We must not permit the prime minister to tell lies in parliament with impunity, it’s dangerously authoritarian behaviour

peston windrush.png

The government has been dismissive when facing challenges regarding the Windrush scandal. The prime minister has refused to intervene when it emerged that one man was being denied radiotherapy unless he could pay a £54,000 bill upfront. Downing Street also initially rejected Caribbean countries’ request for a meeting to address the problem. 

As outrage over the grotesque injustices has  grown, the home secretary made an unusually forthright apology in the House of Commons on Monday. Amber Rudd described her own department’s actions as “appalling”.

A new taskforce has been created and is supposed to resolve cases within two weeks. In a statement on Tuesday, the Home Office said that “in 2010, the decision was taken by the UK Border Agency to securely dispose of some documents known as registration slips.”  

This decision was made in line with the Data Protection Act 1998, under which the Home Office has a legal obligation to ensure that the personal data it holds is not kept for longer than is necessary.” 

However, speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, Theresa May claimed that the decision to destroy the documents had been made in 2009, when a Labour government was in power. The misleading of parliament is the knowing presentation of false information to parliament, a very serious charge in Westminster-style parliamentary assemblies. Especially from a prime minister.

The Home Office spokesperson also argued that the landing card slips did not provide proof of residence: “Registration slips provided details of an individual’s date of entry, they did not provide any reliable evidence relating to ongoing residence in the UK or their immigration status.”  

“So it would be misleading and inaccurate to suggest that registration slips would therefore have a bearing on immigration cases whereby Commonwealth citizens are proving residency in the UK.”  

Yesterday, the prime minister lied in parliament during prime minister’s questions. Jeremy Corbyn asked Theresa May if she  had “signed off” the decision to destroy the Windrush landing cards. May claimed that an “operational decision” by the Border Agency was made in 2010, but that the original decision was made in 2009 under the last Labour government.

Yesterday I posted a Home Office whistleblower’s account, reported by Guardian prior to May’s lie. The account contradicts the prime minister, saying that the Home Office made the decision and destroyed the records in October 2010, when May was Home Office secretary. Furthermore, May was warned at the time by staff about the problems it would cause for the Windrush generation migrants. So she knew about the purging of  disembarkation documents.

The prime minister delivered what seems to be an intentional lie with an expression of fury and sheer malice, the Conservative benches sneered and brayed like unpleasant boorish beasts in a zoo as usual, showing utter contempt for parliamentary procedure, norms and conventions of decorum and public expectations of objective, rational standards of parliamentary debate. And honesty.  

The Labour leader raised the “hostile environment” policy that Theresa May created in 2014, with an aim of “deterring” illegal immigrants. Because the landing records had been destroyed, the imposition of a harsh “verification framework” – which was designed to ensure that immigrants provide documentary proof of their legal citizenship status – presented unacceptable hardships and difficulties for some, leading to the absolute scandal of citizens who had lived and worked in the UK for many years being refused essential NHS treatment for cancer, being evicted from their home, being unable to access social security support, losing their jobs, being detained and facing threats of deportation. And death.  

The mother of a Windrush citizen who died suddenly last month after being classified as an “illegal immigrant” and sacked from his job believes the stress caused by his immigration problems was responsible for his death.  

Dexter Bristol, who was 57 when he died, moved from Grenada to the UK when he was eight in 1968, to join his mother who was working as an NHS nurse, and spent the rest of his life in the UK. He was sacked from his cleaning job last year because he had no passport, and was denied benefits because shamefully, government officials did not believe he was in the country legally. 

One problem facing those affected by the Windrush immigrants is that they cannot get a passport now because the documents proving they are longstanding UK citizens have been destroyed. 

Employers now are legally obliged to check employees citizen status, and landlords too. This has led to more than one person becoming homeless, unable to secure another tenancy, unable to claim social security unable to access lifeline support, and unable to work. These are citizens who have lived in the UK sinve the 40s, 50s and 60s, worked for years and have family here.  

Jeremy Corbyn said yestreday that May had been responsible for the destruction of the landing records in October, 2010, and added that parliament needed “absolute clarity” on when the decision was taken. As Home Office secretary, May must surely have at least given permission for the destruction of the records to go ahead, regardless of where the proposal to do so came from, originally, and why. 

