The BBC's Nick Robinson has had to keep 'updating' his blog today. Whoever briefed him on the Coalition's immigration cap gave him a very bum steer.
Home Secretary Theresa May has just delivered an authoritative statement to the Commons. She confirmed the Coalition's central ambition to reduce immigration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands. She didn't say it in the Commons but I've had it confirmed by one of her senior aides that the target will be achieved by 2015. Economic immigration from outside of the EU will be reduced by one-fifth and a new salary limit of £40,000 for Inter-Company Transfers will ensure that only higher quality workers will enter the UK under these provisions.
On Radio 4 this morning no less a figure than Sir Andrew Green of MigrationWatch effectively endorsed the Coalition's approach.
Highlights from Theresa May's immigration statement.
Immigration ran out of control under Labour: "Under Labour, net migration to Britain was close to 200 thousand per year, for most years since 2000. As a result, over Labour’s time in office net migration totalled more than 2.2 million people – more than double the population of Birmingham. We can’t go on like this."
Confirmation of ambition to reduce net immigration to the tens of thousands: "To achieve this, we will have to take action across all routes to entry – work visas, student visas, family visas – and break the link between temporary routes and permanent settlement. This will bring significant reductions in non-EU migration to the UK and restore it to more sustainable levels. We aim to reduce net migration from the hundreds of thousands, back down to the tens of thousands."
Tighter economic migration from outside the EU: "I have decided to reduce economic migration through Tier One and Two from twenty eight thousand to twenty one thousand seven hundred – this would mean a fall of over a fifth compared with last year in the number of economic migrants coming through Tiers One and Two, excluding intra-company transfers."
Fast-tracking entry for entrepreneurs: "Last year investors and entrepreneurs accounted for fewer than 300 people – that is not enough. So I will make the application process quicker, more user-friendly, and I will not limit the numbers of these wealth creators who can come to Britain."
Student visas are being abused: "Nearly half of all students coming here from abroad are actually coming to study a course below degree level and abuse is particularly common at these lower levels – a recent check of students studying at private institutions below degree level showed that a quarter could not be accounted for."
A consultation on redcing student numbers: "I will shortly be launching a public consultation on student visas. I will consult on restricting entry to only those studying at degree level, but with some flexibility for Highly Trusted Sponsors to offer courses at a lower level. I will also consult on closing the Post Study route, which last year allowed some 38 thousand foreign graduates to enter the UK labour market at a time when one in ten UK graduates were unemployed."
Cracking down on family immigration: "Last year, the family route accounted for nearly 20% of non EU immigration. Clearly British nationals must be able to marry the person of their choice but those who come to the UK must be able to participate in society. From next week we will require all those applying for marriage visas to demonstrate a minimum standard of English. We are also cracking down on sham marriages and will consult on extending the probationary period of settlement for spouses beyond the current two years."
Stopping temporary migrants from settling in the UK: "It cannot be right that people coming to fill temporary skills gaps have open access to permanent settlement. Last year 62 thousand people settled in the UK on that basis. Settling in Britain should be a privilege to be earned, not an automatic add on to a temporary way in. So we will end the link between temporary and permanent migration."
My one reservation about the otherwise welcome approach is that we are embarking on more consultations. I would have preferred resolution of key issues by now so that numbers could be reduced quickly and English language colleges and other beneficiaries of the student via system could plan ahead.