20 July 2009
New immigration system has 'closed the door' on some applicants for UK visas
The Home Secretary has ruled out a cap on immigration despite projections that Britain's population will top 70 million within 20 years.
Alan Johnson said setting an "arbitrary" limit on UK immigration would harm Britain's economy, and that the Government had already "closed the door" to unskilled foreign workers through the new points-based immigration system for UK visas.
He accused those who argue that mass immigration has left more native Britons unemployed of using rhetoric of "hate and division".
Mr Johnson's comments were attacked by campaigners who warned that the points based system was having only a minor impact on the population, reducing immigration by just eight per cent a year.
The Home Secretary caused astonishment last week when he told MPs he was relaxed about Britain's population rising from its current level of 61 million to 70 million in the next few years.
He said he 'did not lie awake' worrying about the prospect, a statement that that directly contradicted earlier claims by immigration minister Phil Woolas, who insisted the Government would not allow the UK population to rise to such levels.
Current projections suggest the 70 million milestone will be passed in around 2028, mostly as a result of immigration.
Mr Johnson said, "I don't think a cap is the answer, because the problem with a cap is it is an arbitrary figure.
"We need to make the case - and there is a very strong case - for the importance to our economy of migration. We have introduced a system where, rather than an open door policy, there is a closed door policy for the unskilled."
He said the new immigration system, whereby those wanting to come and work in Britain are given points towards a UK visa according to skills, salary and experience, was 'a really effective way of tackling these issues at the same time as ensuring we keep a strong economy in this country.'
The UK Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in UK visas and immigration services.