Immigration to the UK reaches new record
- Credit: PA
The key measure of immigration to the UK has reached a new record level, official data has revealed.
Estimated net migration - the difference between the number of people arriving and leaving - stood at 336,000 in the year to June, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This was a jump of 82,000 compared to the year to June 2014 and the highest estimate on record, the ONS said.
It was also higher than the last provisional data which showed the index at what was then a record of 330,000 in the 12 months to March, but this has now been revised up to reach 336,000 as well.
Statisticians said the latest rise was down to a 'statistically significant' increase in the numbers of people arriving in the UK, with immigration at 636,000 - up 62,000 on the same period last year.
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It will prompt renewed scrutiny of the Conservatives' aim of reducing net migration to five figures.
A number of measures to reduce net migration have been implemented in recent years and a bill currently going through Parliament includes new sanctions for illegal workers and restrictions on access to bank accounts and driving licences for those in the country unlawfully.
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An expert suggested economic factors are having a greater bearing on the current trend than government policy.
Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said: 'Most of the measures introduced over the last parliament to reduce net migration of workers, students and family members have now been in place for some years.
'At this point, changes in net migration are mainly being driven by economic factors like the success of the UK economy rather than by new policies.'
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire admitted the latest figures 'underline the challenge we face to reduce net migration to sustainable levels'.
He said: 'We remain committed to reforms across the whole of government to deliver the controlled migration system which is in the best interests of our country.'
Student fraud has been slashed and access to welfare toughened, he claimed, but added: 'With over 90,000 more non-EU students arriving than departing the UK, and too many British employers still overly reliant on foreign workers, there is much more to do.
'As the Prime Minister has said, in the past it has been too easy for some businesses to bring in workers from overseas rather than to take the decision to train our workforce here at home.
'That is why our long-term economic plan, which will see many more young Britons given the training and skills they need to fill the jobs our growing economy is creating, is so important.'
He said the new immigration bill will address illegal working and the 'pull factors' that draw migrants to Britain, adding: 'The last two set of figures show record levels of EU immigration which show why the PM is right to negotiate with the EU to reform welfare to reduce the financial incentives that attract EU migrants to the UK.'