Hastings and Rye’s MP has promised to get immigration ‘under control’ announcing proposals to tighten restrictions on work and student visas.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd unveiled a £140m ‘controlling migration fund’ to ease the pressures on public services in areas of high migration, and strategies to reduce illegal immigration in a speech to the Tory Party Conference yesterday (Tuesday October 4).
From December, immigration checks will be a mandatory requirement for those wanting to get a licence to drive a taxi, while landlords who knowingly rent out property to people ‘who have no right’ to be in the country will be committing a criminal offence.
The Conservative Government will be consulting on whether it should tighten the test companies have to take before recruiting staff from abroad.
It would also look at if student immigration rules should be tailored to the quality of both the course and the educational institution.
Ms Rudd explained that high levels of migration in the last two decades had led to ‘legitimate concerns’ around the pressures put on housing, public services, and wages.
While she believed immigration had brought ‘many benefits to the nation’ and enhanced the UK’s economy, society, and culture, Ms Rudd wanted to reduce net migration while ensuring they attracted the ‘brightest and best’.
She said: “Because it’s only by reducing the numbers back down to sustainable levels that we can change the tide of public opinion so once again immigration is something we can all welcome.”
She added: “British businesses have driven the economic recovery in this country, with employment at record levels.
“However we still need to do more … so all British people get the opportunities they need to get on in life.
“The test should ensure people coming here are filling gaps in the labour market, not taking jobs British people could do.
“But it’s become a tick box exercise, allowing some firms to get away with not training local people. We won’t win in the world if we don’t do more to upskill our own workforce.
“It’s not fair on companies doing the right thing. So I want us to look again at whether our immigration system provides the right incentives for businesses to invest in British workers.”
Labour’s Paul Blomfield, co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on international students, described plans to cut the number of international students as an ‘act of madness’.
He explained: “I’m shocked by the Home Secretary’s comments, which are spectacularly ill-informed. She doesn’t seem to know how many universities we have in the UK or understand the current rules for which she is responsible, let alone appreciate the enormous contribution international students make to the universities and cities where they study.”
In response, Andy Burnham, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said: “We’ve heard these conference promises on net migration and child migrants before and they haven’t come to anything - people will take them with a pinch of salt. On Theresa May’s watch, net migration reached record levels.
“Amber Rudd is right to introduce a scheme to help communities address the pressures of migration, as Jeremy Corbyn called for last week. But she had depressingly little to say about the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War and failed to repeat the commitment to taking a share of adult refugees.”
But Ms Rudd denied the Government was ‘pulling up the drawbridge’, it was about making sure students come to the UK come to study, and they would be consulting with universities and businesses to get the reforms right.
She added: “But I also come here today with a warning to those that simply oppose any steps to reduce net migration: this Government will not waver in its commitment to put the interests of the British people first. Reducing net migration back down to sustainable levels will not be easy. But I am committed to delivering it on behalf of the British people.”
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday, Ms Rudd said they must ‘not shy away’ from having a conversation about immigration, and pointed out that businesses already had to complete a residents labour market test to employ people from outside the country.
She added: “If you want to talk about immigration do not call me a racist.”
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