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UK Prime Minister David Cameron said this week that the government would do everything possible to prevent a planned immigration cap from depriving British companies of skilled workers from overseas, the Wall Street Journal reports.

In a speech to the Confederation of British Industry on Monday, Mr. Cameron signaled the government was rethinking how the cap on non-European Union migrants might work. “As we control our borders and bring immigration to a manageable level, we will not impede you from attracting the best talent from around the world,” Mr. Cameron said.

However, a spokeswoman for the prime minister said the government had always said it wanted its new immigration cap to ensure businesses could attract skilled workers.

Business Secretary Vince Cable, who has been critical of the immigration cap, said “there’s no change” in policy and that the government had always said it would create a flexible system. “There’s a common view that we have to have a cap on non-European Union immigration,” he told the BBC.

The government has said it will announce the new cap—and how it will operate—next spring. Businesses have been pressing for the system to be flexibly designed to ensure businesses don’t face obstacles in filling key posts.

In a speech that focused on shifting the government’s message from austerity measures to growth and job creation, Mr. Cameron on Monday outlined initiatives to boost enterprise.

These included a £200 million ($313.6 million) investment in technology and innovation hubs, and the government’s national infrastructure plan.

Mr. Cameron’s comments on boosting growth came as the U.K. is set to report third-quarter figures Tuesday that are expected to show growth slowed significantly from the strong expansion shown between April and June.

Mr. Cameron also spoke about developing a program that would give unemployed people money to start a new business. “We are pushing forward a scheme where you will be able to roll up some of your benefits and borrow some additional money to set up a new firm,” he said.

Mr. Cameron’s comments develop a concept that Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith outlined this month at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham. Mr. Duncan Smith said the government planned to launch a program to give eligible unemployed people £2,000 each to start a small business, adding that the plan aimed to establish 10,000 new small businesses by next year.

Mr. Cameron also said Monday that the government will invest £60 million to meet the needs of offshore wind infrastructure at U.K. ports. Following the announcement, General Electric Co. reaffirmed its plan to invest £100 million in the U.K.’s offshore wind sector. The move could create up to 1,900 jobs in the U.K. by 2020, the company said.

Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition Labour Party, Monday cautioned that focusing entirely on reducing the budget deficit would stifle economic growth. During his address to the conference, Mr. Miliband said the government must be open to changing its strategy if economic conditions worsen.

Mr. Miliband said his party would be selective about which spending cuts it would oppose and which it would support.

Speaking at the CBI conference later, Danny Alexander, the No. 2 in the government’s Treasury team, defended the cuts as “the only way to prevent higher interest rates, rising inflation and more taxes.”

He also said the tough decisions of recent weeks showed the coalition government of Mr. Cameron’s Conservatives and his Liberal Democrats party was working.

“Of course, it’s still early days. But after five months in office and some of the most difficult decisions any modern government has had to make, those doubts have been laid to rest, because coalition is the right form of government for these times, and our two parties can be proud of the way we’ve made it work,” Mr. Alexander was due to say, according to extracts of his remarks provided by the Treasury.

Separately, Stephen Nickell, the Treasury’s choice for a key post on the Office for Budget Responsibility, said the government’s large-scale spending cuts could have a significant impact on economic growth.

“It is my belief that a big reduction in government spending does have a negative impact on the economy,” Mr. Nickell said in a hearing with parliament’s Treasury Select Committee.

The Treasury Select Committee later confirmed it had approved the selection of Mr. Nickell and economist Graham Parker to serve on the Budget Responsibility Committee. They will serve under the new OBR Chair, Robert Chote.  

Source: Wall Street Journal —Selina Williams contributed to this article.

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