Migration: Conservatives plan to cap visas available to migrants

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The number of visas available to migrants would be reduced each year under a new Conservative government, the prime minister has promised.

For the first time, MPs would get a vote on annual government proposals aimed at regularly reducing numbers, which would be based on recommendations from the expert Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).

Although no figures were suggested for a possible cap, Rishi Sunak said his was the only party willing to take “bold action to reduce immigration” if elected on July 4.

Labour’s Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary, pointed to net migration trebling and accused the Tories of “rehashing failed announcements”.

The announcement comes as Nigel Farage announced that he is returning to lead the Reform Party, with its focus on reducing immigration, which has heaped further pressure on Mr Sunak.

Some Conservatives have been unhappy over the PM’s approach to immigration, with control over the UK’s borders seen as a key battleground between Labour and the Tories this election.

Mr Sunak said putting the decision in the hands of MPs would give voters confidence their views would be respected and reflected.

“The plan is working but migration levels are still too high, so we are going further,” he said.

The PM claimed Labour would “make the UK a global magnet for illegal immigrants”, suggesting they had “no plan to reduce net migration”.

“The Conservatives are the only party that is willing take the bold action needed to cut immigration figures,” he continued.

The cap would apply to worker and family visas and would exempt temporary work routes, such as Seasonal Agricultural Workers.

The MAC’s remit would prioritise the economy, with explicit orders to look at the economic costs of migration, including the impact on public services, wages and productivity.

However, this would be the fourth attempt at such a cap, with successive Tory governments attempting to limit visas under Theresa May, David Cameron and Rishi Sunak in last year’s Illegal Migration Act.

Last year, Mr Sunak came under fire from two of his own Cabinet ministers, who called for tougher measures to curb legal migration, including calls for an annual cap on net migration, which had reached a record high.

Former home secretary Suella Braverman said the immigration figures were “a slap in the face” and her calls for an annual cap on net migration and a cap on health and social work visas had been ignored.

Robert Jenrick quit as immigration minister, saying the PM’s plans did not go far enough, having previously set out a series of measures including caps on visas.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “This is a meaningless announcement from a Tory party which has trebled net migration since the last election despite promising to bring it down.

“All they are doing now is rehashing failed announcements from David Cameron and Theresa May, while doing nothing to tackle the skills shortages and their failures in the economy and immigration system which have pushed net migration up.”

Labour’s Ms Cooper asked why anyone should take the Tories’ latest promise seriously after they had already “repeatedly broken” previous ones.

She added Labour’s plan to bring net migration down would link the immigration system with new mandatory training and workforce plans for British workers, and stop rogue employers hiring from abroad.



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