WATCH: Labour’s Yvette Cooper accuses Theresa May of 'hiding' from Windrush scandal
Former shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has accused Theresa May of shirking responsibility for the Windrush scandal, in a blistering attack in the Commons today.
Ms Cooper said the Prime Minister had been “hiding” behind ministers and officials in the wake of the damaging debacle, which saw British residents mistakenly threatened with deportation.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, she responded angrily to being quoted by Mrs May in relation to the cases of the Windrush children – some of whom lost out on jobs, healthcare and housing after being unable to prove their immigration status to the Home Office.
Mrs May told the House Ms Cooper had called for “much stronger action from government to bring illegal immigration down” while serving as shadow home secretary in 2013.
But Ms Cooper – who is now the chair of the Commons Home Affairs Committee – hit back, telling the Prime Minister: “Do not try to hide behind me or the Labour Party when she was warned repeatedly of the damage her obsession with her net migration target was doing.
“Do not hide try to hide behind the Cabinet when they don't agree with you on this and are trying to clear up the mess... Do not try to hide behind civil servants when she set the policies that instilled in them the culture of disbelief.”
But Mrs May insisted: “Nobody is trying to blame anybody.”
"TIME SHE TOOK RESPONSIBILITY"
The clash between the Prime Minister and Ms Cooper came as Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn accused Ms May of knowing "full well" of the problems faced by the Windrush generation, and called on the Government to ditch "bogus immigration targets that have driven this hostile culture".
He also urged Home Secretary Amber Rudd to step down over the fiasco, saying she had sought to toughen up the "cruel and misdirected" immigration policies brought in under Mrs May.
"The current Home Secretary inherited a failing policy and made it worse," he said. "Isn't it time she took responsibility and resigned?"
Pushing back, Ms May vowed to "leave no stone unturned" in helping members of the Windrush generation swept up in the immigration crackdown, and sought to instead shift the debate on to illegal immigration.
The Prime Minister pointed out that action to toughen up the law had been taken by successive governments, saying: "Why have these actions been taken? Because people up and down this country want to ensure the government is taking action on those people who are here illegally.
"It is not fair to those people who work hard, who have a right to be here, who've contributed to this country, if they see people who are here illegally being given the same access to rights and services."
Brexit minister Suella Braverman later told the BBC’s World at One that it was wrong to “point the finger” at the Government, although she insisted ministers had taken full responsibility.
She said: "As the Prime Minister raised today, it was a Labour immigration minister who first used the term hostile environment, wanting to and I quote, ‘flush out illegal immigrants’ and a decision as the Prime Minister said, was taken originally by a Labour administration.
"So I don’t think we can point the finger at the Conservative administration, but yes we totally accept responsibility now and for the situation that we are in now and that’s why it’s very important that the Government has made clear commitments to make it right…”
The Government will face further pressure on the Windrush scandal when Ms Rudd appears before MPs on Ms Cooper's Home Affairs committee later today.