A Sussex MP has demanded annual limits on immigration to ease pressure on housing, schools and health services.

Nicholas Soames, Tory MP for Mid Sussex, told a Westminster Hall debate the UK had absorbed two million people from "scores of countries around the world" over the past decade - equivalent to about 600 people a day.

With foreign immigration running at 300,000 people a year, the UK was now receiving an additional one per cent of its population every two years.

Mr Soames praised existing legal immigrant communities as "a valued part of our society".

But he warned: "The present scale of immigration is absolutely without precedent in our history and cannot be sustained without the most profound changes occurring in our society."

Net immigration - which took account of the numbers leaving the country - was at an all-time high of 200,000 a year - up from just 50,000 in the mid-Nineties.

Asylum cases were no longer the main issue, Mr Soames said, making up just six per cent of net foreign immigration.

But a rise in the numbers of work permits issued, spouses joining their partners and people granted citizenship had had "a substantial impact on our population".

Mr Soames said rising immigration was a major factor in the shortage of housing and accused ministers of a "failure to face up to practical consequences of mass immigration", which was also placing more pressure on schools and health services.

He told MPs: "The Government has permitted, indeed encouraged, the arrival of two million immigrants since 1997 but have completely failed to build the necessary housing or indeed the wider social infrastructure.

"The Prime Minister trumpets his plans to build three million houses by 2020. What he omitted to mention is one million of these will be for new immigrants, not for existing immigrants who are now a valued part of our community, but for new immigrants.

"Housing is vital to the future of every family in this country, but is now unaffordable for key workers in many parts of the country.

"Millions of young people are now unable to get on the housing ladder. The Government's record on housing is a miserable tale of incompetence."

The MP called for immigration to be "managed downwards" from 300,000 per year until it was close to the level of British emigration, currently at about 100,000.

This would be achieved by reducing the number of work permits, making stronger efforts to remove failed asylum seekers and restricting benefits to immigrants who had not contributed "significantly" to the welfare state.

Mr Soames said: "The tougher immigration policies I advocate are not a matter of race. They would apply equally to Ukrainians as to Ugandans, to Americans as to Indonesians.

"We need a fundamental rethink of our immigration system. Muddling on as we are will only add to the pressures that are building up in our society."

Immigration Minister Liam Byrne, responding to the debate, said the Government would be "phasing out" low-skilled migration from outside Europe with the introduction of a points system next year.

He pointed out that a global increase in migration from developing to developed countries had affected "not just the UK but all industrialised economies".

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