Conservatives call for more UK immigration restrictions

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The leader of Britain's opposition Conservative Party, who comes from an immigrant family himself, has said that employers should provide financial guarantees for staff on temporary work permits, the Financial Times newspaper reports.

In a speech to an employers' group on March 1, Conservative Party leader Michael Howard claimed that immigration had tripled in the last eight years, bringing the UK to a "turning point".

"We need to limit and reduce immigration to our country - including work-related immigration - so that we can maintain good community relations and effectively manage our public services", he said.

Mr. Howard called for an Australian-style points system based on the prospective immigrants' skills, age, and fluency in English, with annual caps on the total numbers of immigants allowed into the UK. Employers hiring workers on temporary work permits would have to post bonds equivalent to six months pay, redeemable when the employee left the UK.

Although the ruling Labour Party has also proposed a points system, Mr Howard said it would be pointless unless overall numbers were capped. In response, the ruling Labour Party has said that the Conservatives' plans would not work due to their proposed spending cuts to the immigration budget. One of the smaller parties the Liberal democrats say that the major parties are both playing on the prejudices of voters.

However, according to the FT report, the number of asylum seekers in developed Countries fell sharply last year - with the figures for the UK back to those of the mid-1980s - and Britain is only near the middle of the table amongst the 25 European Countries for the number of refugees it takes as a percentage of the Country's total population.

Opinion polls show that immigration to the UK is a major concern among voters. The Conservative Party has greater support for their immigration policies than the Labour Government among the general population. However in the General Election which is expected to be held in May, most people expect that the current Labour Government will be re-elected.