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Damian Green promises "smart immigration policy" that ensures only the brightest and best students and workers enter Britain

By Tim Montgomerie

Screen shot 2010-09-07 at 06.55.03 A poll in today's FT (£) reveals that Britons are less satisfied with immigration levels than the citizens of any other major EU nation. More than six out of 10 Britons told the Harris polling organisation that immigration was spoiling their quality of life.

In the Coalition negotiations Mr Cameron made it clear that action on immigration was non-negotiable. Despite concerns from Vince Cable and David Willetts, Mr Cameron has held the line on meeting public concerns.

In a speech last night Immigration Minister Damian Green set out the Coalition's strategy for reducing net immigration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands. There will be reductions in the number of visas for work, study and marriage in a three-pronged strategy. "UK Immigration policy is always described in terms of how tough it is," he said, "I am more interested in how smart we can make it." Good rhetoric but, as the Daily Mail's James Slack points out, Mr Green will be forced to be tough; "Mr Green has to cut net migration by about 150,000, which is a huge mountain to climb."

Highlights of Mr Green's speech are pasted below:

Immigration must be controlled: "Balance is at the heart of this Government’s approach to immigration. Britain benefits from immigration, and has always benefited from immigration, but it will only continue to do so if it is properly controlled. This means that the unsustainable levels of net migration seen in recent years must be brought down."

Net immigration must be reduced to the tens of thousands: "The Prime Minister has identified the sustainable level as an annual rate of net migration in the tens of thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands. Which brings me right up to date. How do we get from where we are now to a position where we can continue to attract at least our fair share of the brightest and the best to study and work here, without putting unacceptable levels of pressure on our public services and the ability of our society to absorb change?"

We need to reduce immigration and get better value from those who do still enter Britain: "We need to solve two problems simultaneously. We need not just to cut the numbers, but to make sure we gain maximum benefits from those in the new smaller pool of immigrants. To achieve this we need better information about who stays long term, and why they stay. Whatever your stance on immigration, if you are not basing policy on decent evidence you will be likely to fail."

Student visas will be restricted to the brightest and the best: "I want a student visa system which encourages the entry of legitimate students coming to study legitimate courses. For me that certainly means students coming to study in universities, students who are equipped to study the courses to which they have subscribed and who fulfil their academic obligations, students who at the end of their period of leave return to their country of origin."

Unskilled workers are entering Britain under the skilled workers' category: "I was also struck by some of the individual applications I saw under the skilled worker category. People running take-away restaurants and production line workers on salaries in the low £20,000s. These are not the sort of jobs we talk about when we think of bringing in skilled immigrants who have talents not available among our own workforce or the unemployed.    And there is some evidence that not all those coming in under the highly skilled route are finding highly skilled work."

> Download a PDF of Damian Green's full Immigration speech.


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