The immigration minister has admitted that his own children have ‘suffered’ because of the number of foreigners who have flooded into Britain. In an extraordinary declaration, gaffe-prone Phil Woolas accepted the influx of migrants under Labour has taken a toll on local communities and services. Confronted by an unemployed man on a BBC2 Newsnight special, he said: ‘We recognise that. My own family… children have suffered from that.’
Mr Woolas, who has two sons, has a house in Chiswick, south west London, and Oldham, Lancashire, which is his constituency. It was not clear whether the minister was talking about class sizes or the pressure placed by migrants on school places or some other issue.
Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘The biggest impact from immigration in recent years has been on public services. ‘It seems extraordinary to have the immigration minister now admitting that – and from his own experience – but yet still defending the policy that caused the problems in the first place.’
It is the latest in a string of blunders for Mr Woolas. He was condemned as ‘deeply insensitive’ last December after claiming immigration officials were ‘putting their lives on the line’ for their country. He said UK Border Agency staff were ‘very brave’ as he defended bonus payouts of more than £10,000 each for 29 senior officials.
Just a month earlier, he was attacked for saying British troops were in Afghanistan partly to help control the number of immigrants heading to Britain – on the day five UK soldiers were killed there by a rogue policeman.
In May, he was humiliated when he was ambushed by Joanna Lumley over the plight of the Gurkhas. In hilarious scenes, the actress sought him out in Westminster and frogmarched him to a live press conference for a very public dressing down.
His bizarre declaration came as new official figures revealed the number of foreigners given UK passports has soared. A total of 203,865 people were handed British citizenship in 2009 – an increase of 58 per cent on the previous year. Tens of thousands more immigrants were also given the right to settle in the UK, with the total up 30 per cent to more than 190,000.
Quarterly immigration figures, published by the Office for National Statistics, also showed a 30 per cent increase in student visa numbers last year compared to 2008. In the final three months of 2009, 61,715 student visas were issued – an astonishing rise of 92 per cent on the same period in 2008. The figures prompted questions over the effectiveness of the new points-based system for student visas.
Separate figures showed applications by asylum seekers arriving in the UK had dropped off, 30 per cent down on the previous year at 4,765.
Whitehall documents revealed this week confirm Labour encouraged mass immigration despite voters being against it. The Government said the public stance was down to ‘racism’ and ministers were told to try to alter the population’s attitude. The approach was unveiled after a document from 2000 prepared by the Cabinet Office and Home Office was finally disclosed in full under freedom of information rules. It showed that ministers were advised that only the ill-educated and those who had never met a migrant were opposed to immigration.
They were also told that large-scale immigration would bring increases in crime, but they concealed these concerns from the public. Sections of the paper, which underpinned Labour policies that admitted between two and three million immigrants to Britain in less than a decade, have already been made public. These have showed that Labour aimed to use immigration not only for economic reasons but also to change the social make-up of the country.