WATCH: David Lammy brands Windrush scandal 'a national shame' in powerful Commons speech

Posted On: 
16th April 2018

Labour MP David Lammy has torn into ministers over the treatment of the so-called Windrush children - as the Home Secretary appeared to blame her own department for the controversy.

The visibly-moved Tottenham MP blasted 'far right rhetoric'
Credit: 
PA

In an impassioned address to the Commons, the Tottenham MP blasted what he called the "hostile" immigration environment cultivated by the Tories, and fumed: "If you lay down with dogs you get fleas."

Some British residents who came from the Caribbean with their parents as part of a post-war rebuilding effort have been threatened with deportation following a tightening of the immigration rules - with some also losing access to employment, healthcare and housing services.

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After more than 140 MPs from across the House today demanded action on the issue, Downing Street reversed its earlier position and confirmed that Theresa May would discuss the status of the Windrush generation with leaders at the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit in London this week.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd told MPs this afternoon that she had set up a new Home Office taskforce "to ensure a swift response" to people's concerns about their immigration status, and said she would be waiving fees involved for those affected.

"I hope will go a long way to assisting the Commonwealth citizens who should have their rights confirmed without charge," she said.

But Mr Lammy, who has led the cross-party charge to highlight the issue, hit out at the Home Office's response, branding it a "day of national shame" and accusing the Government's immigration policy of taking a hard-right turn.

"When my parents and their generation arrived in this country under the Nationality Act of 1948 they arrived here as British citizens," he said.

"It is inhumane and cruel for so many of that Windrush generation to have suffered so long in this condition and for the Secretary of State only to have made a statement today on this issue.

Mr Lammy added: "This is a day of national shame and it has come about because of a hostile environment policy that was begun under her Prime Minister.

"Let us call it as it is - if you lay down with dogs you get fleas and that is what has happened with this far right rhetoric in this country.

"Can she apologise properly? Can she explain how quickly this team will act to ensure that the thousands of British men and women denied their rights in this country under her watch in the Home Office are satisfied?"

Responding, Ms Rudd said she also felt "admiration for the people who came here from the Caribbean", who she said had "contributed so much to our society in many, many different ways".

But, in an extraordinary move, the Home Secretary also appeared to take aim at her own civil servants over their implementation of the Government's policy.

"I am concerned that the Home Office is becoming too concerned with policy and strategy and sometimes loses sight of the individual," she said.

"This is about individuals. And we have seen the individual stories and they have been, some of them, terrible to hear. And that is why I have acted.

"That is why I have put a very clear time limit on the amount of time it will take to correct this. That is why I am so committed to ensuring that there is no cost involved."

SOME ALREADY DEPORTED?

Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes earlier appeared to suggest that some citizens may already have been deported by the Home Office amid confusion over their status.

Asked about the fate of those who had already been removed from the country by the Home Office, she told ITV news: "There have been some horrendous situations which, as a minister, have appalled me."

Br Ms Nokes could not give an estimate for the number of people affected. "I don't know the numbers," she said. "But what I'm determined to do going forward is to say we'll have no more of this."

This afternoon Ms Rudd said she was "not aware of any specific cases of a person being removed in these circumstances", instead telling MPs she was urging representatives of Commonwealth countries to come forward with their own examples.

The Home Secretary said: "That is why I have asked the High Commissioners, if they know of any, that they should bring it to me. And I would ask anybody, if they know of any such circumstances, they should bring them to the Home Office."

PoliticsHome asked the Home Office to clarify whether any citizens have been deported in error, and whether the department was aiming to directly contact them if so.

A spokesperson responded in a statement: "As the Immigration Minister has made clear, we apologise unreservedly for the distress caused to anyone who has been told, incorrectly, that they do not have the right to be in the UK.

"We are not aware of any specific cases of a person being removed from the UK in these circumstances and we have absolutely no intention of asking anyone to leave who has the right to remain here.
 
"However, if anyone believes that they - or a family member - have been, they should contact the Home Office. We will review any cases that are brought to our attention."