Headache for Howard as whistleblower blows top

A BID by Michael Howard to embarrass the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, over a civil-service whistleblower backfired yesterday after the man was exposed as holding offensive views about Muslims.

In rambling tirades posted on a BBC website, Steve Moxon, who revealed that checks on eastern European immigrants were being waived, argued that Islamic fundamentalists "eventually will have to be silenced by nuclear weapons".

Mr Moxon was suspended from the Immigration and Nationality Directorate in Sheffield after he disclosed that applications for UK residency by eastern Europeans had been secretly fast-tracked under a procedure code-named Operation Brace.

Mr Howard, the Tory leader, seized on the government’s refusal to intervene in his case and yesterday invited Mr Moxon to a meeting in London - and taunted the Prime Minister when he refused to meet him.

During exchanges at Prime Minister’s questions yesterday, Mr Howard told Mr Blair: "This is a government in which ministers don’t know what is happening in their departments ... people are allowed to stay in this country without any proper checks being made - and the only person who suffers is the whistleblower who tells the truth.

"The managers who introduced the secret policy and the minister who didn’t have a clue what was going on, are still in place. Why is that fair?"

Mr Blair said: "It is for the department to decide its own personnel procedures in respect of each individual.

"Surely the issue is a very simple one. There was a practice developed in this office that should not have been developed. The minister has already made that clear and she also made it clear she was not aware of that.

"I’m trying to put this in context, because it is not the case that this involves hundreds of thousands of people a year.

"It almost certainly involves a very small number of people, because the vast majority even of the 40,000 were here already legally. The number of people therefore claiming entry into this country would have been much smaller than that."

Mr Moxon last night admitted he had e-mailed the BBC’s Panorama website and that he had described the Wahhabi sect of the Muslim faith as being "worse than Stalin".

In his rambling entry, Mr Moxon said: "Historicism helps to make Islamic student fervour contagious, risking a critical mass to overturn regimes which can then turn into Khmer Rouge style Year Zeros.

"An international alliance of Islamic Year Zeros feverishly exporting death to ‘infidel’ and non-fundamentalist Muslim alike, by Kamikazes literally in their millions, eventually will have to be silenced by nuclear weapons."

It was not clear last night whether or not Mr Howard had known about Mr Moxon’s opinions on Muslims before he invited him for a meeting at the Commons.

But a government insider claimed last night the views expressed by the whistleblower left the Tory leader looking "like the opportunist Tony Blair has rightly labelled him on many, many occasions".

Mr Moxon yesterday told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme he could not remember precisely what he had written.

But he added: "I can’t recall what the context was, but certainly I have written something about the Wahhabi sect, which is obviously a problem."

Mr Moxon added: "I am a supporter of immigration. In all developed countries, it is quite normal and desirable that there is a two-way flow of migration.

"The issue is different, obviously, when it comes to a serious imbalance, when the situation is out of control, as it appears to have got now."

The decision by Mr Moxon to expose the failures in immigration checks has caused a political headache for Beverley Hughes, the immigration minister.

She has insisted it would have been "absurd" to blame her for the failures, but admitted she had set up an inquiry into how applications by eastern Europeans were fast tracked - breaching strict government rules.

A staff changeover in Ms Hughes office has been given as the official reason for the failures to heed Mr Moxon’s warnings when he first made them eight weeks ago.

It remains unclear when Mr Moxon will be allowed back to work.

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