Even though business and Cabinet disquiet over a proposed immigration cap will lead to a wide-ranging consultation on the issue, the government is expected to implement the measures anyway.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Home Secretary Theresa May is set to announce the consultation imminently, after members of the Cabinet privately expressed concern that a cap on the number of migrants from outside the European Union would make it harder for employers to recruit the staff they needed. Michael Gove, the schools secretary, David Willetts, the universities minister and Oliver Letwin, a Minister of State at the Cabinet Office were all involved in the talks.
As a result, the Home Secretary is expected to ask business lobby groups, company executives and university leaders for detailed recommendations on how many people should enter the UK for work each year.
But Home Office sources were adamant that, even though the Government was prepared to listen to concerns, the total number of new arrivals would still be subject to a cap to fulfil election manifesto commitments.
One such source told the Telegraph: “There will be a cap on immigration. This is what the British people voted for and this is what we will do.”
The Tory Party has never clarified the level of any immigration cap, alleging that it would base its final figure on the wider needs of the economy. But plans to restrict the arrival of new workers from overseas has raised concerns over the long-term impact on the UK economy as the falling UK birth rate is anticipated to reduce the number of British-born people of working age in future years.
Last week, the Office for Budget Responsibility, the government’s new independent economic forecaster, indicated that long-term economic growth in the UK would fall after 2014, partly because of a drop in the number of economic migrants entering the country.