May challenged over net migration target

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Home Secretary Theresa May has conceded that the recent rise in net migration to the UK has made it harder for the government to meet its target of cutting immigration.

David Cameron has pledged to reduce net migration to the "tens of thousands" by 2015, but the latest estimates show the net flow rose to 212,000 in the year to September 2013.

The Office for National Statistics attributed the increase, from 154,000 in the previous year, to a big growth in the number of EU citizens coming to Britain.

At Home Office questions on 10 March 2014, shadow Home Office minister pressed Mrs May to say whether the government would hit its target: "Yes or no?" he asked.

Mrs May insisted the coalition was "continuing to deal" with net migration, but added: "I fully accept that the most recent figures...have made the task more difficult."

She criticised Labour's record on immigration by saying there was "uncontrolled immigration" throughout the previous government's 13 years in office.

"But it ill behoves the Labour Party to stand up here and talk in these terms when they had a policy of immigration which meant that we had uncontrolled immigration over the whole period of time when they were in office," the home secretary continued,

Earlier, Mrs May defended Home Office Minister Mark Harper's comments on immigration, after he attacked the "metropolitan elite" for using cheap migrant workers.

The chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Labour MP Keith Vaz, criticised Mr Harper's remarks and called for a "constructive debate" on immigration "rather than relying on stereotypes and clich├ęs".

Mrs May said her colleague was contributing to a constructive debate and that he had been making the point that uncontrolled immigration affected the lowest-paid the most.

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