UK immigration ‘must be based on skills needs’ say MPs

A report from the House of Commons’ Home Affairs Committee has suggested the UK adopt a Canadian-style points immigration system, it is hoped the system would prioritise the country’s need for workers.

UK border: immigration policy
A Canadian-style points system to control immigration to the UK, with greater weight being given to skills, was proposed in a wide-ranging report from the House of Commons’ Home Affairs Committee.

Immigration policy aimed at targeting skills requirements

The MPs said the government should drop its target of reducing net migration – currently running at 230,000 a year – to the tens of thousands and, instead, adopt a system based on the country’s need for workers and on “humanitarian obligations”.The report proposes the government adopt the Canadian model for a points-based immigration system that uses economy-based evidence to construct an annual framework of targets and controls for different types of immigration. 
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Input from the Migration Advisory Committee

Among other recommendations in the report were greater input from the Migration Advisory Committee on establishing policy on skills needs; the establishment of an annual migration report detailing the economic contribution from migration and the actions needed on skills and integration; and the removal of foreign students from the net migration statistics.Despite repeated calls to take students out of the statistics, the government has so far refused even though there is evidence that overseas students make a significant positive economic contribution to the country and that the majority return home after completing their studies.

Consensus on immigration to the UK

Yvette Cooper, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, said, “Most people think immigration is important for Britain, but they want to know that the system is under control, that people are contributing to this country and that communities and public services are benefiting rather than facing pressures.“We believe people should be working together to build consensus on the benefits and address concerns about problems on immigration.“Immigration has always been an important part of our history, economy and culture and will continue to be a crucial policy area for our future.
“The government has a responsibility to build consensus and confidence on immigration rather than allowing this to be a divisive debate.“But that requires a transformation in the way that immigration policy is made as too often the current approach has undermined trust in the system.” 

Concerns over net migration targets

Seamus Nevin, head of policy research at the Institute of Directors, said an “honest and sensible” debate in the UK over the costs and benefits of immigration was being obstructed by the government’s adherence to their “counter-productive” net migration target.“The Home Affairs Committee is right that the government has a responsibility to do a better job at building a consensus for immigration policy, but businesses must share that responsibility, too,” he said. “The workplace is one of the best ways to integrate and can be at the forefront of building confidence regarding future immigration. Employers who rely on international workers cannot ignore the public’s concerns. There needs to be a joined-up effort between business and political leaders to help develop a clear plan to manage the challenges of immigration, while highlighting the rewards it gives the UK. “This report, based on suggestions from ordinary people, makes some common sense proposals – from the Exchequer recording immigrants’ economic contributions to enhancing the migration impact fund – and should be taken seriously.“Crucially, however, in order to restore faith in the system, the public have to see that the administrative bodies are fully engaged in responding to their wish to exercise greater control of immigration. So stronger action to prevent exploitation of workers from overseas and greater focus on law enforcement and security checks by the Home Office would be welcome. We hope the government will act swiftly to implement these recommendations.”

Government commitment to reducing immigration

A Home Office spokesman said, “The British people sent a very clear message in the EU referendum, they want more control of immigration and our borders. That is why we are committed to reducing net migration to sustainable levels.“Net migration figures have fallen steadily over the past four quarters and after we leave the EU, we will put in place an immigration system which works in the best interests of the whole of the UK.”
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