On Saturday, Labour Minister announced limits on immigration. Next day, he made U-turn. Today, Torries call for tough policy. 20 October 2008. Phil Woolas, the new Immigration minister, suggested an upper limit on the UK’s population and criticised the NHS and councils for being too soft on foreigners. On Saturday, Mr Woolas said that non-EU citizens who were permitted to come and work in the UK should not have an automatic right to become citizens. But the very next day, on Sunday, he denied that he was proposing to cap their number, a policy that the Conservatives have been advocating for years.
He appeared to be in full retreat, when challenged over the detail of his proposals on Sunday. Mr Woolas told BBC 1’s Politics Show: "It’s very difficult to say, even if you’re in favour of a cap, what it should be. But what we can do is look at the period of time and a work permit, of course, limits the period of time that a person could come to this country to work.
"Had we introduced it [the points-based system] a year ago there would be 12 per cent fewer migratory workers in this country than there are at the moment."
Mr Woolas said he found criticism "deeply hurtful", and said that his intention was to tackle racial discrimination rather than encourage it.
"We are cruel in many ways to the immigrants who come to our country," he said. "We need to be tougher on migration but perhaps kinder on the way in which we help people to get involved in society once they’re here."
The Tories today issued a new call for tougher curbs on immigration as they warned that more than 80 per cent of migrants to Britain since 1997 came from outside the EU.
Shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve said that official figures showed that 2.3 million people have moved here since Labour came to power. Of these, 1.96 million, or 84 per cent, came from outside Europe, where migration can be controlled, while only 374,000, or 16 per cent, had come from the EU.
Mr Grieve said: "The minister has admitted that behind his words there is no action.
"We will do more than give warm interviews. We will introduce an annual limit on non-EU immigration, transitional controls on immigration from new member states, and establish a dedicated UK border police force."
The government recently introduced a new points-based system to attract migrants from outside the EU to certain jobs.
The Home Office said this provided "a powerful and flexible set of controls" which allowed it to "raise or lower the bar" according to needs.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show the population grew by nearly two million to 60,975,000 between 2001 and 2007.
Various official projections predict this to rise to 77m in 2051 or 110m in 2081.