Cameron backs his immigration stand

David Cameron today defended his tough stance on immigration as "moderate, sensible and reasonable" after he was accused by Liberal Democrat cabinet colleague Vince Cable of inflaming extremism.

The Prime Minister said it was time Britain returned to the immigration levels of the 1980s and 1990s where the number of people coming to the UK was in the "tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands".



The UK needed "good immigration, not mass immigration", he told Tory party activists in Southampton as he attacked the "woeful" welfare system which saw Britons languishing on state handouts while foreign workers snapped up new jobs.



But his speech, which comes three weeks before Conservatives and Liberal Democrats face their first major ballot box showdown since joining forces in Government, drew angry criticism from Mr Cable.



The Business Secretary, who has publicly questioned the impact of a cap on foreign entrants on businesses and universities, described the Prime Minister's comments as "very unwise".



"The reference to the tens of thousands of immigrants rather than hundreds of thousands is not part of the coalition agreement. It is Tory party policy only," he told the BBC.



"I do understand there is an election coming but talk of mass immigration risks inflaming the extremism to which he and I are both strongly opposed."



But Mr Cameron said he could not be accused of fuelling extremism and denied alienating his Lib Dem colleagues. Speaking later in Woking, he added: "Firstly, on the issue of immigration, I would say the speech I gave was extremely moderate, sensible and reasonable, and I challenge anyone to read it and come to a different conclusion.



"What I was setting out is what is Government policy - what is agreed coalition policy in terms of controlling immigration properly, which we've debated inside Government, and agreed."



The split was seized upon by Labour. Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: "The Tory-led Government's immigration policy is in chaos.



"And now the Business Secretary has said he doesn't even agree with the policy in the first place.



"David Cameron said 'no ifs, no buts' he would deliver on his target to cut net migration to the tens of thousands, yet Vince Cable said that it isn't coalition policy. What on earth is going on?"



Labour MP Keith Vaz, who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee, said the split in the coalition over immigration policy could be exploited by extremist groups.



He said: "We understand the need to debate these issues and I don't believe that the Prime Minister is wrong to discuss this matter.



"But I do think we should have some clear definitions and some clarity as to where Government policy actually is."



In his speech, Mr Cameron said reducing immigration was "of vital importance to the future of our country" and recognised that in some areas it had caused "discomfort and disjointedness".



And he accused Labour of inflaming the debate by "talking tough" but failing to act, a move which has "created space" for extremist parties.



Mr Cameron said measures such as an annual limit on entrants and a crackdown on "bogus" colleges exploiting student visas meant the Government was "on track" to meet that figure.



The Government would also consult on how to stop people coming to the UK on short-term visas and then settling here permanently.



Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, saw the speech before it was delivered and a source stressed that Mr Cameron was making a party political speech.



"This is a Conservative Prime Minister speaking to Conservative party activists using Conservative language," he said - saying the Lib Dems had "a slightly different opinion".



Local elections in many parts of England, as well as polls for devolved governments in Scotland and Wales and the electoral reform referendum, take place in three weeks.



Lib Dem sources stressed that differences with Mr Cameron were over the tone of his comments, not the policy.



A source close to Mr Clegg said: "The Deputy Prime Minister would not make a speech using this language - he is a Liberal Democrat - but the policy was agreed.



"But this tone and language does not reflect where the Liberal Democrats come from and are on this issue."

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

ICT Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a qualified ...

DT Design and Technology Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are urgently for ...

Maths Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an experienc...

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on