Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Controlling Immigration

Today we publish our first Report of the Home Affairs Select Committee in this Parliament. All our eleven members were elected by, and in competition with, other MPs, rather than on the say-so of party whips, so our conclusions are completely independent of government.

However, on the ‘Immigration Cap’, the subject of our first report, I am delighted to be full-square behind the government and to have a fellow Kent MP, Damian Green, as the minister controlling immigration. After a decade during which net immigration has run at hundreds of thousands a year we are going to deliver on our manifesto promise and reduce it to just tens of thousands.

Our Report today focuses on just one area of immigration, people from outside the European Economic Area (“EEA”) who apply for work visas. One key conclusion of the Committee is that the Government must move far beyond this category, and will need to impose tighter controls on students and, potentially, family migration if it is to cut net immigration to just tens of thousands a year as promised.

We cannot control some immigration, e.g. the increase last year in the number of UK citizens abroad choosing to return to the UK, so we must control others routes as stringently as necessary to cut net immigration to tens of thousands a year. This need not though mean damaging the economy, since:

• Perhaps half of Tier 1 migrants, who were defined by the previous government as being so highly skilled that we should give them a visa even if they didn’t have a job, have only been able to get unskilled work, so these visas can be reallocated; and

• If a particular business really needs a particular overseas national to work in the UK, then that can be accommodated within an overall cap by auctioning available permits to businesses which benefit most from foreign workers.


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