Timetable For New Migrant Curbs

A new points-based system aimed at restricting immigration to the UK to those with skills in demand will start in the new year, it has been confirmed. Immigration minister Liam Byrne unveiled the timetable on a visit to Australia, which uses a similar system.

Writing in a pamphlet due out later this month, Mr Byrne also warned uncontrolled migration could damage the poorest communities. Migration made the UK richer but had also “unsettled the country”, he wrote.

“The political risk for any government is that if you fail to solve this paradox you could lose your job,” wrote the minister. Migration has to support Britain’s national interests,” he said, later adding that the government wanted more robust control of borders but “not a barricade”.

Boosting standards in schools became harder when the population of children with English as a second language increased substantially, added the minister. He cited a school in his own Birmingham constituency which had seen the number of non-English speakers rise from 5% to 20% in a year.

“It is true that a small number of schools have struggled to cope, that some local authorities have reported problems of overcrowding in private housing and that there have been cost pressures on English language training, but the answer is in action that is simultaneously firm and fair.”

The system, under which would-be migrants would need to amass a sufficient number of points according to their skills, was first announced by Home Secretary John Reid last year. It will replace more than 80 routes of entry to the UK with five tiers for workers with different levels of skills.

The first tier, for highly-skilled migrants such as scientists and entrepreneurs, will be launched at the beginning of 2008. It will be followed later in the year by the new tiers for skilled workers like nurses, teachers and engineers with job offers, temporary workers and young people on working holidays.

A further tier for students will follow at the beginning of 2009. A system of sponsorship by employers and educational institutions to ensure compliance with the immigration rules is being introduced at the beginning of next year.

A new Migration Advisory Committee will be set up to advise ministers on where migration might sensibly fill gaps in the labour market.

Publication of the Policy Network pamphlet, originally due today, has been postponed to 30 April.