Controversial Government adverts urging illegal immigrants to “go home” have been reported to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
The adverts, displayed on billboards transported by vans across six London boroughs, instructs migrants with expired visas to: “Go home or face arrest”.
Lord Lipsey, a former member of the ASA's council, objected to a claim in the adverts that there had been “106 arrests last week in your area”, arguing that such a statement was “grossly misleading”.
The Labour peer, who chairs the parliamentary all-party group on statistics, said he was concerned that the adverts' claim on numbers of arrests could not be sustained.
The large-print statistic “106 arrests last week in your area” was followed by an asterisk referring readers to a footnote indicating the week and the boroughs involved, in print too small to be read when the trailer is in motion.
But Lord Lipsey said that anyone who did manage to read the footnote would find that the “huge” area referred to stretched from Hounslow in the west to Dagenham in the east, and crucially included Heathrow Airport.
The scheme was also criticised yesterday by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who said it was not a “clever” way to tackle with the issue of illegal immigration, and stressed that no Liberal Democrat ministers had been consulted before it was implemented.
It was likely that many of the detentions were of newly-arrived would-be immigrants at the airport, said Lord Lipsey, who told the ASA: “I believe the figures may well have been distorted by this inclusion, which would make the figures quoted misleading in breach of the codes.”
Lord Lipsey said the small print made clear the claim that the arrests took place “last week” was misleading, as the figures relate to a period more than a fortnight before the ads were displayed
And he added: “I do not believe that any inhabitant of Barking and Dagenham would believe their area to include Hounslow. Again, the Government is deliberately misleading the public by aggregating figures over an area which no one would describe as theirs.
“If the Government is to mount a campaign of this nature, it is incumbent on it to ensure that it does not exaggerate or lie, in breach of the advertising code of practice. On the face of things, this advert falls far short of the standards insisted on by the ASA. I have accordingly asked it to rule urgently on its acceptability.”
Immigration Minister Mark Harper said: “We are making it more difficult for people to live and work in the UK illegally. Every single day our enforcement officers are arresting, detaining and removing people with no right to be in the UK.
“But there is an alternative to being led away in handcuffs. Help and advice can be provided to those who cooperate and return home voluntarily.
“This pilot is just another part of the reforms of the immigration system that have cut out abuse and seen net migration drop to its lowest levels in nearly a decade. The Immigration Bill being introduced later this year will build on this work by restricting illegal migrants' access to benefits and services.”
The Home Office said that if the pilot proved successful, it could be rolled out across the country.
Additional reporting by PA
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies