Windrush scandal: Tories vote to block release of secret documents as they launch review

Government orders MPs to vote against Labour proposal as ministers say release of documents would be 'disproportionate and distracting'

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 02 May 2018 18:28
Tories vote to block release of Windrush secret documents as they launch review

The Conservatives have blocked attempts to force the government to release internal documents relating to the Windrush scandal.

The House of Commons voted down the proposal after the Tories ordered their MPs to oppose it.

Labour had tried to use an archaic parliamentary procedure to force the government to hand over the files, which they said would reveal how much ministers knew about the problems facing Windrush generation immigrants.

After a lengthy debate, MPs rejected the motion by 316 votes to 221, giving the government a majority of 94.

Labour accused the government of attempting to cover up the role of senior ministers, including Theresa May, in the Windrush scandal.

The party had hoped to use a technique known as a "motion to return" to compel the government to release the Windrush papers to MPs on the Home Affairs Committee.

The procedure involves asking the Queen to order ministers to hand over the relevant papers. The same technique was used earlier this year to force the release of 58 Brexit economic assessments. 

The government had attempted to pre-empt the issue earlier in the day by announcing a full review into the Home Office's treatment of Windrush generation immigrants.

Speaking during Prime Minister's Questions, Theresa May confirmed the probe will be given "full access to all relevant information in the Home Office". It will have "independent oversight" and will report to Parliament before MPs go on their summer break in July, she added. ​

Labour said a fully independent inquiry by the Home Affairs Committee was needed and accused ministers of attempting a cover-up.

Opening the debate, Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, said: "Many people feel that, with the Windrush scandal, all roads lead back to the prime minister."

She continued: "I can only speculate as to why the government would vote against this motion. Do members opposite understand how voting against this motion will look to the Commonwealth and will look to the Windrush generation here?"

Responding, Sajid Javid, the new home secretary, said the "disproportionate and distracting" Labour motion amounted to a "massive, open-ended fishing expedition" that would distract officials from helping Windrush immigrants.

Releasing the files to the Home Affairs Committee was unnecessary because the government's review will be granted full access to internal Home Office documents, he suggested.

Mr Javid said: "I will bring independent oversight and challenge to a 'lessons learned' review, already under way in my department.

"This review will seek to draw out how members of the Windrush generation came to be entangled in measures designed for illegal immigrants, why that was not spotted sooner, and whether the right corrective measures are now in place."

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