Mixed messages? Cameron gets tough on immigration… after getting soft

By Tony Hudson

David Cameron has promised tougher restrictions on immigration little more than a week after saying it should be easy for Indian students to enter and stay in the country.

Some of the proposals Cameron suggested included a crackdown on new immigrants claiming benefits and the development of a 'residency test' to make it more difficult for migrants to access legal aid.

Talking to the Daily Express, the prime minister said "two million people over ten years net migration into the UK was just much, much too high".

He added: "Two hundred thousand a year is like building two cities the size of Birmingham. We were not able to cope with that level of migration and pressure on public services."

This statement chimes badly with what he said on his recent trip to India, where he insisted there should be "no limit" on the number of Indian students who wish to stay in the UK after graduation from a British university.

In an attempt to defend this mixed message, Cameron said he stood by his remarks in India.

"I wanted to send a message that if you’ve got a place at a university, if you can speak the English language, there isn’t an arbitrary limit on who can come. Afterwards you can work, but only in a graduate job", he said.

"I'm not interested in people coming to study in university, then staying on for ages in unskilled jobs. That is not in our national interest."

The prime minister's recent comments have not escaped criticism. Chris Bryant, Labour's shadow immigration minister called it "windy rhetoric" and "completely out of touch with reality".

"His government is deporting fewer foreign criminals and fewer illegal immigrants are being stopped at the border. He keeps on making promises, but as we saw in India last week his message overseas is contradictory and confused", he said.