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Lords inquiry urges immigration cap

Source ITN

Updated on 01 April 2008

The Government is being warned it may need to cap immigration after a parliamentary inquiry found there was a drain on public services like schools and the NHS.

Claims that immigration was actually good for the economy were dismissed by the inquiry which delivered a blow to the Home Office by concluding that record immigration had led to "little or no impact" on economic well-being.

Certain groups in Britain - the low-paid, some ethnic minorities and some young people looking for a foot on the job ladder - may have suffered because of competition from immigrants, the Lords' all-party Economic Affairs Committee said.

The report said ministers should set an "explicit target range" for immigration and set the rules to keep within that limit.

It raised the prospect of cutting the number of partners and other family members allowed to settle in Britain because a relative is already here.

The peers rejected the Government's claim that immigration is needed to prevent labour shortages as "fundamentally flawed".

They also warned that the much-trumpeted new points-based immigration system carried a "clear danger of inconsistencies and overlap".

"We are suggesting that the Government should set a target range for net immigration and then the rules should depend on the target range, rather than the numbers following from the rules as at present," committee member and leading economist Lord Layard said.

"You would have the scope to vary the scale of net immigration by varying the rules, by choosing how tight the rules should be."

Inquiry chairman Lord Wakeham said: "Looking to the future, if you have got that increase in numbers and you haven't got any economic benefit from it, you have got to ask yourself is this a wise thing to do?

"That is why we want the Government to look at it."

But Prime Minister Gordon Brown insisted British business had benefited from immigration over the last decade, which has seen gross domestic product rise from £13,900 to £22,840 a head

He said: "Most people in the City of London know they have benefited very substantially.

"Not just from the inward investment that's coming from international companies, but the number of key workers who are coming to join them and are making a huge contribution to the British economy.

"But we want to get the balance right between that and of course being sensible about the pressures on our economy."

He pointed out that any cap on immigration could only be applied to people who come from outside the EU - about 20 per cent of migrants.

Tory leader David Cameron said: "The problem with the Government is that they absolutely refuse to set any sort of limit on immigration."

"If you want to control immigration you have to control that bit of immigration you are able to control. It's still possible to control non-EU immigration."

© Independent Television News Limited 2008. All rights reserved.

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