In a sudden turnaround, the UK Government will not after all bring in reforms to the current points system to encourage skilled immigration that had been put forward by Prime Minister Tony Blair earlier, the Independent newspaper reports. It is likely that if this had gone ahead it would have meant significant changes to the existing points based immigration category the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) or meant that HSMP would be replaced by a new system.
The policy if implemented would have been similar to the one that operates in Australia, and would have granted skilled migration visas based on what skills are most in demand in the UK labour market. However, Government ministers announced on January 25 that they have agreed that the plan would be too inflexible to meet the changing needs of employers.
It will therefore not be part of a five-year immigration plan to be released by Home Secretary Charles Clarke next month. Instead, the ruling Labour Party is expected to promise to get tough on removing failed asylum seekers from Britain. In 2001 it said it would remove more than 30,000 failed applicants in 2003-04, but in the event just 17,000 were forced to leave the country. Now it promises to increase the number of removals and the speed at which this is done.
Yesterday's Government announcement of a new points based immigration scheme, which is now not going ahead, is believed to be a response to the immigration policies unveiled on January 24 by Michael Howard, the leader of the opposition Conservative Party. Mr. Howard has promised that if his party is elected to office it will introduce a new points based skilled immigration visa category and will only grant a limited number of asylum places every year.
See our section on the Highly Skilled Migrant Program, for details of the existing UK points system for attracting skilled migrants.