Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable is calling for the introduction of “vindaloo visas” to help tackle Britain’s curry crisis.
Sir Vince said issuing a one-year, temporary visa to South Asian chefs would stem the tide of closures of curry houses across the country.
“[It's] an excellent idea the Government needs to look into,” he said at Monday night’s British Curry Awards.
The Government is well aware of the demise of Britain’s takeaways, warning that restaurants could soon be closing at a rate of four per week.
The Lib Dems say 50 per cent of all curry houses – about 6,000 – could close within ten years.
The visa strategy was first proposed to Prime Minister Theresa May in April last year. Leading industry figures suggested visas should be offered to experienced, skilled South Asian chefs who could then pass on their knowledge to British-born trainees.
British Curry Awards founder Enam Ali authored a 75-page report on Britain’s takeaway closures, but believes it has “sadly” been ignored.
Mr Ali urged the Prime Minister to revisit his proposals so the next generation of cooks can flourish.
The Home Office said that in July this year the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) was commissioned to compile a study on the economic and social impacts of the UK’s exit from the EU, and in turn how that will affect the country’s ‘modern industrial strategy’.
The report is due to be published in September next year. The Home Office again stressed the Government’s pledge to “take control of our immigration system”.
A spokesman told : “While we continue to welcome some skilled international chefs the restaurant industry is no different from any other in needing to move away from an unsustainable reliance on migrant workers.
“The industry is starting to make progress in nurturing talent, recruiting and training more chefs in the UK, and this needs to continue.”
‘Save Our Curry Houses’
The Indian curry house industry employs around 100,000 people in the UK.
The resurgence of the “vindaloo visas” idea comes after Priti Patel, who was until recently International Development Secretary, led the ‘Save Our Curry Houses’ campaign ahead of the EU referendum.
Ms Patel blamed the decline in restaurants on the current immigration system and said Brexit would mean fewer EU workers, freeing up renewed opportunities for workers from South Asia.
Former Prime Minister David Cameron pledged at the 2013 British Curry Awards to “get the skilled Asian chefs you need” in a bid to protect the £4.2 billion industry.
The shortage of chefs means wages have doubled and many employers are unable to meet the demands.