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Keith Vaz hits out at Priti Patel


Ever since the first curry house opened in Britain in 1810, this cuisine has become a core part of British cooking. Many even proudly proclaim Chicken Tikka Massala as the UK’s national dish. Curry has become a powerful symbol of our diverse and tolerant society, one that welcomes those who work hard, pay their taxes and contribute. That includes the generations of Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis who have brought their wonderful cooking to Britain. But it also includes more recent waves of immigration from Eastern Europe who have also brought their own unique contributions to our country. So I was furious to see Priti Patel claiming that leaving the EU and shutting the door on immigrants


elsewhere would save Britain’s curry houses. This is divide and rule politics of the worst kind. The truth is that the stoking of


anti-Eastern European


sentiment is a new form of racism that is no less bad than that experienced by previous waves of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent. I will defend to the hilt the right of those who come here and contribute to our society, wherever they come from. Giving in to rhetoric that sets one community against another would be to take a step towards a less tolerant and more mean-spirited Britain. The curry industry in the UK is worth over £3.6 billion and employs over 100,000 people. I agree with Priti that there is a crisis happening in our country’s


curry houses. It is deeply alarming that on average two are closing every week. But this has nothing to do with the EU and everything to do the policies espoused by Priti Patel, who just happens to be an Employment Minister


and the from Poland and


Government’s “Diaspora Champion”. The heart of the problem is the current visa scheme which has set a salary threshold of £29,750 for chefs, much higher than the average salary for cooks in curry houses. This makes it extremely difficult for the nation’s curry restaurants to recruit chefs from abroad. This could easily be solved in a stroke of Priti Patel’s pen by lowering the minimum salary requirement for chefs, something I have campaigned for along with MPs from all parties. But Priti Patel has failed to address this vital issue and is now conveniently using the EU as a scapegoat. The reality is that the Leave campaign’s proposal to exit the single market and end the free movement of people would send Britain hurtling head-on into a recession. Every single credible economic institution, from the Bank of England to the IMF, is warning that a vote to leave the EU would be incredibly harmful to our economy. Independent analysis from the Treasury shows leaving could hit the average household by £4300 a year. That would mean fewer jobs, higher prices and less money in people’s pockets, cash that they could be spending on curry restaurants on the High Street. The Leave campaign are determined to play people


off against each other, but the hugely damaging impact of leaving Britain’s home market of 500 million people would be felt by us all no matter our background. Priti Patel has chosen to come to Leicester today, a city that prides itself on its diversity, to lecture us on immigration. This is a place where communities from all around the world, whether they are Indians, Poles, Kurds or Slovaks, can rub shoulders and get along, as demonstrated by the quarter of a million people who turned out on Monday to celebrate Leicester City’s Premier League victory. Our football team embody this spirit with a Thai owner, an Italian Manager, an Irish Chief Executive, a Captain with origins in Jamaica and players with a host of different nationalities. We should have no truck with those who try and divide our society and wreck our economy. My response to Priti Patel is clear: support our struggling curry houses, but don’t blame migrants from elsewhere.


countries, such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and so on. PP: The Curry industry requires people that are highly skilled and this can not always be sourced from the UK. If we Vote Leave on 23 June, we will be able to take back control of our immigration policy from the EU. This would mean that elected Members of Parliament like myself can develop a fair immigration policy that would recognise talent from all around the world, not just the EU, including welcoming highly skilled curry chefs from Asia. CL: The major part of 'Leave' campaign are based on anti-immigration and your alliance with some of the far right leave campaigners such as Mr Nigel Farage and UKIP raises doubt on your commitment on anything 'positive' about immigration. How can we trust you?


I hope you remember the 'Go Home' campaign your government has run before the election with Home Office's mobile van in the 'Asian' populated area of Great Britain, such as Southall, Leicester, Birmingham and so on. This campaign surely was not meant for EU migrants? Do you not agree this was wrong to assume all illegal immigrants in this country are Asian? PP: Vote Leave is an independent cross- party organisation campaigning on many different issues related to membership of the EU. These include immigration, costs and issues such as red tape that affect small businesses in the UK. CL: I know you have recently shown interest and concerns about staff shortages in the British Curry Industry. As Minister


for


Employment have you taken any initiative to engage with our Industry representatives about this issue?


49


PP: In 2014, I was appointed the Prime Minister's UK India Diaspora Champion. This has allowed me to hear first hand from people about the problems the curry industry is facing in the UK. This is not just about the shortage of chefs, but also the fact that families can't bring relatives to the UK for important family occasions such as weddings and births. I have been actively engaging on these issues with representatives from the curry industry and believe we are not being treated fairly. Despite our strong historic links to Britain, we are treated as second class citizens. After all we have contributed to this country and its fortunes, it sticks in the throat that this is happening. If we Vote Leave on 23 June we will be able to revisit our immigration policy and create one that is fair for all.


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