A group of Tory MPs are pressuring Rishi Sunak to reduce immigration to the UK – including a massive cut in the number of health and social workers.
The so-called New Conservatives want the Prime Minister to cut net migration from 606,000 last year to under 226,000 by the next election. The group, which includes Conservative Deputy Leader Lee Anderson, said the party needed to “save face” after pledging a reduction in net immigration in the last general election.
To that end, the New Conservatives have urged Mr Sunak to shut down a scheme that would qualify “caregivers” and “elderly caregivers” for visas, despite the sector struggling with 165,000 vacancies last year.
Currently, health and social care workers are entitled to enter and work in the UK with the Health and Care Worker Visa.
Backbencher Miriam Cates, co-chair of the group, said closing the scheme would reduce the number of caregivers coming to the UK by “approximately 100,000”.
She told the BBC it was a “temporary arrangement” put in place during the pandemic and that there was a need to curb the supply of foreign labor “to make care work an attractive profession for Brits”.
“We will not make the profession attractive or raise wages if there is a way for employers to hire people from abroad,” Ms Cates said.
The New Conservatives, made up of 25 Tory MPs elected since the Brexit referendum, said “quick action” was needed for Conservatives to “keep our word” on immigration.
“The time to fulfill our promises is limited,” warns a report published on Monday.
Plans to reduce the number of visa-eligible health and social workers are part of a 12-point program to reduce net migration.
The group is also calling for a resettlement cap of 20,000 refugees and for student visas to be “reserved for the brightest” by banning underperforming universities from participating.
In this call, the report argues that immigration policies “should not be used to prop up the finances of underperforming universities.”
The report will be presented by Mr Anderson and other Tory MPs on Monday.
The report said: “In 2019 we won the largest majority in 30 years. One of the key promises that helped achieve that majority was that “there will be fewer low-skilled migrants and the overall number will decrease”.
“It’s time we kept our word on reducing immigration and regained the confidence of the British people.”
It’s the latest sign that backbenchers are pressuring the prime minister to curb immigration ahead of the next general election, which is expected before January 2025.
The government announced plans earlier this year to stop some overseas students from taking their loved ones to the UK.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has openly expressed her desire to see immigration cuts, but other members of Mr Sunak’s cabinet seem more relaxed about the issue.
Mr Hunt downplayed any suggestion that the report posed a challenge to the Prime Minister, telling BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour: “This is a constructive document. We have finally regained control of our immigration system.
“We have ended freedom of movement in the EU. I think it is healthy to have some debate within the parliamentary party on the future of our immigration policy and we fully support the Prime Minister.”