An extraordinary row has erupted within the coalition over immigration policy, with a senior Tory Minister accusing Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable of being “simply incorrect” on the issue.
The spat between Immigration Minister James Brokenshire and Mr Cable came as an official Government analysis concluded there was “relatively little evidence” that migrant workers had replaced Britons in jobs during the boom years.
But Mr Brokenshire accused the Business Secretary of being “condescending” and asserting “falsehoods” about the impact of immigration.
He used his first speech as Immigration Minister to deliver a rebuke to Mr Cable, who had claimed rising immigration was a sign of “good news” for Britain.
The Tories have set a goal of reducing net migration to the tens of thousands by the end of the Parliament – a target which looks set to be missed after the most recent figures surged year-on-year by more than a third to 212,000 in the 12 months to September 2013.
In a speech to the Demos think-tank, Mr Brokenshire said: “I want to put a few things straight, because I know Vince Cable has made a number of statements about immigration in the last week and to be frank a lot of them are simply incorrect.
“First he said rising immigration is ‘good news’. Well I’ve news for him. Mass immigration puts pressure on social cohesion, on public services and infrastructure and – yes – it can force down wages and displace local people from the job market.
“The winners are the haves like Vince, but the people who lose out are from working class families, they’re ethnic minorities and recent immigrants themselves.
“Try telling them that rising immigration is good news.”
He added that “rather condescendingly” Mr Cable had said politicians should stick to the facts when discussing immigration. “I suggest to Mr Cable that he might reflect on his comments and start doing this himself,” Mr Brokenshire said.