Secret Labour plan to increase immigration said public’s opposition was ‘racist’

‘They concealed their real intentions in the hope that they would benefit from the immigrant vote without losing their working class supporters.

Numbers from 2007

Numbers from 2007

 MAILONLINE… Ministers were accused today of drawing up secret plans to increase immigration – and branding opponents of the controversial scheme ‘racist’.

A previously unseen joint Cabinet Office and Home Office report called for increases in foreign workers to meet the Government’s ‘economic and social objectives’.

But it also stated that the public would be opposed to the shift because of ‘racism’ and urged ministers to try to alter public attitudes towards immigrants.

The document, which was written in July 2000 and released under the Freedom of Information Act, outlined plans for a step change in the number of both high and low skilled migrants.

A draft version of the report emerged last week, but the full copy was finally released today.

In it, the authors warned: ‘Policy development is constrained by public opinion and the current tone of public debate.’

‘It is correct that public opinion favours relatively restrictive policies on immigration.’

Sections advising ministers to adopt a ‘clear strategy for public opinion and public debate’ to change views were removed from the published version.

Critics said the document showed ministers ‘deliberately rode roughshod’ over the public.

There was outrage last year after Andrew Neather, a former Labour speechwriter, revealed in a newspaper column that the loosening of controls in the early 2000s was part of a deliberate political agenda.

The ‘immigration boom’ of the last decade was engineered in part to change society by making it more multicultural, he said. 

Mr Neather, who worked for Tony Blair, Jack Straw and David Blunkett and saw the early versions of the report, said senior politicians were nervous about publicising the policy because they feared public reaction.

The report states baldly that public opposition to immigration was ‘closely correlated with racism’.

Exposing the public to migrants would make them less hostile, it said.

‘A new approach to migration policy … would need to be not only accompanied by, but underpinned by, a clear strategy for public opinion and public debate.

‘Government has tended to assume that negative public opinion on migration is a given that is beyond its control.

‘In fact, research (and common sense) suggests that past governments have had a significant influence on public opinion…’

‘On other issues, government has been strategic and proactive in addressing public opinion, it could do so on migration. 

‘Recent research shows that anti-immigrant sentiment is closely correlated with racism rather than economic motives,’ the authors wrote.

‘Education and people’s personal exposure to migrants make them less likely to be anti-migrant.

‘The most negative attitudes are found among those who have relatively little direct contact with migrants, but see them as a threat.’

The report said immigration was rising sharply because of global economic forces but said it was all but pointless trying to prevent large numbers of new arrivals coming for work.

It stated: ‘Trying to halt or reverse market driven migration will be very difficult (perhaps impossible) and economically damaging.’

Trying to stop low skilled workers was ‘neither an available nor a desirable policy choice’ because of ‘market forces’.

The report went through numerous drafts during late 2000. One version was entitled Going with the Flow: Managing Migration in the 21st Century.

But by the time it was published in early 2001, the document had become a bland endorsement of the economic benefits of immigration.

Entire sections were removed, including all references to public opposition.

Instead it said: ‘Social research shows that the majority consistently regards immigration as having a positive effect on British culture.

‘This is true even for many of those who favour a more restrictive attitude to immigration controls.’

References to migration opening up ‘new opportunities’ for organised crime were also expunged.

The final report stated: ‘There is little data specifically for migrants on such indexes of social exclusion as … crime.’

Justice Secretary Jack Straw, who was Home Secretary from 1997 until 2001, has dismissed Mr Neather’s claims, saying they were ‘just untrue’.

A fortnight ago current Home Secretary Alan Johnson said the suggestion of an open door immigration policy was ‘mythical’.

But Sir Andrew Green, chairman of pressure group Migrationwatch UK, said: ‘This report confirms that ministers deliberately rode roughshod over public opinion in adopting a policy of mass immigration.

‘They concealed their real intentions in the hope that they would benefit from the immigrant vote without losing their working class supporters.

‘They are now paying the price.’

Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘The Government has simply not been telling the truth about its policies on immigration.

‘More and more evidence is now emerging to show that they deliberately planned a big jump in immigration for their own political purposes.

‘Now they are trying to rewrite history to pretend those decisions never happened. Their conduct over all of this has been a complete disgrace.’

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