WATCH: Alan Johnson says Windrush landing cards destruction an ‘administrative decision’
Former Home Secretary Alan Johnson has said the destruction of Windrush landing cards was "an administrative decision" taken while he was Home Secretary in 2009.
The Labour grandee also stressed that the documents were only disposed of when Theresa May was the Home Secretary.
Mr Johnson's comments came amid the ongoing row over the treatment of the Windrush generation, who have faced questions over their immigration status despite living in the UK for decades.
A furious row erupted after it emerged the landing cards they filled in upon arrival, and which could have been used to prove their right to be in this country, had been destroyed.
Jeremy Corbyn suggested that Theresa May herself had sanctioned the move when she was in the Home Office.
But the Prime Minister insisted the decision had initially been taken in 2009, when Labour was still in office.
Mr Johnson said he was not aware of the decision to scrap the landing cards, but defended the decision by civil servants.
“It was administrative decision taken by the UK border agency, and so they should," he told the BBC's This Week. "It wasn't just Windrush landing cards, it was a mass of paperwork that built up over 50 years”.
“We were introducing a biometric identity card, compulsory for anyone coming in from outside the European Union. So the Windrush weren’t involved in any of that, there was no threat to the Windrush generation.
“[It was] an administrative decision, just as it was a year later when Theresa May was Home Secretary, as my successor, and they were destroyed, they were carried out, that’s when they were actually destroyed.”
Meanwhile, the head of the FDA senior civil servants' union has accused ministers of trying to deflect blame for the row onto his members.
Writing in The Guardian, Dave Penman said: "Since 2010, the net migration target of 100,000 has acted as a lightning rod for a series of legislative attempts to cut migration and a crackdown on illegal immigrants as the Conservatives felt the electoral pressure from Ukip, and it was clear there were few medals to be awarded in the Home Office for anyone trying to advise a more cautious approach.
“The real lessons from this scandal need to be learned by the politicians who got exactly what they asked for from the civil service, even if that fact is now a little inconvenient.”