Tory MPs unveil Sunak’s plan to cut migration – BBC News

  • By Joshua Laughing
  • BBC Politics

image source, Getty’s image

Caption,

Rishi Sunak is under pressure to reduce migration to the UK

A group of Tory MPs are calling on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to drastically cut migration, warning failure to do so “risks eroding public confidence”.

The New Conservatives have issued a 12 point plan to cut net migration by around 400,000 before the next election.

The group of 25 MPs recommended closing the visa scheme for care workers, raising the wage threshold and limiting the number of refugees.

But critics say the proposal will have ramifications for the UK economy.

The UK’s overall population grew by more than 600,000 people last year, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The ONS said the increase was largely driven by more people from outside the European Union arriving on student and work visas, and refugees fleeing conflict and persecution in Ukraine and Hong Kong.

The sharp increase represents a huge political challenge for Sunak and the Conservatives, who have repeatedly vowed to reduce net migration since taking power in 2010.

The party’s 2019 manifesto committed to bringing numbers down, without setting a specific target, while former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron promised to bring net migration under 100,000.

In a report released on Monday, the New Conservatives claimed the British public “didn’t vote for mass migration and the resulting social and economic costs”.

“Without swift action to control migration, the Conservative Party will further erode the confidence of the hundreds of thousands of voters who gave their ballot to the party in 2019,” the report said.

The report was written by Tory MP Tom Hunt and supported by a group of far-right Conservatives, including the party’s co-chairman, Lee Anderson, and chair back Miriam Cates.

One of the report’s main recommendations is to close the temporary scheme that provided worker visa eligibility to care workers.

The report said this would reduce visas issued by 117,000, leading to a reduction in long-term in-migration to the UK by 82,000.

This part of the proposed policy will only allow skilled workers who earn £38,000 a year or more.

A report from the charity Skills for Care says the number of vacancies in social care is at a record high, with 165,000 positions vacated in 2021-22.

Ms Cates told the BBC the UK needed to cut off the supply of cheap foreign labour, and encourage Britons to fill jobs in the care sector.

He said eliminating the temporary visa scheme for care workers would force “employers to look at recruiting local youth”.

“We’re never going to make that happen unless we close immigration first,” the Tory lawmaker said.

But fellow Tory MP Tim Loughton said while the principle of meeting reduced migration was sound, there was a shortage of care workers in Britain.

“It’s not as simple as just raising the salary threshold either,” he said. “There are enough skilled but low-paid people we need to come to this country.”

Some of the other report proposals include:

  • Tightening of student visa restrictions to stop graduates from staying in the UK for more than two years without a job offer
  • Limiting the number of refugees legally accepted for resettlement in the UK to 20,000
  • A 5% limit on the amount of social housing the council can provide to non-UK citizens
  • Raise the health surcharge that an immigrant would pay to use the NHS to £2,700 per person, per year

Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said “trying to predict the impact of individual policy changes on migration is extremely difficult”.

“Even the most rigorous attempts to model the impact of policy on numbers – and this isn’t one of them – usually fall short,” he said.

He said immigration policy was a “political choice” and there was “no reason the UK couldn’t choose to be more restrictive”.

But he said the report did not “engage with any trade-off involving stricter measures”.

“For example, one of the reasons the demand for care workers is so high is the limited public funding in the care system,” says Sumption.

“International students have become an increasing source of income for universities, so proposals that would reduce student numbers cannot be considered in isolation from higher education funding.”

He said some of the proposals in the report were “a bit odd”.

“Net migration is expected to decline in the next few years even without a change in policy,” he added. “However, if they want more significant restrictions, an honest conversation is needed about the broader ramifications and how to mitigate them.”

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