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UK Politics

Ministers shelve plan for £10,000 bond to enter UK

The Government has backed down over immigration policy and its own rhetoric on asylum-seekers after enduring angry criticism from senior Labour MPs and trades union leaders.

Margaret Beckett, the Leader of the Commons, said ministers would shelve plans to impose a £10,000 bond on some foreign visitors, in an attempt to reassure black and Asian voters. She also promised that ministers would stop using the phrase "bogus asylum-seekers", after a new poll showed that Labour's support among black and Asian Britons had plummeted.

Mrs Beckett said use of the phrase would end following outspoken complaints from Bill Morris, the leader of the Transport and General Workers Union, that it was "giving life to the racists". Writing in The Independent last week, Mr Morris also fiercely criticised the bond proposal.

In an interview on the Dimbleby programme, Mrs Beckett was asked whether ministers were "dropping" the bond scheme. She said: "Certainly putting it on hold, because there has been a tremendous reaction against it."

An opinion poll published today shows that support for Labour among Asian Britons has reached its lowest level in years. The poll, by Warwick University for The Voice newspaper and Operation Black Vote, found that support among Asians had dropped from 80 per cent in 1998 to 65 per cent today. Support among black voters had dropped from 95 per cent to 82 per cent.

Mrs Beckett led a rearguard action by the Government yesterday, rejecting claims that its language was fostering racism.

Mike O'Brien, a Home Office minister, said last week that he did not want "language police" to cover every word ministers said, but Mrs Beckett made it clear that the word "bogus" should not be used again.

She said that, with Jack Straw and Tony Blair, she would try to find other ways of describing asylum-seekers with unfounded claims.

"I'm sure people will look at it again and will see whether there is a different way," she said. "I'm certainly going to find a different method of description which is acceptable."