MICHAEL Howard's plans to introduce a points system for migrants looking for work in the UK could deal a big blow to the local economy if the Conservatives are voted into power, says the county Chamber of Commerce.

Under the proposals the Government would be able to correct labour-market shortages and attract particularly desirable foreign workers, instead of the many unskilled people it does at the moment.

However, the Chamber of Commerce Herefordshire and Worcestershire said these workers were "extremely important" to the success of the two counties.

And while Christopher Harvey, head of policy and representation at the chamber, would not comment directly on Mr Howard's ideas, he did say migrant workers of all sorts were "invaluable."

"Migrant labour in Herefordshire and Worcestershire is extremely important," he said.

"We have a number of communities where people have moved into the area from abroad - primarily from Poland and Portugal, but also from India, Pakistan and the Caribbean.

"Their contribution is invaluable to the local economy, not only because of their numbers, but also as business people.

"A lot of businesses in the two counties also benefit from temporary migrant labour - the agricultural and horticultural industries in particular rely on these - and for us, this is a natural part of the economy."