Cabinet split as Baroness Warsi attacks 'racist' curbs on immigration

Tory co-chairman in row with Theresa May over new restrictions on bringing in partners

Baroness Warsi pleaded with cabinet colleagues to drop what she warned would be seen as a "racist" policy when they discussed curbs on migrants bringing family members to live with them in Britain.

The row exploded when Theresa May, the Home Secretary, proposed that UK citizens earning less than £40,000 should not be allowed to bring in a foreign wife or husband, The Independent has learnt. Lady Warsi, the Conservative Party co-chairman and the first Muslim woman to sit in the Cabinet, warned that such a policy would amount to a "whites only" entry rule, with family members living in the Punjab having no chance of getting to this country. Cabinet colleagues say she warned bluntly that such a policy would be viewed as "racist".

The Tory peer, whose own father came to Britain from the Punjab, mounted a successful rearguard action against the Home Office plan after winning the backing of Nick Clegg and his fellow Liberal Democrat ministers. Ms May was forced to back down and announced a much lower income threshold of £18,600 last week, with a further £2,200 for each child.

Lady Warsi's office declined to comment. But one ally said: "Sayeeda does feel passionately about this issue." A Whitehall source confirmed: "She fought her corner very strongly. Other ministers took what she was saying very seriously." Last month, the Tory co-chairman raised eyebrows by saying that a small minority of Pakistani men saw white girls as "fair game". Nine Muslim men had been found guilty of grooming girls for sex in Rochdale. Greater Manchester Police had played down claims about a racial element.

Another cabinet dispute over immigration looms over a plan to exclude foreign students from the official figures. This is being floated by David Willetts, the Conservative Universities minister, and Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, who are said to be arguing that students should not be counted because the vast majority only stay in Britain temporarily. The move would boost David Cameron's prospects of meeting his pledge to reduce net migration to under 100,000 a year. It is currently running at 250,000.

But it is being opposed by the Home Office. Damian Green, the Immigration minister, has insisted that the Government is on course to meet its target without "fiddling" the figures. He told BBC2's Newsnight programme that ministers could not "redefine" its way out of a problem. "Changing the thermometer does not change the temperature," he said.

Yesterday, Mr Green turned his fire on Labour as the party began to launch a tougher stance on immigration. He told The Independent: "This feels to me eerily reminiscent of Gordon Brown talking about British jobs for British workers. Unless they are proposing to rewrite the rules of the European Union they could be promising to deliver in an area where action is least likely."

l Moves to increase the penalties for people-trafficking will be announced by the Home Office today. The Attorney General will gain the power to appeal against what are viewed as lenient sentences for criminal gangs bringing in overseas nationals.

Family fortunes: What you must earn

Immigration earning rules

Under the new rules, any foreign national who wants to bring a spouse to Britain will have to earn at least £18,600.

The figure rises if the couple have children – someone applying to bring in three children needs to earn £27,200.

Previously there was no minimum income requirement.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there