British minister calls for immigration cuts, Keith Vaz shocked

October 18th, 2008 - 6:56 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 18 (IANS) A British minister has said he will impose strict curbs on immigration because of possible racial tensions and unemployment in remarks that shocked the country’s senior Indian-origin MP.“If people are being made unemployed, the question of immigration becomes extremely thorny,” said Immigration Minister Phil Woolas.

“It’s been too easy to get into this country in the past and it’s going to get harder.”

He told The Times newspaper the government planned to introduce a cap on immigration - something that would mark a major policy departure for the ruling Labour Party.

“This government isn’t going to allow the population to go up to 70 million [from the current nearly 61 million],” he said, adding: “There has to be a balance between the number of people coming in and the number of people leaving.”

Woolas said the financial crisis in Britain had changed everything.

Keith Vaz, the longest-serving Asian MP in Britain, said: “I would be astonished at a Labour immigration minister in effect changing the policy.

“His predecessor and the home secretary (minister) have made it very clear they do not support a quota,” added Vaz, who is the chairman of the parliament’s all-party home affairs select committee.

Placing a cap on the number of immigrants is a contentious issue in Britain - while it is supported by the opposition Conservative Party, the Labour party rejects it.

Woolas’s remarks were described by The Times as “extraordinary” for a Labour minister.

But the pressure group Migrationwatch praised Woolas.

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