Keir Starmer unveils manifesto pledge to curb immigration numbers

Sir Keir Starmer has unveiled a manifesto promise to slash levels of migration to the UK.

The Labour leader vowed to pass laws to ban law-breaking employers from hiring workers from abroad and to train more Britons.

Net migration levels hit 685,000 last year, more than three times higher than the figure at the time of the last election when the Conservatives promised to cut overall numbers in their 2019 manifesto.

The latest figures were published a day after Rishi Sunak called the General Election, fuelling the immigration debate – a key campaign battleground – with both the Tories and Labour claiming to hold the answer to cutting the numbers.

With his latest election offer, Sir Keir is encroaching on traditional Tory territory.

He told The Sun on Sunday: “Read my lips – I will bring immigration numbers down.

“If you trust me with the keys to No 10 I will make you this promise: I will control our borders and make sure British businesses are helped to hire Brits first.”

He added: “This is a changed Labour Party back in the service of working people.

“That means not just talking about sky-high migration but acting on it.”

He said the 685,000 migration number is “the second highest on record” and “it’s got to come down”.

“I’m not going to duck the challenge.”

Labour would bar bosses who break employment law – for example by failing to pay workers the minimum wage or flouting health and safety rules – from hiring foreigners, the newspaper reported.

Sir Keir said employers have become “too reliant” on workers from overseas and “should always have a choice of recruiting a British worker first”.

General Election campaign 2024
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and deputy Angela Rayner launch Labour’s campaign bus in Uxbridge (Lucy North/PA)

The strategy would involve legislating to link the immigration system to training, with businesses applying for foreign worker visas having to train Britons to do the jobs.

The Migration Advisory Committee, Industrial Strategy Council and Skills England would be brought together to carry out the plan.

Sir Keir said this would also help reduce the benefits bill.

He declined to detail the target level for migrant numbers or name a timeline.

The Labour leader hit out at successive Conservative governments for failing to cut numbers.

“The Conservatives repeatedly say they are going to cut these numbers,” Sir Keir said. “They have never done it. They have completely failed.

“They have never had a strategy to deal with it.”