The New Labour Government appears to have actively encouraged UK immigration during its time in power.
This is according to comments from former Cabinet minister Lord Mandelson. Speaking to Labour activists at the party's recent conference, organised by Labour's Progress group, Lord Mandelson suggested that Tony Blair's government sent out search parties to find migrants to make up for the skills shortages in some economic sectors.
He said: “The issue of immigration is more economic than social. The problem has grown during the period of economic stagnation over the past five, six years, because in 2004 when as a Labour Government we were not only welcoming people to come into this country to work, we were sending out search parties for people and encouraging them, in some cases, to take up work in this country because we were almost, a sort of full employment economy.”
Mandelson confirmed that the situation is “different obviously now”, adding: “Now that is an inescapable fact and we have to understand it, address it, engage with people in discussion about it.”
The UK immigration policies of the New Labour Government were criticised for their 'open door' approach to migration. Popular opinion suggests that they went too far in welcoming too many migrants to the country in a relatively short space of time as annual net migration quadrupled during Labour's time in office.
However, the current Coalition Government's approach is at risk of going too far in the opposite direction and depriving the country of a valuable source of skilled labour. Despite this, the Conservative Party has jumped on Mandelson's comments and suggested that they were a more serious confession than perhaps originally intended.
Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps commented: “Peter Mandelson’s candid admission that Labour were purposefully letting immigration spiral out of control when in government is yet another damning indictment on their record on immigration.
“Yet Ed Miliband has neither the courage nor the conviction to face up to Labour’s undeniable litany of failures on immigration and refuses to back our new Immigration Bill.”