Theresa May accused of misleading parliament over man denied cancer care due to disputed immigration status

Ms May told the Commons that Albert Thompson would receive the care he needs without the patient having been made aware of the news

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Wednesday 18 April 2018 18:16
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Theresa May apologises to those affected by Windrush deportation errors

Theresa May stands accused of misleading parliament over the case of a man denied vital cancer treatment because the Home Office disputed his immigration status.

Ms May told MPs that Albert Thompson would receive care he is entitled to, after reports that he is being refused it despite having lived in the UK for 44 years sparked outrage.

But Mr Thompson’s MP then told the Commons his constituent was not aware of the news, suggesting Ms May used the new information to defend herself against political attacks without the patient being informed first.

The prime minister is under intense pressure because as home secretary she introduced the “hostile environment” approach, which saw immigration officials tasked with making it as hard as possible to live in the UK without the right documentation.

Mr Thompson arrived from Jamaica as a teenager and, although he has worked as a mechanic and paid taxes for more than three decades, the Home Office is disputing his eligibility to remain.

Official suspicion about his status led to his eviction last year after which he was homeless for three weeks, and his cancer treatment worth £54,000, which should have been paid by the NHS, has been left in doubt.

With the row growing Ms May told the Commons today: “Clinicians have been looking at Mr Thompson’s case, and he will be receiving the treatment that he needs.”

But moments later his MP, Chuka Umunna, disputed the PM’s words, telling MPs: “In the exchanges earlier in this place the prime minister said that Mr Thompson will be receiving the NHS treatment he needs. That is incorrect.

“He needs radiotherapy treatment, but my constituent has not received his treatment, and if there are any plans that have been made for him to get this treatment then he certainly has not been informed of it. That is a fact, and to say otherwise is wrong.”

Mr Umunna said Mr Thompson is having to make a fresh application for indefinite leave to remain in the UK, and that Ms May needed to commit to that application being processed immediately so he could get the go-ahead for treatment.

He added: “I am sure the prime minister will not want to have misled the house and will want to come here and correct the record.”

Later in the afternoon, a spokesperson from the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust said: “Mr Thompson has been continuing on treatment by his GP under the direction of his cancer specialist.

“Throughout this period we have been committed to resolving Mr Thompson’s eligibility for further NHS treatment with his legal advisers. The cancer specialist has contacted Mr Thompson to assess him in clinic for his next stage of treatment.”

Windrush: 1948 Pathé report tells of Jamaican citizens arriving in the UK 'citizens of the British Empire with good intent'

Ms May’s critics say the implementation of the “hostile environment” policy meant child travellers who came to the UK from the Caribbean as part of the Windrush generation of immigrants from the late 1940s to the 1970s now risk being targeted by immigration officers for deportation.

Often children who travelled on parents’ passports did not apply for travel documents, and so lack a trail of official paperwork.

Landing cards that would have recorded their arrival in the UK were destroyed by the Home Office in 2010, when Ms May was home secretary, leading to another row about the Home Office’s handling of the matter.

Ms May sought to throw blame on to the previous Labour administration by saying the first decision to destroy the documents was taken in 2009.

Theresa May says the decision to destroy Windrush landing cards was taken in 2009 under Labour

But in confused briefings about the situation, her spokespeople later downplayed the significance of that information, by confirming that it was an operational decision that officials may have taken without ministers being aware anyway.

The government has said Mr Thompson (not his real name) is not a Windrush generation traveller, but his plight has focussed anger about how the Home Office treats people whose immigration status is under the spotlight.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the crisis had been caused by Ms May’s hostile environment policy, in which people are pushed to actively prove their immigration status.

He said in the Commons: “This is a shameful episode and the responsibility for it lies firmly at the prime minister’s door.

“Her pandering to bogus immigration targets led to a hostile environment for people who were contributing to our country.

“It led to British citizens being denied NHS treatment, losing their jobs, homes and pensions, thrown in detention centres like criminals and even deported.”

Ms May hit back by insisting it was right to seek to remove people without the right to be in the UK, saying: “There is a difference between the Windrush generation, who are British, who are part of us and have a right to be here – and we want to ensure that we give them the reassurance of that right – and those other people who are here illegally.”

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