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Conservative manifesto pledges new immigration cap to reduce record net migration levels and promises ‘regular rhythm’ of flights to Rwanda


Manifesto says immigration is too high and public need confidence it will come down significantly

Date of Publication:

Today saw the launch of the Conservative Party's election manifesto, the second of the week after yesterday's Lib Dem manifesto.

Conservative Party logoThe Conservatives' 14 years in government has seen numerous notable developments in immigration and asylum, including the end of EU-UK free movement, record levels of immigration and net migration, and the introduction of the as yet unproven policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda to deter small boat crossings.

With opinion polls strongly suggesting the Conservatives' time in government is now coming to an end, the manifesto's section on immigration has a focus on stopping the boats and reducing net migration from the record levels seen under the Conservative government in the last few years.

The Prime Minister was keen to highlight in a BBC interview yesterday that, under his leadership, net migration fell 10% in the latest official estimate by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The manifesto pledges to reduce net migration by introducing a binding, legal cap, which will be set on the number of work and family visas issued. The cap will fall every year and the Conservatives say it will not be able to be breached. Parliament will hold an annual vote to decide the level of the cap.

Visa fees will be increased and the student discount for the Immigration Health Surcharge will be scrapped.

The manifesto also reiterates the Conservatives' ambition to stop small boats crossing the Channel. Seeking asylum via such routes is referred to as 'unfair illegal migration'. The number of crossings fell last year, as the manifesto highlights, but 2024 has seen crossings increase again to record levels.

Voters are given the assurance that the policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda will begin next month and then continue with a "regular rhythm of flights every month", though critics have questioned why the Prime Minister called the election before the first flight had taken off.

In addition, the manifesto pledges that the Illegal Migration Act 2023 will be brought fully into force and the backlog of asylum claims will be cleared, with all claims processed in six months. The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford noted that it is unclear what this would mean in practice, as the Illegal Migration Act prevents the government from processing most asylum claims.

Parliament will be able to decide how many refugees can come to the UK via 'safe and legal' routes.

The full section on immigration and asylum from the manifesto is reproduced below:

The Conservative and Unionist Party Manifesto 2024


Our plan to control immigration and stop illegal immigration

›› Illegal migration is unfair. It is unfair for people to jump the queue in front of people who play by the rules. It is unfair for taxpayers to pay for the hotels and public services. And it is unfair for illegal migrants themselves who risk their lives in the hands of people smugglers.

The Conservatives are the only party with a plan to stop the boats and reduce the strain that illegal migration places on our communities and public services. Labour have no plan and would grant an amnesty to thousands of illegal migrants.

We have made progress. Last year, small boat arrivals to the UK fell by a third. Our work with international partners prevented more than 26,000 crossings last year. Our Albania deal shows that deterrence works, with numbers down 90%.

But the only way to stop the boats entirely is to remove the incentive to come – by making clear that if you come here illegally, you will not be allowed to stay. Only then will the boats stop coming and people stop dying in the Channel. We will:

Establish a deterrent. We will run a relentless, continual process of permanently removing illegal migrants to Rwanda with a regular rhythm of flights every month, starting this July, until the boats are stopped. If we are forced to choose between our security and the jurisdiction of a foreign court, including the ECtHR, we will always choose our security.

End the legal merry-go-round. We will stop illegal migrants from bringing spurious challenges to block their removal by bringing our Illegal Migration Act into force and clearing the asylum backlog, with all claims processed in six months and the use of hotels ended.

Crack down on organised immigration crime, including through the National Crime Agency and our intelligence services, to disrupt supply chains and tackle people smugglers.

Reform asylum rules, holding an international summit and working with other countries to reform international laws to make them fit for an age of mass migration. We will restrict visa access from countries that don't work with us on our national priorities, like illegal migration.

Return people with no right to be here to their own country. We will sign further returns deals like the one we have already agreed with Albania.

› With control of our borders, we can do more to help refugees fleeing persecution. In addition to maintaining visa schemes for people fleeing Hong Kong, Ukraine and our Afghan settlement schemes, we will give parliament control of how many places we offer on safe and legal routes to support those in genuine need from around the world, with a cap based on the capacity of local areas.

Delivering sustainable levels of high-skilled migration

Immigration is too high. We want to attract the brightest and best skilled migrants to the UK to contribute to our businesses and public services. We must bring migration numbers down to sustainable levels to reduce the impacts on public services and housing and to restore public confidence in the system.

We have already implemented changes which mean that 300,000 people who were eligible to come the UK last year now couldn't. We have:

Ended the ability of almost all international students and all care workers to bring dependants.

› Scrapped cut-price shortage labour from overseas, by abolishing the 20% going rate salary discount for shortage occupations.

› Stopped immigration from undercutting British workers, by increasing the salary threshold for Skilled Worker visas by 48% to £38,700.

› Ensured those sponsoring dependants can support them financially, by raising the minimum income for family visas to £38,700.

Going forward, we will raise the Skilled Worker threshold and Family income requirement with inflation automatically to make sure they don't undercut UK workers.

We have taken steps to ensure those coming to the UK do not place a burden on the NHS, by requiring them to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge and increasing this to £1,035. We will go further, in line with other countries, by requiring migrants to undergo a health check in advance of travel and increasing their Immigration Health Surcharge or requiring them to buy health insurance if they are likely to be a burden on the NHS.

We will increase all visa fees and remove the student discount to the Immigration Health Surcharge to raise more money for public services.

We will continue to attract the brightest and best students to study in our world class institutions. We will ensure those who come here are able to integrate into communities and participate in the economy. We want to make sure our immigration system is fair and will continue delivering the Windrush Compensation Scheme. We are committed to the EU Settled Status Scheme and the rights it has guaranteed for EU citizens

Our plan to cut migration

We need to control numbers and give the public confidence they will come down significantly.

› We will introduce a binding, legal cap on migration, set on work and family visas so public services are protected whilst we bring the skills our businesses and the NHS needs.

› Our cap will be set at a level that explicitly takes into account the costs and the benefits of migration.

› The cap will fall every year of the next Parliament and cannot be breached.

› We will give parliament an annual vote on the level of the cap so that the British people can have confidence that immigration numbers will be controlled.

› Unlike Labour, we won't allow any form of free movement to return.