Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Clarke Unveils Immigration Points System; Plan Will End 'Abuse of Hospitality'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Clarke Unveils Immigration Points System; Plan Will End 'Abuse of Hospitality'

Article excerpt

Byline: JOE MURPHY

CHARLES CLARKE today pledged to stop immigrants who "abuse our hospitality" as he tried to regain public support on the flashpoint issue.

He was unveiling dramatically tougher curbs on migrants - including an Australian-style points system, the abolition of automatic settlement rights and curbs on how many extended family members can join foreign workers.

But a clear divide was emerging between Labour and the Conservatives, with Labour refusing to match Michael Howard's pledge to bring in an annual ceiling on the overall number of migrants and asylum seekers entering the country. As he prepared to unveil details in the Commons, the Home Secretary told the Evening Standard his package would be "firm but practical".

"It will let in those workers with the skills to help our economy grow and prosper, while stopping those trying to abuse our hospitality," he said.

Mr Clarke appeared to admit the rules were being flouted and this was undermining public support. "We know there have been abuses of our immigration system and it is vital we put in place a system that people trust," he said. But he emphasised the Government's view that large numbers of foreign workers were needed "in the interests of Britain".

With immigration set to be a central election issue, there were signs that Labour strategists are rattled by the success of Mr Howard's populist pledges made last month.

Election co-ordinator Alan Milburn denied weekend reports he had privately criticised the appointment of Mr Clarke as a "mistake" and that he thought the Home Secretary had let himself be outflanked.

But two polls suggested the Tories scored on the issue. A YouGov survey in The Mail on Sunday claimed three-quarters of voters thought Labour was not tough enough, while a poll for the anti-immigration group Migration Watch claimed 45 per cent of voters would be influenced by the issue. …

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