Cutting immigration is a matter of trust for Tories – Jenrick
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Achieving greater social cohesion and national unity is impossible unless levels of immigration can be brought under control, Robert Jenrick has said.
The immigration minister said further measures may be needed to bring numbers down and there are “merits” in imposing an absolute cap on visas.
He suggested that being able to deliver on commitments to cut immigration is a “matter of trust” for the Tory Party, which is trailing Labour in the polls in the run up to next year’s general election.
His comments come after his boss, Home Secretary James Cleverly, unveiled a five-point plan aimed at cutting the number of people coming to the UK by around 160,000.
The measures come on top of a previously announced curb on student dependants which officials hope will cut numbers by about 140,000.
Net migration hit a record 745,000 in 2022, although it is estimated to have fallen to 672,000 in the year to June 2023.
The Government’s 2019 manifesto commitment, made when net migration was around 219,000, was for overall numbers to come down.
Mr Jenrick, who has pushed for tougher action, told Sky News: “This matters to us because we want to build a more productive economy where businesses aren’t just reaching for the easy lever of foreign labour.
“We want to help people on welfare and into work. We want to reduce pressure on housing and public services, and also to build a more socially cohesive and united country, which is difficult – I would argue impossible – when such large numbers of people are coming into the country.”
He told Times Radio: “I have argued for this package of measures, that we have to meet our manifesto commitment, and that is a matter of trust and ensuring that the democratic will of the public who have voted for parties who sought lower levels of net migration is delivered.”
Asked if a cap on numbers is a good idea, Mr Jenrick said: “There are merits to ideas like that.
“But what matters now is action. The public wants to see us actually deliver reducing levels of net migration, as I’ve been very clear, that people are sick of talk on this topic.”
On GB News he acknowledged that “more things may need to be done, but without question this is a big step forward”.
In the Commons on Monday, Mr Cleverly said he understood calls for a limit on immigration but “in practical terms managing a cap is difficult”.
The Government’s latest package will stop care workers bringing dependants and increase the skilled worker earnings threshold to £38,700, which would also be the minimum income for family visas.
NHS Providers, which represents health trusts, said it recognised that overseas workers alone cannot be relied on to fill staffing gaps, but said it found changes that could deter people from taking up jobs in the NHS and social care “deeply concerning”.
Concerns have also been raised about the economic impact of curbing net migration.
Professor Brian Bell, chairman of the Migration Advisory Committee, said some industries could struggle with recruitment because of the new visa rules, which are expected to come in next spring.
Speaking on Times Radio, he said: “I think we’re going to see quite a lot of what you might describe as middle-skilled jobs that are going to struggle.
“Social care will still be allowed to employ people at lower wages; the big change is workers won’t be able to bring their dependants with them, and that’s a fundamental change.”
SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn told BBC Radio Scotland: “I think it’s absurd, I think it’s ignorant, and it’s going to wreck the economy because we know that migrants contribute more to the UK Treasury than what they take out.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak echoed Mr Cleverly in declaring “enough is enough” as he promised to “get control of immigration once and for all”.
Writing in The Sun, the Prime Minister said there is “far too much abuse of our system”, which is “not fair on the honest, hard-working British people”.
He wrote: “There are just too many people migrating to the UK. So we’ve launched a new plan to cut migration, with a simple message.
“If you can’t contribute to the UK, you are not coming to the UK.”
He said people are “rightly angry” net migration has continued to climb and politicians “have not been willing to take the hard decisions” to deliver on promises to control borders.
“Britain has a proud tradition of providing shelter for refugees,” he said. “We’ve welcomed with open arms people fleeing the war in Ukraine or persecution in Hong Kong.
“But that cannot come at the cost of not controlling our borders.”
He said the latest proposals will “deliver the biggest-ever cut in net migration and curb abuse”, as well as providing the “proper points-based system that was promised after Brexit”.
“Altogether, our five-point plan means that 300,000 people like those who came to the UK last year will no longer be able to come,” he said.