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PM's position 'clear' on including students in immigration target - spokesman

Theresa May will continue to resist growing public and Cabinet pressure to exclude foreign students from the Government's target to get net immigration down to the tens of thousands, Downing Street said.

Earlier, Liam Fox suggested he agreed with Cabinet colleagues that students should be left out of the figures and revealed there was an "ongoing argument" in Government over the issue.

The International Trade Secretary said he had made his own views "clear" to the Home Secretary, indicating he was on the same side of the debate as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Chancellor Philip Hammond.

But the Prime Minister's official spokesman said she would not relent to pressure to remove students from the immigration target.

He told a regular Westminster briefing: "No, and the Prime Minister has been clear over a long period of time that she believes that students should continue to be included in the official immigration statistics."

Asked if Dr Fox was speaking for the Government, the spokesman replied: "The Prime Minister's position is clear."

Mr Johnson's call for international students to be left out of the net migration figures as they were a "massive benefit" to the UK was rejected by the PM in December.

Mr Hammond has also indicated that he could be in favour of removing students from the target, suggesting in October that he did not believe people's main concerns around immigration were about students.

Dr Fox told the House of Lords International Relations Committee: "It's an ongoing argument inside Government and I've made my own views on that clear in private to the Home Secretary.

"I think there is a value for those who come and study in the United Kingdom.

"I 100% accept the point that they will be, in many cases, imbued by the values that they experience while they are here, many of them will go on to establish long-term relationships with the United Kingdom, understanding our institutions."

Dr Fox said there was also an opportunity for universities to generate cash and promote British educational standards and values by setting up satellite campuses abroad.

"It is one of the sectors in this country that shows the most appetite for being willing to do that and I think offers us huge opportunities to continue with that," he said.

"I don't see it as being one or the other (foreign students coming to the UK, or universities setting up campuses abroad), I see them as very complementary."

It comes after peers on Monday inflicted a crushing defeat on the Government over the issue.

A cross-party coalition in the Lords voted by a majority of 94 to end the widely criticised policy of including students in the Government's target.

Eight Tory rebels backed the winning amendment, including former universities minister Lord Willetts.


From Belfast Telegraph