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Conservatives plan cap on migrant visas

Rishi Sunak campaigning in Henley-on-Thames on Tuesday

The number of visas available to migrants would be reduced each year under a new Conservative government, the prime minister has promised.

For the first time, MPs would get a vote on annual government proposals aimed at regularly reducing numbers, which would be based on recommendations from the expert Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).

Although no figures were suggested for a possible cap, Rishi Sunak said his was the only party willing to take “bold action to reduce immigration” if elected on 4 July.

Labour’s Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary, pointed to net migration trebling and accused the Tories of “rehashing failed announcements”.

The announcement came as Nigel Farage announced he was returning to lead the Reform Party, with its focus on reducing immigration, which has heaped further pressure on Mr Sunak.

Some Conservatives have been unhappy at immigration levels, with control over the UK’s borders and reducing immigration figures seen as a key battleground between Labour and the Tories this election.

With a head-to-head debate due on Tuesday where Mr Sunak will face off with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, the PM is trying to draw a dividing line, with this new policy forming a central plank of his manifesto.

Mr Sunak said putting the decision in the hands of MPs would give voters confidence their views would be respected and reflected.

“The plan is working but migration levels are still too high, so we are going further,” he said.

The PM claimed Labour would “make the UK a global magnet for illegal immigrants”, suggesting they had “no plan to reduce net migration”.

“The Conservatives are the only party that is willing take the bold action needed to cut immigration figures,” he continued.

The cap would apply to worker and family visas and would exempt temporary work routes, such as Seasonal Agricultural Workers.

The MAC’s remit would prioritise the economy, with explicit orders to look at the economic costs of migration, including the impact on public services, wages and productivity.

Successive Tory governments have attempted to limit visas, under Theresa May, David Cameron and Rishi Sunak in last year’s Illegal Migration Act.