David Cameron has recently unveiled measures to ‘significantly reduce’ the amount of UK migration from outside the EU. During Prime Minister’s Questions, Cameron proposed new restrictions on work visas, such as introducing higher salary thresholds, before migrants are allowed in the UK for work purposes. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has tasked the government’s Migration Advisory Committee (‘MAC’) to come up with firm proposals by the end of 2015.

Migration from outside the EU was 290,000 in 2014, an increase of 42,000 on the previous year. Total net migration – defined as the difference between the numbers entering and leaving the UK reached 318,000 in May 2015, close to its peak in 2005. The government still has plans to get net migration below 100,000. Cameron has said that, ‘In the past, it has been frankly too easy for some businesses to bring in workers from overseas rather than to take the long term decision to train our workforce here at home.’ He has said that the MAC would consider-

  • Restricting the issuance of work visas to ‘genuine skill shortages and specialists’.
  • Placing a time limit on the length of time for which a sector can claim to be experiencing a skills shortage.
  • Introducing a new ‘skills levy’ on businesses who recruit overseas workers, which would be spent on UK apprenticeships.
  • Increasing the minimum salary threshold for a skilled worker visa (N.B. At present, an individual applying for a Tier 2 – which covers skilled migrants – must have been offered a job paying at least £20,800 and have at least £945 in savings.

Sir David Metcalf, chair of the MAC, has agreed that migration levels could be reduced, but warned of ‘unexpected side effects’ on the productivity and prosperity of the economy. ‘Skilled migration levels from outside the EU have been rising recently,’ he said. ‘It is always worth checking that you’ve got the system right – we never get it completely right but we may be able to do better,’ he said.

Given that the democratically elected government is suggesting reducing the numbers of skilled workers coming in, it’s right that we – as an evidence based committee – should have a proper look at this.’