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WATCH: Ex-Tory chair says some ministers opposed Theresa May's hardline immigration stance

3 min read

Senior Tory ministers were among the “harshest critics” of Theresa May’s immigration policies under the coalition government, a former chair of the Conservative party has claimed.

Immigration policy has been thrown into the spotlight this week with some British citizens who came to the UK from the Caribbean more than 50 years ago swept up in a crackdown under the “hostile environment” policy launched by Ms May as Home Secretary.

Some members of the so-called ‘Windrush generation’ have been threatened with deportation, while others have lost access to healthcare, benefits and pensions.

Baroness Warsi - who chaired the Tory party from 2010-12, when Theresa May was Home Secretary - told ITV’s Peston on Sunday that there had been “very strong debate around the Cabinet table” about the Government’s immigration crackdown, with senior Conservatives speaking out against Mrs May’s stance at the time.

“Many, many of the Conservatives around that table - many of my colleagues - were some of the harshest critics of what was being done in the name of more controlled immigration,” she said.

“And those debates didn’t just focus around what we’re dealing with now but also around for example student numbers and visitor applications and trade applications.”

The former Tory chair also took aim at the Conservative party’s “unhealthy obsession” with driving down immigration to the tens of thousands - a pledge the Government has yet to meet - warning that the policy had led to “indifference” to the lives of individuals.



“We were wedded to unrealistic targets - targets which we still haven’t met, unfortunately, a decade on. And yet we continued to remain wedded to these targets.

“And what ended up happening was that we ended up with an attitude of, I think, indifference to what could have been the unintended consequences that we’re not seeing of the policy that we were then implementing.”

While Baroness Warsi welcomed this week’s apologies to the Windrush generation from Ms May and the current Home Secretary Amber Rudd, she urged politicians “on all sides” to “move away” from divisive rhetoric on immigration.


Meanwhile, Treasury minister Liz Truss also sought to distance herself from the Windrush row this morning, telling Pienaar’s Politics that she was “very upset” by the stories of those swept up in the debacle.

“I have friends that are children that are part of that of that generation,” the Cabinet minister said.

“I see people in my working life who make a massive contribution to this country.”

She added: “I do feel ashamed. I hate the idea that people that are so important to this country feel unwelcome and that they might feel that the Government doesn’t welcome them because we do and that makes me very upset.”

Ms Truss said the Government was currently looking at compensation for those affected, adding: “It is through no fault of their own that they have found themselves in this position.”

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