Intra-company transfers have been painted as a way of allowing multi-nationals to get their top flight people into the country. But take a look at this chart from last week’s report by the Migration Advisory Committee (p. 96) and you see the salary spread of folk who have come in under intra-company transfers.

Putting my ruler up against the graph it looks like about 50 per cent of people currently coming in on this route earn under £40,000. So if a £40,000 salary floor is introduced, and given that 22,000 came in under this route in 2009, you can see how you have potentially brought down numbers by 11,000 by bringing in the floor.

23 immigrationchart 5401 Immigration cap: how the numbers might add up

Business doesn’t want this group artificially capped but if the government thinks the salary threshold does the work for them you can see how it gives the government scope to bring in a cap (exclusive of intra-company transfers) of around 30,000. Add on the 11,000 intra company transfers the government thinks you will probably end up with under uncapped intra-company transfers and you get to a figure a bit above 40,000 net migration (under non-EU work permits) which is where we look like ending up in policy.

The government will have to squeeze other cohorts of immigration harder than that to get where it wants to get – bringing net immigration down from 196,000 in 2009 to around 50,000 in 2014 (“tens of thousands” was the official line in the Tories’ election campaign). That means a lot of work will be started on getting down net student immigration from 163,000 pa (2009) and family related net immigration down from 54,000 (2009).

The latter is particularly sensitive. The former is not without difficulties either. I can’t find a trade association figure for language school turnover but you can find any number of ministerial quotes over the years, from all parties, that boast how critical the English language is to Britain’s role in the world.

So, the cap turns out to be 21,700 – add the notional 11,000 that would represent half of intra-company transfers (my estimate from the graph not the government’s) takes you to 31,7000, a notional cut of more than 20,000. Still leaving the government a lot of work to do elsewhere.