We'll stem rising tide of migration: PM finally promises action... starting with a curb on doctors
Gordon Brown will today pledge to close the door to foreign doctors and a string of other professions as part of a crackdown to cut immigration into Britain.
After a decade in which Labour has allowed immigration on an unprecedented scale, England is now almost twice as crowded as Germany and four times as crowded as France.
But now the Prime Minister is insisting that he will not allow the population to soar to 70million over the next 20 years as official forecasts predict.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Mr Brown signalled a major shift in his Government's immigration policy as he admitted it had put key public services in some parts of the country under severe strain.
In what will be seized on by opponents as an admission that existing restrictions are too lax, he pledged to tighten the new points-based entry system before the next election.
Speaking ahead of his first major speech on immigration as Prime Minister, he said: 'A few years ago we had to allow into the country - and we benefited from it - very highly skilled medical staff. We have now done a huge amount to train a new generation of medical staff in our country.'
'We are now looking at how we can close the skills gap in this country so we can take occupations off the list where we need to recruit from abroad. Immigration will fall.'
The NHS had a critical shortage of doctors and other health professionals when Labour came to power, and staff from abroad were encouraged to come and work.
More than 40,000 have been recruited in recent years.
But the Government has faced controversy as homegrown junior doctors have struggled to find jobs.
Mr Brown's personal intervention is part of the Government's belated recognition that its handling of immigration has helped alienate Labour's core white, working class vote.
Ministers concede that the lack of a proper debate on immigration has played into the hands of the far-Right BNP, which won two European Parliament seats earlier this year.
Controversy has been heightened by explosive claims by Andrew Neather, a former speechwriter to Tony Blair, that ministers allowed immigration to increase in part to make Britain 'truly multicultural' and to 'rub the Right's noses in diversity'.
Last week, Home Secretary Alan Johnson became the first to admit ministers had failed to grasp growing public concern about the pressures on jobs and public services, and had ignored problems about failed asylum seekers and foreign national prisoners.
Again today, Mr Johnson said it had taken a 'long time' to get on top of the issue and that the time delay in doing so had allowed for a 'huge influx in asylum seekers'.
However, Shadow immigration minister Damian Green claimed Mr Brown's plans would make 'very, very little different' to the number of migrants and job prospects.
'What the Government is doing is toughening up its rhetoric, but it's not actually changing the policy very much,' he said.
Mr Brown insisted that immigration had been a source of 'economic, social and cultural strength' for Britain.
'We have always been a diverse country,' he said. 'Britain's history is one of an open, trading nation at the heart of the global economy.'
But he added: 'I understand people's concerns when they hear suggestions that levels of immigration are going to rise. Especially in difficult economic times, people have concerns.
'I know people worry about whether immigration undermines their wages and the job prospects of their children and they also worry about whether they will get a decent home for their families.
'They want to be assured that the system is tough and fair. They want to be assured that newcomers to the country will accept their responsibilities... obey all the laws, speaking English is important, making a contribution.'
Mr Brown said the Government's latest assessments were that net migration, which hit more than 290,000 in 2005, has fallen by more than 40 per cent over the last year - and pledged it would fall further.
But he rejected the Tory approach of an annual limit on the number of non-EU migrants, calling it 'arbitrary'.
He said the points-based system, introduced last year to control the entry of non-EU citizens to the UK by grading incomers on the skills they can offer the country, would be further toughened up.
In his speech today, Mr Brown will say the door is being closed to non-EU hospital consultants, civil engineers, aircraft engineers and ship's officers.
'One of the reasons that immigration will fall is the tightening of the new points system and it will continue to tighten over the next few months,' he said.
'One of the reasons for the points system is to make sure that nobody without a skill will come into the country. We are looking at the kind of skills we as a country need.
We don't want as an open economy to stop businesses being able to recruit where it's an entirely specialist area. Companies keep telling us that this is absolutely important to their future.
'This is not an arbitrary cap. We are going to be setting out a programme for making sure that we in Britain can train our British young people and British workers who are looking for jobs.
'There is a new determination to train people in the skills that we need. We want to ensure... that we don't have to bring to the country people with skills when we can develop those skills quickly.'
Mr Brown insisted that ministers had taken action on immigration 'in the last two, two and a half years' - a pointed suggestion that the issue only began to be addressed when he became Prime Minister in the summer of 2007.
He said the biggest mistake over recent years had been the scrapping of embarkation controls - physically checking people in and out of the country.
Mr Brown said that ID cards for foreign workers - while controversial on the grounds of liberty - would help.
Mr Brown pledged that the measures the Government was taking would ensure the population would not reach 70million by 2029, as forecast by the Office of National Statistics.
'It won't,' he said. 'The points system that is now being tightened and being strengthened is having a major effect.'
Mr Brown added that in the past, there was an 'implicit assumption' that newcomers would behave well, learn English, get to know their neighbours and integrate with local community and faith groups.
But he added: 'Now we have got to be clear that the responsibilities that people accept are not implicit, they are explicit.
'People have to be sure that the person next door and the person in the next street is accepting their responsibility as a citizen.
'We ask people to show that they abide by our laws, we ask people to show that they understand our constitution and our democracy, we ask people to show that they understand the values of liberty, fair play and responsibility.'
The Conservatives highlighted new Home Office figures showing that in the first nine months of this year, 115,807 people passed the Government's citizenship test as evidence that there was 'no letup' in the number of people being allowed to stay in Britain.
Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: 'In the past few weeks it has become quite clear that the Government deliberately allowed hundreds of thousands of new people into Britain for party political reasons and then tried to cover it all up.
'The conduct of Labour Ministers has been disgraceful and it'll take a new administration to sort things out.' http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... ctors.html