Cameron rules out immigrant amnesty

David Cameron has shot down calls from a prominent Tory MP for illegal immigrants to be given an amnesty.

Nadhim Zahawi said the Conservatives had to embrace radical policies to earn the right to be heard by black and Asian voters, only 16% of whom backed the party at the last election.

"We shouldn't be afraid to think outside of our comfort zone," he wrote in an essay for a new think tank entitled Right Revival, set to be launched next month.

"Our failure to appeal to ethnic minorities should send loud alarm bells ringing in Downing Street and Central Office.

"Unless we act now this electoral penalty will only get worse."

The proposal comes a year after Mitt Romney was trounced by Barack Obama in the US election, in a result which many put down to the Republican's failure to capture the Latino vote.

Polling suggests many ethnic minority voters back Tory policies on issues such as welfare, tax and even immigration, but instinctively do not vote for the party.

"Some of the polling makes for such grim reading that you wonder if a more seismic shift in policy is needed to signal our good intentions," the Stratford-upon-Avon MP, who co-founded of YouGov, said.

"What's clear is that, on their own, the A-list and photo-ops of cabinet ministers at their local temple or mosque are not enough.

"If we want to recreate the triumphs of the 1980s we must be Thatcher-like in our willingness to think brave and think big."

Speaking at a press conference today, the prime minister was quick to dismiss the suggestion.

"The short answer is no. I don't agree, it's not a good idea," he said.

"It's not one we are going to implement. It would send a terrible signal as Britain as a soft touch.

"I'm all for MPs thinking independently but this is not an idea that is a good idea."

An amnesty for an estimated 570,000 illegal immigrants would be politically unthinkable for most Conservative voters and would spark outrage in the tabloid press.

But a growing minority of figures in parliament believe it could be sellable to the public if combined with a bolstered border operation.

The move would not only grant legal status to those illegally in the UK, but it would bring millions to the Treasury, by bringing in workers from the black market into the tax system.

It could also have more wide-reaching economic effects, by prevent employers undercutting wages and working conditions by relying on undocumented workers.

Zahawi suggested immigrants be given leave to remain rather than full citizenship, which would limit benefit entitlements.