Skepticism Over Minister’s Words

Scepticism over minister's words

The Liverpool Echo
Oct 18 2008

Opposition parties reacted sceptically to the immigration minister's call for a limit on the number of migrants coming to Britain.

In his strongest comments on the subject since taking up the job earlier this month, Phil Woolas said that increasingly tough economic conditions made immigration “extremely thorny”. And he said that the Government would not allow the population to expand endlessly.

The Conservatives said the Government needed to back up its rhetoric with action. Dominic Grieve, shadow home secretary, said: “We have been calling for immigration limits for years now but the Government have repeatedly poured scorn on this. But tough talk is simply not enough; they must now explain how they intend to deliver.

“Will they implement our plans for an annual limit on non-EU immigration, transitional controls on future EU immigration, and establish a dedicated UK border force to secure our borders?”

Sir Andrew Green, the chairman of Migrationwatch, which argues for balanced migration, said Mr Woolas was the first Labour minister to link immigration and the population. “If they succeed in delivering, they will have done our country a considerable service,” he said.

But Habib Rahman, of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: “This could drive a coach and horses through any notion of managed migration through the Government's new points-based system…on which it held long and detailed consultations before unveiling it as the answer to the country's economic needs.”

A Home Office spokesperson said the Points Based-System provided a powerful and flexible set of controls that allowed the government to match migrants' skills with the needs of the economy.

“Had the Points Based System been in place last year there would have been 12% fewer people coming in to work through the equivalent work permit route,” the spokesperson added.

The Liberal Democrats said immigrants who came to the UK during the economic boom were already leaving, and changing the system now was tantamount to closing the stable door after the horse had bolted.

Chris Huhne, the party's home affairs spokesman, said: “This is pretty rich coming from the Government that has so mismanaged immigration control over the last eleven years that it has not even reintroduced the exit checks that the Tories abolished. These checks are essential if we are to enforce short-term visas.”