Page last updated at 21:59 GMT, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Middle class insulated from immigration, says Denham

UK Border Agency staff
The government is trying to address concerns about immigration

The middle classes are "insulated" from the effects of immigration and find it hard to understand fears about housing and jobs, John Denham has said.

In a speech the communities secretary said while "the affluent" could see opportunities in immigration poorer communities saw it as a threat.

It is the second speech Mr Denham has made on the theme in two days.

The Tories say Labour has only changed its tone on immigration because it is losing votes to the BNP.

In his speech to the Policy Network think tank, Mr Denham said poorer people in areas with high immigration felt, wrongly, that immigrants were able to "play the system" of state benefits.

The affluent often are able to see opportunities within change and uncertainty, whereas those who are less insulated from potential drawbacks may see the same change as a risk or a threat
John Denham
Communities Secretary

People who were better off tended to look more favourably on mass immigration, he said.

"Crudely expressed, the higher you are in the pecking order, the more likely you are to benefit from immigration," he said.

"Those of us who feel culturally enriched by the benefits of migration and who are insulated from the competition for jobs, housing and public services that is potentially posed by migrants, often find these views difficult to appreciate.

"The affluent often are able to see opportunities within change and uncertainty, whereas those who are less insulated from potential drawbacks may see the same change as a risk or a threat."

Elitism condemned

It echoes a speech last month by Prime Minister Gordon Brown who said: "If the main effect of immigration on your life is to make it easier to find a plumber, or when you see doctors and nurses from overseas in your local hospital, you are likely to think more about the benefits of migration than the possible costs."

But he added: "I have never agreed with the lazy elitism that dismisses immigration as an issue, or portrays anyone who has concerns about immigration as a racist."

On Monday, Mr Denham said in a speech to the TUC that local councils and government agencies had been "blind" to the needs of white working-class people.

He said officials in charge of tackling inequality should no longer just focus on ethnic groups and should consider more the needs of disadvantaged white people.

Last month the Conservatives criticised Mr Brown saying he had tried to cover up "a deliberate policy of increasing immigration" and had had "no idea about how to deal with the whole question of immigration".

The Lib Dems blamed the government's "catastrophic mismanagement of the system" saying it had "undermined this country's liberal attitude towards immigration".



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