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Brown rejects cap on non-EU immigrants

Brown promptly rejects the findings of the powerful Lords Economic Affairs Committee, which has a majority of Conservative peers, reports Vijay Dutt.

world Updated: Apr 03, 2008 02:07 IST
Vijay Dutt

The Conservatives, some of who possibly suffer from the Enoch Powell hangover, have been outfoxed by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the issue of capping the number of non-EU immigrants to be allowed in annually. This would have meant ushering in the American system under which a quota is announced every year.

The issue will be in focus during the crucial council elections in May.Both Labour and Conservative would not like to alienate voters on the immigration issue. The likely immigrants from India and other non-EU countries are already weakened by the new rules. Further curbs would drive away a sizeable chunk of voters from Labour.

Brown promptly rejected the findings of the powerful Lords Economic Affairs Committee, which has a majority of Conservative peers, for the capping.

Disagreeing with the Committee, Brown said immigration had bolstered the economy. He pointed out that the concerns raised (by the Committee) were already being tackled by a new points-based system that would allow only highly-skilled workers into Britain.Speaking at his monthly press meet, he said immigration had added £6 billion to the economy, a substantial boost. Only Tory members and the press stressed on the capping of non-EU immigrants.

On the other hand, Labour Peers like Lord Swraj Paul, a member of the committee, expressed strong reservations about its key recommendation that immigration should be measured by the impact on income per head of resident population. He said other peers had doubts about the proposal but had not been in a majority.

"The report does really concentrate on the benefits of immigration per capita, which I don't really agree with myself. We have a strong economy, we want a competitive economy and one of the things is that jobs will go to the immigrants," he said.

The report has again put immigration at the centre of the political debate.David Cameron has been backing its proposal for controls on non-EU numbers entering Britain. He said, "We want people to work here and come to Britain.The problem with the Government is that they absolutely refuse to set any sort of limit on immigration. It's still possible to control non-EU immigration." The real problem is from migrants from the East European countries. Massive immigration of unskilled or low-skilled labour has caused problem to locals, as they are willing to accept low wages. But Conservatives cannot do anything about it, because of the EU rules.