Home secretary warned not to pander to critics when over-hauling immigration system

Home Office secretary John Reid should be careful not to pander to critics of the immigration system when the government announces its plans to overhaul immigration, according to a leading think-tank.

Yesterday, Reid said he was in favour of a cap in the total amount of immigrants allowed to settle in the UK each year.

He said a new migration advisory committee would recommend an “optimum” level of migration to the government, which would be “beneficial in terms of enhancing the economy of this country commensurate with our social stability”.

“People recognise that others from outside this country can bring great skills here, but they also want to be assured that our services – whether it’s schools or hospitals – and indeed their own terms and conditions will be preserved and immigration will be managed,” Reid said.

The latest government figures show 374,555 from the eight nations registered for work in the UK between May 2004 and the end of March this year. A large majority of these – 228,235 people – came from Poland.

Nick Pearce, director at the Institute of Public Policy Research, warned that an open economy, with a flexible labour market, should not mean old-style manpower planning.

“Managing migration should not be about limiting numbers to placate public opinion,” he said. “It should be about getting the right people into the right jobs in the right places.”

“The home secretary should be careful not to pander to critics of the immigration system,” Pearce added. “While we need to enforce our immigration laws and improve the performance of the Home Office, the overwhelming majority of migrants come legally, work and study legally, pay their taxes and make a valuable contribution to our society.”

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