The coalition government is committed to reducing net migration to the levels of the 1990s (tens of thousands of people a year, not hundreds of thousands), something which people of all backgrounds told me they wanted to see during the General Election campaign.
Apart from a few bigots, people recognose that the country benefits both economically and culturally from people of talent choosing to settle here. But unlimited immigration has placed pressure on our public services, made it much harder for the unemployed to get back into work and undermined public confidence in our immigration system.
Today Home Secretary Theresa May announced a consultation on the mechanism for introducing an annual limit on economic migrants from outside the EU from April 2011. And to ensure that this announcement doesn't lead to a surge in applications between now and then, she announced a number of interim changes to immigration rules.
She also set out the other measures that the Government intends to take both to restore confidence in the immigration and asylum systems and to make them fairer including:
- the introduction of a dedicated Border Police Force;
- reviewing other immigration routes beyond economic migration;
- re-introducing exit checks;
- applying transitional controls for new EU member states;
- speeding up the processing of asylum applications; and
- ending the detention of children for immigration purposes.
In response to her statement, I asked the Home Secretary if she agreed that the other thing we need to do to restore public confidence is to do a much better job of removing those who have no right to be here and got a very positive response. All in all, a welcome first step.