Nick Clegg ditches 'illegal immigrant amnesty' proposal

Deputy Prime Minister admits that election pledge was seen by some as 'a reward for breaking the law'

Nick Clegg today ditched one of the Liberal Democrats’ most controversial policies as he abandoned plans to offer an amnesty to illegal immigrants who had been in Britain for ten years.

The party’s support for the move – which it argued would enable people living here unlawfully to take their place in society – came under sustained fire from the Tory and Labour parties at the last election.

The Deputy Prime Minister, in a major speech on immigration, said he now believed the policy commitment to have been mistaken as it undermined public confidence about the security of Britain’s borders.

Mr Clegg said: “We felt it was an honest and pragmatic solution given the chaos in the Home Office and the obvious failure by Labour to identify where thousands of illegal immigrants were.

“Better surely, we asked, to get them to pay their taxes and make a proper contribution to our society, than to continue to live in the shadows?

“But, despite the policy’s aims, it was seen by many people as a reward for those who have broken the law. And so it risked undermining public confidence in the immigration system - the very public confidence that is essential to a tolerant and open Britain.

“That is why I am no longer convinced this specific policy should be retained in our manifesto for the next general election.”