Advisers say migrant cap needs rethink

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S to cap the number of skilled migrant workers coming to the UK will only go a small way to achieving new immigration targets and are likely to damage economic growth, a government advisory body warned.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) was asked by Home Secretary Theresa May to recommend limits on the number of skilled workers entering the UK from outside Europe.

Its latest report says that if government targets to return immigration levels to “the tens of thousands” from 196,000 by 2015 are to be achieved, the number of workers from outside Europe will need to be cut by between 13 and 25 per cent next year.

But in his foreward, MAC chair Professor David Metcalf stated: “It is not possible to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands by limiting work-related migration alone. This goal can only be achieved by also cutting net migration under the study and family routes.”

The professor noted “widespread concern among employers regarding the impact that limits on migration could have” and suggested that alternative methods to capping workers may be more practicable.

“Limits on work visas could be eased if, for example: the study and family routes bear more than their pro-rata share of any cuts.”

The 300 page report gave support to businesses concerned by the economic impact of a stringent cap on migrant workers. He said: “[Skilled] migration makes a small but positive contribution to GDP per head. Such effects will accumulate over time and become more significant.”

Baroness Jo Valentine, chief executive of business lobby group London First praised the bold nature of the report.

She said: “It is quite brave of them to point out, more than once in the document that the economic case argues against capping these highly skilled individuals.”