Sajid Javid refuses to back Tory manifesto pledge to bring migration down to ‘tens of thousands’
Sajid Javid has gone to war with Downing Street by refusing to back a Tory Party manifesto pledge to reduce net migration below 100,000.
The Home Secretary appeared to dump his party’s commitment to the controversial pledge - which was first made by David Cameron nine years ago and has never been met - by insisting there was "no specific target" on immigration numbers.
Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, Mr Javid would only say that net migration - the difference between those entering and leaving the country - would be brought down to "sustainable levels".
Last year's Conservative election manifesto said the party was committed to an "objective to reduce immigration to sustainable levels, by which we mean annual net migration in the tens of thousands".
But speaking this morning, Mr Javid said: “If you look at the current level of migration, the latest stats show 273,000. I think most people would agree that is very high, and certainly by historical standards. In the last two decades it has been in the hundreds of thousands.
“What we want to do is bring it to a level where it is sustainable for our economic need but at the same time is not too high a burden to our communities or on our infrastructure.”
Pressed on the tens of thousands figure, he said: “There is no specific target. What we have set out is a system that will bring migration down to more sustainable levels.”
In a confusing exchange, Mr Javid said he believed his party’s manifesto pledge had been an “ambition” but added: “The objective is to bring net migration down to more sustainable levels, and we will set out today in the new white paper how we will achieve that.”
“We remain committed to our manifesto… we remain committed to bring net migration down.”
But in a slapdown for the Home Secretary, a Number 10 source insisted the tens of thousands target remained in place.
Mr Javid was speaking as he prepared to unveil the Government's long-awaited immigration white paper, which is aimed at slashing the number of low-skilled migrants coming to the UK.
A Cabinet row has erupted over Theresa May's insistence that the salary threshold for entering the country should be set at £30,000.
Mr Javid said: "The white paper will show we are not setting the exact threshold today. There will be a threshold. The MAC (Migration Advisory Committee) suggested it should be £30,000. Whilst that is their view, it is based on their evidence, it is very important for us to listen to that.
"It is equally important for us to listen to business to find the right threshold. So what we will be setting out today is that we will consult further on whether it is £30,000 or thereabouts."
It was reported that rows between senior ministers on plans to introduce the threshold went on until late last night, threatening the publication of the much-delayed document.
But Mr Javid said the white paper was part of the wider consultation process.
"I think it is important that the Government should set out how it thinks the system could work, set out some indications, but then also to go away to listen to what businesses and others have got to say," he said.