Suella Braverman will argue that there is “no good reason” the UK cannot train its own workforce of lorry drivers and fruit pickers, in a speech that will stress the need for overall immigration to the UK to come down.
The Home Secretary will be among the star turns at the National Conservatism Conference later on Monday, which comes only days after a similar gathering of Tory MPs and grassroots members in Bournemouth.
Her speech, which will be seen as a warning to Cabinet colleagues against relaxing immigration visa rules in a bid to boost growth, comes as Rishi Sunak grapples with signs of discontent and division with his party’s ranks.
Ms Braverman will say: “I voted and campaigned for Brexit because I wanted Britain to control migration. So that we all have a say on what works for our country.
“High-skilled workers support economic growth. Fact.
“But we need to get overall immigration numbers down. And we mustn’t forget how to do things for ourselves.
“There is no good reason why we can’t train up enough HGV drivers, butchers or fruit pickers. Brexit enables us to build a high-skilled, high wage economy that is less dependent on low-skilled foreign labour.
“That was our 2019 manifesto pledge and what we must deliver.”
Elsewhere, MPs Danny Kruger and Miriam Cates, both on the right of the Conservatives, are expected to urge Mr Sunak to focus on key topics such as lower immigration, tougher sentences and family values.
The Times reports that Mr Kruger will call on his party to strengthen its base among working class voters in the north and not “retreat to the south east, to the managerial class, to the affluent”.
There has been speculation of a split in Mr Sunak’s Cabinet on immigration, with some members – including Chancellor Jeremy Hunt – more keen than others to stress the benefits of migration for economic growth.
It comes ahead of official figures released later in May that are expected to show net migration of between 650,000 and 997,000.
Energy Secretary Grant Shapps did not express concern about high levels of immigration during an appearance on Sky News on Sunday, instead stressing the importance of post-Brexit control of the UK’s borders.
“We have a Migration Advisory Committee that says that there’s a shortage in this area, or that area.
“One of the advantages now with Brexit is we have control over our own policies. So we can say, we want people to help with a specific sector.
“We should always make sure that we only have people come here that our rules and our policy bring here,” he said.
It comes as The Times newspaper reported that Education Secretary Gillian Keegan recently blocked proposals – backed by the Home Secretary – that would have reduced the time foreign students can remain here after finishing a course.
A Government source told the PA news agency that the Education Secretary and the Chancellor had been “robust” on the benefit of foreign students.
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove, outspoken Conservative deputy chairman Lee Anderson, Johnson loyalist Jacob Rees-Mogg and former Brexit negotiator Lord Frost, will also be attending the three-day National Conservatism Conference.
Both events come in the wake of a difficult set of local elections that saw the Conservatives lose nearly 1,000 councillors, while the Government also sparked a row with Brexiteers over the ditching of the promise to complete a post-Brexit “bonfire” of remaining EU-era laws by the end of the year.
But Mr Sunak is planning his own charm offensive on Monday evening, with Tory MPs invited to a Downing Street reception that will see pies served from the PM’s own North Yorkshire constituency.
Billed as an event to celebrate the coronation, it nonetheless comes amid calls from some Tory MPs for party unity ahead of an anticipated general election next year.
Mr Shapps, on Sunday, played down the idea of splits within the party, as he instead argued the conferences and gatherings were a sign of the Tories “buzzing with ideas”.
Ipswich MP Tom Hunt also told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour that his party was “OK”.
“The atmosphere of the Conservative parliamentary party is OK, there is no clamour to bring Boris Johnson back,” he said.
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