Conservative Diary

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Britain needs an immigration cap this year

Damian Green Commons 2 The Financial Times suggests this morning that senior Conservatives want to water down the Party's support for a cap on non-EU immigration - a policy firmly enshrined in the Coalition Agreement.  It claims that Michael Gove and David Willetts have warned that a cap could call into question the claim "Britain is open for business", and send a negative signal to overseas business leaders and top students.

The FT says that:

"Theresa May, home secretary, will next week launch a consultation on the migration plan, with a promise to reflect the concerns of the City, industry and cabinet colleagues in drawing up the final scheme...the cap could be made more flexible by varying it for certain professions and by allowing companies to bid for fresh batches of visas every quarter rather than every year."

However, the story carries no quote that could have emerged from either Gove or Willetts' office.  Rather, it refers to "Cabinet tension over the a committee chaired by Nick Clegg", and contains a quote from "a LibDem insider".  It therefore looks to me as though this person - whoever he or she may be - is the source of the story rather than either of the Tories.

The report isn't especially striking in itself - Ministers must be expected to have an eye on their Department's particular interests as well as the broader national one.  But it is a reminder of the primal power of the immigration issue in British politics.  Last January, David Cameron promised to cut immigration "from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands". This pledge came late in the electoral cycle, and wasn't pushed during the campaign.

This was a serious strategic blunder: as the later stages of the election proved, voters were ready for a tough message from the Tories on immigration.  To Theresa May and perhaps especially to Damian Green - one of the most able of the non-Cabinet Ministers, and one of the few given real ownership of their brief - falls the responsibility of fixing the cap, and quickly.  A decision must be announced no later than this autumn.

Paul Goodman

> Note from Jonathan Isaby: A number of comments on the thread below have been deleted for going off topic and/or being unsavoury in nature. Please desist.


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