New Home Secretary Sajid Javid tore up a key part of Theresa May’s legacy today as he banned the phrase “hostile environment” when it comes to enforcing immigration laws.
Appearing in the Commons just hours after replacing Amber Rudd in the Home Office, Javid sought to reassure MPs that incidents like the Windrush debacle would not happen on his watch.
Javid repeatedly referred to himself as a “second-generation migrant” as he claimed he was “personally committed and invested” in setting right the procedures which saw people who had lived in the UK all their adult lives face deportation.
In a clear break with the tone struck by May during her six years as Home Secretary, Javid said: “The phrase ‘hostile’ is a phrase I’m not going to use.
“It’s a compliant environment - I don’t like the phrase ‘hostile’ so the terminology I think is incorrect.
“I think that it is a phrase that is I think unhelpful and it doesn’t represent our values as a country to use that phrase.
“It’s about a compliant environment and it’s right that we do have a compliant environment and it was a process that was begun under a previous government, it’s continued but it’s right we make a big distinction between those that are here legally and those that are illegal.”
During her period as Home Secretary, May pushed on with a clamp down on illegal immigrants, and spoke of creating a “hostile environment” for them in the UK.
Targets for the removal of illegal immigrants were created, and a van emblazoned with a ‘Go Home’ banner was driven around the streets of London.
Speaking this morning, May defended her record as Home Secretary, telling Sky News: “Yes there were targets in terms of removing people from the country who are here illegally. This is important.
“If you talk to the members of the public, they want to make sure we are dealing with people who are here illegally.”
Javid’s movement away from the rhetoric of May’s time as Home Secretary was welcomed by Tory MP Nick Boles, who urged him to go further.
He said: “I believe I speak for everyone on this side of the House to put his own stamp on that policy. We want to see the policy of the Home Secretary – one of the four great offices of state – and if that means retiring some legacy policies, then so be it.”
Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said the Windrush scandal had left many British people “ashamed”.
She told Javid: “He will be judged not on the statements he makes this afternoon, he will be judged on what he does to put the situation right and get justice for the Windrush generation.”
Labour backbencher Chuka Umunna said Javid had a “golden opportunity to turn the page on a toxic debate around immigration” as he urged for the net migration target of below 100,000 a year to be dumped.
Umunna added: “What is he actually going to change and do differently from his two predecessors? All the warm words are great, but what is he going to do differently to stop this happening again?”
Javid replied: “Can I just say with respect I’ve only had about seven hours in this department and if he gives me a little bit more time I will set out what I’m going to do.”