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Letters: Beverley Hughes
Here are some of the letters sent before and during the Beverley Hughes immigration row.

Bob Ainsworth to Beverley Hughes 04 March 2003

To Beverley Hughes

ECAA CASES: ROMANIA AND BULGARIA

During my visit, the week before last, to Romania and Bulgaria, both posts raised with me claims of abuse of immigration arrangements under the European Community Association Agreements (ECAA) with these two countries.

Bulgaria made some additional points on combating immigration abuse. You may want to follow this up with IND (Immigration Nationality Directorate).

Posts are understandably demoralised by having their recommendations routinely overturned, which they see as a weakening of the immigration control in cases which do not need to be conceded
Bob Ainsworth

As the ECAA problem was explained to me, applications for admission under the ECAA are routinely facilitated by UK solicitors who provide pro-forma business plans.

Cases are required to be referred to IND for decision by the Business Casework Unit which invariably grants them, despite post's reservations about the individual, on the basis of both the pro-forma business plan and his immigration history.

Posts are understandably demoralised by having their recommendations routinely overturned, which they see as a weakening of the immigration control in cases which do not need to be conceded.

Posts raised the question as to whether cases needed to be referred; they were keen to take and defend their own decisions.

The risk of nationals of either country seeking to reach the UK by other means is much reduced now that you have introduced non-suspensive appeals and (shortly) a DATV requirement.

Given the current imperative to restrict all abusive routes of entry to the UK, tightening up in this area did seem to me worth considering.

There are two further issues with relation to Bulgaria, which their authorities raised with us, and where we could help them ourselves to combat immigration abuse and international organised crime:

- a new law is before the Bulgarian Parliament which will enable them to withdraw for two years the passport of a Bulgarian national who has been returned after committing an immigration offence in another country. Could we benefit from this by appropriate notification?
- a number of Bulgarian criminals are reportedly living in the UK, despite alerts from the Bulgarian authorities that they should not be granted visas. We clearly need to establish whether these are convicted criminals but it is a concern for us both if organised crime is being masterminded from the UK.

I should appreciate your advice on whether we could tighten up here.

Regards

Bob

Beverley Hughes to Bob Ainsworth 17 March 2003

Dear Bob

Thank you very much for your note of 4 March. You have raised some important issues which I will raise with IND and I will let you know the outcome as soon as possible.

Best wishes

Bev

Beverley Hughes to Bob Ainsworth 10 April 2003

Dear Bob

YOUR VISIT TO BULGARIA AND ROMANIA

Following my note to you on March 17, I have discussed the points raised during your visit to Bulgaria and Romania with IND.

On handling the ECAA applications, there have been a number of discussions between the IND and UKVisas about the issues raised and, indeed, the senior caseworker from the Business Case Unit visited Bulgaria last month to pursue these with the ECOs (Entry Clearance Officers) there.

We are aware of concerns on the part of ECOs about possible abuse of the ECAA arrangements but we also have to recognise that these agreements do provide entitlements and that we cannot refuse applications unless we have the evidence to sustain those decisions.

The proposal that cases should be decided locally is still being considered.

We are aware of concerns on the part of ECOs about possible abuse of the ECAA arrangements
Beverley Hughes in March 2003

Full advice is being prepared on the other two issues which you specifically raised with me.

Notifying the Bulgarian authorities about immigration offenders raises possible data protection, human rights and race relations issues which would need to be worked through carefully.

On the point relating to Bulgarian criminals living in the UK, I gather that we have already asked the Bulgarian authorities to provide the names of Bulgarian criminals allegedly living in the UK. We are waiting for these to be provided.

Thank you once again for bringing these issues to my attention.

Regards

Bev

Beverley Hughes to David Blunkett 1 April 2004

Dear David

Yesterday I came to see you to explain that I felt I had no choice but to resign from the government.

As you now know, and as I have explained in detail in my letter to the prime minister, although I did so entirely in good faith at the time, since giving a number of interviews on Monday evening, it has become clear to me that I failed to remember a letter I had received a year ago which drew my attention to some of the concerns being expressed by our consulate staff in Bucharest.

I have faced sustained criticism over the past few weeks but I have been fortified both by your support and that of so many other colleagues but even more importantly by my own confidence that I have at all times acted properly and with integrity.

It has become clear to me that I failed to remember a letter I had received a year ago which drew my attention to some of the concerns being expressed by our consulate staff in Bucharest
Beverley Hughes in April 2004

However unwittingly, and however much you may have tried to remind me of the context both of the volume of paperwork crossing my desk and its apparent significance at the time, I am clear that I cannot with integrity remain a minister.

