Labour leadership challenger Owen Smith has promised to "secure" the UK's borders, amid a row over illegal immigration. The commitment, made in reaction from a question from IBTimes UK's at Smith's rally in Milton Keynes today (8 August), comes after popular fast-food chain Byron Hamburgers faced large-scale protests.

The company faced criticism over its reported co-operation with the Home Office in a number of immigration raids, which led to the arrest of 35 of the company's workers. Smith, as shadow Welsh secretary, had urged the government to "go further in tackling illegal immigration" in 2013.

IBTimes UK pressed the Pontypridd MP on the issue, after he unveiled a number of policies around the world of work, including the introduction of a "real" Living Wage of £8.25 per hour.

"I won't do what Theresa May did, which is to have racist ad vans around London in order to dog whistle. And I won't do what Nigel Farage did, which was to use racist posters to dog whistle. We've got to have a much more decent conversation around immigration," Smith told IBTimes UK.

"Of course, if there is illegal immigration and people are illegally entering this country, then you've got to deal with that problem and a Labour government would need to do that to make sure our borders are secure, that's ever more important.

"But we have got to be not sucked into the intolerance, racism and division that has become so incredibly powerful in recent months. I was horrified by some of the language people felt licenced to use during that referendum. It's not British to have that sort of intolerance."

Smith failed to elaborate on how he would "secure" the UK's borders, but the issue of migration levels was a hot topic in British politics before, during and after the EU referendum. David Cameron infamously promised to reduce net migration levels to "tens of thousands", while the most recent official data put the figure at 333,000.

Meanwhile, Smith admitted he was the "underground" in the Labour leadership race. Jeremy Corbyn secured almost 60% of the vote in the party's 2015 leadership election and a poll from YouGov for The Times, of more than 1,000 Labour members between 15 and 18 July, put Corbyn on 56% and Smith on 34% based on first preference votes.

Key dates of Labour leadership election

  • 18 July: Signing up as a registered supporter to vote in the election begins.
  • 19-20 July: Number of MP nominations for each candidate to be published.
  • 20 July: Deadline for people to sign up as a registered supporter closes.
  • 22 August: Ballot papers will begin to be sent out around the UK, but to Labour Party members only.
  • 21 September: Deadline for ballot papers to be returned is midday.
  • 24 September: The election result will be announced at a Leadership Conference in Liverpool.