PMQs: Sunak and Starmer clash over migration
Rishi Sunak is facing a furious backlash over the latest net migration figures, with the Prime Minister being warned that the record numbers are likely to prompt a “dog fight” within Cabinet.
The latest figures show that net migration has reached 606,000 – more than six times the level the Conservatives promised.
Nigel Farage described the figures as a “total breach of trust between voters and this government”.
Speaking to the Daily Express, he added: “The population explosion continues, our quality of life is declining and all the government will do is to give us more lies.”
Meanwhile, a former Home Office adviser said migration at this level is “unsustainable” and is a “direct result of the Government’s political choices”.
Despite admitting that the figures are lower than expected, as the Government was braced for migration of more than 800,000, Tory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith warned that the numbers are “still excessively high”.
He told the Daily Express: “Whilst the figures are less than expected, I think we can all agree that they are still excessively high and we need to see these numbers cut drastically going forwards.
“I welcome the positive steps in dealing with students and their dependents as well as the measures to tackle illegal immigration, but we now need to back the Home Secretary and her efforts to get these numbers to a sensible level.”
A source inside the powerful backbench European Research Group, a Brexiteer faction of the Tory party, told the Express that the numbers are likely to cause a “dog fight inside the Cabinet”.
The insider said that, while some figures in the party will be relieved, others on the right of the party are deeply concerned at the mounting numbers.
The former Home Office adviser warned: “Today’s record immigration figures are the direct result of the Government’s political choices.
“Immigration at this level is unsustainable and will put increased pressure on housing and public services. Yet the numbers were predicted and predictable.
“They are the direct result of choices made by a range of Cabinet Ministers to open up the visa regime for short-term gain.
“Be it the desire to keep down the NHS wage and training budget, to fund universities via the sale of work visas or accepting the Treasury’s desire for population-led economic growth it was a political choice and the wrong one.
“The Government should now refocus on domestic skills and investment rather than immigration and at the very least limit immigration to the supply of new housing and infrastructure.”
Meanwhile, Alp Mehmet, Chairman of Migration Watch, hit out at Rishi Sunak for “stratospheric” levels of migration.
He said: “The Prime Minister has abandoned any effort to cut immigration from these stratospheric levels.
“So, we will now campaign for the public to sign a petition calling for net migration to be cut to less than 100,000 a year.
“This will be an opportunity, at last, for the public to express their concern about the fundamental changes to the nature of Britain. We really are standing on the edge of the cliff.”
The latest net migration figures would have been even higher, had the ONS not used a new methodology.
Under the old system, exactly the same figures would have resulted in net migration of 734,000. But this time around, the ONS made adjustments to the figures to ensure the data is interpreted most accurately.
Karl Williams, Deputy Research Director at the Centre for Policy Studies, explained: “Today’s figures for net migration were lower than expected – but this primarily reflects changes in the Office for National Statistics’ methodology and understanding.
“Even with these changes, and with the inclusion of refugees from Ukraine and elsewhere, we are still witnessing levels of net migration that are far higher than anything seen before Brexit or the pandemic.
“The government therefore still needs to reduce numbers to deliver the control it promised at the last election, for example by making it harder for students to bring dependents with them.”
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