A senior Birmingham Tory politician yesterday apologised for describing asylum seekers as scumbags who never expected to do a day's work in their lives.
John Lines, the cabinet member for housing, made his controversial remarks in an interview with Defence Management Journal, complaining about differences between the treatment of Gurkhas who could not get British citizenship and asylum seekers.
He was reported to have said: "We do not afford them (Gurkhas) citizenship. We pay them a pension to go back to Nepal.
"Yet some scallywag, some scumbag can jump on the back of a lorry, come over under the tunnel and never expect to do a day's work in his (expletive) life. And if he's been here for a time waiting for a decision we give him automatic British citizenship. The world's gone (expletive) mad".
Coun Lines (Con Bartley Green) used the full city council meeting yesterday to withdraw his remarks, which he said should have been directed at the Government rather than at asylum seekers.
He insisted it was wrong for asylum seekers to be given priority on the housing waiting list while soldiers returning from Iraq as "heroes" had to wait in line with drug addicts for accommodation.
Coun Lines added: "I am being told I am requesting preferential treatment for our veterans. Well, yes, I am.
"They are vulnerable people let down by the Government. Squaddies returning from Iraq having fought Blair's war don't get a look in. What an ungrateful nation we are."
He said he had committed "the heinous crime" of becoming emotional when being interviewed by the Defence Management Journal and he now regretted having referred to asylum seekers as scumbags.
However, he maintained that council officers were being bullied by the Government into setting aside Birmingham council properties for 309 asylum seeker families.
Failure to do so would result in the families being officially classified as homeless.
"That means at all our neighbourhood offices we will have these people presenting themselves on the doorstep and we will have to house them as a priority," he added.
Coun Lines has been reported to a local government watchdog for allegedly bringing the city council into disrepute.
The comments were described as "brutally offensive" by former Labour city councillor Dennis Minnis, who has asked the Standards Board of England to investigate.
Mr Minnis, who runs a project to assist refugees in Handsworth, said: "This sort of thing will tarnish the reputation of Birmingham. I believe Coun Lines has very serious flaws where refugees and asylum seekers are concerned and should have no place in the public affairs of a diverse city like Birmingham."
He said Coun Lines' comments contrasted with assurances from Conservative leader David Cameron that his party had shifted away from right-wing beliefs about immigration.
In his letter to the Standards Board, Mr Minnis claimed Coun Lines breached the city council code of conduct, which states that a member must "promote equalities and treat others with respect" and not behave in a manner which could bring the council into disrepute.
Mr Minnis added: "The comments were acting against equalities, reinforced stereotypes and could damage community relations. They could be taken as an indication of how Coun Lines would like to see the authority move in relation to the provision of housing and other services to asylum seekers in Birmingham."
Last year Coun Lines caused a rumpus when he imposed a "no luxuries" ban on nearly 2,000 asylum seekers being offered council houses in Birmingham.
He insisted the 260 homes should be furnished only to basic standard and should not include television sets paid for by the council.
The Standards Board can suspend or even sack a councillor, or it may refer the matter to the city council's own standards committee.