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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Daily View: Immigration cap

Commentators discuss the anticipated announcement by the home secretary of a cap on immigration of skilled workers coming to Britain from outside Europe at 43,000 a year.

The founder of the all-party Parliamentary group on migration Labour MP Jon Cruddas says in the New Statesman that immigration has become the new fault line cutting across the British political landscape:

"Immigration, the elephant in the room? Not any more. Now it's parading down the high street, garlanded in ribbons, leading a three-ring circus. This detonation over migration has shaken both left and right. For the Conservatives, who had long seen the issue as a licence to print votes, the increase in support for the BNP has presented a serious political problem, akin to UKIP in bovver boots. It has also generated a wider debate within David Cameron's inner circle about whether tough lines on immigration cut across the 'New Tory' brand, a debate heightened by the awareness that both William Hague and Michael Howard, when they were Tory leader, ran hard on the issue, to little tangible benefit."

Jan Boucek at the Adam Smith Institute blog asks David Cameron to break his promise on immigration, urging change elsewhere:

"Probably what riles most anti-immigration sentiment is a sense that, in recent years, too many immigrants with no skills, no income and no assets have moved to the UK for its seemingly generous but inefficient benefits system, not to mention free health care and education for their children. But the fundamental problem here isn't immigration, it's the benefits system and the universal access to health and education."

The Economist leader last week said the cap is at best pointless and might be damaging:

"The trouble with the Tories' pledge, and indeed with Britain's immigration policy in general, is that most of the key variables are beyond its politicians' sway. Net migration is affected by both inflows and outflows: the government has little direct influence over the latter (Britons leaving) and only severely circumscribed control of the former (people arriving). Roughly half of all immigrants are either Britons returning from abroad or citizens of other European Union states, whose entry is guaranteed by rules on freedom of movement in the EU. Many of the rest arrive either as students or under provisions that enable family reunions. Foreign students are lucrative for universities; restricting family reunions might seem inhumane, or even violate human-rights law. The government says it will look at both categories, but has seized on non-EU economic migrants - 12% of the total, by one count, though they bring a similar number of dependents - as the most pliable group."

On the Today Programme Andrew Green from the organisation Migration Watch calls the cap sensible, conceding that the numbers affected will be relatively small:

"There's much more to this than meets the eye. For a start, it focuses on people that companies actually need. People who come on spec hanging around looking for a job are going to be cut right back. Secondly there's a minimum salary for transfers between companies which will make a big difference."

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The Sun suggests that one area that should be targeted is bogus colleges. However, the Daily Mail editorial points out that the Labour government also promised to crack down on bogus colleges.

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