Tories would limit immigration to 'tens of thousands' a year, says David Cameron

Conservative leader says net immigration of 200,000 people a year is 'too much'

David Cameron said yesterday that he wanted to keep the population of the UK below 70 million.

The Tory leader said that, if he won the election, he would limit net immigration to "tens of thousands" per year. Net immigration – the number of people migrating to Britain minus the number emigrating – reached 237,000 in 2007.

While it has declined with the recession, it was still 163,000 in 2008.

Cameron said that he thought net immigration of 200,000 a year – or 2 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 told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show.

"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, Carey said last week.

Office of National Statistics figures suggest that the population will rise by 9 million to reach 70 million by 2028.

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, the co-chairmen of the cross-party group on balanced migration, urged the government to follow Cameron's lead.

"We welcome this statement from the Conservatives and hope the government will follow suit, and that both parties carry manifesto commitments in this year's general election to keep our population below 70 million," they said.

Staff and agencies

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