Smith's goodbye offer: A limit on immigrants allowed to stay
By James Slack
The Daily Mail
Last updated at 1:30 AM on 03rd June 2009
A limit is finally to be placed on the number of non-European Union immigrants allowed to settle permanently in Britain.
In her final act before standing down, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith promised a new points system for those who want to apply for citizenship.
This will be separate from the current points system used to determine who is allowed to come here in the first place.
The number of British passports handed out reached record levels in 2007.
No firm details of what the limit will be were revealed, but the rules will allow ministers to cherry-pick only those who have contributed the most to society.
Points will be earned, for example, by having a strong track record of paying taxes or carrying out voluntary work.
Campaigners hope it will significantly reduce the number of passports handed out each year – which reached an all-time record of 164,635 in 2007. When Labour came to power in 1997, just 37,010 people were granted citizenship.
But critics were concerned by the lack of detail. Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: 'It's difficult to know whether this is a policy announcement or an off-the-cuff remark by a Home Secretary on her way out. This is a Government all over the place on immigration.'
Under current rules, non-EU migrants granted permission to enter the UK automatically progress towards citizenship, normally after four or five years.
The Home Office has already announced a plan to make them 'earn' citizenship by not carrying out any criminal acts and adhering to certain rules.
But the new points system will finally give ministers power to control the numbers approved each year.
They will be able to 'raise or lower the bar' depending on the political and economic climate. Those who do not score enough points could be told to leave.
Frank Field, on behalf of the crossparty Balanced Migration coalition, said: 'This marks a major change in immigration policy with the Government announcing its intention to break the link between coming here to work and automatically gaining citizenship.'
A Home Office spokesman said the success of the points system for work permits lay behind the proposals. He added that the Government will bring them before Parliament before the summer recess.
Immigrants from within the EU will not be affected.
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