Former McCann Spokeswoman Urges Border Exit Checks

Former McCann spokeswoman urges border exit checks

From Times Online
September 18, 2007

Justine McGuiness, spokeswoman for Kate and Gerry McCann, the parents of missing British girl Madeleine McCann, reads a statement on their behalf outside the airport in Faro, southern Portugal, moments after the McCanns took a flight back to England Sunday, Sept. 9 2007. On Friday Portuguese police declared the McCanns formal suspects in the disappearing of their daughter (Armandi Franca/AP)
Philippe Naughton

The former spokeswoman for Kate and Gerry McCann made an impassioned plea for stronger border controls to foil paedophiles today as the Liberal Democrats adopted a new immigration policy that would see hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants offered the chance of British citizenship.

Justine McGuinness, a former Lib Dem parliamentary candidate who stopped working for the McCanns last week, told the party conference that the only way paedophiles could be prevented from spiriting children out of European countries was by exit controls, instead of simple entry checks.

If we want to protect our children we have to make sure that children cannot be moved out of Europe, as well as in – thats why I feel very strongly that we must have exit checks at all ports,” Ms McGuinness said in a brief appearance at the podium at the Brighton Centre.

We have to know who is coming into our country, but also who is leaving,” she added. “Free movement of people within Europe does present problems. While we know its a very good thing to have free movement and we would protect that right very strongly – there are problems when it comes to child protection.

Referring to the policy proposal in front of the conference, she urged delegates to support its call for exit checks, adding: “Do it for our children.”

Ms McGuinness, who stood unsuccessfully for the Liberal Democrats against Oliver Letwin in West Dorset at the last election, spent three months as the McCanns' spokeswoman and PR adviser. It was announced today that she is to be replaced by Clarence Mitchell, a former BBC reporter who has resigned his job as head of the Cabinet Office's Media Monitoring Unit to represent the couple.

Mrs McGuinness is now thought to be trying to get back into politics and is looking for a winnable seat for the next election.

After the party's decision this morning to reform tax policy with a plan to cut the basic rate by 4p and introduce a raft of green taxes, the Lib Dems also adopted a broad immigration policy that tightens up border controls while trying to promose the integration of immigrants already in the country – including an estimated 600,000 illegal immigrants.

The party says that it was the first major UK party to back a national border force – an idea since adopted both by the Tories and Labour, under Gordon Brown. That force, under the proposals adopted overwhelmingly today, would carry out exit checks as well as entry controls.

The most controversial aspect of the policy is the plan to offer an “earned route to citizenship” for illegal immigrants.

Nick Clegg, the party's home affairs spokesman, said that he wanted to offer a selective amnesty to draw out some of the estimated 600,000 people who were in the UK illegally. To be eligible for the scheme they would need to meet criteria including have lived in the country for at least 10 years without receiving any criminal convictions.

Individuals would also need to pay a fee or complete community service, and pass an English language test before being handed a work permit.

Briefing reporters before today's debate, Mr Clegg conceded the move would be controversial, but insisted it was the only pragmatic way to deal with the legacy of incompetence created by mishandling of the immigration system by Labour and the Tories.

He denied that it would amount to a “blanket amnesty” as tried by some other European countries but indicated that the 10-year minimum residency rule was only a start, and was likely to be reduced.

We think thats the sensible way to persuade the public that this is a measured, step-by-step, pragmatic way of proceeding, he added.

Mr Clegg also claimed that the move would generate billions of pounds for the Exchequer by taking hundreds of thousands of people out of the black economy. We want to replace fear with understanding, discrimination with integration, and incompetence with efficiency,” he said.


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