Minister says Lib Dems must fight “prejudice and pessimism” surrounding immigration

The Liberal Democrats need to be the voice of “sanity, seriousness and sense” when it comes to immigration, Business Secretary Vince Cable has said.

In a speech at the party’s autumn conference in Glasgow, the cabinet minister – who some tip as a future leader – argued that migration brought major benefits to Britain’s economy.

The comments come following a promise by Conservative leader David Cameron to limit the number of migrants from the European Union who are allowed to live and work in Britain.

The Prime Minister has signalled that implementing an immigration system that “puts the British people first” would be central to attempts to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with Europe.

A week on and Mr Cable struck a very different ton, vowing the Lib Dems would stand up to the “purveyors of prejudice and pessimism.”

Perhaps hoping to highlight the distinctions between his party and their coalition partners, he told delegates that, while he was in favour of cracking down on benefit tourism, the principle of free movement within the EU had to be protected.

Earlier this year, the party endorsed the policy paper Making Migration Work for Britain.

The document set out plans to grow a strong and prosperous economy by encouraging students, business visitors and tourists to come to the UK.

At the time, MP Andrew Stunell said: “We want to welcome to Britain all those who will help us prosper, and focus on weeding out the crooks and traffickers who harm Britain.”

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