Labour accused of pre-election cover up on immigration
Labour has been accused of a pre-election cover-up on immigration after it was revealed the previous government sat on a report which criticised its policies.
By Patrick Hennessy, Political Editor
Published: 9:00PM BST 03 Jul 2010
Ministers accused John Denham, the former communities secretary, of trying 'to bury the truth' about immigration Photo: GETTY
Ministers accused John Denham, the former communities secretary, of trying “to bury the truth” about immigration to try to guarantee his party's survival in office.
The 80-page report, The Drivers of International Migration To and From the UK, written by the highly respected National Institute of Economic and Social Research, was presented to ministers six weeks before the start of the general election campaign.
It found that net immigration to the UK rose by 169,100 people a year between 1992-1995 and 2004-2007, with the vast majority of new entrants coming from Asian countries.
Just over half the increase (51.2 per cent) was accounted for by “UK immigration policy relative to other hosts” while 26.7 per cent arose from the “relaxation of UK immigration policy from 1997”.
If published, the report's findings would have reignited the row over the so-called “open door” immigration policy pursued by Labour up until it began phasing in its replacement “points based” system in 2008.
Yet the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) decided not to publish the document.
Last night Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, described the report, which cost the then Government 40,000, as a “skeleton in the closet” and added: “Clearly there was an orchestrated cover up by John Denham to bury the truth about immigration.
“On the eve of the election Labour Ministers were doing anything to try and guarantee their political survival.”
Immigration became a major issue in the election campaign notably when Gordon Brown was caught by a microphone describing Gillian Duffy, a Rochdale grandmother who had challenged him on the subject, as a “bigoted woman”.
David Miliband, the Labour leadership contender, has admitted that his party's failure to tackle the issue properly helped cost it victory in May.
Immigration also sparked the fiercest campaign clashes between David Cameron and Nick Clegg, with the Tory leader attacking his Liberal Democrat counterpart over the Lib Dem policy of offering an amnesty to more than a million illegal immigrants.
Damian Green, the immigration minister, said: “This secret report reinforces the need for the control of the immigration system that we have started to introduce.
“We have already tightened the language requirements for those coming here to get married and we have introduced an interim limit on work visas for those coming in from outside the EU.
“This signals how we will change direction on immigration policy from the previous Government.”
Last night Mr Denham demanded to know what Mr Pickles's evidence was for his “cover up” claim. However, he said he did not remember receiving the report as communities secretary.
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