Nobel prize winners hit out at immigration cap

A group of Nobel prize-winning academics has added its weight to calls for the Government to scrap plans for a permanent immigration cap, warning that the plan threatens the UK’s position as a centre of scientific excellence.

An interim cap of 24,100 work visas for non-EU citizens was introduced in June and is set to be replaced by permanent measures next April.

But in a letter to the Times, signed by eight of the 11 living British or British-based scientists to win a science Nobel since 1996, the academics warn that the plans “would damage our ability to recruit the brightest young talent as well as distinguished scientists into our universities and industries”.

The researchers, including the two Russians who won the prize for physics on Tuesday, say that ministers should make changes to the cap in order to recognise the need to recruit leading lights in science and industry.

“The Government has seen fit to introduce an exception to the rules for Premier League footballers,” they write. “It is a sad reflection of our priorities as a nation if we cannot afford the same recognition for elite scientists and engineers.”

The academics have become just the latest group to demand changes to the immigration policy, in what has become a tidal wave of criticism.

Business secretary Vince Cable has admitted that the cap – a Conservative Party manifesto pledge that made it in to the coalition agreement despite opposition from Cable and other Liberal Democrats – could do “huge damage” to business and science, a position backed by employers’ group CBI.

Sectors such as social care, engineering and construction, hospitality, healthcare, finance and IT have warned that they will be particularly badly hit by the plan.

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