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Less foreign students may find place in the UK

Brown dismisses Tory plans for annual quota of migrant workers. Measures may see cut in their numbers.


13 November 2009: Less number of foreign students may find a place for themselves in the UK. Not only this, Prime Minister Gordon Brown plans may see reduction in the number of potential jobs in shortage occupations. The new measures may, in fact, result in a cut in the numbers of migrant worker.

Brown made his first major speech on migration since February 2008; and focused “on the importance of getting British workers rather than migrant workers to fill skills gaps where possible”.

Even as the Home Office claimed Brown has set out the case for the United Kingdom’s tough but fair immigration system, critics said the assertions meant little.

In fact, they claimed Brown’s assertion that the Government’s new points-based system for economic migrants would have a major impact was to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Brown announced a review of student visas, to clamp down on people applying to study in the United Kingdom with the intention of working illegally when they get here.

During his speech, the Prime Minister emphasised that migrants must accept the responsibilities that come with living in the United Kingdom – obeying the law, speaking English, and making a contribution. He also talked about new measures to build on the success of the points-based system.

These new measures include the tightening of immigration rules to cut numbers of migrant workers. The Prime Minister said this year 30,000 occupations had been removed from a list of in-demand skills which the United Kingdom needs. He said thousands more posts from the list of those eligible for entry under the points-based system would be removed in the coming months.

Delisting these occupations, on the advice of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), will make it much more difficult for workers from outside Europe to take up such posts in the United Kingdom under the points-based system.

Brown elaborated he had asked Professor David Metcalf, chairman of the Migration Advisory Committee, to consider the feasibility of cutting the list of occupations that could be opened up to foreign workers, if no suitable British workers were available. Brown said the list should take account of the greater availability of skilled workers in the British labour force.

The Prime Minister said hospital consultants, civil engineers, aircraft engineers and ship’s officers were being removed from the list; and a review by the committee and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, in consultation with employers, would develop “realistic timetables” next year for the removal of further occupations.

The assertions came within weeks of BNP leader Nick Griffin’s criticism of the immigration policies of Labour and Tory governments after his appearance on the BBC’s Question Time programme.

The Prime Minister agreed the impact of immigration was felt differently — by employers, who wanted to be able to attract talent from all over the world; by the middle classes, who benefited from the extra plumbers and nannies; and by the working classes, who saw the incomers as rivals for jobs and houses.

“But if you’re living in a town which hasn’t seen much inward migration before, you may worry about whether immigration will undermine wages and the job prospects of your children — and whether they will be able to get housing anywhere near you,” he said.
Brown also dismissed Tory plans for an annual quota of migrant workers as it would “deny British businesses the flexibility they need, overturn our obligations to our EU neighbours, prevent employers from filling vacancies, damage our economy and hurt our public services”.

Brown said: ‘Immigration is not an issue for fringe parties nor a taboo subject – it is a question at the heart of our politics, a question about what it means to be British; about the values we hold dear and the responsibilities we expect of those coming into our country; about how we secure the skills we need to compete in the global economy; about how we preserve and strengthen our communities.’

Analyzing his speech, the critics assert the Prime Minister is preparing to shut the doors on skilled migrants from outside the EU after closing the doors on unskilled non-EU migrants.

Figures made public published last year show 3.7 million foreign-born workers or non UK-born were in jobs in Britain. The total, including both foreigners and UK citizens born overseas, increased by an estimated 1.4 million in the past 10 years. The trend shows more than one in 10 jobs was filled by a person born overseas.

A Migration Advisory Committee report showed total 682,000 were from the EU states of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Irish Republic, Spain and Sweden. Another 518,000 were from eight former Soviet bloc states who joined the EU in 2004.

Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said Brown’s speech was a series of minor announcements and pretty empty rhetoric.

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