Cook accuses Hague of using asylum to 'legitimise' racism

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Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, accused William Hague of legitimising racism last night as a new row between Labour and the Tories erupted over asylum and immigration.

Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, accused William Hague of legitimising racism last night as a new row between Labour and the Tories erupted over asylum and immigration.

Mr Cook launched a strong attack on the Tories over their repeated warnings that Britain faced a flood of bogus asylum-seekers.

He told his constituency party in Livingston, Scotland: "When William Hague talks of Britain being threatened by a 'flood' of asylum-seekers, he is exploiting fear. When Liam Fox [Tory health spokesman] claims that foreign doctors are threatening the lives of British patients, he is guilty of encouraging prejudice."

He added: "If we are to build Britain as a stable and successful multi-cultural society, politicians need to mind their language. They should stigmatise racism, not legitimise it."

The Conservatives reacted furiously last night. Tim Collins, the party's vice-chairman, said: "On asylum, William Hague is speaking for the mainstream majority of people. They are committed to good race relations but are angered by the Government's failure to deliver the effective immigration controls that must underpin them."

Today Barbara Roche, the Immigration minister, will call for a "grown-up" debate on the issue and outline plans to make it easier for skilled economic migrants to enter Britain when she makes a speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research.

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