UK Prime Minister criticised for immigration comments

The Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron, has been criticised by a range of business leaders after agreeing that immigration was 'a constant drain' on the UK's economy.

The Prime Minister was answering questions at the Bentley car plant in Crewe, North West England, when he was asked why he did nothing to stop immigration which was a 'constant drain' on the economy. He replied 'I basically agree with you…in the last decade, we have had an immigration policy that's completely lax. The pressure it puts on our public services and communities is too great'.

The Prime Minister sought to persuade his audience that his government was improving the situation after years of mismanagement by the Labour Party when it was in power.

Coalition promised to cut immigration

The Coalition government has cut net annual immigration from around 260,000 a year in 2010 when it came to power to about 150,000 annually now. It has pledged to reduce net immigration to less than 100,000 a year by 2015.

To that end, the government has introduced many changes. Two of the most controversial were the introduction of a cap on the number of Tier 2 (General) visas for skilled migrants and abolished the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) and Tier 1 (General) visas which allowed 'high value migrants' to stay in the UK.

It has also closed down over 500 colleges that were thought to be enabling international applicants to come to the UK on Tier 4 student visas when they were, in fact, intending to stay and work, not to study.

Business groups object

These policies have not been popular with UK business and yesterday business groups were quick to voice their opposition after news of the Prime Minister's words broke.

Dr Steve Davis of the right-wing think tank The Institute for Economic Affairs spoke to The Huffington Post, an online news site, and said 'Why is it that immigrants are a drain and a cost when they consume services provided by the government but an opportunity when they consume services provided by the private sector? The economics are so simple; immigrants are in general younger and less likely to be unemployed. Therefore, they are overwhelmingly net contributors to the public purse through the taxes they pay'.

A spokesman for London First, a lobbying group for London businesses, said 'The UK needs migrants. They are needed to supplement our own workforce. We need those that have skills not found among the UK work force and we need those that come to the UK to start businesses and create jobs and growth'.

British Chambers of Commerce speak out

Perhaps the most damning criticism for Mr Cameron, who is the leader of the Conservative Party, traditionally the party of business, came from the British Chambers of Commerce.

John Wastnage, the BCC's head of labour market policy told the Huffington Post, 'The whole of the government's immigration policy is very damaging to the economy. Immigrants are more likely to work, use fewer services and claim less benefits…We should welcome those with skills and talent…as any A Level economist will tell you, immigrants don't reduce the availability of jobs for the local population'.

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