UK Politics

Cameron accused of 'total failure' on immigration

Immigration official Image copyright PA

New figures show a "total failure" by David Cameron to reach his target of cutting migration to less than 100,000, says UKIP's Nigel Farage.

He told the BBC it had "never been a genuine pledge" because the UK's EU membership meant "we have a total open door to nearly half a billion people".

The prime minister's spokesman said immigration from outside the EU was down and more would be done.

But Labour said the PM had made a promise with "no idea" how to keep it.

Party leader Ed Miliband said: "He promised to get migration down, and it's gone up. We're not going to make promises we can't keep."

Figures show 260,000 more people moved to live in the UK than left it in the year to June, up 78,000 on the previous year.

'Dishonest promise'

The Conservatives said at the last election that they wanted to reduce net migration - the difference between the numbers of people moving to live in the UK and the numbers of people leaving - to the "tens of thousands" by May 2015.

The Lib Dems opposed that idea however, and stopped it being a pledge in the coalition agreement between the two parties after the 2010 election.

The Office for National Statistics said on Thursday that 583,000 people moved to the UK in the 12 months to June 2014 - while 323,000 emigrated from the country.

It means net migration is higher than it was in the year to June 2010 when the coalition came into power.

Mr Farage told the BBC the Conservatives had made a "dishonest promise" in their manifesto, at a time they were trying to "say immigration and Europe were two separate issues".

"It represents the total failure of what David Cameron said to the electorate in 2010," he told BBC News.

And Lib Dem Deputy PM Mr Clegg said the Conservatives' pledge had never made any sense as the government did not have complete control over a net target.

"They (the Conservatives) have now broken the promise. They'll have to suffer the embarrassment of having done so, I know a thing or two about making commitments that you can't eventually deliver," he told his weekly LBC radio phone-in show.

'Blown off course'

He also said: "I think that it does damage public confidence in the immigration system by over-promising and under-delivering in this way."

But the prime minister's spokesman said: "I wouldn't put it that way.

"What you have had the government doing is taking measures... that are important and you have a prime minister who has already said that he is going to talk about further measures that are needed."

Getting the figures down to the tens of thousands remained the prime minister's "ambition", he said.

He added: "The statistics are just out this morning. We will of course, as always, look in detail at those. We have seen measures that have been able to drive a reduction in non-EEA [European Economic Area] migration and there are more things going to be done."

On Sunday, Home Secretary Theresa May admitted that it was "unlikely" the target of getting net migration below 100,000 would be met, saying EU migration had "blown us off course".

Migrationwatch UK said the figures were "disappointing" but chairman Sir Andrew Green said setting a target was "the right concept" and must be retained in a suitable form.

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