Page last updated at 16:54 GMT, Monday, 26 October 2009

Migration boom claims dismissed

Phil Woolas
Mr Woolas said the government had tightened border controls

The government has dismissed claims that it set up an immigration boom in an effort to make the UK more diverse and "rub the right's nose" in it.

Former Downing Street aide Andrew Neather alleged last week that this had been a "driving political purpose" of Labour policy from 2000.

But Home Office minister Phil Woolas told the Commons such views were due themselves to "political motivation".

The Tories accused Labour of acting in its own - not the UK's - interests.

Mr Neather, a speechwriter who worked for former Prime Minister Tony Blair and in the Home Office, wrote in the London Evening Standard last week that the government had relaxed controls in an effort to "open up the UK to mass migration".

'Utterly disgraceful'

As well as bringing in migrants to ease labour shortages, there had been a "driving political purpose", with ministers hoping to change the UK radically and "rub the right's nose in diversity".

Speaking in the Commons, shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said: "What, of course, Mr Neather, the former adviser concerned, said was that the policy of rapid expansion was done to put pressure on the right.

"Would it not be utterly disgraceful for a government to make immigration policy not in the interests of the country but the interests of a political party and is that what happened?"

Mr Woolas replied: "I don't know to whom he is referring or what he is referring to, but if one wants to take the views of somebody with a political motivation, that's up to him."

He added that "this government has reintroduced border controls... despite the opposition of the honourable gentleman opposite".

In his article Mr Neather said the "major shift" in immigration policy had come after the publication of a policy paper from the Performance and Innovation Unit, a Downing Street think-tank.

The published version promoted the labour market case for immigration, but Mr Neather said: "Earlier [unpublished] drafts I saw also included a driving political purpose: that mass immigration was the way that the government was going to make the UK truly multicultural.

"I remember coming away from some discussions with the clear sense that the policy was intended - even if this wasn't its main purpose - to rub the right's nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date."

The "deliberate policy" had lasted from late 2000 until "at least February last year", when the new points-based immigration system was introduced, he added.

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