The Home Affairs Committee’s verdict on the proposed cap on immigration

Posted on November 4, 2010 by

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More on the impacts of the proposed immigration cap for science yesterday when the Commons Home Affairs Committee reported on their inquiry into the implications of a cap for the UK.

Background

We are waiting for the government to announce how they plan to cap non-EU immigration through tiers 1 and 2 (the routes by which a lot of skilled researchers enter) to the UK. The proposed cap has raised concerns across the research community as a lot of international researchers come from outside the EU to work here. The government has run two consultations, led by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and the Migration Advisory Committee, to advise how the cap should be applied and at what level it should be set. These are still to report. For more detail, AMRC have produced a short briefing paper.

The Home Affairs Committee’s report

The scope of the committee’s inquiry was broader than just the impact of a cap on science and research – but these concerns were highlighted in the evidence they received and their conclusions.

38. A number of high-profile figures have publicly argued that the cap would prevent top-class international professionals from coming to the UK. Eight Nobel prize-winners in science, in an open letter submitted as evidence to us, wrote that they believed that the cap would “damage [the UK’s] ability to recruit the brightest young talent, as well as distinguished scientists, into our universities and industries”, and underlined that “the UK produces nearly 10 per cent of the world’s scientific output with only 1 per cent of its population: we punch above our weight because we can engage with excellence wherever it occurs”. They highlighted the exemption from the cap for international sportspeople, commenting that “it is a sad reflection of our priorities as a nation if we cannot afford the same recognition for elite scientists and engineers”.

The committee concluded that the cap will have little effect on the net levels of immigration into the UK

9. It is therefore clear from the figures that the proposed cap—unless it is set close to 100%—will have little significant impact on overall immigration levels…

and noted the potential impact a cap could have on science and research

…We note the concerns, expressed to us by eight Nobel prize-winners in science, about the potentially negative effect of the cap on the UK’s position of international excellence in science and engineering. We consider it totally illogical that professional sportspeople should be exempted from the cap but elite international scientists are not. (Paragraph 64)

What next?

The Migration Advisory Committee’s report of their consultation is expected on 18 November. We are still awaiting the UK Border Agency to report, following which we can expect the minister’s announcement.

In the meantime, questions continue to be tabled in Parliament including:

Lord Taylor of Warwick to ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the impact of the immigration cap on cancer research. HL3584

and a debate on immigration is scheduled in the Commons on 18 November, coinciding with the report of the Migration Advisory Committee.

Posted in: Policy