I'll limit net immigration, says Cameron, citing squeeze on services

DAVID Cameron has indicated that a Conservative government would seek to limit net immigration to "tens of thousands" a year.

The Tory leader said he did not want to allow the population to reach 70 million, as predicted, because of pressure on public services.

He stopped short of saying exactly what level the Conservatives' proposed cap on immigration would be, but made clear it would be dramatically lower than now.

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Net immigration – the number of people migrating to Britain over and above those emigrating – reached 237,000 in 2007. Though it declined with the recession, it was still 163,000 in 2008.

Mr Cameron said yesterday that he thought net immigration of 200,000 a year – or two million a decade – was "too much".

"We would like to see net immigration in the tens of thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands," he said. "I don't think that's unrealistic – that's the sort of figure there was in the 1990s and I think we should see that again."

His comments come after Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, backed calls for the parties to make general election promises to stop the population hitting 70 million.

Failure to address the issue of immigration would play into the hands of the extreme-right British National Party, Lord Carey said.

Office of National Statistics figures suggest that the population will rise by nine million to reach 70 million by 2028.

Mr Cameron said he did not support the growth of the population to that level. "I'm in favour of immigration, we've benefited from immigration, but I think the pressures, particularly on our public services, have been very great," he said. "I think we should be focusing on the pressure on our public services, on health and education and housing."

Labour MP Frank Field and Tory MP Nicholas Soames, co-chairman of the Cross-Party Group on Balanced Migration, urged the government to follow Mr Cameron's lead.