Tuesday, 23 Apr 2024

Keir Starmer refuses to say how much Labour would cut immigration by

Keir Starmer refuses to say how much Labour would cut immigration by… after key ally admits it could RISE from 500,000 a year to plug skills gaps

Keir Starmer today ducked on what would happen to immigration under a Labour government.

Sir Keir wriggled as he repeatedly refused to commit to any figures for what would happen to inflows during his first term in power.

He merely insisted that the ‘direction of travel’ for net migration would be downwards from the latest level of 500,000 a year.

The comments came after his close ally Anneliese Dodds admitted Labour’s plans could push immigration even higher in the ‘short term’ – insisting skills gaps need to be filled.

Westminster is braced for new official net migration figures on Thursday to reach 700,000 or even more.

Rishi Sunak has acknowledged that immigration is ‘too high’, but dodged saying whether it will fall before the election. Instead he pointed to arrivals fleeing the chaos in Afghanistan, Ukraine and Hong Kong.

Keir Starmer wriggled as he repeatedly refused to commit to any figures for what would happen to inflows during his first term in power

Officials said the increase in the year to last June was driven by hundreds of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Ukraine 

The government is expected to get in a pre-emptive strike by announcing moves to reduce how many dependants students can bring into the country with them. 

Sir Keir was challenged over Labour’s position during an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. 

Asked whether 500,000 a year was too high, he said: ‘I would expect and want that figure to come down…

‘I’m not going to put a number on it. I think that’s what the government did in the past, they never met the target.

‘But I would like and want to see and expect to see the number coming down.’

Pressed that he must have a level in mind, Sir Keir said: ‘I think it’s direction of travel. Do we want that number to come down, do we expect it to come down? Yes we do.’

Quizzed again on whether the reduction could be 50,000 or 100,000, the Labour leader reiterated that he was ‘not going to put a specific number on it’.

‘The only thing we know about those targets and numbers is that they are routinely missed,’ he said.

Sir Keir said he was not against tweaks to the rules on foreign students’ families, although he stressed he wanted them to come to the UK. 

Pushed on whether he would bring immigration down ‘significantly’ by the end of a Labour first term in government, Sir Keir said: ‘Well, I want it to come down, direction of travel. 

‘It will depend on getting that skills agenda sorted, getting the NHS workforce sorted and other measures that can be taken.’

Told that could mean just a few thousand lower than the current record level, Sir Keir said: ‘I think it would be more than that under the skills programme.’

Speaking on Sky News on Friday, Ms Dodds was challenged on whether she thought immigration was too high.

She ducked the questions, insisting that the government needs to bring in people with the right skills.  

‘What we would see if we had an immigration system that was working properly would be potentially in some areas where there’s a short-term need for skills, you could see in the short term actually people who are coming in increasing in number,’ Ms Dodds said.

‘But in the medium and long-term, a reduction, because we would be training people up in our own country.

‘We’ve not had that unfortunately under the Conservatives. We’ve got skills shortages and those shortages are not being filled because there’s not the domestic upskilling that needs to be taking place.’

During a round of interviews in Japan, Mr Sunak suggested he is hoping for immigration to be running below 500,000 by the time of the next election – despite the Tory manifesto promising numbers will be under 226,000.

Under David Cameron there was a pledge to bring net migration below 100,000. 

Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds repeatedly refused to say whether immigration is too high during interviews on Friday  

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