James Slack, Daily Mail (London), June 17, 2007
Ruth Kelly is ordering councils to take part in a huge charm offensive on behalf of migrants and travellers.
The Communities Secretary wants town halls to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money ‘combating misinformation’.
Her officials have produced sheets of pro-migrant information. But critics warned that Miss Kelly was asking councils to promote ‘selective propaganda’.
The messages councils must give out include the statement that: “Romany Gipsies have very strict customs about hygiene and cleanliness, developed over many years to cope with living on the roads.”
Councils are also told to claim that the Health Service would ‘literally collapse’ without migrant nurses, doctors and cleaners.
Supposedly impartial civil servants are instructed to plant favourable stories in local newspapers, and even take part in election campaigns where immigrationis a big issue.
Guidance published on the Department of Communities and Local Government website warns ‘saying nothing is not the answer’ and tells councils to begin tackling migration ‘myths’ as a ‘matter of urgency’.
Officials have produced five ‘fact sheets’ for councils to ‘rebut controversial issues’ to do with employment, housing, health, immigration and travellers.
The website says the information ‘contains a number of facts which can be used by local authority frontline staff to discredit-many popular myths’. Councils are ordered to ‘plan strategies in advance’.
The website says: “An explicit communications strategy will provide a strong basis for countering inaccuracies throughout the year.”
Officials are told to seek ‘quick wins’ by planting stories in local newspapers and on TV. The website says: “Promote human interest stories in the media locally, for example how migrants volunteer and contribute to society in various roles.”
Time must also be spent preparing councillors to take part in the charm offensive. The DCLG says: “Ensure members have good accurate information and advice so they can speak with confidence on controversial issues.”
But critics said many of the claims are themselves open to challenge.
One states: “Priority for social housing is based solely on housing need.” But the Government’s own integration commission last week said social housing should no longer be provided for particular groups.
Another claim is that: “The belief that Britain has a particularly high rate of immigration is false. About 5 per cent of the UK population was born abroad.”
But data produced by the Office for National Statistics for MPs said 5,699,000 people living in Britain today were born overseas—10 per cent of the population.
The fact sheets also state: “There is no discernible statistical evidence that migrants from accession countries contribute to a rise in claims for benefits.”
Yet Government figures show there have been at least 92,000 successful benefit claims made by Eastern Europeans. The bill is likely to be £100million.
Blair Gibbs, spokesman for the Tax-Payers’ Alliance, said: “Decent people shouldn’t have to pay to have this sort of propaganda shoved down their throats.
“They want politicians to act on their genuine concerns about uncontrolled immigration and travellers flouting the law.”
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch UK, said: “This so-called information is selected and slanted. It is propaganda masquerading as information, and all at the taxpayers’ expense.”