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Thursday, 13 January, 2000, 22:33 GMT
Straw 'caved in' on Tyson

tyson Mike Tyson: Rape conviction

Cross-party politicians attack Home Secretary Jack Straw's decision to allow boxer Mike Tyson into the UK to fight, despite his rape conviction.

Mr Straw intervened on Thursday evening to announce the boxer would be allowed into Britain despite previous statements from the government that the decision was entirely in the hands of immigration officials.

Under British law overseas visitors who have spent more than a year in jail cannot enter the UK unless it is for "compassionate reasons".

Labour's Trevor Phillips, who had led the calls for the boxer to be barred from Britain because of a rape conviction, accused Mr Straw of "caving in" and "ignoring" the law.

The former broadcaster, who is the running-mate for London Labour mayoral challenger Frank Dobson, said: "I am a supporter of this government and Jack Straw, but they have made the wrong decision.

"They have caved in to pressure. As far as I am concerned they shouldn't have done this."

He added: "It is pretty feeble to back down, even though people were obviously going to be upset. I thought the point of electing governments was that they were supposed to stick to their guns."

Trevor Phillips: Tyson is "a bad guy"
Mr Phillips, whose family knows Tyson's victim, said the woman concerned would be "terrified and humiliated that her ordeal has been given so little weight by a foreign government".

He said the only positive factor was the government's decision to look again at an immigration law which he said had been used to unjustly exclude other more deserving would-be visitors to Britain.

Another Labour mayoral hopeful Glenda Jackson, who had also opposed Tyson's entry, said Mr Straw's decision was "very disappointing".

'Bungled and mismanaged'

Shadow Home Secretary Ann Widdecombe accused the home secretary of mishandling the situation from the start.

"This whole debacle has been bungled and mismanaged from beginning to end by Jack Straw," she said.

"Perhaps Tony Blair or Jack Straw would now care to indicate how a matter which was in the hands of the Immigration Service yesterday has necessitated political intervention today.

"Yet again, the hopeless home secretary has called into question his judgment in this latest in a string of howlers."

But Immigration minister Barbara Roche defended the decision. She said Tyson had been granted admission because of "exceptional circumstances."

widdecombe Ann Widdecombe: Mr Straw's decision the latest in "a string of howlers"

She added that Mr Straw had taken the "courageous" decision because scores of Manchester businesses might go bankrupt if the boxer's fight against British boxer Julius Francis was cancelled.

The government has also announced a review of the immigration rule which led to the row.

Ms Roche denied any suggestion that the government had bent the law under pressure. She said that rules did allow the home secretary to intervene in extraordinary cicrcumstances.

"We have followed by the rules, we have abided by the rules. This is what the rules allows us to do," she said.

However, she said hoped the review would provide "clarity" to prevent similar problems in the future.
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13 Jan 00 |  UK
UK allows Tyson entry

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