Election 2015

Election 2015: Theresa May says Tory migration plans 'credible'

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Media captionTheresa May has admitted her government failed to meet its net migration target set before the last election.

Home Secretary Theresa May has said her party's immigration policy is credible, despite admitting the government failed to meet its net migration target set before the last election.

She said the coalition had made changes to the system and had further plans for the next Parliament.

Labour's Yvette Cooper said the Tory pledge from 2010 was in "tatters" but did not identify a target herself.

They were taking part in a Daily Politics debate on BBC Two.

Lib Dem Norman Baker said the target of tens of thousands was "non-deliverable", while UKIP's Steve Woolfe said his party was in favour of a "fair, ethical, non-discriminatory" system.

Plaid Cymru's Simon Thomas, meanwhile, said his party would not allow immigrants to be "scapegoated".

'Credible plan'

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.

But figures earlier this year showed annual net migration had risen to 298,000.

Image caption The BBC's Daily Politics was hosting a home affairs debate

Ms May said: "We've accepted that we have failed to meet that particular target."

Asked why people should trust her party this time, she said: "We've actually shown that we have made some changes to the immigration system.

"And crucially we have set out a credible plan for what we would do for the future, in terms of tightening up, not just on EU immigration but also on people from outside the EU."

Ms Cooper, quizzed about her party's reluctance to identify a target, said Labour was proposing "practical things we believe should change".

She said she wanted to see the net migration figure "come down".

And she said part of the problem was agencies and employers "driving low-skilled migration" to undercut local pay.

'Non-deliverable target'

Mr Baker said his party had a strong record in government. Asked why the Lib Dems had not supported the Conservative target, he said: "You can't have a target for the number of days it's going to rain each year. It's a non-deliverable target."

But he said the most recent migration figure was "probably too much".

UKIP's Mr Woolfe said leaving the European Union was the only way to reduce the figure.

He said: "It's absolutely clear - Plaid Cymru and their leader Leanne Wood said in the debates between the leaders - that you cannot reduce migration in this country, net or otherwise, unless you are outside of the European Union."

His party wants immigration to return to "normal" levels, leader Nigel Farage has said.

Mr Thomas, meanwhile, said the Welsh economy needed migrants.

He added: "We want the voice of Wales to be heard."

'Weakened powers'

Ms May also said during the debate that currently one person was on a Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measure, or TPim.

The home secretary can consider imposing a TPim if MI5 "reasonably believes" someone is involved in terrorism-related activities.

Ms Cooper questioned why more people were not subject to the orders, given the number of Britons known to have taken part in the conflict in Syria.

"Despite all the people coming back from Syria and despite all the concerns that have been raised about terror suspects and so on, they've only got one person under a TPim and that is because they weakened the powers and removed the relocation powers," she said.

Ms May said it was up to the security services to identify people who should be subject to TPims and denied they had not identified those who had travelled to Syria.

"We do know people coming back," she said.

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