He promised “British jobs for British workers” but it hasn’t happened

Gordon Brown will concede today that Labour has made mistakes on immigration as he defends the benefits of workers coming from overseas. The Prime Minister is expected to echo remarks by Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, who said last week that some parts of Britain are disproportionately affected by an influx of foreigners.

Mr Brown will insist that Labour now has the right strategy for managing immigrants seeking work, even at a time of rising unemployment. He will acknowledge that mistakes have been made in the past. The speech will be seen as a response to the furore over the appearance on the BBC’s Question Time of Nick Griffin, the BNP leader. His fellow panellists were criticised for failing to defend the principle of migration.

There are suggestions that the party could come third in today’s by-election in Glasgow North East. Mr Brown’s remarks come days after the Tories accused the Government of trying to deceive voters over a plan to relax immigration rules.

Last month the Office for National Statistics suggested that the UK population would rise from 61 million today to 71 million in 2033. The Prime Minister is expected to promise better skills training for Britons at further education colleges in order to make them better able to beat competition from migrants.

He will highlight sectors, such as as the care industry, where he will acknowledge that more can be done to ensure jobs do not go to people from overseas. However, the approach risks reviving memories of the “British jobs for British workers” slogan in his speech to the 2007 Labour Party conference, which some colleagues suggested was inflammatory. European law prevents vacancies being reserved for Britons. Downing Street defended the speech later by insisting that he was referring to greater skills training rather than a dramatic new policy initiative.

The Prime Minister will point out that employers can recruit a migrant to a job that is not on the official list of shortage occupations only if they first go through the “resident labour market test”, showing that no qualified settled worker can fill the post.

From next year all jobs must be advertised to UK workers in job centres for four weeks rather than the current two before people from outside the EU can be hired.

Mr Johnson set out four key principles for debate last week, including that all immigrants should learn English. Distancing himself from his predecessors, he said ministers had ignored for “far too long” problems in the immigration system that led to huge backlogs of asylum seekers and foreign national prisoners.

Immigration will be the main cause of population growth over the next quarter of a century. Net migration is expected to add 180,000 to the population every year. When immigrants’ children are added, it is expected that immigration will account for 68 per cent of population growth in the United Kingdom.