Reid focuses on immigration

Home secretary John Reid has called for an immigration debate
Home secretary John Reid has called for an immigration debate

John Reid sought to move media attention away from the failings of his department today by calling for a debate on the nature of Britain's attitude towards immigration.

In an interview with the BBC, the home secretary explained why he wanted the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) to be given "more power to manage on a long-term basis".

While insisting that the migration of eastern European workers to Britain had been of great benefit to the UK, he pointed out that allowing unrestricted immigration would be unattractive to most citizens of the country.

"People recognise that others from outside this country can bring great skills here, but they also want to be assured that our services - whether it's schools or hospitals - and indeed their own terms and conditions will be preserved and immigration will be managed," Mr Reid said.

Prominent among the home secretary's remarks was an emphasis on the politically correct nature of a debate about immigration.

"I want to change that culture so we can have that mature discussion," he urged.

"We have to get away from this daft so-called politically correct notion that anybody who wants to talk about immigration is somehow a racist. That isn't the case."

Observers have suggested that the forthcoming accession to the EU of Romania and Bulgaria has helped create a perceived need to change the immigration laws as they stand.

The government has yet to decide whether to allow citizens of these countries unrestricted access to Britain as was granted to people living in the ten states that joined the EU in May 2005.

"We have to enforce our borders better, and I am bringing in means of doing that, doubling the enforcing regime," Mr Reid said.

During his interview with the BBC he admitted he did not know how many illegal immigrants are in the UK at present.

Specific details of a new policy initiative are expected on Wednesday, when Mr Reid will address the left-wing think tank Demos.


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