Patrick Hennessy, Telegraph (UK), Jun. 6
Tony Blair is to impose a quota system on tens of thousands of black and Asian immigrants seeking to come to Britain, according to confidential Downing Street documents seen by The Telegraph.
In a policy U-turn, the Prime Minister has ordered tough new restrictions to be brought in within weeks to stop abuse “by those from New Commonwealth countries”.
Mr Blair has stepped in to stem what No 10 describes as a “dramatic increase” in applications from countries such as India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Bangladesh after immigration rules were loosened last year.
The disclosure sparked anger last night among Labour MPs and pro-immigration campaigners. However, Downing Street confirmed that action was imminent.
Mr Blair ordered the quota system to be brought in during a top-level “stock-take” meeting on May 12 attended by senior ministers, including David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, and Des Browne, the immigration minister.
Also present was David Lammy, the constitutional affairs minister and one of the few black members of the Government.
An eight-page memo, dated seven days later, written by the Downing Street policy adviser Kate Gross and marked “confidential”, reveals a key proposal by Mr Blunkett and Mr Browne to apply quotas to the Commonwealth Working Holiday Maker scheme, which allows immigrants to spend up to two years working casually in Britain. Many then switch to work permits, prolonging their stay.
Previously, the scheme applied almost exclusively to “Old Commonwealth” countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, but there has been a reported “spike” in applications from Africa and Asia since last summer.
Quotas to combat immigration have been rejected repeatedly by Mr Blair in the past.
Last night, Alan Simpson, the Labour MP, called the move “bigoted”, adding: “If there are going to be quotas, they should not be racial.”