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Immigration a key issue in UK elections

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The issue of immigration has been thrust into the spotlight in UK politics, with both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party calling for tighter immigration laws.

Conservative Party leader Michael Howard, the son of immigrants himself, said the current Labour government under Tony Blair had lost control over immigration which was a threat to national security. Howard's proposals include an annual limit on immigration set by Parliament; 24-hour security at ports to prevent illegal immigration; a dedicated border police; and taking in genuine refugees from the United Nations - rather than simply accepting those who are smuggled in. Additionally, the Conservatives want to organise an Australian-style system for economic migrants, with points awarded for work experience, academic qualifications and languages. An annual quota would be linked to the points system. Immigrants would face compulsory health checks.

Labour has responded with proposals that critics are calling equally as harsh. A Home Office five-year plan proposes a points system for economic migrants. Skilled workers will be allowed to settle permanently if they speak English and satisfy a "Britishness test". There would be no annual cap, with the Home Office arguing it needs flexibility to reflect changes in the labour market.

It is interesting to note that both parties seemingly ignore the fact that the UK already employs a points system via the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP), with neither side acknowledging that such a system is already in use. How much weight voters place on these ideas will be understood when voters go to the polls on May 5. will continue to update you.