Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Labour paying out for repatriation

Letter to the Daily Telegraph - September 11th 2001


One fundamental distinction between the far Right and the mainstream Right is that the former has unacceptable policies of forcible repatriation of citizens, while the latter is happy to support the principle of voluntary and financially compensated repatriation of those settled in the United Kingdom who freely express a wish to return to their countries of origin.

But I am still surprised at the vehemence surrounding some of the comments on this issue.

The Home Office Voluntary Return Scheme, set up under Section 29 of the Immigration Act 1971 by Edward Heath's government, allows people permanently settled in Britain who wish to return to their country of origin to claim financial assistance. It remains in force under the current Labour government, which last year allowed £120,000 of public funds to be used for this purpose.

The issue was reopened for debate in recent years by the late Left-wing MP Bernie Grant, who was not normally associated with the political Right. A similar scheme also operates in France, where it was introduced by a socialist government.

To claim that support for a voluntary scheme of this kind is somehow "extreme" would appear not merely indicative of a certain intolerance but also to be in clear contradiction of the facts. Clearly some liberal commentators need to take a deep breath and remember that freedom of thought as well as expression are vital parts of a vibrant democracy which we damage at our peril. If the current furore serves to remind people of this, then it may in the end have served a useful purpose.

Dr. Charles Tannock MEP (Con)
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