Boris Johnson’s new Cabinet has agreed to implement measures designed to reduce the number of low-skilled migrants entering Britain from the beginning of next year.
The Prime Minister discussed the points-based immigration system at the first meeting of his new ministerial team on Friday morning after a dramatic reshuffle which saw Sajid Javid quit as chancellor.
He was ordered to fire his closest aides and replace them with advisers chosen by Number 10, but instead resigned and was replaced by his former deputy at the Treasury, Rishi Sunak.
Hours after the reshuffle, Mr Johnson told Cabinet that the Government had a responsibility to “unite” the country as he discussed the decisions that would be needed to deliver “real and positive change for the people across the UK”.
Downing Street said ministers agreed the implementation of a points-based immigration system from January 1 2021.
“The system will be simpler and fairer and will not discriminate between countries and would return democratic control of immigration to the British people,” a spokesman for Mr Johnson told a Westminster briefing.
“The PM stressed that we must demonstrate that the UK is open and welcoming to talent from across the world but the new system would end reliance on importing cheap, low-skilled labour – bringing down immigration numbers overall.”
The spokesman could not be drawn on any details of the policy, except to say it would provide the Government with the ability to control who comes into the UK.
Further details are expected to be outlined in the next week.
Last month the Migration Advisory Committee said replacing freedom of movement with a points-based immigration system after Brexit could cut economic growth and may only lead to small improvements in standards of living.
The Government’s proposed overhaul of migration rules could have “zero effect” on providing more British jobs for British workers, it was also suggested.
The PM engaged in a call and response with his new team at Friday morning’s Cabinet meeting, asking: “How many hospitals are we going to build?” before they replied in unison: “Forty.”
The pledge has been criticised after it emerged that, while £2.7 billion has been allocated to six hospital trusts for building projects for completion by 2025, the other 34 projects for delivery by 2030 have so far just been promised £100 million of “seed funding”.
Mr Johnson also asked the Cabinet how many more police officers would be recruited, to which they replied 20,000.
However, the number of police officers in England and Wales has fallen by around 20,000 since 2010.
Mr Javid had no words of animosity for the PM on Friday, as he faced up to being excluded from a Cabinet meeting for the first time in almost five years.
Asked by reporters as he left his south-west London home whether he had a message for Mr Johnson, the ex-business secretary answered: “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
His bombshell resignation – less than a month before the Budget – followed an escalation in tensions between the ex-chancellor and the Prime Minister’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings.
In August, Mr Cummings fired Mr Javid’s aide, Sonia Khan, and it appeared Number 10 wanted to go further in keeping a close eye on him, a move that had been preceded by Treasury briefings to the press about his support for HS2 and talk of a mansion tax in the forthcoming Budget.
Ex-staff and colleagues of the former home secretary said he had little choice but to resign following Number 10’s tightening of the reins.
Downing Street was unable to confirm whether the Budget would still go ahead as planned on March 11.
The number of women attending Cabinet fell as part of the changes, from eight to seven, while the total number of ministers attending shrank from 32 to 26.
But Number 10 insisted the Prime Minister is “committed to promoting a generation of talent that will be promoted further in the coming years”.
“The drive to promote female talent at parliamentary under secretary of state and minister of state level will make it easier for the Government to ensure that more Cabinet positions are held by women in the future.”