Labour accuses government of Windrush 'cover up' to protect Theresa May

The party said ministers are trying to 'avoid accountability and clarity' by refusing to make papers public

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Wednesday 02 May 2018 14:45
Jeremy Corbyn asks Theresa May if she felt 'the slightest pang of guilt' when Amber Rudd was forced to resign over Windrush

Labour has accused the government of attempting to cover up any role that the prime minister might have had in the Windrush scandal.

Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesman said a government decision to oppose a plan for all papers relating to the debacle to be made public, indicated the government was trying to “avoid accountability and clarity”.

It came after Ms May announced that an inquiry would be launched into the scandal which saw people in the country legally being threatened with deportation.

She said all papers would be released only to the inquiry, which will have “independent oversight”, but will be headed by the new home secretary Sajid Javid.

It came ahead of a debate on a motion tabled by Labour, which if passed would require the release of all correspondence – including text messages and emails – sent between May 2010 and 2018 relating to the Windrush generation cases.

Mr Corbyn’s spokesman said: “It appears that the prime minister, by asking the new home secretary to conduct an inquiry separately…is trying to avoid accountability and clarity about these decisions.

“The suspicion must be that this is part of a continuing cover-up to avoid the prime minister’s own role in what took place being exposed. It’s very hard to take the apologies seriously when that is going on.”

Windrush scandal: What you need to know

Labour wants an inquiry conducted by the Home Affairs Select Committee and for all papers to be released, but it emerged on Wednesday that the Conservatives were planning to order MPs to vote against the opposition motion.

In the morning chief Tory whip, Julian Smith, emailed Conservative MPs telling them there would be a “three-line whip” on the motion and that Labour was abusing the “motion for return” parliamentary procedure, in trying to force release of the papers.

The rarely-used procedure involves asking the Queen to direct her ministers to provide the requested documents.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott 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.”

Lawyer Barry O'Leary warns Windrush scandal will happen again if government persists with immigration plans

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Ms May launched a full review of the government’s treatment of Windrush generation immigrations, in move aimed at taking the the heat out of the issue.

She said: “Speed is of the essence, and my Right Honourable Friend will be commissioning a full review of lessons learned, independent oversight and external challenge with the intention of reporting back to this House before we rise for the summer.

“The review will have full access to all relevant information in the Home Office, including policy papers and casework decisions.”

After the session Ms May’s spokesman argued that the government’s approach was the more appropriate way to deal with matter.

People from the Windrush generation of immigrants to the UK, who arrived from the Caribbean between the late 1940s and early 1970s, have recently found themselves targeted by immigration officials, with critics blaming the “hostile environment” approach to rooting out illegal immigration championed by the prime minister.

Windrush victims who have every right to be in the country – some of whom have lived here for decades – have been reported to have lost jobs and homes for failing to have the right paperwork. There have also been stories of people being denied critical medical treatment and being targeted for deportation.

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