The claim
“We aim to reduce net migration from the hundreds of thousands back down to the tens of thousands.”
Home Secretary Theresa May, House of Commons, 23 November 2010

The background
Last week, Home Secretary Theresa May released the first step in the government’s plans to reduce immigration. Skilled and highly skilled workers, excluding those who are moved to work in the UK by their company, would be capped at 21,700. This follows a temporary cap of 24,000 that has been in place for the last 6 months of this year.

Those who are transferred within their company will have to be earning above £40,000 before they can come to the UK, which the government believes will also cut numbers of these immigrants by half.

Now, FactCheck has observed before that this cap will not have a significant impact on net immigration on its own. But yesterday’s economic forecasts from the independent economic watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, questionned how effective this cap will be.

The analysis
“At this stage, we judge that there is insufficient reason to change our average net migration assumption of 140,000 per year from 2010,” said the OBR’s Economic and Fiscal Outlook – so they don’t expect the number of people coming into the country this year, or for the next few years, to be affected by the proposed cap.

As the Home Office points out, that is still well below the net inflow of 198,000 migrants in 2009. But it is not the cap that the OBR credit with this fall. Instead, they say it’s because of more relaxed restrictions on inward migration by other EU countries and migrants being put off by the sluggish British economy.

Bear in mind that these are just estimates for this year and the next few years; we’ve yet to see if the forecasted fall for 2010 actually happened.

Immigration Minister Damian Green responded to the OBR saying the cap announced last week was just one of the measures that will make up the whole package.

“The impact of the Government’s limit on economic migration is accounted for within this reduction; however it takes no account of future proposals to limit immigration via the student or family routes,” he said.

“The Government last week announced its limit on economic migration from outside Europe for the next financial year. This is just one part of a package of measures across all the immigration routes we intend to impose to deliver on our aim to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands within this Parliament.”

The verdict
It is true that we don’t yet know what the complete package of immigration caps will be. But the government’s own indepedent watch dog is clearly saying that the much heralded immigration cap will not be a policy that makes any significant difference to the numbers arriving to live and work in this country.