UK to give India direct say on immigration cap?

Prime Minister David Cameron, currently on a two-day official visit to India is expected to offer it a "direct say" in drawing up UK`s new immigration policy.

Updated: Jul 29, 2010, 00:46 AM IST

London: Prime Minister David Cameron,
currently on a two-day official visit to India is expected to
offer it a "direct say" in drawing up UK`s new immigration
policy, a media report said today, even as New Delhi has
warned of adverse affect on bilateral trade ties.

The report in The Guardian quoting sources said
Downing Street is making it clear that Britain will consult
Delhi over a proposed new cap on non-EU immigration.

Cameron`s visit to India is threatened to be
overshadowed by concerns in Delhi about the cap.

India`s Commerce Minister Anand Sharma has said that
the cap would have an "adverse effect" on trade relations.

He pointedly remarked that Indian professionals,
"who have made a notable contribution to the UK economy" could
find it difficult to enter Britain.

"Cameron is to offer India a direct say in drawing up
Britain`s new immigration policy as Downing Street responds to
fears in New Delhi that a proposed cap will harm trade links,"
the Guardian said in its report.

According to the report, a Downing street source said
the prime minister is keen to offer reassurances to India.

"We want to work with India and other countries to
ensure that high-skilled people can still come to Britain,"
the source said.

"We are going to talk to these countries about how
to implement the cap."

The proposed cap on non-EU immigration has been the
subject of heated debate within the cabinet.

Vince Cable, the business secretary and David
Willetts, the Universities Minister, who are among six cabinet
ministers accompanying the prime minister to India, have
voiced concerns that the cap could exclude students and highly
skilled workers.

Cable said "It`s no great secret that in my
department, and me personally, we want to see an open economy
and as liberal an immigration policy as it`s possible to have.

We are arguing, within government, about how we
create the most flexible regime we can possibly have, but in a
way that reassures the British public."

The measure comes into effect next April.

Theresa May, the home secretary has imposed a
temporary cap of 24,100. The emollient signals show how
ministers accept they must show due respect to India, one of
the world`s fastest growing economies, if Britain is to
improve trade links, which currently stand at a relatively
modest 11.5 billion pounds a year.

A novel approach: Vaz

Britain`s decision to allow India
to have a direct say on the proposed immigration cap issue
represented a "novel" approach to the policy, Indian-origin
Labour MP, Keith Vaz said.

Vaz, who is also the Chairman of the influential Home
Affairs Select Committee wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May
asking her why it was not announced before the Parliament
yesterday, or in her and the Immigration Minister`s evidence
on the cap to the Home Affairs Select Committee.

The Indian-origin MP said, India can seek an extension
to the consultation period on the immigration cap issue and
express its grievances about it to the UK.

"What immigration policy needs is clarity, at the
moment the Government`s view is as clear as mud," Vaz added.

He said, "We will welcome the views of the Indian
Government and I will be writing to Indian Ministers asking
them to share their views with Parliament on this issue."

"It is an interesting departure that one country is
being able to shape the immigration policy of another in this
way," he said.

Vaz said "The Prime Minister, David Cameron, needs to
take care not to make immigration policy on the hoof. It is a
bit insulting to ask the Indian government to shape a policy
that will result in reducing the number of Indian
entrepreneurs and possibly students coming to this country -
the cap will reduce, not increase, the number of Indians
coming to Britain."