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Conservative manifesto keeps 'objective' to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands

Date of Publication: 
18 May 2017
Summary: 

May keeps objective of lowering net migration, says Skills Charge set to double by end of parliament

Conservative manifesto keeps 'objective' to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands

18 May 2017
EIN

The Conservative Party launched its election manifesto today (available here).

Media coverage of the manifesto highlighted that the Conservatives have chosen to keep their pledge to reduce net migration to the 'tens of thousands'.

Theresa May said on the campaign trail recently: "I think that it is important that we do say and continue to say that we do want to bring migration to sustainable levels. We believe that is the tens of thousands."

The manifesto states: "It is our objective to reduce immigration to sustainable levels, by which we mean annual net migration in the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands we have seen over the last two decades."

An editorial in yesterday's Evening Standard, edited by the former chancellor George Osborne, criticised the decision to keep the pledge, calling it "politically rash and economically illiterate".

The editorial stated: "[Y]ou would assume that Mrs May would jump at the chance to bury the pledge. That's what her Cabinet assumed; none of its senior members supports the pledge in private and all would be glad to see the back of something that has caused the Conservative Party such public grief. But no. Mrs May has kept digging."

While the manifesto says the Conservatives "will always ensure that British businesses can recruit the brightest and best from around the world",  the Tier 2 Visa skills charge is set to double to £2,000 as part of the drive to reduce immigration. The manifesto says: "skilled immigration should not be a way for government or business to avoid their obligations to improve the skills of the British workforce. So we will double the Immigration Skills Charge levied on companies employing migrant workers, to £2,000 a year by the end of the parliament, using the revenue generated to invest in higher level skills training for workers in the UK."

In addition, the minimum income threshold for partner visas is to be increased, though no figure is given.

The Immigration Health Surcharge is also set to rise: "to £600 for migrant workers and £450 for international students."

You can read the main sections dealing with immigration and asylum from the manifesto below:

_______________________________

THE CONSERVATIVE AND UNIONIST PARTY
MANIFESTO 2017

[…]

The skills we need

As we set out in chapter three, the next Conservative government will give Britain the technical education it has lacked for decades. This will take time but we must also address the immediate needs of those sectors of the economy suffering shortages in skills. We will make the immigration system work for these sectors, whilst ensuring that we develop the skills we need for the future.

We will therefore ask the independent Migration Advisory Committee to make recommendations to the government about how the visa system can become better aligned with our modern industrial strategy. We envisage that the committee’s advice will allow us to set aside significant numbers of visas for workers in strategically-important sectors, such as digital technology, without adding to net migration as a whole.

However, skilled immigration should not be a way for government or business to avoid their obligations to improve the skills of the British workforce. So we will double the Immigration Skills Charge levied on companies employing migrant workers, to £2,000 a year by the end of the parliament, using the revenue generated to invest in higher level skills training for workers in the UK.

[…]

Controlling immigration

Britain is an open economy and a welcoming society and we will always ensure that our British businesses can recruit the brightest and best from around the world and Britain's world-class universities can attract international students. We also believe that immigration should be controlled and reduced, because when immigration is too fast and too high, it is difficult to build a cohesive society.

Thanks to Conservatives in government, there is now more control in the system. The nature of the immigration we have – more skilled workers and university students, less abuse and fewer unskilled migrants – better suits the national interest. But with annual net migration standing at 273,000, immigration to Britain is still too high. It is our objective to reduce immigration to sustainable levels, by which we mean annual net migration in the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands we have seen over the last two decades.

We will, therefore, continue to bear down on immigration from outside the European Union. We will increase the earnings thresholds for people wishing to sponsor migrants for family visas. We will toughen the visa requirements for students, to make sure that we maintain high standards. We will expect students to leave the country at the end of their course, unless they meet new, higher requirements that allow them to work in Britain after their studies have concluded. Overseas students will remain in the immigration statistics – in line with international definitions – and within scope of the government's policy to reduce annual net migration.

Leaving the European Union means, for the first time in decades, that we will be able to control immigration from the European Union too. We will therefore establish an immigration policy that allows us to reduce and control the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union, while still allowing us to attract the skilled workers our economy needs.

[…]

Reforming asylum

We will ensure Britain remains a place of sanctuary for refugees and asylum seekers. The existing system, however, is geared towards people who are young enough, fit enough, and have the resources to get to Britain, rather than those who are most in need of our help.

Wherever possible, the government will offer asylum and refuge to people in parts of the world affected by conflict and oppression, rather than to those who have made it to Britain. We will work to reduce asylum claims made in Britain and, as we do so, increase the number of people we help in the most troubled regions. We will continue to work with other countries in Europe, and the United Nations, to review the international legal definitions of asylum and refugee status.

We will make sure our councils get the help they need to deal with people as they arrive, and establish schemes to help individuals, charities, faith groups, churches and businesses to provide housing and other support for refugees.