A Home Office campaign urging illegal immigrants to "go home" has been cleared over complaints it was offensive and irresponsible by the Advertising Standards Agency, but were banned for using misleading arrest statistics
Mark Harper defended the £10,000 campaign, arguing it only needed one person to sign up to the scheme to make it cost-effective.
Speaking during a Westminster Hall debate on the campaign, Mr Harper said: "All that we have to do for that pilot to have paid for itself is for a single individual who was in the country illegally to choose to go home as a result of it."
The minister cited the example of a Pakistani national who saw a picture of the van and messaged the number to arrange support for a flight home, as a way the scheme has saved taxpayers money:
"The pilot has actually already paid for itself. If we had to arrest, detain and enforce the removal of one individual, that would have cost the taxpayer probably the best part of £15,000."
A Home Office spokesman explained the posters will not be used again in their current format, after the ASA ruled the statistics used were "misleading".
We are pleased the ASA have concluded that our pilot was neither offensive nor irresponsible. We have always been clear that this campaign was about encouraging illegal immigrants to leave the country voluntarily and was not targeted at particular racial or ethnic groups.
In respect of the ASA's other findings, we can confirm that the poster will not be used again in its current format.
Although cleared of being offensive, ASA ruled the arrest statistics used on the Home Office's 'Go Home' vans were misleading.
The agency said those who saw the poster would understand the claim "106 arrests last week in your area" to mean that during the previous week 106 people in the area in which they saw the poster had been arrested under suspicion of being in the UK illegally.
It said: "Because the data on which the claim was based related to a significant part of London north of the Thames rather than to the specific areas in which the poster was displayed."
Adding: " [As] the data did not relate to the week prior to the campaign, we concluded the claim was misleading and had not been substantiated."
The ASA ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form,
A Home Office campaign urging illegal immigrants to "go home" has been cleared over complaints it was offensive and irresponsible.
The campaign, which involved poster-clad vans driving through six London boroughs between July 22 and July 28, drew 224 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), including some from groups representing migrants in the UK, legal academics and the Labour peer Lord Lipsey.
The ASA said it acknowledged that the phrase "go home" was reminiscent of slogans used in the past to attack immigrants to the UK, but was generally used in that context as a standalone phrase or accompanied by racially derogatory language.
It said: "We considered that, in context, the claim would be interpreted as a message regarding the immigration status of those in the country illegally, which was not related to their race or ethnicity."