Blunkett calls for truce with Tories over immigration

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Indy Politics

David Blunkett appealed to the Conservatives to call a truce in the immigration row yesterday and he asked his opposite number on the Tory front bench to hand over further evidence of abuse of the system.

After the resignation of Beverley Hughes as Immigration minister, the Home Secretary is braced for fresh newspaper claims tomorrow of corner-cutting and incompetence in his Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND).

But his troubles worsened yesterday when the Metropolitan Police Commissioner warned that Britain's "porous" borders were allowing terrorists to slip in undetected.

With the Tories trying to switch the focus of their attack to the Home Secretary, Mr Blunkett refused a stream of requests for interviews while he attended a family engagement. But in a brief statement he appealed to David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, as a fellow Privy Councillor, to hand over his dossier of claims about the IND. He said: "It is time for David Davis to come forward and disclose to the authorities any further allegations he has received about possible immigration abuses. If we are to put confidence back in the system and deal with any problems we need people to be honest about what they know."

He added: "This is not political knockabout, this is a serious challenge. As a Privy Councillor, I am sure David Davis will not want to continue to be in a position where he holds allegations of possible abuses that he has not disclosed for investigation."

Mr Davis said: "David Blunkett cannot expect civil servants to come forward having seen the way his Government has treated them in the past. He has to agree to a complete amnesty to any civil servant, no matter what they expose."

He renewed his demand, backed by the Liberal Democrats, for a full independent inquiry into the workings of the IND.

As alarm rises in the Government over the potential harm it could suffer from the interlinked issue of race, immigration and asylum, Sir John Stevens, the head of Scotland Yard, went public with his fears that lax border controls helped terrorists go undetected.

"We do need proper border controls, we do need proper immigration controls in this country. The borders of this country have been porous and we can prove that with a number of cases which have had high-profile recently," he told GMTV in an interview to be broadcast tomorrow. He said the "way forward" was to ensure immigration, customs and the police worked with MI5 and MI6.

Home Office sources insisted they were striking the right balance between checking new arrivals and allowing free movement in and out of the country.

Yesterday Des Browne, who has replaced Ms Hughes, completed his first full day in his new job, widely regarded as one of the most challenging outside the Cabinet. Ministers privately acknowledge the IND needs improvement, but insist reforms already in train will eventually reap their rewards.

Mr Davis has released 10 detailed questions to Mr Blunkett over his involvement in the saga that led to Ms Hughes's downfall. Most related to when he became aware of abuses of the system by bogus visa applicants from Bulgaria and Romania.