Nicholas Soames, the mighty MP for Mid-Sussex, elicited an interesting reponse from Work and Pensions Secretary Tony McNulty yesterday, when Mr Soames raised the issue of a cap on immigrants during oral questions in the Commons:
"Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex) (Con): Does the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge that there is a good deal still to be done in respect of training the United Kingdom work force? Does he agree that what we really need to do is cap the number of people who come here as immigrants in each year?
Mr. McNulty: I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman’s first point about training more UK nationals. That is perfectly fair. Central to the points-based system is a sector by sector assessment of exactly what the United Kingdom’s economy needs at any given time from those outside the European Union. We might approach this issue from different ways, but we achieve the same end."
In an interview with The Times published on Saturday, new Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said:
“We have to have a population policy and that means at some point we will be able to set a limit on migration. This Government isn’t going to allow the population of this country to go up to 70 million. There has to be a balance between the number of people coming in and the number of people leaving.”
He has subsequently been accused of backtracking on this commitment.
Will the Government entertain the notion of a cap on immigration or not? When will they be able to tell us how many foreign nationals are living in Britain? Why should we prioritise immigration from European Union countries over Commonwealth or other nationals? Are we finally edging closer to the day when we discuss these matters freely?