Remarks sharp reply to Vince Cable’s stand against tightening border controls 1st July, 2011: Work and Pensions Secretary Duncan Smith revealed a growing Coalition split over immigration by initiating an outspoken attack on Lib Dem attempts to block tougher border controls.
Duncan Smith made clear his apprehensions in a speech to a think-tank in Madrid.
In a plea to David Cameron not to break the Tory promise to bring immigration under control, the Work and Pensions Secretary warned that any failure to reduce the number of newcomers settling in Britain every year will destroy his drive to repair the welfare benefits system.
He made clear that controlling immigration is part of the Government’s “contract with the British people”.
His remarks are certain to be seen as a sharp reply to arguments from Business Secretary Vince Cable and other Lib Dems against tightening border controls.
Smith’s comments come after the Prime Minister recently admitted that being in a Coalition with the Lib Dems was preventing him from being more “radical” in tackling immigration.
He said: “If we do not get this right then we risk leaving more British citizens out of work, and the most vulnerable group who will be the most affected are young people.”
Smith’s argument is that the huge influx of migrants under Labour led to a growth in cheap labour that undercut British-born workers.
As a result, the number of UK-born people living on welfare handouts increased.
The Work and Pensions Secretary warned that continuing high levels of immigration could leave millions on benefits for life.
He said while immigration "plays a vital role" in the UK economy when it deals with skills gaps which cannot be filled by home-grown workers, there are many foreign nationals in low-skilled or semi-skilled jobs which could easily be done by unemployed Britons.
In many cases, people gaining entry to the UK by saying that they are high-skilled workers end up doing lowly jobs once they are here. More than half the new jobs created in the UK over the last year went to foreign nationals, he said.