Miliband denies bid to ignore immigration

Ed Miliband has been forced to deny his Labour party wants to walk away from the immigration debate even as he launches a new focus on protecting workers.

Labour leader Ed Miliband delivers a speech to business leaders

The party leader attempt’s to set out details of a Labour pledge to make it illegal to put UK jobs at risk by importing cheaper migrant workers was undermined by a leaked document urging members to keep out of the immigration debate.

Activists had been urged by party chiefs to “move the conversation on” when voters raise the issue of immigration.

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The paper, setting out plans to counter the challenge from Ukip, was sent to dozens of MPs in constituencies where the eurosceptic party threatens to rob the opposition of the votes needed to return to power at next May’s general election

It also warned party members that the type of voter most likely to switch is a white man aged between 47 and 66 living in Yorkshire who has not gone to university.

The leaked put Mr Miliband on the backfoot during his immigration launch. In the second of what Labour said were five key pledges for next year’s general election, Mr Miliband said the move would form part of a package to deal with concerns over immigration, also including the introduction of “proper” entry and exit checks, a limit on in-work benefits for EU migrants, and the extension to two years of the period before which immigrants can claim out-of-work benefits

Denying the party had a head in the sand approach to immigration, Mr Miliband said: “When people worry about the real impact immigration has, this Labour Party will always respond to those concerns, not dismiss them.”

The Doncaster MP said he wants to end an “epidemic of exploitation” which has led to “truly shocking” examples of migrant workers having their wages withheld and being forced to live in appalling conditions.