Some people just can't stand to be contradicted: a message to the ex-minister from someone once ejected from his office for asking tricky questions
You won't remember me: the last time we met was almost three years ago, and you ordered me out of your office in a rage. I was a trainee reporter and you were a Home Office minister.

I had been sent to interview you about a Home Office-sponsored survey in which the overwhelming majority of respondents had expressed complete satisfaction with the immigration services. I noticed a small editorial note tucked away at the bottom which happened to mention that more than 80 per cent of the respondents were British passport holders. When I asked you whether this might have had a bearing on the results, you skated around the point; when I persisted, you ordered me out.

I thought, then, that in holding to your view you chose to disregard evidence that didn't sit comfortably with it. And now, with your resignation over the issue of immigration, you have again denied details that run contrary to your position.

You suggest that Britain is in danger of being overwhelmed by immigrants from non-EU countries who will place an unbearable strain on the social security and health systems. Can it be so easy to enter the EU? So simple to claim benefit?

Any prospective illegal immigrant will still have to negotiate the frontier controls around a "fortress Europe". If, as you wrote yesterday, you have always been a "convinced European", shouldn't you fight for tougher controls around the whole of Europe, rather than restricting your concern to Britain?

Let's suppose an illegal immigrant does manage to penetrate into a Britain unmanned at the frontiers: internal controls still exist that would preclude non-EU citizens from claiming benefit. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants points to the increase in the use of identification checks, checks on people taking up employment and on those taking up benefit.

But you have raised the spectre of hordes of unwashed economic migrants descending on Britain and in so doing have perpetuated the myth of indolent, unemployable members of the ethnic minorities cashing in on easy money and free health care.

It is this myth that undermines the very people whom you claim to be concerned about: members of ethnic minorities - mainly from Afro-Caribbean and Asian countries, like myself - who live in Britain. It makes it even harder for us to combat the discrimination we're so often confronted with. Although you say that the immigration threat comes mainly from Eastern Europe, the word "immigrant" has come to refer, in this country, not to members of white races but to blacks and Asians.

A report in the Economist showed immigrants are more likely to be self- employed and less likely to be welfare dependent. You've only to look at the small businesses springing up within ethnic minority communities to see the evidence of independent, wealth-creating members of British society. Stroll down to your corner shop and, in all likelihood, you'll see for yourself.

But then presenting evidence that runs contrary to your beliefs didn't impress you three years ago. Why should it today?

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