Labour MPs warn ministers not to water down Windrush review

Jamie Grierson Home affairs correspondent
Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Politicians have warned the government not to water down a review into the Windrush scandal after claims that a section of a pending report that branded the Home Office “institutionally racist” was removed.

The Times newspaper reported sources saying the phrase “institutionally racist” was included in an earlier draft of the Windrush review, led by inspector of constabulary Wendy Williams, but had subsequently been deleted.

Sources familiar with the review questioned that account and told the Guardian that the phrase had been discussed but not included in drafts. But they said that they shared concerns that the final draft was being diluted through the so-called Maxwellisation process, when people criticised in the report are given the chance to respond before it is published.

The delayed independent review was commissioned after people with a right to live in the UK were wrongfully detained or deported to the Caribbean.

The Home Office did not deny that the report had been toned down.

The Labour chair of the home affairs select committee, Yvette Cooper, said: “The Wendy Williams review was supposed to be independent.

“It’s one thing for the Home Office to check facts. But it would be completely unacceptable for the Home Office to try to water down the review’s conclusions and judgments about what went wrong.”

It is understood that those working on the report have expressed particular concerns about the fate of foreign national offenders who have lived in the UK since childhood.

BBC Newsnight reported that a draft proposed that the deportation of such offenders should end. The draft said: “Government should review its policy and approach to FNOs [foreign national offenders], if necessary through primary legislation. It should consider ending all deportation of FNOs where they arrived in the UK as children (say, before age of 13).

“Alternatively, deportation should only be considered in the most severe cases.”

In response to the latest claims, Labour’s David Lammy, a vocal campaigner over the scandal caused by the government’s “hostile environment” policy, demanded that the “truth must be published in full”.

“The Windrush scandal resulted in the systematic deportation and detention of black British citizens by the UK Home Office,” the Tottenham MP said.

“The victims’ nationality and rights were denied because of the colour of their skin. If this is not institutionally racist, I have no idea what is. It would be an outrage and an insult to the Windrush generation for Wendy Williams’ independent review to be watered down for political reasons.”

A leaked draft of of the review, seen by Channel 4 News, said the Home Office failed in its legal duty to counter racial discrimination when it implemented its hostile environment programme.

The damning document accused officials of recklessness and a reluctance to acknowledge and learn from their mistake.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “This is an independent review being led by Wendy Williams. She has not yet submitted the final report to the Home Office. Once we have received it, we will publish it as soon as practicable. Ministers have not seen any version of the report.”