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The party line; THE BIRMINGHAM POST.

A free-for-all attitude to immigration made Britain culturally richer, but at the same time has deeply unsettled the country. Many people are worried about the influx of immigrants, especially in inner city areas where the newcomers are competing against the indigenous population for jobs and public services.

Common sense? Or dangerous talk calculated to stir up racial hatred?

Well, it all depends on where you are coming from. The remarks, by Birmingham Labour MP and Immigration Minister Liam Byrne, have been interpreted as unexceptional and straighttalking.

But his comments, which are similar to the line taken by Michael Howard when he was Conservative leader, would surely have provoked a storm had they been delivered by a Tory shadow Minister.

When Mr Howard said it was not racist to debate the immigration question, and proposed a points system to limit the number of people settling here, he was castigated by Labour. Mr Byrne, who accepts that uncontrolled immigration runs the risk of damaging low-income communities, put much the same case as Mr Howard.

At least Mr Byrne deserves credit for telling it as it is. He is right to point out the difficulties at a school in his constituency, where the number of children with English as a second language has risen to 20 per cent in a year. This clearly presents teachers with communication problems, while in Mr Byrne's words "unsettling" those who resent the language barrier.

Immigration, and the extent to which it should be controlled, has lurked close to the top of Britain's political agenda for 50 years. It is odd in some ways that a Labour Government is to bring in a points system, that will severely restrict the number and type of migrants coming to these shores.

The Conservatives, quite simply, would never have got away with it.
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Title Annotation:Leaders
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 19, 2007
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