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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 July, 2003, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
Blunkett attacks BBC asylum day
David Blunkett
Blunkett criticised Panorama programme
The BBC played into the hands of a "Powellite anti-immigration agenda" in its prime time programming on asylum, David Blunkett has said.

The home secretary particularly singled out Wednesday's special edition of Panorama for criticism.

Writing in the Guardian, Mr Blunkett accuses the programme of using claims by the "right-wing anti-immigration pressure group, Migration Watch" uncritically.

But a BBC spokesman insisted: "It is not Powellite for the BBC to facilitate a debate about asylum.

"Panorama illuminated the chaotic management of the system as it attempts to deal with record numbers of asylum applicants, and above all the abuse which Mr Blunkett and his ministers have admitted is widespread."

The home secretary's criticisms come after weeks of dispute over the BBC's coverage of the way the case for war with Iraq was made.

The real issue is whether we are going to face up to the need for properly managed migration
David Blunkett
And they follow those of Immigration Minister Beverley Hughes, who singled out a programme called 'You the Judge' which was also broadcast on Wednesday.

She said the programme turned the issue of asylum into a "gameshow".

In his article Mr Blunkett was particularly critical of the programme's presenter, John Ware.

The home secretary derided Ware's claim that since Enoch Powell - the right-wing politician who was anti-immigration and made the notorious 'Rivers of Blood' speech - there had been a 35-year taboo on discussing the issue.

People only had to read a daily newspaper to know that this claim was "frankly risible".

'Undermining'

Mr Blunkett also accused Panorama of "wilfully undermining confidence that the asylum system works to provide a news angle for BBC asylum day".

"The real issue is whether we are going to face up to the need for properly managed migration.

"Almost a third of our doctors were born outside the UK, and sectors such as construction, agriculture and hospitality depend on foreign-born labour.

"The realistic alternative to managed migration is not a Fortress Britain that no-one can enter.

"It is illegal working and clandestine entry, with all the exploitation, abuse and suffering that causes for both the illegal workers and legitimate workforce."




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