Cleverly unveils migration-slashing plan with salary requirement for skilled workers hiked to £38,700

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

James Cleverly declared "enough is enough" as he unveiled plans he promised would deliver the biggest ever reduction in net migration after levels soared to a record high.

The Home Secretary said overseas care workers will be barred from bringing family dependants and the salary threshold for skilled workers will be hiked to £38,700.

He said the strategy, along with earlier plans to limit the relatives of foreign students, would bring down levels by 300,000 as Rishi Sunak comes under pressure from Tory MPs.

Mr Cleverly set out the plans on Monday in the wake of official estimates saying levels had peaked at 745,000 in 2022.

"Enough is enough. We are curbing abuses to the health care visa," he told the Commons.

"We are increasing thresholds, cutting the SOL (shortage occupation list) discount, increasing family income requirements and cutting the number of student dependants."

Under what he described as a five-point plan, Mr Cleverly said he would:

- Stop health and care workers bringing dependants;

- Hike the skilled worker earnings threshold by a third to £38,700, in line with the median full-time wage;

- Scrap "cut-price" labour by stopping shortage occupations being able to pay 20% less than the going rate and reforming the shortage occupation list;

- Raise the minimum income for family visas to £38,700 from £26,200, from next spring; and

- Ensure the Migration Advisory Committee reviews the graduate immigration route to prevent abuse.

He also said the Government would increase the health surcharge this year by 66% from £624 to £1,035.

Mr Cleverly said around 120,000 dependants accompanied 100,000 care workers in the year up to September as he battles to bring down overall levels.

He said the plan, along with changes for international students, "will deliver the biggest ever reduction in net migration".

In total, he said it would mean around 300,000 fewer people come to the Britain in future years than last year.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said the "cruel plans spell total disaster for the NHS and social care".

"Migrant workers were encouraged to come here because both sectors are critically short of staff. Hospitals and care homes simply couldn't function without them," she said.

The salary threshold increase is lower than the £40,000 in the deal the Prime Minister allegedly agreed with his since-sacked home secretary Suella Braverman to win her support for the Tory leadership.

Privately, two Whitehall sources said, Mrs Braverman and immigration minister Robert Jenrick had pushed for the cap to go higher, to £45,000.

Mr Sunak has been under growing pressure from Tory MPs after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revised its net migration figure to put 2022 at a record high of 745,000.

Accounting for the difference between the number of people arriving in the country and those leaving, the figure for the year to June 2023 is estimated to have been slightly lower, at 672,000.

The Prime Minister has sought to blame the "very large numbers" on his predecessors, saying he had "inherited" the levels.

They are three times higher than before Brexit despite the 2019 Tory election manifesto promising to bring overall numbers down.

He is also facing a challenge to deliver his pledge to "stop the boats" crossing the Channel after his flagship asylum policy was deemed unlawful by the Supreme Court.

Mr Cleverly is expected to head to Kigali to finalise a new treaty with Rwanda this week, which ministers hope will help convince judges otherwise.

No 10 said they were still working "urgently" to secure the deal and to produce "emergency" legislation which was promised after the legal defeat last month.