A Labour MP faced calls to resign last night after he demanded an end to foreign workers moving to Britain, warning that the influx would damage race relations.
Roger Godsiff, who represents a multicultural community in the West Midlands, said voters were concerned about immigration but were often afraid to mention it for fear of being labelled racist.
He told Radio 4’s Westminster Hour: “I don’t believe economic migration is any longer necessary and I also don’t think it’s going to be good for the future of race relations in this country. I have to view it as a Member of Parliament representing a constituency which has already taken in a large number of first and second-generation immigrants who have assimilated and who have contributed a great deal to the development of the country. But enough is enough.”
He said it was perverse for Britain to be “plundering” the developing world for talented workers who were needed for their home countries’ development. His comments put him at odds with the Government, which has championed economic migration to address skill shortages, and provoked stinging criticism from other MPs and immigrant groups.
Mr Godsiff goes further than last week’s call by Michael Howard, the Tory leader, for an annual cap on immigration. Mr Howard’s decision to place the issue at the heart of Tory policy was condemned as “desperate” and “irresponsible”. Mr Godsiff’s view caused astonishment because 65 per cent of his constituents in Birmingham Sparkbrook & Small Heath are from ethnic minorities.
A Home Office source said: “He speaks for no one but himself.” Labour MPs were horrified. Keith Vaz, the former Europe minister, said: “He is very lucky because he got elected only because of the Asian community. Maybe he should think again about whether he wants to represent them.” Barbara Roche, a former immigration minister, said: “Managed migration is a good thing for the country; it’s good for us economically and it’s good for us in cultural terms.” Khalid Mahmood, MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, said: “I find it shocking. I have known Roger for a long time and I would not think that was a comment he would make.”
Mr Godsiff has been an MP since 1992 and held his inner-city seat with a 16,246 majority at the last election. The constituency has been riven with political in-fighting and Mr Godsiff has yet to be reselected for the election expected in May.
Last night he told The Independent that immigrants in previous decades had assimilated successfully despite the prejudice they faced. “What I’m concerned about is we have another wave of immigration, then we get to the situation where these excellent community relations, which exist in Birmingham, can be undermined.” He said skills shortages should be tackled by encouraging workers to retire later.