Theresa May has announced a “full review” of the decisions which led to the Windrush crisis - just hours before her MPs try to block the release of government documents relating to the debacle.
Speaking in Prime Minister’s Questions, May claimed “speed is of the essence” as she revealed the investigation would report back to MPs before the end of July.
But Labour warned of a potential “cover-up” by Downing Street after it was revealed Tory MPs were being ordered to vote down opposition attempts to get papers related to the debacle released.
Since last year’s election, the Tories have frequently refused to vote in opposition debates, and did not try to block the release of Brexit impact assessments last year when Labour used a similar parliamentary tactic.
In a move aimed neutralising Labour’s motion – set to be voted on on Wednesday evening – May told MPs: “The Home Secretary will be addressing the House on this later today.
“We all share the ambition to make sure we do right by members of the Windrush generation and that’s why he will be announcing a package of measures to bring transparency on the issue, to make sure the House is informed, to reassure Members of this House, but more importantly to reassure those people who have been directly affected.
“Speed is of the essence and the Home Secretary 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.”
The announcement was met with skepticism by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, with the charity’s chief executive Satbir Singh saying: ”Nothing that the Government has announced today in parliament will address the root causes of the Windrush scandal – namely the ‘hostile environment’ policy.”
Singh added: “The hostile environment continues unabated denying people health care, stopping doctors and nurses and other workers we so desperately need, working in our beloved NHS.
“If the Government was truly committed to learning any lessons it would stop this hostility in its tracks, treat people as people, not numbers and carry out a fully independent review of the Home Office’s policies and practices.”
Labour’s plan would see the Home Office forced to hand over all papers, correspondence and advice related to the Windrush scandal - including emails and text messages - from 11 May 2010 up to 1 May 2018.
The information would given to the Home Affairs Select Committee, the body which former Home Secretary Amber Rudd admitted she gave “inadvertently misleading” answers to regarding deportation targets.
At least 1,300 cases of mistreatment are currently being investigated by the Home Office, with children of migrants from the Commonwealth denied housing, NHS care, pensions, benefits, jobs and other basic rights as a result of the immigration crackdown launched when May was Home Secretary.
Asked about the review after PMQs, a Labour spokesman said: “There must be no cover up.”
After making the announcement of a review, May was asked if she agreed with new Home Secretary Sajid Javid when he said the so-called ‘hostile environment’ policy towards illegal immigrants “does not represent our values as a country”.
May avoided giving a clear answer, saying: “What the Home Secretary said was that he absolutely shares the need to differentiate between illegal and legal immigrants.
“What he also said was there was a certain phrase he wasn’t going to use, a phrase that was first by Labour ministers in Government.”