Skip to main content

Reducing Migration

Volume 743: debated on Monday 15 January 2024

On 4 December, I announced a new package of measures to further reduce legal net migration, including limitations on family dependants being brought in by workers and students, creating a salary threshold and raising the minimum income requirement progressively over the next few years.

My right hon. Friend will know that the net migration figure of over 700,000 is completely unsustainable. Were it to continue, that would represent the creation of 10 new parliamentary constituencies each year. What co-operation does his Department have with the public services that have to meet the demands from the newcomers?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that we must be conscious of the impact of the level of net migration on local populations and local authorities. We recognise that the figure is too high and we are taking action to bring it down. We work closely with other Government Departments to deliver on that, but while Opposition Front Benchers criticise the headline figures, they also oppose every single step we take to bring that figure down.

I commend my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my hon. Friend the Minister for Legal Migration and the Border for all their work towards delivering on our manifesto commitment to reduce net migration. My constituents are now looking for the results of all their hard work. Will the Home Secretary outline how his new legal migration package will make the most of our post-Brexit points-based immigration system?

This country has always had a global outlook: the ethnic composition of the Government at the most senior levels is a direct reflection of our global connectivity and those human bridges across the world. We want to ensure this country is able to benefit from the expertise, knowledge and work of the brightest and best from around the whole world in a manner that is controlled, fair, predictable and well enforced.

It is good that the Government want to ensure that the brightest and best can continue to come to the UK to study, but does my right hon. Friend recognise that the changes to the family dependant rules for students risk causing enormous damage to some of our elite business schools, which compete in the global marketplace for experienced, outstanding professionals? What work is he doing with the sector to try to overcome some of those challenges?

My right hon. Friend is right to highlight the fact that we are in a globally competitive environment when it comes to this country’s quality higher education postgraduate offer. I have no doubt that we are still highly competitive. We will continue to work with the university sector on this and ensure that the people we bring to the UK are here to study and add value, and that no institution in our higher education sector mistakes its role—they are educators, not a back-door visa system.

I beg the Home Secretary to spread those more enlightened views to some of his colleagues. Migration should not be a dirty word. I am the son of a migrant. I migrated myself to the United States at one stage. My DNA tells me that I am 34% Irish and 32% Swedish. Can every Member of this Parliament have their DNA published so that we can bring some sense to this discussion about migration?

I am not sure that the Government are able to compel such widespread disclosure—perhaps the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority might have a view on such things. Both sides of my family are of immigrant stock: my mother came to the UK in the 1960s, and my father’s family in 1066. This country has benefited from controlled immigration in a fair system, where people who play by the rules are rewarded and we say no to those who refuse to play by the rules.

I am a legal migrant, too. Bath has a vibrant hospitality industry that caters for local people and tourists from all over the world, but many of our hotels, restaurants, bars and pubs are already struggling to find enough staff or are under threat of reduced working hours and closure. How will the Home Secretary ensure that the proposed new salary thresholds and measures to reduce legal migration do not worsen those staff shortages?

We liaise very closely with other Government Departments to ensure that our system, which is transparent and fair, also supports the British economy. We work particularly closely with the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that those who have talent and ambition but who, for whatever reason, are currently unable to fully engage in the job market are enabled to do so. I myself have a background in the hospitality industry, and we want that industry to continue to thrive. It is not the case that we should automatically rely on overseas labour for that; we can have home-grown talent as well.

The Home Secretary talked about people coming to UK universities to study. Many people also come to our universities to carry out ground-breaking and economically important research, and they are worried about the rise in the minimum income thresholds, because that means they will be unable to bring their families with them. What assessment has he made of the impact of the new changes on our universities’ important research work?

We recognise the contribution of the international pool of talent. Indeed, when I was Foreign Secretary I signed up to a deal with India for talented postgraduates to exchange experience in our respective countries. We will always look to support the genuine draw on talent, but we will also ensure that the higher education system is not used as a back-door means of immigration. The system is about research and education, not a back-door means of getting permanent residence in this country.