Grubby saga of a system in chaos

Last updated at 15:58 05 April 2004

Why do they keep lying? we asked last week, when Immigration Minister Beverley Hughes resigned in disgrace. With a string of disturbing new revelations over the weekend, the question is even more apposite today. For this grubby saga of dishonesty, manipulation and cover up now leads straight to Downing Street.

First we learn that Tony Blair secretly authorised a relaxation of immigration controls for Romanians, in a deal last year with that country's Prime Minister.

Though the lifting of visa requirements isn't yet officially in force, Mr Blair's involvement may explain why the Government ignored protests from our Bucharest embassy about the crooks providing fraudulent papers for anyone, but anyone, who fancied life in Britain.

Next, there are reports suggesting that visas elsewhere are being rushed through.

On top of that, devastating new leaks reveal that officials have been ordered to avoid arresting illegal immigrants - including suspected criminals - for fear they will immediately claim asylum.

The reason for all this seems depressingly clear. Last year, Tony Blair promised to halve asylum applications and boasts that the figures have fallen. But hasn't his "success" been achieved largely by rigging the system? Why bother to claim asylum, when he has made it so easy to come here by other means?

Yes, there is a case for managed immigration. As this paper has frequently argued, there could be huge economic benefits for Britain in allowing overseas workers to fill our endemic labour shortages. But this isn't a managed policy. This is chaos, compounded by deceit.

And it is destroying what is left of public trust in politics, damaging community relations and handing a propaganda gift to the racist rabble-rousers of the BNP.

On Tuesday, Mr Blair presides over an immigration summit. No doubt it will lead to some "eye-catching initiatives". But Britain doesn't need more stunts. It desperately needs honest, effective government. The tragedy is that New Labour seems incapable of providing it.

Facing the facts

By any standards, the Channel 4 programme My Foetus, to be screened this month, promises to be deeply upsetting. Many will find it offensive to see images of unborn children aborted at 10 and 21 weeks, when limbs and a face are clearly visible.

Yet if the broadcast goes out late at night, with warnings in advance, it could offer a valuable contribution to an enormously sensitive debate, on which honest people take passionately opposing views.

When more than 180,000 terminations are carried out in Britain every year, often for reasons that go far beyond the intentions of the 1967 Abortion Act, isn't it necessary to understand exactly what is being done in NHS hospitals every day, in the name of civilised progress?

Change of tune

For decades, "multiculturalism" has been a totem of liberal fashion. When Bradford headmaster Ray Honeyford challenged it, he was hounded from his job. When Norman Tebbit questioned it, he was vilified. Anyone who dared utter a peep of criticism was demonised as "racist".

How fascinating then that Trevor Phillips of the Commission for Racial Equality, now wants to encourage a "core of Britishness" in those who come to live among us.

He observes that immigrants aren't here just because of jobs, "but because they like this country - its tolerance, its eccentricity, its Parliamentary democracy, its energy in the big cities".

How right he is. How sad that bien pensant opinion has taken so long to wake up to the importance of integration, patriotism and pride in this great nation.

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