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Why Sajid Javid wants to relax immigration controls

Sajid Javid
Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid is due to announce the changes tomorrow

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Sajid Javid

Home Secretary expected to exclude non-EU doctors and nurses from Government’s visa cap

In Depth
Thursday, June 14, 2018 - 2:29pm

Home Secretary Sajid Javid is to announce that the UK will relax its immigration controls and let in thousands more workers from outside the EU in the run-up to Brexit.

Foreign doctors and nurses are expected to be excluded from the Government’s “Tier 2” visa cap, which sets the limit for all non-EU skilled workers at 20,700 people a year.

The move would help the NHS fill more vacancies, as well as freeing up an estimated 8,000 visas that could be used to recruit skilled migrants to work in industries such as IT, engineering and teaching.

The first review in five years of the professions that qualify for the visas will also be announced by Javid tomorrow.

The planned changes are certain to spark controversy. As Politico’s Jack Blanchard notes: “Almost surreally, the Government remains committed to cutting net migration to below 100,000 people a year - meaning this plan flies in the face of official Whitehall policy.”

How long has the current cap been in place?

The Tier 2 visa cap was introduced by then-home secretary Theresa May in 2011.

Since then, the now Prime Minister has “resisted numerous calls to relax the system”, says The Times. Indeed, “this is the first time immigration policy has been significantly softened since May became home secretary in 2010”, says Migration Watch chairman Lord Green.

According to The Daily Telegraph, the PM was persuaded to back a “time-limited” exemption for doctors and nurses after a series of Cabinet ministers wrote to her voicing their support for the plan.

Why the change?

Javid hinted at changes to the visa regime earlier this month, telling the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show that he “saw the problem” with the current cap and would take a “fresh look” at it.

NHS bosses have repeatedly said that the rules make it difficult to recruit enough people to work in the health service, which as of this February, had 35,000 vacancies for nurses and nearly 10,000 for doctors.

The move will also boost industries such as emerging technology, which have been held back by high barriers to recruitment as a result of the cap.

The caps on migration have done little to boost the Government’s popularity with the wider public either. A cabinet source told City A.M.: “By having a target that is so unachievable and so unobtainable, you actually harm public confidence - that target has never been hit, and is never going to be hit without significant harm to economy.

“If it was originally meant to show the Government being tough on migration, the fact they haven’t hit it isn’t very good.”

Tory backbencher Heidi Allen told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that she welcomed the decision. “It’s absolutely brilliant... the immigration debate has been distorted,” she said.

Allen had previously warned that the Tier 2 policy was “forcing the country to make a binary choice between professionals needed to grow the economy and professionals needed to staff our health system”.

But Migration Watch’s Lord Green said while it “may be necessary, at least temporarily to cope with the prospect of Brexit, in the longer term the answer has to be to train our own medics and not take them from countries that need them far more than we do”.

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