Minister ‘climbs down’ after immigration tough talk, Vaz happy (Lead)

October 20th, 2008 - 8:11 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 20 (IANS) Britain’s immigration minister has climbed down over plans to curb immigration, prompting the opposition to accuse the government of offering “no action”.Minister Phil Woolas said last week that he favoured placing a cap on immigration because he wanted to limit Britain’s population to below 70 million and ensure that British jobs went to Britons at a time of financial crisis.

But he said on BBC Sunday: “I think, frankly, there’s a lot of nonsense talked about the cap….

“The European Union population can come and go just as we from Britain go and live in Spain, perhaps, or France - so, too, can others come to our country.

“So it’s very difficult to see, even if we are in favour of a cap, what it should be. I’m not saying there could be no limit whatsoever,” he added.

Woolas’s apparent retraction came after a number of politicians criticised him last week, saying it was not Labour policy to place a cap on immigration.

Indian-origin Labour MP Keith Vaz welcomed the clarification, saying: “Immigration caps had not been considered by this government before, nor should they be. We need to be talking about managing migration and enforcement of existing legislation.

“The public are rightly concerned about the growth in this country’s population but the real problem is illegal immigration. We need to sort out the backlog and the UK Border Agency and remove failed migrants as soon as possible.”

But Dominic Grieve, the home affairs spokesman for the opposition Conservative Party, said: “The minister has admitted that behind his words there is no action.

“We will do more than give warm interviews. We will introduce an annual limit on non-EU immigration, transitional controls on immigration from new member states, and establish a dedicated UK border police force.”

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