Attracting the brightest and best to Britain

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A FREQUENT concern with people who drop into my constituency office is immigration and the complex issues surrounding it, not least housing, schools and the whole gamut of social services. Elderly members of our community are often among the most anxious fearing as they do a competitive squeeze on services.

Surveys consistently find that nearly three-quarters of those polled support bringing net migration down to the tens of thousands a year - or less. But Government proposals to limit the number of skilled workers coming to the UK from outside the EU have prompted concerns from business.

How do we square the circle and provide enough labour capacity to support an ageing population while safeguarding jobs for the rising generation of graduates, apprentices and those who are keen to extend their working lives?

Quality is the key and I support the Government’s desire to attract only the brightest and best to Britain.

Controlling who comes into the country is a tough ask particularly after the last Government’s open door policy which meant net migration broke all records reaching an unprecedented 2.2m.

Immediately after coming to power this Government started to get a grip on the situation by turning its attention to all the main routes of entry - work, family and education.

Very clear in most people’s minds is the need to break the automatic link between temporary routes and permanent settlement. And that’s our goal.

Within weeks we introduced reforms to the student visa system – the single largest route of entry. We brought in new restrictions to limit students bringing dependants and ended the post-study work option for all but the very brightest. Our measures will be fully in place by next year and we estimate that this measure alone will cut net migration by more than 60,000.

The spotlight has now been turned on the family route. We are looking at extending the length of time before settlement – and access to benefits – can be granted. In addition we are putting an end to the assumption that settlement will be available to those who enter the UK on the skilled worker route. After almost two years of increasing net migration, the figures stabilised in the last quarter. We expect economic migration to fall by a fifth compared with 2009.

So we’ve made progress in unwinding the previous Government’s legacy. But a changing demographic combined with skills shortages call for a sense of proportion and adjustment on all sides.

FRANCIS MAUDE

MP for Horsham