Immigration "is not about the numbers" says cabinet minister

 
Mark Sands
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Survey Indicates Scotland Have Different Views On Migration From Rest Of UK
Voters will have their own chance to decide on the Tories' plans on 8 June. (Source: Getty)

Culture secretary Karen Bradley has hinted that the Conservatives could drop their sub-100,000 net migration target with a claim that immigration "is not about the numbers".

Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly stressed her commitment to the target, both in her current role and as home secretary, but speculation has increased that the vow may not make it into the next Tory manifesto.

Home secretary Amber Rudd yesterday refused to be drawn on numbers, and today Bradley has told Sky News that migration policy should be focused on getting "the right people".

"What we need is to have the right people, to attract the brightest and best, it's not about putting numbers on it. It's about making sure that we can deliver where industries need skills where the brightest and best want to come to Britain," Bradley said.

"We want to be an attractive place that people want to come and work and to deliver that strong economy that pays for those public services that we all value so much."

However, a Downing Street spokesman denied that the remarks amounted to a shift from the sub-100k target.

"The Prime Minister said yesterday that she is committed to reducing immigration to sustainable levels and the Prime Minister has always been clear that sustainable levels are the tens of thousands," they said.

"What the secretary of state for culture said this morning is that we have also always been clear that we want to attract the best and brightest."

Read More: Immigrants add £83bn of economic value to London

It comes as The Times this morning reports that May could be forced to exclude students from migration numbers in a bid to ensure a higher education bill passes through the House of Lords before the dissolution of parliament on 3 May.

May has long argued in favour of keeping students within the numbers, but last month international trade secretary Liam Fox revealed that the matter was still subject to a substantial cabinet rift.

Fox admitted that he support excluding the numbers, a position that has also been endorsed by cabinet members including foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

Read More: It's time for the Prime Minister to do a U-turn of her own

Bradley's comments were welcomed by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

LCCI policy director Sean McKee said: “We absolutely agree that securing the skills for London is not about numbers and it is. It is about securing the skills that the UK and London needs.

“We need to make London an attractive place for people to want to come and work and for businesses to invest in. This is about investing in infrastructure to make London a globally competitive city, it is about allowing employers to identify where we have skills shortages and making sure that the right people can fill those gaps.”