A speech by Tom Hunt at a fringe meeting of the Conservative Party Conference has angered equality campaigners in Ipswich.

Mr Hunt was widely reported as telling a meeting of the New Conservatives group: “Being frank, it is not xenophobic when you walk into your town centre to not want to feel like you’re living in a foreign country.

"I don't think that makes you a xenophobe. I think that makes you somebody who wants to live in a community with shared values."

He also told the meeting that immigration should not only be considered "purely through the lens of GDP".

Trustees of the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE) met to discuss Mr Hunt's comments before issuing a statement.

That said: "Many Ipswich residents have reached out to ISCRE to express their disappointment at what they say are divisive comments attributed to their Member of Parliament.

"It is safe to say Mr Hunt’s views do not reflect the majority views of the constituents he is meant to represent.

"Voluntary and community groups supporting some of Ipswich’s most vulnerable and marginalised migrants fleeing persecution are equally concerned about the possible damage to community cohesion, of the MP’s comments.

"Ipswich has a long history of building a culture of hospitality for people seeking sanctuary. Migrants have been recorded and welcomed to Ipswich since as far back as the 10th century.

"The MP’s rhetoric does nothing to stop the real problem, which is the exploitation of desperate people at the hands of people smugglers.

"What communities are asking for is leadership and grown-up conversations about how to create an immigration system fit to deal with the current migrant crisis."

The MP responded on Tuesday evening and said: “The ISCRE representatives who issued this statement were not at the event in question and are clearly not aware of the facts.

“Sadly ISCRE have a record of issuing these sort of ill-informed statements which sometimes appear to be politically motivated.

“The comments I made were during a debate about the national level impacts of mass migration.

"I’m very concerned by the impact illegal migration is having on many local communities and also think that the level of net legal migration is too high.

“Large numbers of Ipswich residents share my views and I will not be silent on these matters.”

Mr Hunt's comments at the conference in Manchester came the day after the BSC Multicultural Services group's 25th Anniversary celebrations at Trinity Park where he had been expected to make a keynote speech. 

The event was scheduled on the same day as the start of the party's conference.