S Kalyana Ramanathan / London November 13, 2009
Only a few months away from a general election, British prime minister Gordon Brown today promised to tighten immigration rules. The change will be fair and considerate to the needs of domestic industry, he said.
Defending the labour government’s points-based system for allowing non-EU immigrants to settle and work in UK, Brown said that this system had helped bring down net-immigrants into the country by 44 per cent.
“It is because we believe those who look to build a new life in Britain should earn the right to do so that we will now push forward the points-based system to the next stage, by introducing a points-based test not just for entry but also for permanent residence and citizenship,” Brown said in a speech delivered in West London today.
Skills in engineering roles, skilled chefs and care workers could soon be taken off the “shortage list”, a category that allows more flexible immigration rules for non-EU workers to fill up. “We set up the expert Migration Advisory Committee to advise on the effects of the points-based system on the labour market, and while their latest report confirms that there remain skills we need to recruit from abroad, it confirms also that we no longer need to recruit civil engineers, hospital consultants, aircraft engineers and ships’ officers from abroad -- and so these and other jobs are being taken off the list.”
Brown said a case for raising the minimum level of courses for which foreign students can get a visa will also be looked into, based on a report to be given by the Home Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and “key stakeholders”. Brown said his government will also examine the case for introducing mandatory English language-testing for student visas other than for English courses.
Brown’s new policy initiative also comes at a time when his government is under constant attack for keeping UK’s borders too porous and allowing a large number of migrant workers to compete with locals for a shrinking job market,
Brown today said, “I have never agreed with the lazy elitism that dismisses immigration as an issue or portrays anyone who has concerns about immigration as a racist.”
Brown also said criminals from within the EU will be treated the same way as those from outside the EU and offenders who are sentenced to more than 12 months in jail will be deported, irrespective of their country of origin.
Conservative leaders in the opposition said they were not appeased by Brown’s new policy. Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said: “Gordon Brown’s speech had a completely hollow ring to it.”
Earlier last month, at his party’s annual conference, Grayling had said if the Conservatives comes to power, their government would introduce a ceiling on immigration to check the “gaping hole” in policy. He has also promised to put a check on the “rampant abuse” of students’ visas.