Theresa May has said the Conservative Party would double the Immigration Skills Charge, but also consult with the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) on the UK's visa system.
Launching the Conservative Party 2017 election manifesto in Halifax, West Yorkshire today, May said that, were the party to be re-elected, it would double the Immigration Skills Charge levied on companies employing migrant workers to £2,000 a year for each non-EU worker by the end of the parliament. The government would use the revenue generated to invest in higher level skills training for workers in the UK.
However, she also revealed the government would consult with the independent Migration Advisory Committee on how the visa system could be aligned with the needs of the economy. While the aim is still to reduce migration to "tens of thousands", continuing to bear down on non-European Union migration, and reduce and control the numbers of EU migrants, the government would also seek to establish a visa system "still allowing us to attract the skilled workers our economy needs", said May.
The party also pledged no increase in VAT and corporation tax to fall to 17% by 2020. It would also scrap the current system of offering free school lunches to all children in the first three years of primary school, to be replaced by free school breakfasts for primary school children and free school lunches throughout primary and secondary education for low-income families only. All parties have committed to a review of business rates.
Labour has also pledged to not increase VAT or National Insurance, "reasonable management" of immigration, and an immediate guarantee about the status of EU nationals in the UK. The Liberal Democrats have promised a second EU Referendum and also to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK.
Responding to May's announcements today, Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, said: "The BHA has been campaigning for several months for an enlarged role of the Migration Advisory Committee and welcome the proposal that the MAC would advise how the visa system can be become better aligned with the needs of the economy.
"The independent Migration Observatory at Oxford University estimates that 96% of the EU nationals who work in hospitality would not be able to enter the UK under the existing immigration rules for non-EU nationals, so it is clear that the focus simply on ‘skilled workers' needs to be expanded. The doubling of the Skills Charge will place further costs on businesses who are facing the ‘perfect storm' as a result of the severe rise in business rates, depreciation of the sterling and introduction of the apprenticeship levy."
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