Migration goal’s impossible: Clarke

Published: Monday 2nd March 2015 by The News Editor

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David Cameron’s failed net migration target should be dropped as it would be impossible to reach without “severely” damaging the UK economy, a former Conservative home secretary has said.

The Prime Minister pledged in 2010 to reduce net migration to the UK to the tens of thousands but new official figures showed it increased to 298,000 in the year to September.

But Ken Clarke suggested globalisation had made the target impossible, while Baroness Warsi, an ex-Tory party chairwoman, said it was “unrealistic”.

Mr Clarke told the Times: “I am afraid that the net migration target has proved to be a mistake. It has been defended to me as almost returning to the figures to those when I was home secretary. This is true, but we weren’t in a globalised economy then to the extent we are now.

“We will have to drop the target. It would not be possible to achieve it without damaging our economy quite severely.”

Lady Warsi, who quit her government role last August over its response to the then-crisis in Gaza, told the paper: “If you set yourself unrealistic targets you are setting yourself up to fail, and, in the long term, turn the whole thing into a bigger issue by fuelling the perception that the Government can’t get a grip.”

Yesterday, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said her party would focus on illegal immigration and short-term student visas in an effort to bring net migration down.

And current Home Secretary Theresa May restated the Tories’ pledge to bring immigration down, suggesting EU migration and coalition partners the Liberal Democrats had contributed to the target being missed.

Meanwhile, new Home Office figures, obtained by the Daily Express under a Freedom of information request, suggest £265m was spent in 2013-14 housing refugees with asylum applications pending.

The paper said £1.2bn had been spent in total since 2010, while asylum applications were up from 25,898 in that year to 29,875 in 2013. Of those the number of claims granted totalled 6,542 in 2013.

Mr Cameron’s official spokesman told a regular Westminster media briefing: “You won’t be surprised to know that he takes a different view from Ken on this one. It won’t be the first time that he and Ken haven’t had exactly the same views.”

The spokesman said the Prime Minister’s views on the need to reduce annual net migration below 100,000 had not changed since a speech in November, when he said that it remained an “ambition”, even if it was not possible to achieve it during this Parliament.

The PM said in November: “The ambition remains the right one, but it’s clear it’s going to take more time, more work and more difficult long-term decisions in order to get there.”

The spokesman confirmed that this remained the PM’s view, adding: “He thinks the UK would be a better and stronger country with net migration in the tens of thousands. Those are the reasons he has given before and they haven’t changed.”

Labour immigration spokesman David Hanson said: “The Government’s immigration policy goes from chaos to failure and back to chaos.

“Not only has David Cameron broken his own ‘no ifs, no buts’ promise on reducing net migration – which now stands at over 50,000 more than when he came to office – it’s now clear that fellow Conservative Cabinet ministers don’t think David Cameron and Theresa May’s immigration policy is working either.

“Labour has long argued that immigration is important but it needs to be controlled and managed so the system is fair. That’s why Labour has a plan for sensible reform.

“Stronger border controls with 1,000 more staff, stronger enforcement to stop employers exploiting cheap migrant labour to undercut wages and jobs, and new rules to make sure people contribute first and can’t claim benefits until they have lived here for two years.

“What is clear today is that the Prime Minister has badly handled immigration. He’s hurting UK prospects and his rhetoric isn’t even now believed by his own side.”

Published: Monday 2nd March 2015 by The News Editor

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