Voters are ‘sick of talk’ on illegal immigration as furious Tories demand cap

The public is “sick of talk” and demanding action on net migration, Robert Jenrick has declared.

He gave the strongest hint yet ministers are preparing to limit the number of dependents migrants can bring with them.

Mr Jenrick said “there is a strong argument” that dependents are putting unsustainable pressure on housing, public services and school places.

And the Immigration Minister confirmed the Government is discussing a cap on foreign workers.

Former minister Sir John Hayes, a close ally of former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, asked: “Will he immediately introduce measures which restrict the number of dependents that can come here, and will he recognise in doing so that we are relying on him to sort this out because we know that he shares our concern that it’s time for British workers for British jobs?”

Mr Jenrick replied: “(Sir John) and I are at one on this issue. He’s right to say that there are two challenges: one is the sheer number of people coming in, and the second is the types of people coming into our country.

“And it is right that we make careful judgments about who will benefit our citizens… and not simply allow very large numbers of people coming in who have low or at best mid-skills, are unlikely to add to our economy and in many cases will be net costs to the Exchequer.

“Those are the choices that we need to make to establish a more discerning migration system.”

Many Tory MPs fear new Home Secretary James Cleverly will take a softer approach on migration to that of his predecessor.

But Mr Jenrick told MPs: “It is crystal clear we need to reduce the numbers significantly by bringing forward further measures to control and reduce the number of people coming here and, secondly, to stop the abuse and exploitation of our visa system by companies and individuals.

“So far this year we’ve initiated a significant number of investigations into sectors, such as care companies suspected of breaching immigration rules.

“We are actively working across Government on further substantive measures and will announce details to the House as soon as possible.”

The Immigration Minister revealed the Government is considering capping the number of migrants who can come to the UK.

Conservative Party deputy chairman Lee Anderson told MPs: “People in Ashfield have had enough of this. 7,000 people on the council house waiting list, people struggling to get a GP appointment, people struggling to get a dental appointment, struggling to get school places.”

Pointing to the Labour benches, he added: “Isn’t it about time, minister, that we had a cap on migration and put some clear divide between us and that lot over there?”

Tory MP for Dudley North, Marco Longhi, also pressed for a cap, telling the Commons: “Does he agree with me that… it is time for a cap on net migration?”

In response to Mr Anderson, Mr Jenrick said: “He speaks for my constituents as he does for his in saying that the British public want us to get on with the job now and bring down the numbers coming into this country. The Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and I are committed to bringing forward a set of fundamental reforms which I hope will achieve the objective that he has set out.

“There are definitely strong arguments for using caps, whether in general or on specific visas, but these are conversations that we need to conclude within Government.”

Tory MP Jonathan Gullis said Mr Jenrick has his “full support”, adding: “I am deeply concerned and confused because at the weekend I get the Prime Minister saying that migration is too high and needs to come down to more sustainable levels – the full-fat option.

“Yesterday I get the skimmed option, with the Prime Minister boasting about our competitive visa regime. The Cabinet members who sit round with (Mr Jenrick) – are they full-fat, semi-skimmed or skimmed?”

Mr Jenrick replied: “He speaks for millions of people across the country who see the levels of net migration as far too high.

“Of course it’s right that we want the UK to be a country which is open to the very best and the brightest, and that’s why we’ve taken action in creating visa routes, such as the global talent one that the Prime Minister was promoting at the investment summit this week.

“But we have to reduce net migration and that does mean taking difficult choices and it means making a tangible difference now in the months ahead. The public are sick of talk – they want action, they want us to bring forward a clear plan.”

Mr Jenrick declared the “number of people coming into this country is too high”.

He warned: “It is placing unbearable pressure on our public services and on housing, that it is making it impossible to integrate people into this country and is harming community cohesion and national unity.

“It is also a moral failure because it’s leaving people on welfare and enabling companies to reach all too often for the easy lever of foreign labour.

“For all those reasons, we are determined to tackle this issue. We understand the concerns of the British public and I’m here to say that we share them, and that we are going to bring forward a serious package of fundamental reforms to address this issue once and for all.”

Official figures published last week showed net migration reached a record 745,000 in 2022, prompting Tory calls for curbs.

And the Immigration Minister suggested ministers will cap the number of dependents migrants can bring to the UK.

This is something Mr Jenrick is understood to have proposed to the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak.

He said: “It’s certainly true that there has been a very, very substantial number of dependents coming into the UK alongside visa holders, whether that be students, care workers or skilled workers, and it is a choice for the country as to whether we want to continue to pursue that.

“There is a strong argument for saying that it is unsustainable for the country to continue to take so many dependents who, in turn, put pressure on housing, public services, school places and so on.

“And there are different models on which we could base our visa system which did not enable so many dependents to come into the country.

“With respect to care workers, we have seen a very substantial number of visas issued and an almost one-for-one in terms of those care workers bringing dependents with them. And that is something … we’re actively considering.”

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