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Wednesday, July 21, 1999 Published at 13:31 GMT 14:31 UK

UK Politics

Jamaica opposes visa call

Tim Westwood: No motive for his shooting has yet emerged

The Jamaican Government has joined condemnation of a call by the Tories for tighter immigration controls to be placed on its citizens to combat an upsurge in gun violence in the UK.

David Lidington: "We should certainly look again at immigration controls"
Labour MPs have accused Shadow Home Office minister David Lidington of racism for saying Britain should consider introducing visas for visitors from the Caribbean island to try prevent yardie gangsters entering the country.

The suggestion has also come under attack from the Jamaican High Commissioner to Britain David Muirhead.

He said it "violated the well-known British principle of proportionality".

The Jamaican High Commissioner to Britain, David Muirhead: " The Jamaican Government has resolved to stamp out gun crime"
The introduction of visas would be "an unreasonable demand to make on law-abiding, hard-working because of the misconduct of a few", he added.

Spate of shootings

Mr Lidington's suggestion followed the wounding of BBC Radio 1 hip hop DJ Tim Westwood in a drive-by shooting in south London on Sunday.

[ image: Jamaica has been plagued by gun violence since the seventies]
Jamaica has been plagued by gun violence since the seventies
Speculation around the shooting has focused on the possible involvement of yardies, a criminal group originating in Jamaica and known for extreme violence.

Some newspapers have claimed that yardies have been linked to a string of recent murders in the capital as well as several hundred in Jamaica.

Mr Lidington said: "One option which Home Office ministers should be considering in the light of the spate of murders in London, is to impose a visa requirement on visitors to this country from Jamaica.

"This might be one way of helping to provide a check against criminals coming into the country."

If the police believe that this would help them in their task then the government should do it.

'Tories vilifying an entire country'

[ image: Oona King says Mr Lidington is guilty of racial sterotyping]
Oona King says Mr Lidington is guilty of racial sterotyping
Mr Lidington's remarks were condemned by the Labour MP Oona King.

"I find it astonishing that the Tories want to penalise an entire nation of black people due to the criminal activities of a few," the MP for the London seat of Bethnal Green and Bow said.

"Black British people with Jamaican relatives would be the first to suffer if the Tories had their way.

"It's appalling that the Tories vilify an entire country rather than tackle the problem of individual criminals.

"This requires intelligence-led policing, not unintelligent racial stereotyping."

Mr Lidington later defended his suggestion saying it was a "positive idea not a fully fledged policy announcement".

[ image: David Lidington accuses his critics of political correctness]
David Lidington accuses his critics of political correctness
He said: "It's a shame that any positive move to contribute to the debate on crime is rejected out of hand on the basis of a politically correct knee jerk reaction by a hand full of people.

"There are many black people in Britain who are the victims of crime, many look to the police to protect them. The police in turn must have powers that enable them to ensure they can offer that protection."

Jamaicans arriving in Britain are currently allowed to visit the country without a visa, as the Caribbean island is part of the Commonwealth.

Police keeping 'open mind'

However the UK already imposes on visa requirements from some other Commonwealth countries such as India and Pakistan.

Scotland Yard said that it had not positively linked the Westwood shooting to yardie activity.

Although the two suspects were black there was no information about their nationality, a spokeswoman said.

On Wednesday morning a 50-year-old man received life-threatening injuries in a similar drive-by shooting in south London. In this incident both the suspect and the victim were white

Police said they were also keeping an "open mind" about the motive for that shooting as well.

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