UK Politics

Immigration policy 'hasn't worked so far', says David Cameron

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Media captionDavid Cameron spoke to BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg

Prime Minister David Cameron has told the BBC the government's policy on immigration "hasn't worked so far".

The PM said he was "frustrated" at the failure to cut net migration numbers.

Asked whether he agreed with Home Secretary Theresa May that social cohesion was impossible if immigration was too high, he said: "She's right."

She told the Conservative conference the UK "does not need" net migration at current levels, saying the overall economic effect was "close to zero".

Her speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester was criticised by charities and business groups, with the Institute of Directors attacking its "irresponsible rhetoric".

In other developments on day three of the conference:

Mr Cameron remains committed to getting net migration - the difference between the numbers entering and leaving the UK - below 100,000 a year.

But despite some initial progress caused by a crackdown on non-EU immigration it has now climbed to record levels - reaching 330,000 a year, according to the latest figures.

Mr Cameron told BBC News: "Yes people are frustrated. I'm frustrated by this."

"I want to see immigration come down. That's why we've taken all the steps that we have. It hasn't worked so far because of the large numbers coming from inside the EU."

UK migration figures


Net migration to UK, in year ending March 2015


Increase since March 2014

  • 10,000 higher than previous peak in 2005

  • 61% of EU immigrants who wanted work had definite jobs to go to

  • 9,000 fewer people have emigrated since 2014

Image copyright Alison Trowsdale

Responding to the home secretary's warnings about the impact of mass immigration on communities, he said: "If you want to build a more integrated and cohesive society - and that is our aim and I think we should be proud of the fact that we've got the most successful, multi-racial, democracy on earth - if you want to continue with that you need well-controlled immigration."

Mrs May's uncompromising message on immigration was followed by a speech by London Mayor Boris Johnson where he listed City Hall policies "stolen" by another potential leadership rival, Chancellor George Osborne.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Theresa May is seen as a contender to replace David Cameron as Conservative Party leader when he stands down before the 2020 election

Asked if it was embarrassing to watch a parade of potential successors setting out their credential on the conference stage, Mr Cameron, who has said he will step down before the 2020 general election, said: "No, not in the slightest. Why should it be?

"I'm very proud that I run a team, a team with some real stars."

He also confirmed that Mr Johnson would be offered a ministerial job next year when he had completed his term as London mayor.

"We'll have to see which one but definitely," he said.

But Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, a former leader of the party, told a fringe meeting that he hoped "this is the last conference where there's a running beauty parade", adding that he had "spent a lifetime trying to work out what Boris (Johnson) meant".

Analysis by Home Affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani

Home Secretary Theresa May has delivered an uncompromising speech to her party conference pledging to crack down on immigration.

But it comes after some very challenging years for the Conservative Party in government which, like its predecessor, has struggled to find policies that have delivered exactly what the public were told to expect.

Read more: What's the direction of Tory immigration policy?

Speaking on Tuesday, the prime minister claimed the Conservatives now faced "a Labour Party that has said they should be no limit on immigration".

He added: "Jeremy Corbyn has said he doesn't want to see any controls on immigration so just at this conference we need to make some quite fundamental points about why it's right to have our nuclear deterrent, why it's right to keep tax rates low, why it's right not to nationalise industries, and it's right to have this debate, very different from Labour, to say it's right to have controlled immigration."

At last week's Labour conference. shadow home secretary Andy Burnham signalled a tougher stance on immigration, saying his party's previous claims that EU migration did not keep wages down for the low paid was "wrong", although Mr Corbyn was at pains to stress the benefits of migration to the British economy and society.

Mr Burnham has attacked Mrs May's conference speech, calling it "misleading and narrow-minded".

But Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Policy, responded by saying it was "nice to see Theresa May repeating so much of what I have said about uncontrolled migration". He added: "Let's hope she means it."

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