Picture 1 On the day that Alan Johnson expressed a desire to see a "real debate" on immigration, Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling was yesterday granted an Urgent Question by the Speaker to ask the Government about claims that it broke Freedom of Information legislation to cover up a change of immigration policy.

Here are the charges Mr Grayling made in the Commons:

"More and more evidence is now emerging to suggest that
the Government broke freedom of information laws and tried to cover up
a deliberate change of policy designed to encourage much higher
immigration, very probably for party political purposes.

Two weeks ago, a former Home Office adviser, Andrew
Neather, was widely reported as saying that Ministers had covered up a
secret plan to allow in more immigrants and to make Britain more
multicultural. When I put those allegations to the Minister, he said,
quite extraordinarily, that he had not and that he did “not know to whom or to which reports the hon. Gentleman refers” [Hansard, 26 October 2009]. Let us hope that he can do better today.

First, there was what was originally a secret plan.
Will the Minister confirm that what he was talking about back in 2002
was a relaxation of the rules for clearing immigration applicants so
that those who had been waiting more than 12 months would be granted
clearance to stay without any further investigation into their cases?
Will he also confirm that the head of the Immigration and Nationality
Directorate said in an e-mail to the then Minister that that involved “pragmatic grants, i.e. not pursing every angle which could conceivably justify a refusal”, and that the policy meant that “some risks would have to be taken”?

Will he also confirm that Ministers were aware of that
policy change and that they accepted that it involved taking risks with
immigration applications?

Then there was the cover-up. Will the Minister confirm
that the Home Office tried to withhold documents outlining that policy
change from the Information Commissioner? I have copies of those
documents, and they are clearly marked “withold” at the top. Will he
also confirm that the Information Commissioner found the Home Office
guilty of breaking the law, and ordered the documents marked “withhold”
to be released? Will he tell the House why Ministers broke the laws
that this Government had passed?

The Home Secretary says that he wants a rational debate
on immigration, but why on earth does he think anyone will take him
seriously in that debate when it is now clear that this Government have
set out deliberately to deceive the British people, and have proved
utterly incapable of telling them the truth about their policies on

Jonathan Isaby

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