Conservatives to pledge tougher immigration control

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BLACKPOOL, Oct 2 (Reuters) The opposition Conservatives will unveil policies on immigration, crime and security today as they try to bolster their standing with their traditional supporters ahead of a possible snap election.

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis will call for a dedicated border force and a limit on the number of foreigners allowed to stay permanently in Britain, the Guardian reported.

The Conservatives, meeting in Blackpool for their annual conference, need to close a gap of as much as 11 percentage points in the polls if they are to stand a chance of defeating Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour party should an election be called this or next month.

Some party activists have called for an end to Tory leader David Cameron's emphasis on creating a gentler image for the party once renowned for its hardline stance on tax, crime and defence.

Policies on the environment, social breakdown and global poverty have all been pushed to the fore as Cameron tries to move the Conservatives towards the centre ground.

But a 3.5 billion pound package of proposed tax cuts announced on Monday indicated that the party is prepared to return to its traditional stamping ground under the threat of an imminent election.

Cameron ends the conference with a keynote speech on Wednesday, and Brown is not expected to make his election decision before then.

Brown announced his own plans in July for a unified border force that would combine customs and immigration officers.

At the time Davis dismissed the proposals as ''toothless'' as the force would not include police.

Today Davis will disclose plans for a border force in which police play a central role, prepared for the Conservative party by former London Metropolitan police chief Lord Stevens, the Guardian said.

The force would at least help work out how many migrants come to Britain each year. Hundreds of thousands of workers from eastern Europe have moved to Britain since their countries joined the European Union, helping Britain's economy but putting a strain on housing and public services like hospitals and schools.

The exact number of migrants is not known, but there is estimated to be a net influx of around 200,000 a year.

The Conservatives, while acknowledging the economic benefit brought by many immigrants, want to set a limit ''substantially less'' than this level.

REUTERS MP RK0805

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