A Tory minister has hit back at Boris Johnson’s suggestion of an amnesty for illegal immigrants by insisting that they “really shouldn’t be here”.
Mr Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, challenged Theresa May in Cabinet on Tuesday to introduce such a scheme in the wake of the Windrush scandal.
But Nadhim Zahawi, the minister for children and families, appeared to put himself on a collision course with Mr Johnson after he said people who do not have the right to work in the UK should not be treated the same as people who live in Britain legally.
The Foreign Secretary told the Cabinet that there needed to be a "broader" amnesty for those from Commonwealth nations and elsewhere, provided they were "squeaky clean" and did not have criminal records.
Ministers are increasingly discussing the Government’s approach to migrants in the wake of the Windrush immigration fiasco.
Mr Zahawi, who was promoted to the frontbench in Mrs May’s January reshuffle, said he was not in the Cabinet discussion as he called for a focus on resolving the “issues around the Windrush affair”.
But when pushed on whether he thought an illegal immigrant amnesty was a good idea he appeared to reject such a plan.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: “The question assumes illegal immigrants should have the same status as people who are here legally, whether they are of immigrant stock or are British born and bred.
“I think that is a wrong assumption because actually most of your listeners including immigrants like myself and my parents and other immigrants will think if you are here illegally and working illegally then you really shouldn’t be here.”
Earlier this week the Government announced an effective amnesty for Windrush migrants who arrived in Britain before 1971 after it emerged that they were being threatened with deportation.
Mr Johnson is one of a number of Cabinet minister who are urging the Government to adopt a more liberal approach to granting people the right to remain in the UK.
Mr Johnson argued that this now needed to be extended to all illegal immigrants who had lived in the UK for more than a decade and not committed crimes, including those from Commonwealth nations such as India, Pakistan, Kenya and Ghana.
Such a move could result in between 500,000 and 700,000 migrants being granted permission to permanently remain in the UK.
When Mrs May was home secretary she said an amnesty scheme would send the “wrong message”.