Prime minister David Cameron has concurred that there are "some benefits" to hardworking migrants on UK work permits, but criticised a broader "lax" attitude to immigration.
Speaking during a staff meeting at the Bentley headquarters in Crewe, Mr Cameron was put under pressure to answer a number of questions relating to immigration after the Office for Budget Responsibility suggested earlier this month that Britain needs to encourage millions of working immigrants to move to the country in order to support its ageing population over the coming half a century.
The prime minister responded to questions asking him why his government's immigration policies allow in immigrants who are a "constant drain", as well as others who "work hard".
He answered: "I basically agree with you. There are some benefits from being a country that welcomes people who want to come here and work hard. But in the last decade we have had an immigration policy that's completely lax. The pressure it puts on our public services and communities is too great."
He added that he wants to bring net migration down "faster" and, by the end of this government, be able to "look back and say we may not have sorted out the whole problem, but we have got a much tougher approach to immigration that's fair".
Immigration shot up under Tony Blair's Labour government, partially driven by an influx of migrants from Eastern European countries joining the European Union. However, the backlash against Blair's 'open door' policy has been criticised by many as being too harsh and various business and economic groups have warned that the country risks losing out on the benefits of migration if it continues with the current approach and Cameron's target of reducing net migration to the "tens of thousands" before the next general election.