Vince Cable says immigration “hound and pound” van is “offensive and stupid”

Home Office's immigration van

A senior MP has described the government’s new immigration van as “offensive and stupid” which is destined to fail.

Secretary of State for Business, Vince Cable criticised his Conservative colleagues for launching a “stupid and offensive” pursuit on illegal immigrants via the so-called “racist van” and accused them of being “obsessed” with migration figures.

Dr Ilyas Mohammed wrote an article for 5 Pillarz which described the government’s immigration “hound and pound” van as racist. (

Vince Cable had also stated that the Liberal Democrats had not been consulted, adding that Immigration Minister Mark Harper’s decision to send vans bearing the message “go home, or you’ll be picked up and deported” round London was designed to create “fear” among the public.

The Business Secretary also described “misleading” targets to reduce net migration and insisted that Britain did not have a major problem with illegal immigrants.

He questioned whether illegal immigrants would have a proper grasp of English to be able to read the posters on the vans. He added: “I think it is offensive. It is designed, apparently, to sort of create a sense of fear (in the) British population that we have a vast problem with illegal immigration.

“We have a problem but it’s not a vast one. It’s got to be dealt within a measured way dealing with the underlying causes.”

5 Pillarz published an article on Monday explaining how senior MPs from the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) described the government’s immigration statistics as “little better than a guess” and “not fit for purpose”. (

In a recent interview with the BBC, Mr Cable highlighted that the Lib Dems had not been consulted about the van campaign. He said: “It was stupid and offensive. I think it is very unlikely it will continue.”

PASC Report

The report by PASC states that the number of migrants coming to Britain is not accurately monitored, and warns the statistics are “not fit for purpose”.

The report also highlights how the data analysis on how many non-UK residents are entering and leaving the country is mainly based on “random interviews” of travellers at airports and ports that were initially introduced to observe tourism trends.

Conservative MP Alun Cairns, who sits on the PASC committee said in a recent television interview: “When we come down to measuring the absolute numbers, it’s far too blunt, the way in which they collect the data is too inaccurate and the margin for error is far too great.”

Only 5,000 migrants a year are identified through the International Passenger Survey (IPS) and the report warned that many “may be reticent to give full and frank answers”.

MPs said that the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which uses the research to draw up its migration estimates, has “done its best” to produce informative statistics, but the survey “is not fit for the purposes to which it is put” and ministers must find new methods to gather concrete information.

In June 2012, immigration was estimated at 515,000 while emigration was estimated at 352,000.

When Mr Cable was asked about the criticism regarding the accuracy of migration figures by PASC, he said: “We are not a totalitarian state. We don’t count every single person but actually it’s quite difficult being an illegal immigrant in Britain. You can’t work, certainly legally, you can’t have access to benefits. So, the idea that there’s some vast, hidden army of people, is almost certainly completely wrong.

“The argument about those numbers, which was raised by a select committee, it only really matters if you are pursuing some target. There’s this sort of net immigration figure, which the Conservatives are very preoccupied by. It’s not a government objective, make it absolutely clear.

“This idea that you are pursuing a net immigration figure is very misleading because, amongst other things, the largest number of people counted as immigrants are overseas students, who are not immigrants, they are visitors but under the United Nations classification they are regarded as immigrants, but they are good for the country. So obsessing about this net immigration number is not helpful.”

Twitter campaigners have been urging followers to bombard the text and phone number printed on the van with calls, asking for lifts “home”, using the hashtag #RacistVan.

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