The net migration target used in the UK to determine the numbers allowed to work in the country should be replaced by simpler and clearer immigration rules and take into account different kinds of immigration.

The current system is not working, according to the Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee, which is also calling for international students to be removed from the annual figures and no national target for those wishing to study in the UK.

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It also calls for a greater focus on early enforcement, clearer criminal and security checks, and improved Home Office performance to tackle errors and delays and reassure the public that the system is both fair and under control.

It points out that there is clear public support for the continued arrival of high skilled, not just highly paid, workers who are needed in the economy. Immigration rules should allow UK businesses and organisations easily to attract top talent, with restrictions and controls focused more on low skilled migration.

It also suggests that immigration plans should be linked with training plans to increase domestic skills in sectors and regions where there are skills gaps that need to be filled through migration.

Immigration emerged as a major issue during the referendum on leaving the European Union but the report says that there is a considerable public appetite for engagement on the issue and much common ground on which to take the debate on what should happen post Brexit.

However, people need to be involved and achieving a national consensus on immigration will require the current approach to be transformed, the report says, adding that the current policy to reduce annual numbers to tens of thousands does not reflect what the public thinks or take into account that there are different kinds of immigration.

The report suggests that targets and controls on immigration should be set out in a newly established Annual Migration Report laid before and debated in Parliament modelled on that used in Canada.

The annual report would also detail the previous year’s migration flows, the economic contribution from migration to the Exchequer, consideration of the requirements for different regions and nations and measures taken by the Government to promote integration, manage impacts, costs and pressures.

It would also set out a three year plan for migration which would be reviewed annually and include public consultation at local and regional level. It would include parallel training plans to tackle skills shortages which are increasing demand for overseas workers and measures to tackle exploitation of low skilled migration.

Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Yvette Cooper MP, called for a more open debate on immigration. ‘The Government has a responsibility to build consensus and confidence on immigration rather than allowing this to be a divisive debate. But that requires a transformation in the way that immigration policy is made as too often the current approach has undermined trust in the system,’ she said.

‘What's striking is that there is considerable common ground in contrast to the polarisation we too often hear in national debates. The net migration target isn’t working to build confidence and it treats all migration as the same. That’s why it should be replaced by a different framework of targets and controls. And frankly the system needs to work effectively. As long as there are so many errors and so many problems with enforcement, people won't have confidence that the system is either fair or robust,’ she pointed out.

‘Most people think immigration is important for Britain, but they want to know that the system is under control, that people are contributing to this country and that communities and public services are benefiting rather than facing pressures,’ she pointed out.

‘Immigration has always been an important part of our history, economy and culture and will continue to be a crucial policy area for our future. We cannot stress enough how important it is to prevent escalating divisions, polarisation, anger or misinformation on an issue like immigration. To fail to respond risks doing long term damage to the social fabric, economy and politics of our country,’ she added.