‘Migration to this country is far too high and it needs to come down’, began James Cleverly at the despatch box this afternoon. It has been a difficult three weeks since his appointment as Home Secretary, with the Supreme Court’s rejection of the Rwanda scheme and then the publication of record migration numbers. It was the latter subject of legal migration that dominated this afternoon’s debate in the Commons, ahead of Cleverly’s expected visit to Kigali in the coming days.
The Home Secretary’s tone was hawkish on the subject, with repeated reference to migration being too high. That reflects a concern in his party that Rishi Sunak’s government is too blasé about the 1.2 million people who arrived in the country between June 2022 and June 2023. Following a week of briefings, Cleverly today announced a new package of measures to cut record net migration that will see the number of people moving to the UK fall by 300,000 – a reduction of around a quarter of those who entered Britain last year.
To do this, Cleverly has set out his own 'five-point' plan, that closely resembles the one put forward by the immigration minister Robert Jenrick. The salary threshold for foreign workers will be hiked from £26,200 to £38,700 in a win for right-wing Tory MPs. Those coming on health and social care visas will be exempt from the higher salary threshold but overseas care workers will no longer be allowed to bring dependants. The occupations on the 'shortage occupation list', which allows people to come to the UK on lower wages, is also being reviewed. Other measures include looking again at the graduate visa route and a hike in the immigration surcharge to £1,035.
To reach their target of 300,000 less arrivals, the Home Office is clearly targeting the dependants of care workers.