Keith Vaz opens Labour fault line with attack on Chris Bryant

Keith Vaz has attacked Chris Bryant for his speech earlier this week, in a move which threatens to open up a Labour fault line on immigration.

The chairman of the influential home affairs committee warned of an "immigration arms race" with the right and criticised Bryant for blaming retail outlets for hiring foreign workers.

"It is not an answer to lecture companies such as Next on where they should recruit their workers from," he said.

"We desperately need a consensus on immigration. Let's stop this dangerous war of words, initiate a ceasefire and put forward some proposals that can command the respect of the British people. It's time to end the immigration arms race."

Vaz, whose parents came to the UK from Yemen, launched into an outspoken attack on Labour's track record on immigration in an interview with the Leicester Mercury, saying the party had mixed a weak border policy with dangerously inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric.

He branded Gordon Brown's promise of 'British jobs for British workers' a "jingoist message which should never pass the lips of a politician".

The Leicester East MP added: "The challenges with our immigration policy will not start on this day; they started a long time ago.

"Seven years ago a Labour home secretary, John Reid, described the UK Border Agency as 'not fit for purpose', yet it limped along for another five years before being abolished.

"The previous government oversaw the disastrous contract for e-borders, the method by which we count people in and out, which so far has lost the taxpayer £750 million."

The forthright attack on Labour's shadow immigration minister gives some indication of how badly received Bryant's speech on Monday was.

The former Europe minister pre-released extracts of the speech to the Telegraph which were highly critical of Next and Tescos but then backed down when it was shown to contain various inaccuracies.