Home Visa Immigration Immigration ‘too high’, says PM as sacked Suella Braverman leads Tory revolt

Immigration ‘too high’, says PM as sacked Suella Braverman leads Tory revolt

Migration to Britain is “too high”, the Prime Minister said on Friday as his own MPs threatened a revolt over the record figures.

Rishi Sunak said the number of people coming to the country needs to “come down to more sustainable levels” after revised data showed net migration peaked at 745,000 in the year to December 2022.

Speaking to reporters on Friday morning, the PM said: “I’m very clear that the levels of migration are too high and they’ve got to come down to more sustainable levels. I’ve been clear about that.

“It is good to see that the [statistics] yesterday did say that the levels of migration are now slowing, which is a welcome step.

“But we’ve got more to go. That is why I announced a policy earlier to clamp down on the number of dependents that students can bring when they’re coming here, where we’ve seen a very significant rise in that.

“That action I took represents the single toughest measure that anyone has taken to bring down the levels of legal migration in a very long time.

“So that should give people a sense of my commitment to bringing migration down.”

The revised figures, released on Thursday, show that the number of people coming to live in the UK hit a record 1.3million over the past two years, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride described the figures as “unacceptable” on Friday.

Ms Braverman, who was sacked as Home Secretary earlier this month, said it was “a slap in the face to the British public”.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick is reportedly pushing for a five-point plan, that he worked up with Ms Braverman, to be put into place. It includes an annual cap on net migration and limits on health and social care visas.

Mr Sunak dodged questions about the proposals.

Mr Stride told Times Radio on Friday: “We do accept that these figures are too high, they are unacceptable.

“And that is exactly why we will be coming forward with further approaches to make sure we bring these down.

“One of the things I think is really important in the context of this debate is what is happening in our domestic labour market, because a lot of this migration has been driven by a need for skilled labour in certain sectors.”

The Government is taking action by “clamping down on the number of dependents” that international students can bring over to the UK, Mr Stride said.

But he added that there is “more to be done” as he pointed to reforms announced this week that he said could get some of the 2.5 million people on long-term sickness and disabilities benefits back into work.

The minister suggested a shakeup of the welfare system and tax cuts, announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on Wednesday, could lead to a reduction in net migration because they would plug gaps in the labour market.

“I think what is really important is what the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) and I are doing to get more people to engage with the labour market so we can take pressure off the labour market which is driving some of this migration growth,” he told LBC.

“And secondly that those employment taxes that the Chancellor was able to reduce I think is very significant too because that will help increase the supply of labour as well.”

Lord David Cameron, who was made Foreign Secretary earlier this month, pledged to get net migration below 100,000 when he was first elected Prime Minister in 2010. The commitment has never been met.

The Tory 2019 manifesto also vowed to bring overall numbers down, without setting a specific target.

Ms Braverman said: “The pressure on housing, the NHS, schools, wages, and community cohesion, is unsustainable,” she said.

“When do we say: enough is enough?”

The New Conservatives group, which is made up of MPs on the right of the party, described the issue as “do or die” for the Tories.

In a statement, the group said: “Each of us made a promise to the electorate. We don’t believe that such promises can be ignored.”