Former home secretary admits to ‘upping removals’ in direct response to anti-immigration press coverage

Ex-Labour politician Lord Blunkett says there were times during his tenure when 'pressure was so great' that he had to take 'unpleasant' steps – which he admits were sometimes 'overdone'

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 14 November 2018 23:12 GMT
Former home secretary Lord David Blunkett admits to ‘upping removals’ in direct response to anti-immigration press coverage

A former Labour home secretary has admitted that he ordered staff to “up removals” in direct response to anti-immigration press coverage during his time in office.

Lord David Blunkett, who served in the role between between 2001 and 2004 under Tony Blair, said there were times during his tenure when “the pressure was so great” following media reports that he was forced to take “unpleasant” steps – which he admitted were sometimes “overdone”.

Speaking to the Human Rights Committee in an evidence session on immigration detention, he said: “I said to staff you’ve really got to up the removals because we’re being made monkeys of because the press are running stories about the thousands of people whose appeals have been turned down and have not been removed and the system is shown to be breaking down.

“So the message from minister would be you’ve got to take these steps, and some of those steps were so unpleasant that we had to say sorry the message has been overdone. The dawn raids and people being dragged out of bed, and who in a civilised society feels comfortable with that? Nobody.”

Lord Blunkett also described a tendency to avoid the “blame culture” in the Home Office, saying: “On so many occasions there would be so many people to blame that there would be nobody working there anymore.”

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

On the topic of the Windrush scandal, which saw deportation threats made to the children of Commonwealth citizens, who despite living and working in the UK for decades, were told they are living in the UK illegally because of a lack of official paperwork, he apportioned some of the blame to himself.

“I was surprised that things that I thought we’d done didn’t work. I thought we’d dealt with that, in terms of those who were British citizens but weren’t really passport holders," he said. “If we were giving those rights, why didn’t the Windrush issues get picked up at the time? It must have been because we – and I include myself – failed to make clear the changes and the intentions of those changes at the time.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in