Politics latest: 'Where is the home secretary?' – Labour attacks Braverman no show, as minister claims record net migration is 'temporary' (2023)

Key points
  • Net migration figure hits new peak
  • Ali Fortescue: However they spin it, migration figures are still going in wrong direction for government
  • Tom Cheshire: It'sthe equivalent of roughly adding the population of Glasgow to UK
  • 'Where is the home secretary?' - Braverman fails to show up for questions in the Commons
  • Sunak denies he let Braverman 'off the hook' over speeding row

  • Johnson facing questions over 'about a dozen' COVID gatherings - reports
  • Live reporting by Faith Ridler and Katie Williams


New UK migration figures - at a glance

This morning, the Office for National Statistics released the latest round of migration figures, for the year ending December 2022.

The headline number was net migration - which hit a new high of 606,000.

Curious about what else Home Office data revealed? Let us explain...

  • Almost 1.5 million visas were issued in the year to March 2023 for people coming to the UK for work, study or family reasons - or through a resettlement scheme;
  • Some 487,771 work visas were granted, along with 632,006 study visas -plus 5,046 for dependants joining or accompanying others;
  • In addition, 198,358 were issued under the Ukraine visa schemes, 47,227 were granted to British National (Overseas) status holders from Hong Kong, 31,550 were under the EU Settlement Scheme, and 4,562 were under other settlement schemes;
  • The combined total of 1,472,162 visas in 2022/23 is up 53% from 960,133 in 2021/22 and is the seventh successive record high for a 12-month period since current figures began in 2005.


Tory MP says dependent visa immigration route 'never intended by government'

Former immigration minister Damian Green says it's important to focus on small boat crossings alongside net migration despite the fact they account for a small fraction of arrivals to the UK.

Speaking to Sky News, the Conservative MP said the government has to "focus on everything at once" when it comes to its immigration policy and it's "not a question of either or".

Mr Green said it is important to stop people making "very dangerous journeys" across the Channel and putting their lives at risk".

But he said the government has also been concentrating on net migration with its plan to reduce what he calls an "unsustainable" number of dependents of international students arriving in the UK.

It is a route of immigration "never intended by the government", Mr Green added.

Ministers need to simultaneously stop "abuses" of the immigration system as well as attract workers to fill vacancies, he said.


Tributes paid after former Tory MP Lumley dies

Tributes have been coming in for the former Tory MP Karen Lumley, who has died aged 59.

Ms Lumley won the seat of Redditch in 2010, unseating the Labour stalwart Jacqui Smith, and stood down in 2017 due to ill health.

Former health secretary Sajid Javid called her "a fantastic colleague and friend".

And housing minister Rachel Maclean - who succeeded her in the Redditch seat - said she was "proud to have followed in the footsteps of such a charismatic and strong woman".

(Video) Home Secretary Suella Braverman defends handling of speeding offence


Tory backbenchers hit out at migration policy in Commons

Back to the Urgent Question, where a handful of Conservative MPs are making no secret of their frustration at the latest net migration stats.

Sir Edward Leigh stressed that an "obvious solution" would be to ensure everyone who arrives in the UK is "skilled" - and earns at least the median UK salary of £33,000.

He said: "Some people in the Treasury seem to think that a good way to grow the economy is to fill the country up with more and more people. But this is bad for productivity and bad for British people who are being undercut by mass migration from all over the world.

"Why is it that under the points based system we let people in earning £26,000 a year – but the median UK salary is £33,000?"

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said this is an "important point".

Later, Martin Vickers noted that "anger and frustration" on migration is growing in his constituency of Cleethorpes.

He said the net migration number equates to eight new parliamentary constituencies – and asks what the "short term" plan is.

Mr Jenrick said there needs to be a "proper join up between the numbers coming in and how we accommodate them".

He also accepted there are great pressures on public services due to migration.

"If there are more changes we need to make, we will make them."

(Video) Home Secretary admits 'failure' on securing UK borders


'Unprecedented rise' in dependents arriving with international students, Home Office says

The Home Office has said it remains "committed" to reducing overall net migration while tackling migrant boat crossings and controlling the UK's borders.

A spokesperson said the UK had a "proud history of providing protection for those who genuinely need it".

The department also said it had seen an "unprecedented rise" in the number of international students bringing dependents with them to the UK, which had "understandably" fuelled higher levels of net migration.

