Anti-immigrant UKIP leader hires Polish builders

Matthew Beard
Monday 08 May 2006 00:00 BST

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As leader of the anti-immigration UK Independence Party, Roger Knapman has railed against eastward expansion of the European Union and opposed the use of imported labour.

However, political doctrine appears to have given way to the need for thrifty home improvement; Mr Knapman has hired cheap Polish builders to do up his country mansion, it was revealed yesterday.

Mr Knapman, an MEP and the UKIP's leader since 2002, recruited the workers through his son, whose company specialises in bringing foreign labour to Britain.

The men have been at Mr Knapman's grade-II listed home in the village of Coryton, west Devon, for 11 months. They sleep dormitory-style in the attic.

The company run by Mr Knapman's son claims that the imported labour costs up to 50 per cent less than British workers would. Mr Knapman, speaking to an undercover reporter from The Sunday Times, praised the men as "they work so much harder".

Such enthusiasm for foreign workers may surprise some UKIP supporters. The party was the only British group in the European parliament to vote against allowing east European states into the EU. UKIP has warned that enlarging the EU would lead to a "flood of migrants" that would be bad for Britain. Its 2005 manifesto said "the numbers of those permitted to enter legally has been rising sharply.... The Labour Government's untenable excuse is thatwe need large numbers of immigrant workers."

Mr Knapman, a former Conservative MP, is also an outspoken supporter of buying British and is proud of owning two Rover cars.

Of the Poles, he said to the undercover reporter: "They have a very good work ethic and work so much harder than anyone over here. You know that they are not going to go off and do another job as they are there specifically for you. Many of the workers here just aren't skilled enough to do the work involved in renovating an old property. These men work 10 hours a day, six days a week. It's a 60-hour week but they want to do it."

He said he could help arrange teams of eastern Europeans to do renovations and building through a company run by his son, William, who had supplied the men working on his Devon property.

"He will bring over some Polish workers according to what you need and they won't let you down. There are two or three different teams and whom you get depends on what job you need doing." William Knapman runs Billdar, a Polish-registered company that hires eastern Europeans to work in Britain. The workers, whom he describes as being "like an army of ants", are paid £50 per day - half the cost of a British builder. He told the undercover reporter that he used mostly Polish workers and quoted £4,000 for two men working for six weeks, including the company's fee.

Mr Knapman Snr could not be contacted yesterday, but he told The Sunday Times there was "no contradiction" between what he was doing and the objectives of the party.

In his own words

* 'There is a limit to the number of people we can take in on a small island: it's just a numbers game'

* Launching UKIP's general election manifesto, Mr Knapman said that the party's case was simple: 'We want our country back'

* On the signing of the 2004 EU constitution in Rome: 'Successive Labour and Conservative governments have signed away British rights to the EU for many years now, but none has gone so far as this: signing away the right of the British people to self-government'

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