UK: Brown, Cameron or Clegg: Immigration policies of the three major parties

Last Updated: 11 May 2010
Article by Rahul Batra

With the general election only days away, all parties are working hard to make their election policies known. Immigration has been highlighted as a key election issue. The policies of the various parties regarding immigration and related issues differ in some important respects, including whether there should be an annual cap on migration, whether to support ID cards, how to control abuse and what role the UK should take within the EU.

So what are the policies of the three major parties?

Labour Party

Labour's policies include:

  • Continuing to use the Points Based System (PBS) to flexibly manage immigration so that as the economy recovers, there will be an increase in employment and wages, not immigration (local people will also be prioritized in the public procurement process).
  • An intention to continue work on earned citizenship proposals, including tightening the criteria for acquiring probationary citizenship to include economic criteria and a focus on British values.
  • Continuing the ID card scheme for migrants and British citizens, to be self-financed through the price of British passports, the ID cards and reduced fraud across public services.
  • Expanding the Migration Impacts Fund, which is a national fund to assist with the cost of managing the short term impacts of migration on local communities.
  • Introducing tougher English testing, to be undertaken by all applicants pre-entry.
  • Seeking to lead the agenda of the European Union with a view to delivering jobs, prosperity and influence for the United Kingdom.

Conservative Party

The Conservatives' pledges include:

  • Introducing an annual limit for non-EU economic migrants, reducing annual net migration to tens of thousands per year.
  • Establishing a dedicated Border Police Force (as part of the party's proposed Serious Organised Crime Agency) in order to enhance national security, improve immigration controls and reduce trafficking.
  • Dismantling the ID card scheme, National ID register and Contact Point database.
  • Working to roll back from the EU key powers regarding legal rights, criminal justice, social and employment legislation to the UK and introducing legislation to prevent future governments from handing over further areas of power to the EU (or to join the European currency) without a referendum.
  • Applying transitional restrictions to all new EU Member States as a matter of course.
  • Introducing an English language tests for migrants who intend to marry in the UK.
  • Strengthening student immigration processes.
  • Introducing a bond for students who wish to study in the UK at a new institution (or one not registered with Companies House) and requiring students to apply abroad where switching to another course or intending to take up employment.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats promises include:

  • Introducing a regional points based system with a view to ensuring that migrants are only able to work where they are needed.
  • Increasing enforcement activity within the immigration system through implementing more rigorous checks on businesses, targeting employers who profit from illegal labour and prioritising the deportation of criminals and people traffickers.
  • Reintroducing exit checks at all ports and airports.
  • Dismantling the ID card scheme and the next generation of biometric passports.
  • Giving the national Border Force police powers.
  • Allowing law abiding families to earn citizenship.
  • Allowing illegal migrants who entered the UK up to 2010, who have been in the UK for 10 years, speak English and have a clean record to earn citizenship, thereby reducing the exploitation of illegal workers and expanding the tax base.
  • Incorporating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic legislation and prohibiting the detention of children for immigration purposes.
  • Working within the EU structure to ensure that the UK is best placed to be strong, safe and influential, whilst campaigning for better accountability, efficiency and effectiveness of the EU.
  • Requiring a referendum prior to the UK agreeing to any fundamental change in the relationship between the UK and the EU, and before joining the European currency (noting that the party is in favour of the UK joining the Euro in principle).

Brown says immigration is falling, he thinks it will continue to fall. Britain will need fewer skilled and semi-skilled workers from other countries. He says the points system is imposing "tough" control on immigration. The reality is that 98% of jobs created in the UK since 1997 have been taken by migrant workers (as reported by Daily Mail).

Immigration has always been an issue in elections. There are two obvious questions: are these claims accurate, and will the immigration situation change? Are we in for a pleasant surprise or are we looking at a disaster of Biblical proportions? I make no predictions- I am rather more eager to see if it is then-Brown, Cameron or Clegg.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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