Coalition head of civil service says Theresa May’s anti-immigration policies were ‘reminiscent of Nazi Germany’ for Tory colleagues
Jeremy Corbyn blames Theresa May for “hostile environment”, saying her government is “both callous and incompetent”
Theresa May says decision to dispose of Windrush ‘registration slips’ when she was Home Secretary was taken by Labour in 2009
Half an hour later her spokesman backtracks, says it was an “operational decision” by UK Border Agency
Michael Gove claims UK is “the most immigration friendly country in the EU”
Lord Kerslake, head of the civil service when Theresa May was Home Secretary, last night told Newsnight that May’s Conservative colleagues saw her hostile regime to immigrants as ‘reminiscent of Nazi Germany.’
He criticised the climate she created whereby immigrants had to prove their status to access services, and said it was wrong that Conservatives had blamed civil servants for the Wingate debacle.
There were angry exchanges at Prime Ministers Questions yesterday as the Labour Leader called Theresa May’s government “both callous and incompetent” after it emerged that Brits who had lived for generations in the UK faced being wrongly deported to Commonwealth countries, the evidence for when the Windrush generation had arrived in the UK having been destroyed by the Home Office.
Then Theresa May retorted that the decision to destroy the Windrush registration slips in 2010 when she was Home Secretary had been taken by Labour in 2009, the year before.
This contradicted the Home Office statement on Tuesday afternoon that the decision was taken by UK Border Agency (UKBA) in 2010. And just half an hour after the Prime Minister blamed Labour for the decision, her spokesperson appeared to backtrack, issuing a statement at 12.40 on Wednesday, saying it had been an “operational decision” by UKBA.
But Lord Kerslake who was head of the civil service from 2012 – 2014, insisted that Theresa May as Home Secretary at the time should carry the can, not her civil servants.
He said: “What we can say is that the civil service took its advice from ministers.”
The former top civil servant took aim at her government for the Windrush scandal and creating a divisive and oppressive environment in which immigrants faced losing access to services such as healthcare, and in which such cruel miscarriages of justice could occur.
And he told BBC2’s Newsnight that ministers had been warned, including by some of their colleagues who compared May’s policies to “Nazi Germany.”
“I think it was not just a question of the Home Secretary [Theresa May] being told it was a challenging policy, the Prime Minister [David Cameron] was as well,” said Lord Kerslake.
“This was a very contested piece of legislation across government departments.”
“Now, I can’t say, and shouldn’t say, as the former head of the civil service, precisely who gave what advice to whom.
“But, what I can tell you, it was highly contested and there were some who saw it, I shan’t name them, as almost reminiscent of Nazi Germany in the way it’s working.”
Theresa May’s Conservative colleague Michael Gove sought to distance himself from May’s phrase “hostile environment” on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, insisting: “that phrase has been paraded around as though it’s somehow emblematic of Britain – it’s not.”
Britain is “the most immigration friendly country in the EU” and has “the most liberal attitude to migration of an European country,” insisted Gove, adding that leaving the EU means “we can have a truly colour-blind migration policy.”
“Because we have taken back control we are capable of exercising generosity,” insisted the Brexit campaigner.
But Veteran immigration lawyer Vanessa Ganguin explained: “the 2014 Immigration Act, and the 2016 Act after it, contributed to the hostile environment that penalised people who had been living here for years and has brought the case of the Windrush generation to light.
“Everything was geared to making life very difficult for people when they ceased to have leave to be in the UK. Controversial policies shifted enforcing immigration rules from the Home Office to landlords, health care providers and banks.
“This hostile environment also limited access to legal appeals, brought in a deport now, appeal later regime and resulted in an increase in people being detained.”
She warned: “European-born citizens who already fear losing access to services and rights post-Brexit must be watching the whole Windrush scandal with dismay.”