Theresa May to axe 'Go home' vans after pilot scheme deemed a failure

Labour claims that only one person returned home as a result of the campaign

Political Editor

The Liberal Democrats claimed victory last night after Conservative ministers abandoned plans to revive their controversial “go home or face arrest” advertising campaign on illegal immigration.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, insisted that she took the decision to drop the mobile advan posters after a £10,000 pilot scheme. Labour claimed only one person returned to their home country as a result of the campaign but the Tories denied that.

Mrs May told MPs: “What I've done is look at the interim evaluation in relation to the plans - and there were some returns achieved as a result of that. Politicians should be willing to step up to the plate and say when they think something actually hasn't been as good an idea, and I think they were too blunt an instrument.”

But Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat Home Office Minister appointed this month, said he had “made clear” that the campaign was unacceptable and should not be rolled out nationwide. A Lib Dem source said: “The vans may well not have been very effective, but they were stopped because of Norman.”

An aide to Mrs May replied: “Theresa saw an interim evaluation which didn’t convince her of future roll-out. It was absolutely nothing to do with Baker.”

The Home Secretary’s decision came as a surprise because Mark Harper, the Immigration Minister, said last Thursday that the ads could be extended nationwide. He also said the scheme would be reviewed for three months to give immigrants time to return home. On Saturday, The Independent reported that the Lib Dems would veto a national campaign.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, told Mrs May during fierce Commons exchanges she should take responsibility for the "complete failure" of the poster.

"You agreed to that slogan," she said. "And you agreed to send it round communities whose parents heard it from the National Front in the 1970s and whose British citizens work in our public services, build our businesses and fight in our armed forces today. You signed this policy off, you defended it. You should be better than that. I hope you are ashamed of what you did. You should confirm that you will never pursue such divisive gimmicks again. It is beneath you and it ought to be beneath this government."

Tim Farron, the Lib Dem president, said: “This is a failed project and the Home Office should hold their hands up and admit it was wrong both practically and morally. It is important that our borders are protected and secure but this policy - driving a van around some of the most diverse communities in London - is not the way to deliver that."  

The campaign prompted 224 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority, which ruled that the poster was misleading because of the number of arrests quoted applied to a wider area that it implied. But it did not judge that the ad was racist.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 5
film
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss