Cooper: Labour wants to cut migration levels but we have no specific target

Cooper: Labour wants to cut migration levels but we have no specific target

Labour has refused to set specific targets on how it wants to reduce net migration to the UK should it win the General Election.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the party wants to see “significant changes” and is clear that net migration “must come down”.

But she stopped short of setting a target, saying the Conservatives have failed when they have done so and arguing that “variations” each year – such as the war in Ukraine – must also be considered.

Ms Cooper also declined to rule out offshore processing or sending asylum seekers to have their claims processed abroad.

Labour’s attempts to encroach on traditional Conservative Party territory came as Health Secretary Victoria Atkins outlined moves to boost community care and help make the NHS “faster, simpler and fairer”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s migration plan will include passing laws to ban law-breaking employers from hiring foreign workers and to train more Britons.

Last year’s net migration figure of 685,000 has “got to come down”, he told The Sun on Sunday, as he vowed to “control our borders and make sure British businesses are helped to hire Brits first”.

Pledges to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands have been repeatedly made by Conservative politicians over recent years, including by Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron during his time as party leader.

Ms Cooper told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg: “We’re not setting a target and the reason for that is partly because, to be honest, every time the Conservatives have done this, frankly, then they have just ended up being totally all over the place, ripping it up and discredited the whole system.”

She added: “Also, because from one year to another, there are variations. So, for example, the pandemic means the net migration figures, of course, fell, but the homes for Ukraine visa rightly meant that the figures increased because of the war in Ukraine.”

Pushed for an estimation on how much Labour want to lower migration, Ms Cooper said: “We clearly want to see significant changes in place because we have seen the numbers treble.”

She added: “I know that you’re effectively trying to suggest I set a target or a broad target, I’m not going to do that. We are going to be clear, net migration must come down.”

Ms Cooper, asked to rule out sending asylum seekers to another country to have their claims processed, said: “Keir has always said we would look at what works and there are different kinds of, I think, the sort of offshore processing arrangements and things that have already been used at different times in the past.

“For example, the Dublin agreement did mean that, under that scheme, some people were returned to France or to Germany or other countries and had their claims processed there.”

Conservative former immigration minister Robert Jenrick was sceptical of the pledges made by Sir Keir and Labour, writing on X: “He doesn’t want to reduce immigration or stop the boats. Never did. Never will.”

Ms Cooper also sought to distance Labour from a report in The Sunday Times that a number of left-wingers, including Diane Abbott, have been offered peerages in return for quitting.

They have been told they would be elevated to the Lords if they made way for allies of the leadership team in their seats, according to the newspaper.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Ms Cooper told Sky News’s Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips: “There’s a whole process with the independent committee that will vet nominations, there have to be processes in terms of the numbers of nominations, designated by the Prime Minister and so on.

“So, no party can do that or make those sorts of commitments.”

Despite the row over Ms Abbott’s candidacy, Labour saw its lead over the Tories widen to 20 points in an Opinium poll.

It showed Sir Keir’s party on 45% – up four points since last weekend – while the Conservatives were down two percentage points on 25%.

It is a blow to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who is seeking to fire up his campaign with a promise to boost community care.

A hundred new GP surgeries and 50 community diagnostic centres would be built were he to remain in No 10, funded by slashing the number of NHS managers, the Tories said.

Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg
Health Secretary Victoria Atkins arrives at BBC Broadcasting House in London to appear on current affairs programme Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg (Lucy North/PA)

They pledged to expand their Pharmacy First scheme, which allows patients to access some treatments via their pharmacy without having seen a GP first.

Ms Atkins told Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips: “This is part of my reforms to the NHS to make it faster, simpler and fairer.

“We’re doing this with record numbers of doctors, nurses and staff in the NHS. We’re rolling out technology across the NHS to help both staff and patients.

“But I also want to bring care closer to us as patients and this includes our Pharmacy First programme, which we launched in January and has had a really confident start.”

On whether the Conservative manifesto would contain a plan to fix social care, Ms Atkins told Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg: “We already have a 10-year plan to improve and to provide the social care that we want our grandparents, our parents, to have.”

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, who chairs the Royal College of GPs, said: “The only solution to the current crisis in general practice is more GPs – no other healthcare professional can do the complex clinical and leadership work that GPs do.”

North of the border, First Minister John Swinney will urge people to “vote SNP to put Scotland’s interests first” as he formally launches the party’s General Election campaign in Glasgow.