UK: Lib Dems promise amnesty for illegal immigrants

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Sep 20 13:25:20 UTC 2007

Lib Dems amnesty for illegal immigrants

Sep 19 2007

by Tomos Livingstone, Western Mail

THE Lib-Dems took another step towards the political centre-ground
yesterday by promising a conditional amnesty to illegal immigrants and
pledging a review of generous public sector pensions. The policy shifts
will be seen as a triumph for the partys younger generation of MPs, who
have long urged the Lib-Dems to adopt a tougher edge to their policies.
The immigration measures are intended to draw people in from the shadows,
Home Affairs spokesman Nick Clegg said.

Around 600,000 people are estimated to be in the UK illegally, and under
Lib- Dem plans they could stay if they have been here for 10 years subject
to a commitment to the UK, a clean criminal record and a fee. Immigrants
would also have to pass a language test including a Welsh-language test if
they prefer. The measures are complemented by plans for a national border
force and the reintroduction of exit checks at British ports. The pensions
policy would mean an independent review of the pensions paid to teachers,
nurses and civil servants amid claims they cost the taxpayer too much.

A commitment to use the private and voluntary sector to help people back
to work will also feature in the partys manifesto, a move away from
traditional Lib Dem territory and a mirror of the Governments own plans.
Mr Clegg, pictured below, said immigration to the UK was not too high. He
said, In our view the whole debate on immigration is placed on the wrong
footing if you try to delude yourself or the public into thinking there is
a kind of ideal number.

Our view is that if you have an immigration system where you have large
numbers of people coming in to this country, the system is not competent,
and you dont plan for the consequences, and you dont work to integrate
people, then of course the numbers can seem too high. You have to make
immigration work for you. Mr Clegg conceded the move would be
controversial, but insisted it was the only pragmatic way to deal with the
legacy of incompetence created by the mishandling of the immigration
system by Labour and the Tories.

He said a selective amnesty would generate billions of pounds for the
Exchequer, while the Tory and Labour commitment to deporting all illegals
would cost billions of pounds. We cannot, and should not, close the door
on the world, he added. We want to replace fear with understanding,
discrimination with integration, and incompetence with efficiency. A
last-minute amendment from Welsh delegates allowed for the proposed
language test to be in Welsh if the individual concerned chooses.

Elgan Morgan, a councillor from Cardiff who proposed the alteration, said,
There are many communities in Wales where Welsh is the spoken language. If
you go to Mark Williams constituency of Ceredigion, you find Welsh spoken
in the home, in shops and in the pubs. Welsh was now spoken across Wales,
including in the capital, said Mr Morgan, who addressed the conference in
Welsh yesterday. In Wales you can survive by speaking Welsh, not English,
whether you are born there or moved in.

In Wales this week we've had a scandal, a Labour researcher suggesting
Welsh is a brain-dead language. It is a thriving, spoken language. Lord
Roberts of Llandudno said, My battle is with the ten-year period which
illegal immigrants will have to wait until they are able to take a step
towards British citizenship. I would suggest it is far too long a period.
Mr Clegg suggested later it could be reduced over time.

Delegates backed the plans in a conference vote, and also supported the
pensions and benefits policy later. The partys tax policy a 4p cut in
income tax paid for by higher green taxes was also officially endorsed.


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