Shortly after the election, the coalition announced it intended to implement an annual cap on the number of non-EU migrants entering the UK. Agreement on a cap represented a major coup for David Cameron as the policy was one of the most publicised pledges in the Conservative party manifesto.
Until now it has been unclear what the immigration cap would be or how the Conservatives intend to arrive at a figure without it seeming arbitrary. At the end of last week, however, the Guardian reported that Home Secretary Teresa May is expected to announce a maximum of 24,100 workers from outside the EU can enter the UK before April 2011.
Doctrinaire elements within the Conservative party have urged May to push on ahead with implementing a permanent immigration cap despite concerns in the cabinet and among business leaders that the policy could harm the economy by shutting out skilled workers.
Julian Brazier MP, a member of the Commons all-party group on immigration, said that Britain had “an immensely overstretched infrastructure” which could only be relieved by a cap. Speaking to Radio 4, Brazier said:
“Tory backbenchers are solidly behind what was in the manifesto and in the coalition agreement, which is that there must be a large reduction.
“How do we get very large numbers of economically-inactive people into the labour market? If we don’t to some extent curb the availability in some areas of skilled labour coming in, employers are less likely to want to train people themselves.
“562,000 people came to Britain on a long-term basis last year, against about two-thirds of that who left. Reducing that, so numbers come nearer to balance, won’t prevent people bringing crucial workers in.
“What it will do is take account of the fact that we have an immensely over-stretched infrastructure.”
Baroness Valentine, chief executive of the business pressure group London First, feels an immigration cap is a bad idea. She told Radio 4: “The word cap is a very negative word to put out to the global market place.”
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