy announcements signal a new approach on the economy and a new approach on immigration.
In an interview with the Sunday Mirror, Mr Miliband said the Labour Party was "changing under my leadership" and had "learned lessons from the past".
He said: "I want a high wage British economy, not a low wage brutish economy. We've got plans to make that happen, to drive up skills.
"So we are going to say to any firm that wants to bring in a foreign worker that they also have to train up someone who is a local worker, training up the next generation.
"We think that can create up to 125,000 new apprenticeships over the course of five years and that is a massive boost for skills for our young people."
Mr Miliband said the tenfold increase in fines for the minimum wage would "stop the exploitation which undercuts workers that are already here".
Senior party figures spoke out on Sunday morning to back up Mr Miliband's pledges.
Labour's shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna told Sky News the proposal aimed to deal with the reason why large companies employed people from abroad.
He said: "(Large companies) say that there are skills gaps and we do not have enough people with the skills they need.
"What we are saying is that if they are bringing people in (from abroad), they also ensure that we are skilling people (with) the provision of training apprenticeships."
Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary, sought to explain how the policy would work, adding: "Already, if people want to bring in what's called the tier-two worker from abroad, they have to meet certain conditions.
"We don't think it's good for the long term health of our economy for companies to be reliant on bringing in skilled workers always from abroad and not supporting investment in skills and training we need to have at home."
However, Conservatives said that Mr Miliband's apprenticeship proposal would breach EU law.
Party sources denounced the raft of policy announcements made by the Labour leader in the run-up to the conference as a "shambles" which was "unravelling".
Skills minister Matthew Hancock said: "I have been advised by Government lawyers that legislating to require hiring British apprentices would be contrary to EU law."
The Tories said that, to be compliant with European rules on free movement of labour, Mr Miliband's policy would have to require companies to take on an EU-national apprentice, rather than a UK national, for every non-EU worker hired.
On Sunday morning, Mr Miliband told the BBC's Andrew Marr he urged Mr Brown to sack Mr McBride over concerns the spin doctor was briefing against senior Labour colleagues.
Mr McBride's memoirs are being serialised in the Daily Mail.
On voting intentions Labour's lead over the Tories is barely changed, at eight points: Con 28% (0), Lab 36% (-1), UKIP 17% (-2), LD 10% (+2) and Others 9% (+1).
But Mr Miliband's ratings are poor, with 52% saying that he doesn't have the qualities to be an effective prime minister.
However, more people say they and their families would be better off if Labour won the election (30%) than if the Conservatives did (22%).