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Ruth Davidson tells Tories to reconsider tens of thousands migration target

3 min read

Ruth Davidson has called on Theresa May to reconsider the Conservative target to cut net migration to below 100,000 per year. 

The Tories have repeated the goal in every general election manifesto since 2010, despite never coming close to realising it.

In an article for the Telegraph today, Ms Davidson challenges a number of the immigration policies espoused by Mrs May during her time as Home Secretary and now as Prime Minister.

The Scottish Conservative leader called for students to be removed from the net migration target – something Mrs May has consistently rejected despite opposition from senior members of her Cabinet.

“If people don’t think that students should be included in the net migration numbers, let’s take them out and have a clearer picture of where we are,” she said.

In another swipe at the public discourse on immigration, Ms Davidson said there had to be a “rational discussion around economic growth, workforce planning, the capacity of public services, societal change and public consent” and said neither Labour nor the Tories had attempted a “meaningful” discussion with the public about the complexities of immigration.

And she argued that the lack of further capacity in the labour market undermined one of the arguments for those calling for cuts in net migration, which stood at 248,000 in the most recent official figures.

“The British government has failed to hit its self-imposed ‘tens of thousands’ target in any year,” Ms Davidson wrote.  

“Brexit is a big reset button and should – in theory – make that much easier to do so. But we have to ask whether the target continues to be the right one?

“After all, unemployment now is at its lowest level since 1975, at just 4.5%. And with the country on the road to full employment, potential for growth is facing ever greater limitations...

“Instead of the political discourse treating immigration as a problem to be solved let’s treat it as what it is – a multifaceted issue which requires proper examination and consideration from all sides.

“Immigration has changed Britain hugely. I believe it has changed it for the better, but undoubtedly there are people that feel that they have been left behind. The time for easy slogans is over. Let’s treat the British public like the grown-ups they are and have the mature conversation we need.”

Previous suggestions from ministers that the Government’s immigration policy should be reviewed have been given short shrift by No 10.

It said it was “categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included” in net migration figures when Chancellor Philip Hammond hinted at such a move last year.

Today’s article is the latest example of Ms Davidson using her influence to try to set the agenda of the Conservatives across the UK.

After the Tories lost their Westminster majority, she said the Government should “look again” at its plans for Brexit.

And she also demanded a “categoric assurance” from Mrs May that she would press the DUP on the rights of LGBT when negotiating the confidence-and-supply arrangement that allowed the Conservatives to rule as a minority administration. 

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