14 April 2011

Cameron faces criticism from own government after UK immigration speech

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Liberal Democrat MP and Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Vince Cable has criticized a speech on UK immigration given by Prime Minister David Cameron earlier today. Mr. Cable described the Prime Minister’s words as "very unwise" and warned that he risked inflaming extremism.

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Vince Cable has criticized a speech on UK immigration given by Prime Minister David Cameron, describing the Prime Minister’s words as "very unwise".

Mr. Cameron had been speaking in Southampton about the government’s intention to dramatically reduce the numbers of migrants coming to the UK, which Mr. Cable has since described as a Conservative party approach, rather than government policy. The government’s plan to reduce net migration of skilled workers outside the European Union applying for a UK visa to an annual cap of 21,500 has been criticised by both advisors within the government and the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, among others.

Despite a general lowering of UK immigration levels being part of the coalition agreement between Conservative and Liberal Democrat members, no reference is made in the agreement to specific numbers. Mr. Cameron has since come under fire from Mr. Cable, who is concerned that the cap on non-EU workers could damage British businesses, a sentiment shared by Nick Pearce, director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

Speaking in December last year, Mr. Pearce said that such a cap could hurt the UK’s economic recovery. “Hasty measures to reduce numbers artificially would be even more damaging”, he said.

The Prime Minister defended his speech today, describing his speech which included phrases such as “good immigration, not mass immigration” as “sensible and measured”. He pointedly rejected the notion that the limit on migration to tens of thousands was not government policy, saying: “This policy is Lib Dem policy. This policy is coalition policy.”

Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband suggested that the Prime Minister “get a grip” and stop the in-fighting. He added: “It's hard to have a government policy that is clear and coherent if your business secretary, who's in charge of your student visa policy, is saying one thing and actually going out of his way to attack the Prime Minister.”

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