MIGRATION legislation for firms bringing foreign workers into the UK should take account regional needs a leading North-East business organisation said yesterday.

The North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC), which represents more than 4,000 companies in the region, said it has carried out a workforce survey which revealed that many firms with more than 50 employees are reliant on overseas workers.

Last week saw the end of a consultation by the Government's advisory body The Migration Advisory Committee, on the effect of the visa cap, which was introduced in April.

It capped the number of skilled migrants at 21,700 for workers coming from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) into the UK.

In October Prime Minister David Cameron said the level is set to be reduced further because employers nationally are not making use of the visas that are on offer.

But with almost half of firms in the region with more than 50 staff employing some migrant workers NECC Chief Executive, James Ramsbotham, said that Government policy should take into account regional, not just national, labour market needs, otherwise North East firms could lose out from having a relatively small pool to pick from.

The NECC found that of the 47per cent of larger firms in the region employing some migrant workers 67per cent of those businesses recruited the majority of their migrant workforce from outside the EU.

Mr Ramsbotham said: "This doesn't have to be at odds with promises to reduce net migration, but a stable visa system with consistent rules would reassure and attract the best talent looking to find work."

Mr Ramsbotham said that the survey had shown many firms in the North-East were unable to find the skilled workers they need in the UK.

With unemployment expected to peak at 2.77 million in 2012, Mr Ramsbotham said he understood that business was expected to play its part in creating growth and jobs.

But while it was important to improve skills in the North-East workforce that would take time.

"Firms need the freedom to bring the best people into the region's workforce rather than lose out to competitors elsewhere," he said.

"For some, hiring workers from overseas allows them to access the skills they need.

"The bottom line is that firms in the North East can't always find the skills they need in the UK, and so the Government must make it simpler to recruit them from overseas."