Gripping migration would be a ‘top priority’ in first 100 days of a Labour government, says shadow minister

The home office is set to release long-awaited data on immigration which will detail the number of people who settled in the UK last year. 

It is widely expected that net migration will soar to at least 700,000, with some forecasters saying they could near one million in the year ending December 2022. Both estimates greatly surpass the previous peak of 504,000 in the year to June 2022.

Ahead of the announcement, Stephen Kinnock, the shadow immigration minister, told Sky News that “all the indications are that the government has completely lost control of our immigration system”.

Commenting on illegal migration and “small boats” crossings, Mr Kinnock added: “The government is panicking … and it’s too little too late. 

“So in our first 100 days as a Labour Government, this is going to be a top priority in terms of getting a grip on this backlog, and working on it to get the right people in place”.

However, pressed on what a Labour migration cap would look like, Mr Kinnock refused to be drawn on a number. “I don’t think you need to have specific numbers… but you need to have a clear commitment to getting numbers down”, he said.

He added: “This is about balance, of course we need immigration in our country, but we need to balance that against maximising opportunities for local people.”

The Office for National Statistics will publish the much-awaited net migration data for 2022 at 9.30 am this morning. The figures are expected to nearly treble the pre-Brexit rate.

Rishi Sunak warned earlier this week in a piece for the Telegraph newspaper that “uncontrolled” legal migration risks leading to unmanageable pressures on housing, schools and hospitals.

In 2019, the Conservative manifesto had promised that “overall numbers will come down” after the introduction of post-Brexit border controls. At the time, net migration was at 226,000.

The prime minister has previously promised action to bring down net migration, telling reporters on a recent trip to Japan that he wanted to be “crystal clear” with the public that the “numbers are too high” and he wants to “bring them down”.

Last week in a speech seen by some as a future pitch for the leadership, home secretary Suella Braverman attacked the “unexamined drive towards multiculturalism” and said migration levels are “unsustainable”.

Tony Smith, former director of the UK Border Force, also told Sky News this morning that the prime minister Sunak will likely have some serious questions to answer after migration data is unveiled later this morning.

Mr Smith, who worked in the Home Office for 40 years, said migration has been a “constant theme of numbers… going back a great many years”. “There’s always been this eye on how many people can be admitted year-on-year”, he added.

He explains that between 2000 and 2010, net migration of 250,000 a year “seemed to be kind of acceptable. … Then the Tory government came in and said that’s too many, we want to reduce it to tens of thousands”.

However: “It didn’t reduce, it went up to about 300,000 when we had the Brexit vote.”