Jack Straw denies 'secret plot' on mass immigration
Jack Straw last night denied Labour had a “secret plot” to boost multiculturalism by creating an open door of mass immigration.
By Tom Whitehead, Home Affairs Editor
Published: 7:00AM GMT 27 Oct 2009
The former Home Secretary, now the Justice Secretary, said it was “just untrue” that the Government had a deliberate policy in the early 2000s to use immigration for political ends and to attack the Right.
It follows claims last week by Andrew Neather, a former adviser to Tony Blair, Jack Straw and David Blunkett, that the huge increase in migrants over the last decade were partly due to a politically motivated attempt by ministers to radically change the country and “rub the Right's nose in diversity”.
He said Labour's relaxation of controls in 2000/01 was a deliberate plan to “open up the UK to mass migration” but that ministers were nervous and reluctant to discuss such a move publicly for fear it would alienate its “core working class vote”.
As a result, the public argument for immigration concentrated instead on the economic benefits and need for more migrants.
Chris Grayling, the shadow home secretary, yesterday told the Commons it would be “utterly disgraceful” for ministers to base immigration policy on party politics.
But in an embarrassment for the Home Office, Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, appeared to have no idea there was even a row.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph Mr Straw, who was Home Secretary at the time, said: “I read the original stories, and more comment on it yesterday, with incredulity, since they are the reverse of the truth. I spent my time as Home Secretary seeking better to control immigration, by new laws and more effective administration. ”
He said he was “damned by many on the Left” for his 1998 Immigration and Asylum Bill.
He did, however, accept that the Government's immigration policies have piled pressures on communities and housing stock.
He said knocking on doors he found “plenty of people disturbed by the rapid change in their area, with a pretty sudden rise in black, Asian and Eastern European residents, and anger as a consequence that long standing residents were losing out on housing waiting lists. I dont dismiss either concern.”
He added: “This is an issue which wont go away by not talking about it. But Im just as clear that talk of secret plots to encourage mass immigration are just untrue.”
Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, has called for an inquiry in to Mr Neather's allegations, and, in the Commons, Mr Grayling accused Mr Woolas of failing to answer the question on whether it was true.
He said: “Would it not be utterly disgraceful for any Government to decide immigration policy not in the interests of the country but in the interests of a political party and was that what happened?”
Mr Woolas replied: “I don't know to whom you are referring or to what reports you are referring to.
“But if you want to take the views of somebody with a political motivation then that is up to you.”
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