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Last Updated: Monday, 24 January 2005, 14:59 GMT
Head-to-head: Tory immigration plan
Tory leader Michael Howard has outlined the Conservative party's immigration plans, including the introduction of asylum quotas and annual limits for other types of immigration.

Two views on his plans are outlined here.

Commission for Racial Equality chairman Trevor Phillips

CRE chairman Trevor Phillips
CRE chairman Trevor Phillips

We met leaders of the main parliamentary parties in the past week where they urged us to try to bring them together to find a way in which they could discuss this, because we ourselves do want to have an open and public debate on immigration.

It is simply that what we heard [from Mr Howard] frankly makes that rather difficult because of the terms in which it is expressed and because of the rather odd and contradictory things in this announcement.

The problem is that most of it doesn't make sense. For example 'it's now a turning point'.

Why now? Asylum number applications are down 40%, labour market immigration is down about 10% - when Mr Howard talks about needing to cut down on immigration he doesn't really start to talk about whom.

Given that the largest single group of migrants into this country are from the European Union, Australia, New Zealand and the United States, we don't know whether he is now saying that we ought to withdraw from the EU agreement, whether we need to revoke the agreements we have with Australia and New Zealand.

The main people who would have a problem with this would be Brits who want to work in France, which is the biggest country of migration from the UK.

We don't really know who Mr Howard is talking about. He and I are both first generation immigrants - is he talking about people like his parents and mine?

We have no problem about talking about it. The difficulty is that if you are going to raise this issue then it mustn't be in a way that allows people who want to turn this in to a race issue to do so.

I don't believe that Michael Howard is doing this on the basis of race. I don't see how he can be. If his principle point is that he wants to bring down the numbers for inward migration then that must be to bring down the numbers from the European Union, from the United States, and from Australia and New Zealand, which are, by and large, mostly white countries.

It's hard to see what he's saying to employers here. The employers say that the presence of immigrants are a great boost to our tax revenues, reducing our taxes by about 1p in the pound. It will be interesting to see how he makes up that gap.

Migration Watch UK chairman Sir Andrew Green

Sir Andrew Green
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migration Watch UK
These are tough, radical proposals. I think in particular the proposal for an annual limit is a very good one because once that is implemented it will put people's minds at rest.

At the moment there is very great concern throughout the country about immigration - 80% of the public want to see tighter immigration controls, and that includes 52% of ethnic minorities.

Immigration has nearly trebled under the present government, it's bringing in people at 160,000 a year. This is going to add 5m to our population in 30 years - five times the population of Birmingham. People are right to be worried about it.

There's been a lot of talk in the media about housing problems. Over the next 20 years, one in three new households will be down to immigration. I'm not blaming the housing problem on immigrants, I'm just saying they make a bad situation worse.

There's very widespread concern, it does have to be dealt with and I'm very glad to see a major party put forward proposals. For the leader to put his personal authority behind it, it's a major step forward. I hope the other major party will do the same.

I would be comfortable to [have] quotas on asylum also, subject to one proviso - that we don't send back to the country of origin somebody who our own courts have found to be a genuine refugee.

I don't think that will happen though . Nobody should be sent back to persecution, nobody would support that and I don't think any government or party would put that forward.

It's plain silly to suggest that the plan leaves the way open to racism. It would make it worse for race relations in this country to continue with the official silence on all this. If that continues, that's when we'll see the rise of the extremist elements. If our democratic system is to work then, when you have this issue of immigration, you have to address it.

One thing that has happened in recent years has been that people are not prepared to discuss these things openly. I think that's unhealthy.

We have a long way to go before we have an open and sensible debate and people can be confident that the parties that govern this country understand their concerns and are going to act on them.

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