Government 'fearful' of altering UK immigration policy

07 Mar 2011 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The government is unlikely to alter its targets for cutting net immigration to the UK to the tens of thousands for fear of being seen as "moving the goalposts".

This is the view expressed by Professor David Metcalf, chairman of the independent Migration Advisory Committee, in an interview with the Financial Times.

Professor Metcalf explained that ministers do not want to be seen as carrying out a U-turn on one of their flagship policies, which was to drastically reduce UK immigration figures.

The interview comes as the Tier 2 work permit annual limit has come into force. This week marks the start of the reduction of work permits, with a cap of 20,700 a year now implemented for graduate employees coming to the UK to work from outside of the European Union.

Professor Metcalf added that the plans to cut overall net immigration to less than 100,000 by 2015 are "unfair to ministers" in a way because it covers areas that ministers are unable to control.

"It would be legitimate for ministers to consider targeting non-EU migration, which is what they have control over," he explained.

Sarah Mulley of the pro-immigration Institute for Public Policy Research appeared to agree in part, telling the paper that the target is "bizarre".

She added that the number of highly skilled workers and students immigrating to the UK legitimately will have to be cut in order to achieve the government's goals.

Meanwhile, business groups have expressed concern for some time now regarding the number of available Tier 2 work permits.

Gerwyn Davies, public policy adviser with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said in February of this year: "It remains questionable whether the increase in the number of employer-related visas issued by the government for the next year will be enough to address the projected increase in the demand for migrant workers."