I will miss my work enormously. My portfolio has been a challenging one but I have relished the opportunity to make a difference to something which so fundamentally touches on issues of security and confidence in our country.

I am proud of what we achieved especially on asylum. There is much more still to do. As you know, I was finalising further measures to tackle other abuses in our immigration system.

More widely, I am enormously grateful to have been part of your team at the Home Office since June 2001. I believe that we have made real progress in tackling some of the most profound and intractable issues facing any government.

Crime has fallen by a quarter since 1997 and we have introduced a range of measures both to protect the public and to deal with some of low level nuisance and anti-social behaviour which makes life difficult especially for some of our most deprived communities.

All good wishes

Bev

David Blunkett to Beverley Hughes 1 April 2004

Dear Bev

You came to speak to me yesterday to explain that because you may have given, entirely unwittingly, a misleading interview on Monday evening you felt you had no choice but to resign.

I find it hard to accept your feeling that a simple failure to recall one letter you received a year ago out of the hundreds of letters and submissions you deal with every week should be a reason to resign
David Blunkett to Beverley Hughes in April 2004

Throughout the difficulties of the last few weeks, I have defended you at every stage. I stand by everything I said. You have been an enormously effective minister and will be a great loss to the government and my department.

Whilst I find it hard to accept your feeling that a simple failure to recall one letter you received a year ago out of the hundreds of letters and submissions you deal with every week should be a reason to resign, I can only admire this evidence of your integrity, whatever the personal cost to yourself.

Together we have achieved a huge amount in the Immigration and Nationality Department. An enormous programme of change is under way, but I know that you were always the first to say that it was not enough and more was required.

Last year we cut asylum applications in half and we have transformed the speed and robustness of that system. You were, of course, already taking further firm action to deal with more recent concerns about other aspects of immigration.

I am personally very proud to have served with someone of such ability, integrity and passionate commitment to making life better for the people of this country, and I thank you for it.

In friendship

David

Beverley Hughes to Tony Blair 1 April 2004

Dear Tony

As you know, over the last four weeks I have faced sustained parliamentary and media criticism over our system of immigration controls.

I am confident that I have at all times acted with integrity and in the best interests of the people of this country, and I am proud of what I have achieved over the last two years.

Whilst I did not intentionally mislead anyone, I have decided I cannot in conscience continue to serve as immigration minister
Ms Hughes to the prime minister

Nonetheless, it has become clear to me that when asked about forged and fraudulent documents relating to ECAA applications in interviews on Monday night, I may, however unwittingly, have given a misleading impression.

In order to prepare for the next phase of the Sutton Inquiry, I asked for all the relevant files and paperwork to be reviewed in order to ensure that everything is correctly disclosed.

During this process it was discovered that Bob Ainsworth had in fact written to me a year ago drawing to my attention pro-forma business plans submitted by UK solicitors in Romanian and Bulgarian cases.

I did in fact take action at that time on advice from officials to address these concerns. I also now realise that this is what Bob was referring to when he mentioned this correspondence to me briefly in the lobby recently.

On Wednesday having reread the interviews I gave on Monday, I realise that what I said then was not in fact fully consistent with that correspondence. And once the full picture was clear to me I asked to see both you and the home secretary to explain that I had decided I could not continue.

I am grateful for your personal support and understanding of the volume of work with which I have to deal.

However, I have always said that in my political and personal life nothing is more important than my integrity, and whilst I did not intentionally mislead anyone, I have decided I cannot in conscience continue to serve as immigration minister.

I am enormously grateful to you for the opportunity to serve as a minister over the last five years in the most successful Labour Government in our party's history.

I am proud to have played my part in our achievements. I look forward to continuing to work for you and our party from the backbenches.

Yours ever

Bev

Tony Blair to Beverley Hughes 1 April 2004

It is with great regret that I accept your offer of resignation.

The fact that you have taken this decision as a result of the circumstances you describe is indicative of the integrity you have brought to the job.

While I understand the reasons for your decision, no doubt influenced by your recognition of the sensitivity of the issues of asylum and immigration, you should be proud of your achievements in turning around an asylum system, which has had huge problems for many years.

New asylum claims now stand at under half of what they were in October 2002. Eighty per cent of new claims are decided within two months. Border controls have been moved to France thereby stopping thousands who are trying to gain illegal entry to this country. Sangatte has been closed.

This is a formidable record.

I am grateful for all the work that you have done in government and know that you will continue to be a highly valued colleague in the years to come.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Andrew Marr
"Mr Blair said he'd be taking a personal interest in immigration issues"



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