British government under pressure over non-EU migration

June 28th, 2010 - 2:18 pm ICT by IANS  

By Venkata Vemuri
London, June 28 (IANS) The British government is reportedly under pressure from coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, to ensure that the proposed cap on non-EU economic migration to Britain does not affect the domestic economy.

Appearing on the BBC Monday, hours before announcing the proposed cap, Home Secretary Theresa May said the government will “ensure that the brightest and the best who have something to offer” are not excluded because of the cap.

She is expected to announce a temporary cap of 24,100 on non-EU immigration till April, 2011, by which time the consultation process for making the cap permanent is to be finished.

The home secretary obliquely referred to the stand of the Liberal Democrats on the issue. Business Secretary Vince Cable - a Liberal Democrat - indicated Sunday night that he had a different opinion on the cap.

Speaking on BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show, Cable warned that the cap had to be flexible.

“If you’ve got a growing economy you’ve got to draw people in from all over the world where they’ve got unique contributions.”

The home secretary said on the BBC show that it was possible to bring down non-EU immigration to controllable levels “while recognising what he (Cable) is saying”.

Her statement is being interpreted to mean that cap may exempt top executives from multinational companies and other highly paid foreigners.

The Daily Mail has reported that apart from Cable, two other cabinet members, Michael Gove and David Willetts, also criticised the cap on the ground that it would not have a positive impact on the British economy.

The Press Association has said “some senior Tories are understood to have privately raised concerns about the impact on businesses seeking to recruit highly-skilled staff”.

Cable indicated that he was not alone in raising the issue within the cabinet.

“We realised that there are two objectives. One is to reassure the public that there’s effective immigration control and the other is to make sure the economy recovers.”

May said the cap is part of the new coalition government’s electoral promise to bring down the immigration figures from “hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands”.

The earlier announcement of an English speaking test for prospective spouses and new clauses to the student visas “are also part of this programme”.

She said the government was consulting all parties concerned on the immigration issue, including the Immigration Advisory Committee that is expected to come out with its recommendations shortly.

She indicated there’s more to come: “There are a number of issues we will be addressing as well.”

(Venkata Vemuri can be contacted at venkata.v@ians.in)

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