Labour calls Commons vote to force ministers to release secret government documents on Windrush scandal

Same procedure forced government to hand over Brexit economic assessments, and could reveal how much Theresa May knew about problems facing Windrush immigrants

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 01 May 2018 16:39
Theresa May admits there were deportation targets when she was home secretary

Labour is to use an obscure parliamentary procedure to try to force the government to release secret documents relating to the Windrush scandal.

The party will force a House of Commons vote on Wednesday in a bid to compel ministers to hand over internal correspondence revealing what they knew about the problems being faced by Windrush immigrants, and how they responded.

The same technique was used by Labour to successfully force the government to give parliament access to 58 Brexit economic assessments that ministers had previously fought to keep private.

The motion on which MPs will vote on Wednesday demands the government give the Home Affairs Committee all Windrush-related documents and correspondence, including emails and text messages, from May 2010 to the present day.

It covers all communications between ministers, their special advisers and civil servants relating to the cases of Windrush generation immigrants.

Labour hopes to uncover how much ministers knew about the difficulties facing many members of Windrush generation. Amber Rudd, the former home secretary who was forced to resign over the matter, said she had only become aware of the cases in recent months, and had not recognised they were part of a wider problem.

The ancient procedure Labour is using gives the House of Commons the power to force ministers to release government documents to parliament. This is done by presenting a “humble address” to the Queen asking her to order the government to release the files.

The motion is binding and, if passed, would force ministers to make the papers available.

The procedure was commonly used by the Commons until the middle of the 19th century and is still used by parliamentary select committees to obtain government documents.

Ahead of the vote, Diane Abbott, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said: "With the resignation of Amber Rudd, Theresa May has lost her human shield and must now fully account for the policies she created and drove through from the Home Office into Downing Street.

"The Windrush scandal has exposed something rotten at the heart of government. We need to know what has led to this situation.

"If the prime minister is too weak to be accountable, Labour will have to force her to be accountable. We have had enough of ministers trying to dodge questions and blame others, we need full disclosure of all the facts."

The motion being tabled in the Commons asks the Queen to tell government ministers to release “all papers, correspondence and advice including emails and text messages, from 11 May 2010 up to and including 1 May 2018, to and between ministers, senior officials and special advisers relating to policy decisions including on the Immigration Acts 2014 and 2016 with regard the Windrush generation cases, including deportations, detentions and refusal of re-entry, the setting of deportation and removal targets and their effect on the Windrush generation”.

It also asks for papers relating to Downing Street’s refusal to meet with Caribbean heads of state to discuss the issue – a decision that ignited the row that has engulfed the government in recent weeks – and all documents concerning the government’s Immigration Implementation Taskforce.

The Windrush fiasco has already forced Ms Rudd to resign and piled pressure on Ms May over the “hostile environment” immigration policies she implemented as home secretary between 2010 and 2016. Should the documents be released, the prime minister could face fresh scrutiny over how much she knew about the treatment of Windrush immigrations and whether she ignored warnings of the impact her policies were having.

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