I am pleased the Home Secretary confirmed yesterday that the government have not abandoned their commitment to control immigration. The one message that came out loud and clear from the EU referendum was that voters want to see the government put more effort into controlling immigration. This does not mean no immigration and it does not mean that those who want to see immigration controlled fail to recognise the important role immigrants play in our country.
It is not enough just to rely on leaving the EU as a means to reducing immigration. When we leave the EU we will be able to reduce immigration into the U.K. from the other 27 EU countries. The government is to consult on further steps to reduce the number of people who come here from outside the EU while making sure we still welcome and attract the brightest and best who contribute to the British economy.
These proposals will look for the first time at whether our student immigration rules should be tailored to the quality of the course and the quality of the institution. They will also examine whether the UK should introduce US-style rules to make sure people who come here are not doing jobs that could be done by British workers.
The government clearly recognise the need to get net migration back to sustainable levels – helping build confidence in our immigration system and relieving pressure on our schools, hospitals and infrastructure – whilst ensuring the system continues to attract those most able to benefit our country.
The official estimate of migration into the UK for the year to March 2016 was released yesterday. The figures showed there was net migration of 327,000 – down just 9,000 on the previous years figures.
Immigration was one of the major issues in the referendum on our membership of the EU and undoubtedly one reason why so many people voted to leave. With the EU’s rules on free movement of people there is very little the government can do to control the number of people coming here from other EU countries. According to the Office for National Statistics net migration of EU citizens was 180,000 in the year to March. There is no doubt the government have been very active in trying to control the level of immigration but these latest figures show there is still much to be done and a very long way to go before the net figures are reduced below 100,000.
Talented and skilled immigrants who contribute to our economy are to be welcomed. Immigrants have made a valuable contribution in the past and continue to do so but we can not have uncontrolled immigration. Even though the number in work in this Country has increased by 606,000 in the past year to 31.75 million that still leaves 1.64 million unemployed.
Everyone will recall the fairy tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears and that Goldilocks comes across three bowls of porridge, the first she tries is too salty, the second two sweet and the third just right. Getting the balance right is all important.
Getting the balance right with immigration is all important. Yesterday at Prime Minister’s Questions I asked the Prime Minister in which year would we meet our manifesto commitment to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands. Not surprisingly, perhaps he did not give a specific year.
Inside the European Union with its rules about the free movement of people there is nothing we can do to control the level of immigration into the UK. Just as with the porridge in the story of Goldilocks and the three bears it is important to get the amount of immigration just right. Too little and businesses may not be able to get the skilled staff they need. Too much and there is strain put on our housing, NHS and schools.
Having heard me interviewed last week on BBC Radio Manchester on the subject of immigration a few people have asked me about David Cameron’s speech. Here is the link to the speech in full so you can read for yourself what the Prime Minister said and decide if you agree or not.