The Tories say they will impose an annual visa cap to curb legal migration

Tuesday June 4, 2024 10:06 am

The Conservatives have announced plans for a new annual limit on visas to ensure immigration falls each year during the next parliament. Photo: PA

The Conservatives have announced plans for a new annual limit on visas in their latest election pledge to ensure legal migration falls each year over the course of the next parliament.

So far this year, more than 10,000 migrants have arrived in Britain after crossing the Channel. Immigration is a key battleground in the campaign, amid Nigel Farage’s decision to return as leader of Britain’s reform and run for Clacton.

The plan proposed by the Tories would give Parliament a direct role in setting the level of migration, with MPs voting on the number.

Rishi Sunak said: “We have taken bold action to reduce the number of people coming to this country. The plan is working, but migration levels are still too high, so we move on.

“Labour’s migrant amnesty will make Britain a global magnet for illegal immigrants and they have no plan to reduce net migration, while we have a clear plan to stop the boats and put a legal cap on numbers .”

The Prime Minister added: “The Conservatives are the only party prepared to take the bold action needed to reduce immigration levels.”

An annual cap would be imposed on the number of visas that could be granted to those coming to Britain on work or family routes.

Temporary employment routes, such as seasonal agricultural workers, would not fall within the ceiling.

Ministers would ask the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to recommend the size of the annual cap, and the government would then submit a proposal to parliament for a vote.

The Tories say they will tell the committee that their aim is to reduce migration to sustainable levels, which will fall year on year in the next parliament, and that they must consider both the costs and benefits of migration.

The MAC would consult with businesses, the NHS, local authorities and public services and make a recommendation.

Labour’s shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said the proposed cap on work and family visas was a “meaningless announcement from a Tory party that has tripled net migration since the last election, despite promising to reduce it”.

She said: “All they are doing now is repeating the failed announcements of David Cameron and Theresa May while doing nothing to address the skills shortages and their failures in the economy and the immigration system which have driven down net migration make it rise.

“Why would anyone take seriously a promise that the Tories have repeatedly broken?

“Labour’s plan to reduce net migration will link immigration to new mandatory training and workforce plans for British workers, and will prevent rogue employers from hiring from abroad.”

But the announcement was welcomed by the Center for Policy Studies (CPS) think tank. Research director Karl Williams said: “The Conservatives’ announcement of an annual migration budget, voted on by Parliament, is a welcome step in the right direction.

“While it is disappointing that the proposal excludes key visa routes such as student and graduate routes, the measure will improve transparency and accountability.”

He added: “The migration budget, and the more coherent and nuanced migration data we will see as a result, will deliver better evidence-based policy. It must be supported by people on all sides of the migration debate.”