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Charles Kennedy, Liberal Democrats Leader
"There's a responsible, measured, matured discussion to have about asylum"
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Monday, 1 May, 2000, 10:18 GMT 11:18 UK
Hague warned over asylum debate

William Hague: Adding to the asylum debate
Conservative leader William Hague's controversial warnings about "floods" of asylum seekers entering the UK have been critcised from within his own party.

Faversham MP Andrew Rowe said there was a danger of sliding into blaming people entering the country for the problems of the asylum system as a whole.

The idea that the numbers of people coming into this country are going to put the whole fabric of our society at risk is nonsense

Andrew Rowe

Mr Hague has denied playing the race card after saying the number of asylum seekers entering Britain was "out of control".

He has increasingly had to defend the use of language, such as "flooded" or "swamped", used when debating asylum seekers.

Mr Rowe said Mr Hague was right to criticise the government's handling of asylum seekers.

But he added: "I think everybody who is comfortably off - particularly if they are in a leadership position of a political party - needs to be extremely careful of going down the track of blaming the relatively small number of people who come into this country.

National Front: Support could rise, claims Hague
"The idea that somehow the numbers of people coming into this country are going to put the whole fabric of our society at risk is nonsense."

On Sunday, Mr Hague said there would be an increase in support for groups like the National Front unless politicians tackled issues like immigration.

Responding to a complaint that there had been a National Front march in the West Midlands last week, he went on: "We would end up seeing more National Front marches in Birmingham if we failed to deal with these problems.

"This country has managed to improve race relations over many years by being firm but fair about immigration, asylum and so on. Now those rules are being abused."

'Pandering to prejudice'

Both the Tories and Labour have been reported to the Commission for Racial Equality by the Liberal Democrats over the language used towards asylum seekers

Referring to Mr Hague's latest comments, Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy accused the Conservative leader of "mouthing off" and "pandering to prejudice".

Mr Kennedy said there was a place for a "moderate" debate about asylum seekers.

But he added: "What we do not do is begin to pander to the worst sort of minority prejudices in the land and I am afraid to say that is what William has been up to of late."

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See also:

30 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Hague fuels asylum row
18 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Tories propose asylum camps
19 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Tories deny 'racism' jibe
22 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Tory asylum policy warning
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