Net Migration

Home Department – in the House of Commons at on 15 April 2024.

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Photo of Miriam Cates Miriam Cates Conservative, Penistone and Stocksbridge

What recent progress his Department has made on reducing net migration.

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I put on record my condolences for your loss, Mr Speaker.

The Government have implemented a number of measures to reduce net migration. Those include restricting overseas students from bringing family dependants to the UK while they study, stopping overseas care workers from bringing family dependants, increasing the salary threshold for skilled worker visas—ultimately to £38,700—and increasing the minimum income requirements for family visas. We recognise that levels of migration have been too high and, upon my appointment, I immediately took action to bring those figures down.

Photo of Miriam Cates Miriam Cates Conservative, Penistone and Stocksbridge

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer, but one of the main drivers of immigration over the past 20 years or so has been labour shortages caused by falling birth rates. According to projections by Philip Pilkington and Paul Morland, if birth rates do not increase, immigration will have to rise to over a third of the population over the next 50 years if we are going to maintain a sufficient working-age population. Immigration on this scale has no democratic consent and obviously my right hon. Friend has promised repeatedly to reduce net migration, so what discussions has he had with colleagues in the Treasury about this issue? Does he agree that the Government must have a strategy to address falling birth rates, to ensure that we do not always have to rely on ever-increasing rates of immigration?

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Birth rates are driven by myriad social and economic factors, which I have to concede are beyond my control, but I have spoken with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer about related issues and recognise that GDP per capita is an important metric, as is overall GDP. We are ensuring that we invest in a British workforce: my right hon. Friend the Education Secretary is passionate about apprenticeships and lifelong learning. We want to be a high-skilled, high-income economy, rather than a low-skilled, mass-migration economy. That remains the Government’s priority, and we are taking action through our immigration policy to reflect that desire.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Labour, Hammersmith

Trhas Teklehaimanot Tesfay is one of the elite female cyclists chosen to lead RideLondon next month. She is also an asylum seeker, living in a hotel in my constituency where the food is so bad it makes her sick and unable to compete. Last month, an investigation by Sustain found food for asylum seekers that was undercooked, past its sell-by date and infested with insects, which in some cases left them malnourished and hospitalised. Could the Secretary of State investigate this scandal and the responsibility of the contractor Clearsprings, so that asylum seekers such as Trhas are not subject to such dangerous and degrading conditions?

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Mr Speaker, I can assure you, the hon. Gentleman and the House that our contractors are expected to maintain standards and, where they fall below those standards, they will be held to account. I will absolutely take note of the case that the hon. Gentleman has raised.

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Conservative, Rochester and Strood

I welcome the measures my right hon. Friend has taken to tackle the levels of legal migration, but could he inform me what assessment he has made of the expected impact of the new immigration salary list and what impact that will have on the net migration figure?

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend is at the frontline of our fight against illegal migration, but legal migration is important. We have recognised that, for a number of reasons, the figures have been too high in the most recent couple of years and I have listed measures we have taken. The combined impact of that is that, by our estimations, under the new regime that I have put in place, 300,000 people who would previously have been eligible will no longer be eligible. That is the order of magnitude of change that we will eventually see once these proposals are fully implemented.

Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government)

The refusal to allow care workers from overseas to bring a spouse with them comes at the same time as, in Cumbria, we are finding it impossible to fill at least a fifth of all the social care jobs. Would the Home Secretary explain to constituents of mine who are unable to find people to care for them and their loved ones why it seems sensible to make the lives of people from overseas so miserable in coming over here to care for our loved ones that they do not come at all?

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I recognise that, in rural communities, recruitment and retention of staff is difficult and in the hon. Member’s constituency—a wonderful, beautiful, but very rural constituency—there are particular pressures. I can assure him that the global supply of potential care workers is very significant. Actually, the issues about where in the country those people work are more about the internal dynamic within the UK economy than the quantum of people around the world who would seek to work in the UK. There are plenty of people who would wish to work here, recognising that they are not allowed to bring their dependants with them, but the issue of where in the country those people work is actually a broader issue.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

The cruel Conservative hikes to the visa minimum income threshold have caused deep distress—deep, deep distress—to many. Does the Home Secretary understand the pain that these changes have caused, and what message does he believe it sends out to those who would do us the honour of making their home in these islands that he puts such a high price on love and family life?

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly The Secretary of State for the Home Department

It is absolutely right that any nation in the world puts conditionality on the people it accepts within its own borders. This country has a long-standing tradition—in fact, I am a product of this, as are the Prime Minister, the Business and Trade Secretary and many others in the Government—of being open and welcoming. However, when we see the orders of magnitude of legal migration that we have seen over the last couple of years, it is incumbent on us to take action. We have made it clear what action we will take, and we have given notice of the changes so that people can make their plans accordingly. When there are special cases, there is a special cases exemption, so that we can both control immigration and do our moral duty to protect those people who seek our protection, and be an attractive place for people to come and work.