The government's new policy, removing the right of most international students to bring family with them, was the "toughest ever action" taken to reduce migration, the spokesperson said.

"We remain committed to reducing overall net migration, while stopping the boats and delivering control of our borders, prioritising tackling abuse and preventing dangerous and illegal crossings."


SNP: Westminster's 'obsession' with net migration masking loss of talent

Westminster's "obsession" with migration is hiding the fact the UK government is not attracting workers needed to "boost the economy and NHS", SNP home affairs spokesperson Alison Thewliss has said.

She added it emphasises why "Scotland needs the full powers of independence and control over migration".

In a statement reacting to today's net migration figure for 2022, Ms Thewliss said talent has been driven away by Brexit and "hostile environment policies", leading to staffing shortages that "have harmed our NHS, businesses and public services, leaving people in Scotland worse off".

She added: "It's essential that Scotland escapes the damage of Brexit and Westminster control with independence, so we can finally deliver a tailored migration system that makes us wealthier and healthier by meeting the needs of Scotland's economy, NHS and communities."


(Video) UK government facing urgent question over Braverman – watch live

Minister says net migration has 'flatlined' – what does he mean?

In the new data released by the Office for National Statistics, statisticians revealed they had changed their methodology when it comes to calculating net migration in the UK.

Because of this, the ONS has increased the estimate it made in June 2022 from 504,000 to 606,000.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick told the Commons in the last hour that "since then, they have seen no evidence that it [net migration] has increased".

"Which suggests that numbers are now flatlining."

Mr Jenrick added there are "reasons to believe" that those arriving for humanitarian reasons from Ukraine and Hong Kong "will reduce over the course of this year – although it is difficult to predict".

However, he said a fall will likely be noted due to new rules around the dependents of international students.

From January 2024, overseas students will no longer be able to bring dependants with them unless they are on postgraduate courses that are currently designated as research programmes.

"It's reasonable to assume that numbers will now be on a downwards trajectory."


'Robust action' needed over net migration - ex-minister

We have had more reaction from MPs to the latest net migration figures - a record breaking 606,000.

Former housing secretary Simon Clarke said the number was "too high" and that "robust action" must be taken.

He pointed to the importance of context too, such as bringing in families from Ukraine.

But he warned the government there was "no popular mandate" for net migration to be so high.


(Video) Suella Braverman 'will be GONE before the end of the week' predicts Nigel Farage

Immigration policy 'doesn't fit the bill', says UK hospitality chief

High vacancy rates in hospitality are prompting a third of businesses to close for certain hours of the day and reduce occupancy rates, says Kate Nicholls, CEO of UK Hospitality.

Speaking to Sky News' Kay Burley in response to today's migration statistics, Ms Nicholls said a "comprehensive labour market strategy" is needed to bring together immigration and the skills agenda and "get the economy moving".

She says the current immigration policy "just doesn't fit the bill" and places a high cost on businesses to bring in an employee on a skilled worker visa to fill a shortage.

"And there are delays in processing those visa applications coming through, so there's more that we could do just to make the immigration system work better than it does at the moment," Ms Nicholls said.

The list of eligible jobs for a skilled worker visa is also "very out of date" and "doesn't reflect the needs of now," she added.

"Most of the jobs in hospitality don't qualify for the skilled worker route and we just don't have enough people in the labour market from the UK population to fulfil that demand."


'Where is the home secretary?'

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accuses the government of having "no plan and no grip" on immigration as she asks an Urgent Question in the Commons.

"Today's extraordinary figures, including doubling the number of work visas since the pandemic, show that the Conservatives have no plan and no grip on immigration," the Labour MP says.

Ms Cooper then asks: "Where is the home secretary?" - as she takes aim at the party's immigration policy.

She says there are reports Suella Braverman has "gone to ground", refusing to do media and not appearing in the Commons to answer questions.

"She's in internal meetings, presumably more private courses arranged by the civil servants. What is the point of her?"

Ms Cooper says it is "right" that the UK offers refuge to Ukrainians and those fleeing Hong Kong.

However, she notes there has been a significant increase in the arrival of overseas workers, and asks why the Conservatives are not "properly" addressing skills shortages.

"Immigration is important to this country, and we need a system that works," Ms Cooper says.

"But it has to be properly controlled and managed rather than the chaos that the government has created."

(Video) Urgent question to the Home Secretary on changes to international student visas

In response, Robert Jenrick accuses Labour of "feigning interest" in the matter.


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