Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Smith Faces MPs' Wrath over Migrants Cover-Up; Accused: Home Secretary Jacqui Smith

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Smith Faces MPs' Wrath over Migrants Cover-Up; Accused: Home Secretary Jacqui Smith

Article excerpt

Byline: JOE MURPHY

HOME SECRETARY Jacqui Smith was forced to make an emergency statement toMPs this afternoon over claims she covered up a Home Office scandal.

She was accused of putting spin before public safety because she failed to tellParliament in July that thousands of illegal immigrants had been found workingin the security industry.

One of them even worked for the Metropolitan Police, guarding a car park wherethe Prime Minister's official vehicle is kept.

With MPs scenting a minister in trouble, the question being asked was whetherGordon Brown had also been told of the estimated 5,000 illegal workers beinggiven licences to guard individuals, public buildings and, in some cases,sensitive Whitehall sites.

No 10 simply refused today to disclose whether or not Mr Brown had been told,saying that all questions should be directed to Ms Smith when she gave herstatement to the Commons. "I do not want to go into internal governmentprocesses," said the spokesman.

At the Home Office, senior sources said they were unsure whether or not MrBrown had been told. But Tory leader David Cameron's staff said he would demandanswers directly from Mr Brown at Prime Minister's Questions tomorrow if nonewere forthcoming today.

Leaked memos left no doubt that Ms Smith was directly involved.

Dated in early July, when she was only a fortnight into her new job, the memosshow civil servants briefed her fully on the discovery of high numbers ofillegal immigrants in the security sectorincluding 11 staff working at Scotland Yard. One stated: "The Home

Secretary has seen your submission ...

She agrees with you that this is not ready for public announcement yet."Another warned that there would be "significant criticism" of the Government ifthe press found out. Mr Cameron said the memos implied the news was held backin case it looked bad. "It does look as if spin was put first," he said.

Downing Street said Mr Brown had "full confidence" in Ms Smith. Asked aboutcharges of a cover-up, the spokesman said: "These were decisions taken by theHome Office. The reasons for why these decisions were taken will be set out byJacqui Smith to Parliament. …

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