Ministers don’t comment on leaked reports, as Theresa May said on the Today programme this morning, but they can jolly well make clear what they think of them, especially if those leaked reports are quite helpful to calming Conservative backbench grumbles.

The Home Secretary didn’t distance herself from the leak in the Sunday Times that she wants a 75,000 cap on the number of EU migrants per year, and repeated David Cameron’s call for reform of freedom of movement, saying:

‘What the Prime Minister has said and what I said is that in looking at reform of the EU we need to look at this whole question of the arrangements of new countries that come in, so-called accession countries.’

And she went into greater detail on what those reforms might mean:

‘At the moment you can restrict free movement rights for 7 years. What the Prime Minister and I have said we need to look at this and think about whether that should be longer, whether it should be more flexible, whether we should look at restricting full free movement rights until, for example, a country’s national income, GDP is at a certain level.’

James revealed yesterday that Tory MPs want the Prime Minister to push for a national veto over all current and future EU laws. This letter, which David Cameron will receive before Christmas, joins that amendment to the immigration bill that is still gaining signatures even though ministers have succeeded in delaying the debate on the legislation until after the transitional controls on Bulgarian and Romanian migrants lift. Previous rows in the party have shown ministers that they need to give every appearance of listening so that the backbench rage doesn’t grow. May’s interview this morning is another example of the efforts to show backbenchers that this time, the leadership is not ignoring them.

Tags: Immigration, Theresa May, UK politics