David Cameron's promise to slash the number of people moving to Britain suffered a fresh setback yesterday when net migration hit a record annual high of more than 250,000.
The number of people arriving in Britain minus those leaving leapt to 252,000 in 2010, a large increase on the total of 198,000 the year before. The previous record for a calendar year was 245,000 in 2004.
According to the Office for National Statistics, numbers coming to Britain remained broadly stable at 591,000 last year. But the total leaving the country fell to 339,000, which was the lowest figure for nine years and appears to have been caused by a slump in Britons emigrating.
Ministers drew some consolation from signs the numbers may have peaked. Mr Cameron committed himself before the last election to cutting the net annual migration figure to tens of thousands by 2015.
Damian Green, the Immigration minister, pointed to drops in numbers of student and work visas as "an early sign our policies are starting to take effect".
Home Office statistics revealed the number of people turned away at ports and airports this summer fell by 13 per cent since last year.