By Jonathan Isaby
At Home Office questions yesterday, Immigration MInister Damian Green answered a selection of questions on non-EU migration, further to the recent announcement that there will be a reduction in the number of visas issued next year from 28,000 to 21,700.
As a supplementary question, Sheryll Murray, the new MP for South East Cornwall specifically asked how many migrant workers are from within the EU and how many are from elsewhere, to which the minister replied:
"I am grateful to my hon. Friend for asking that question, because it enables me to puncture one of the great urban myths in the immigration debate, which is that most immigration comes from within the European Union. The net migration figures – which we will get down to the tens of thousands by the end of this Parliament – show that the vast bulk of immigrants come from outside the European Union. She asked about the numbers. In 2009, 292,000 non-European economic area migrants entered the UK and only 109,000 left. The House will see that the vast majority of net immigration comes from outside the European Union. Such immigration is precisely what we will take action on."
There were several other supplementaries from Tory MPs on the subject:
Karen Bradley (Staffordshire Moorlands): Will the Minister assure the House that the new proposals to control immigration will protect the interests of legitimate businesses?
Damian Green: I give that assurance to the House and, beyond that, to business. We held something that has been unusual in recent years: a consultation that genuinely consulted. We listened to business and changed the rules on inter-company transfers. That is also why we got rid of most of tier 1 and left a small remainder for the very exceptional. We now have a system that will not only enable us to get immigration to sustainable levels, but protect businesses and educational institutions that are vital to our future prosperity.
Robert Buckland (Swindon South): What evidence has he found of abuse in the points-based immigration system that was introduced by the previous Government?
Damian Green: Regrettably, there is large-scale abuse. For instance, we looked at a sample of the migrants who came here last year in tier 1, which is meant to cover the brightest and the best of highly skilled migrants, and nearly a third of them were doing completely unskilled jobs. We have also found widespread abuse in the student system. That tells us that we must refine and smarten the points-based system that was left to us by the previous Government so that it does the job of ensuring that we get immigration numbers down to sustainable levels.