Labour frontbencher: I regret abstaining on immigration law that sparked Windrush scandal

Posted On: 
29th April 2018

A top Labour MP has said he regrets not voting against the controversial immigration laws which ushered in the Windrush scandal.

Andrew Gwynne agreed with Lord Wood that Labour should not have abstained on the Immigration Bill
PA Images

Shadow Communities Secretary Andrew Gwynne said Labour should have come out against the Immigration Bill while it was making its way through the Commons in 2014.

And, in a surprising move, he suggested parties should never abstain on legislation.

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Then-leader Ed Miliband ordered Labour MPs not to cast a vote on the bill as Theresa May led it through the Commons.

Jeremy Corbyn was one of just six Labour MPs who voted against it after making an impassioned Commons speech about its potential negative impact.

The veteran left-winger has since been vindicated after many from the so-called Windrush generation were wrongly threatened with deportation as part of an illegal immigration crackdown.

Asked on BBC show Pienaar’s Politics today whether he regretting failing to troop through the lobby with his now-party leader, Mr Gwnne said: “Yes.”

He added: “The trouble in abstaining - as we have found in other areas where under previous leaders we took that decision - it neither pleases nor appeases anybody.

“Actually you are much better to come down on one side of an argument or another. I actually don’t think abstention is right.”

However, Mr Gwynne refused to apologise for former Labour administrations championing a "hostile environment" to tackle illegal immigration.

It comes after Lord Wood - a former adviser to Ed Miliband - said the ex-leader was “wrong” to whip his MPs to abstain on the bill.

“I think Jeremy Corbyn’s speech, looking back, was correct,” he told the BBC last week.

Another key ally of Mr Corbyn - the Derby North MP Chris Williamson - also said he felt “regret” over his decision to follow the whip and abstain on the bill.

In an interview with PoliticsHome sister title the House magazine, he suggested he pushed for a change behind the scenes, but added: “I think it was a mistake, absolutely...

“If I’m being honest, I didn’t study it enough or fully appreciate the implications.”

Meanwhile, a row over government targets to deport illegal immigrants took another twist today as Tory chair Brandon Lewis revealed he was aware of the plans when he was immigration minister.

But he insisted on the BBC Andrew Marr show that they were internal ambitions led by the immigration enforcement team and maintained that Home Secretary Amber Rudd was unaware of their existence.

It comes after Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott demanded a full inquiry into whether Ms Rudd misled MPs when she said such targets did not exist.