Conservative MPs close ranks to block publication of Windrush details

Written by John Johnson and Tom Freeman on 3 May 2018 in News

Labour accuses Theresa May of a "cover up" as MPs block publication of Home Office immigration papers

Theresa May - PA

Conservative MPs closed ranks to prevent full disclosure of the details of Home Office immigration policies in the wake of the Windrush scandal.

The UK Government defeated a Labour motion calling for the release of the documents by 316 votes to 221.

Theresa May had ordered a three-line whip on Conservative MPs to block disclosure of what she had ordered while she was Home Secretary.

Instead, the Prime Minister announced that new Home Secretary Sajid Javid was setting up a government-backed inquiry into the controversy, which saw immigrants of Caribbean descent being threatened with deportation despite living and working in the UK for decades.

"The review will have full access to all relevant information in the Home Office, including policy papers and casework decisions,” she said.

But a spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn said: "It appears the Prime Minister, by asking the new Home Secretary to conduct an inquiry separately without any of the clear processes and powers that we are talking about, is trying to avoid accountability and clarity about this decision.

"The suspicion must be that this is part of a continuing cover-up to avoid what the Prime Minister's own role in this being exposed. It's very hard to take those apologies seriously when this is going on.

"It's extremely concerning and we must have accountability. There must not be a cover-up."

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott used a so-called humble address, an arcane parliamentary convention, to try and force the Government to release the documents after Labour previously used the tactic to secure the publication of the 58 Brexit impact papers.

But Home Secretary Sajid Javid described Labour’s motion as an “open-ended fishing expedition”.

"We want to be making sure we are putting all our resources into helping with this situation that’s been created - doing everything we can. And that means when we are putting it right with respect to this motion it does not mean that we divert our time and effort into some massive, open-ended fishing expedition.

“The motion… is disproportionate and distracting. It would take help and capacity away from where it is needed by assigning more than 100 officials and that would of course create significant cost for taxpayers."

The Tories were under a three-line whip to thwart the call for all Government papers surrounding the issue - including case studies - to be handed to the Home Affairs Select Committee.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the decision to block the publication raised questions about the Prime Minister's involvement.

"It’s staggering that Theresa May has ordered her MPs to vote against the release to the public of the documentation relating to the Windrush scandal. This begs the questions: What has she got to hide? What is she afraid of? Doesn’t she realise it’s a matter of trust & honesty now?"

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