"Too often today, people are ready to tell us, 'this is not possible; that is not possible'. I say, whatever the true interest of our country calls for, is always possible!"
- Enoch Powell.
Sunday, 12 December 2010
Harriet Harman praises 'hero' immigrants who send welfare handouts home
Harriet Harman has praised ‘heroic’ immigrants who claim welfare payments in Britain and use the cash to support families living abroad.
She said the Government should make it easier for them to send the money home and called for tax refunds to encourage more immigrants to follow suit, in particular those who paid for their children to be educated in the Third World.
The Labour Deputy Leader, who is also the party’s spokesman on International Development, derided ‘those who say we should look after our own first’ in the recession and vowed to fight any attempt to cut the £9.4 billion overseas aid budget.
But last night the Government challenged her ‘bizarre’ conduct.
Her comments were made at a meeting at Southwark town hall in her South London constituency, called to find ways to increase the flow of money from Britain to other nations in ‘remittances’ – money sent by families who have settled here to those left behind.
Helping hand: Harriet Harman gives some advice to one of her Muslim constituents
The meeting was attended by many local voters with Nigerian, Ugandan and other foreign backgrounds, as well as representatives of aid charities.
An eyewitness said: ‘Harriet led a discussion on how to back up what she called the “hidden heroes of development through developing new policies on remittances”.’
Ms Harman said she had conducted a survey of constituents, mainly West Africans, attending her surgeries who were regularly sending money back home to sustain children and other relatives.
‘She said she had been amazed by how many were doing this,’ said a source. ‘Some were themselves in receipt of State benefits here and were still sending what they could abroad.’
Ms Harman said she intended to launch a new international survey to learn how other countries handled remittances to poorer nations to enable Britain to ‘make the procedure easier, even possibly with some sort of tax relief for those who send payments to educate relatives abroad’.
Her radical proposal was supported by some at the meeting.
But one member of the audience said Ms Harman would have to be ‘careful’ how she campaigned on the issue. ‘She was told that if it was found the majority of people sending remittances were on benefits, critics would say it proved that they are receiving too much in State handouts if they can still send money abroad,’ according to one person who was present.
Ms Harman said she was also determined to stop the Government doing a U-turn on its promise not to cut the annual overseas aid budget.
‘We have to keep the Government to their promise of spending on 0.7 per cent of gross national income on international aid after 2012,’ she said. And Labour must do so ‘even with the usual howls from media critics who say that we should be looking after our own first and foremost, especially in this time of austerity’.
Last night Ms Harman stood by her remarks. She told The Mail on Sunday: ‘There are many people in my constituency who come from Africa and work and study and bring up their families here. Many of them also send money back to their village in their country of origin. We should respect and encourage that. International development is not just something done by governments.