David Lammy demolishes the government’s response to the Windrush scandal on Channel 4 News

David Lammy on Channel 4 News

Labour’s David Lammy has lambasted the Conservative government’s response to the Windrush scandal.

On 19 April, the MP told Channel 4 News that ministers had lost control and needed to resign:

I’ve been a member of parliament now for 18 years, and I’ve seen, over the years, certainly when Labour were in power, home secretaries go, immigration ministers go. And they went when there was a sense that they’d lost control of their officials, or something they said wasn’t quite correct, and they fell on their sword, and a new person came in to run things.

He continued:

For all of those reasons, we need a review, and we do need new personnel.

Lammy had previously shared a video clip of May speaking on BBC Question Time back in 2004:

Avoiding responsibility

Lammy’s comments follow a failure to take responsibility for the Windrush scandal by home secretary Amber Rudd and prime minister Theresa May.

Rudd apologised after Lammy’s urgent question to the home secretary on Monday 16 April:

But she blamed Home Office officials for any errors.

During trade talks with Caribbean heads of government, May apologised for any “immigration anxieties” the Home Office might have caused. Again, she shifted blame from ministers onto nameless officials.

After The Guardian revealed on 17 April that the Home Office destroyed Windrush landing records in 2010, Downing Street said the UK Border Agency (UKBA) had made that decision. May was home secretary in 2010.

Blame Labour

Yet, in Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on 18 April, May astounded everyone by declaring that the previous Labour government was to blame. “The decision was taken in 2009, under a Labour government,” she said:

On the same day, Labour MP Dawn Butler announced in parliament that she had confirmed that both the decision to destroy the landing cards and their destruction was done by the UKBA in 2010:

Forced into a corner, Downing Street released a statement that the landing cards were destroyed in 2010 by UKBA as an “operational decision” and May (home secretary at the time) did not know about it.

Not knowing about it and not being responsible for it seems to be the prime minister’s final word.

Ministers need to take responsibility 

Neither the Home Office nor the prime minister have yet said what they’re going to do to put things right. What of the people threatened with deportation? What of the ruined lives?

Indeed, as Lammy said:

Do we need to send the message that Britain is cruel, is inhumane, and is hostile to vulnerable people? Is that really the message that we want to ring out to the world?

The ‘hostile environment’ policy needs reviewing and abolishing. And every one of the descendants of the Windrush generation caught up in its wake needs more than an apology. They deserve action. They deserve a government that is willing to take responsibility and do something about the injustices that the Home Office has committed. And on 3 May, we all have a chance to show the government what we think.

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