An Essex distribution centre is at the heart of an immigration debate. A Labour Minister has been forced into an embarrassing climbdown after he claimed Tesco had closed its distribution centre in Harlow to get cheap, foreign workers elsewhere.
Labour's shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant said people from all over Britain, including immigrants themselves, expect to have their legitimate concerns about immigration taken seriously.
"I realise that for some time people thought that Labour believed that anyone who expressed a concern about immigration was racist, so let me be clear.
Yes, racists have sometimes polluted this debate, and we should always be alive to the dangers of prejudice and always be alive to racism at every turn.
"But Labour have concerns about immigration, about the pace of migration, about the undercutting of workers terms and conditions, about the effect on the UK labour market.
"True, Labour made mistakes on immigration, when we came to power in 1997, we had to tackle complete chaos in the asylum system.[...] And we created the post of immigration minister. But though we were right to introduce a points based system in 2008, we should have done so earlier."
A Conservative MP has attacked both Labour and Tesco amid a row over immigration and cheap labour from Eastern Europe.
Robert Halfon, the MP for Harlow in Essex where Tesco once employed 800 staff, branded the supermarket "ruthless" for shutting the depot so it could open new distribution centres in Dagenham and Reading. He told Daybreak:
I have my own grievance with Tesco. I believe their company have behaved ruthlessly in Harlow, but they have been able to do this because of what the Labour Party did when they were in government.
In some ways, in my view Tesco ... they used to say 'pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap'. In my view the way they have behaved in Harlow, it's pile the money high and sell the workers cheap.
Responding to criticism from Labour's Chris Bryant, Immigration Minister Mark Harper defended the government's immigration minister said the government's "tough reforms" are having an impact "in all the right places."
Our tough reforms are having an impact in all the right places. We have tightened the routes where abuse was rife and overall numbers are down as a result - net migration is at its lowest level for a decade.
And we are building an immigration system that works in the national interest and is supporting growth. Latest Labour market statistics show that there has been a rise in numbers in employment, which has benefitted British citizens first, but we are still attracting skilled migrants to come to the UK where they are needed by British businesses.
Labour MP Chris Bryant denied he was ever going to label Next and Tesco as "unscrupulous" employers, but said he had serious concerns of how the labour market was working. Speaking to ITV News he said:
Employers feel the need, including Tesco and Next, to take on significant numbers of workers from overseas. I think the way the labour market works in Britain effectively prices local workers out of the market and leads to exploitation of foreign workers."
Tesco has released its recruitment policy for its new Essex distribution centre after relocating it from Harlow to Dagenham.
The supermarket chain reacted after reports that the shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant had planned to claim it employed foreign workers because they were cheaper than local ones.
His modified speech, delivered this morning, had removed the claim.
The charter promises to "do everything possible to secure as many positions possible for Colleagues at Harlow DC [distribution centre] to transfer to the Dagenham DC" and to "engage with the local people."
Tesco have welcomed Chris Bryant's praise during his speech on immigration and the labour market, and stressed the "vast majority" of the people they recruited for their Dagenham store are British and live locally.
We’re pleased that Mr Bryant has recognised that Tesco is a good employer and an important source of jobs in Britain.
We worked incredibly hard to recruit people from the local area in Dagenham and as a result of that work, the vast majority are British and live locally.
We have one of the best pay and benefits packages in the industry, and we pay the same rate whether our colleagues are British or from the EU.