Theresa May’s precise claim was: 

“The decision to destroy the landing cards was taken in 2009 under a Labour government.” 

Dawn Butler, Labour MP for Brent Central), also highlighted the fact that the prime minister had misled parliament with a point of order

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. During Prime Minister’s questions, the Prime Minister said that the decision to destroy landing cards was taken in 2009. I have had it confirmed that the Home Office briefed yesterday that the decision was taken by the UK Border Agency in 2010 and that the records were destroyed in October 2010. Can the House, the Windrush generation, the Commonwealth leaders and the country get clarification from the Prime Minister or the Home Secretary?” 

A point of order is a query in a formal debate as to whether correct procedure is being followed. In this case, the correct procedure is for the prime minister to tell the truth.

May – gloating over the impact of her lie on Corbyn – ventured into a defence of her appalling, discriminatory “crackdown” on illegal immigration, saying it was “absolutely right” that only people entitled to use public services used them. 

This isn’t about illegal immigration,” retorted Corbyn, “but about Commonwealth citizens who have a right to be here”. 

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman has said: “The decision was taken to securely dispose of these documents, and that was the right one to take.” 

Asked on Tuesday if Theresa May had been aware of the disposal of the records while she was home secretary, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “My belief, at this moment, is that it was an operational decision that was taken by the Border Agency.”  

The Borders Agency was effectively part of the civil service and it took its advice and direction from ministers. 

The Guardian reports

A former Home Office employee said the records, stored in the basement of a government tower block, were a vital resource for case workers when they were asked to find information about someone’s arrival date in the UK from the West Indies – usually when the individual was struggling to resolve immigration status problems.” 

“The former employee (who has asked for his name not to be printed) said it was decided in 2010 to destroy the disembarkation cards, which dated back to the 1950s and 60s, when the Home Office’s Whitgift Centre in Croydon was closed and the staff were moved to another site. Employees in his department told their managers it was a bad idea, because these papers were often the last remaining record of a person’s arrival date, in the event of uncertainty or lost documents. The files were destroyed in October that year, when Theresa May was home secretary.” 

Furthermore, as stated, it was reported that a Downing Street spokesman said yesterday that the “operational decision” to dispose of the documents was taken by the UK Border Agency, meaning it would not have come across the desk of the then Labour Home Secretary. They were then destroyed in 2010. 

May has finally acknowledged that the crisis had arisen due to the harsh rules imposed during her time as Home Secretary.

The measures, introduced from 2011 onwards, require employers, landlords and health service providers to demand evidence of legal immigration status. At the time, May said they were designed to create a “hostile environment” for people living in the UK illegally. 

As a consequence, some lost their jobs, others were evicted from their homes, and a few were reported to have been threatened with deportation. 

This issue has come to light because of measures that we introduced recently to make sure that only those with a legal right to live here can access things like the NHS,” May said, according to the UK Press Association. 

And this has resulted in some people who – through no fault of their own – has resulted in some people now needing to be able to evidence their immigration status.” 

May’s apology came after the Home Office announced the creation on Monday of a new team to help those with Commonwealth status secure their UK status. 

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: “The Windrush generation have been threatened with deportation because they cannot provide documents, but now we learn that the Home Office destroyed the very records that could have demonstrated their right to remain.” 

On Tuesday, she called on Home Secretary Amber Rudd to announce that she will accept the “burden of proof” in deportation cases for the Windrush generation should lie with the Home Office rather than the potential deportee. 

She said: “The revelation that Windrush landing cards were destroyed is truly shocking and the culpability of this fiasco rests solely with the Home Office.

“Amber Rudd must explain who authorised this action and when, and what Theresa May’s role was as the then home secretary.”

In summary,  two Home Office whistleblowers have rejected May’s claim that the destruction of landing cards had no impact on immigration cases, saying they were routinely used as an information source before their destruction. 

The home affairs committee has summoned Amber Rudd, the home secretary, to appear before it next week and answer questions on the Windrush scandal. 

The Home Office said 113 cases had been reported to a hotline set up to try to resolve the arising distressing issues.

The Jamaican prime minister, Andrew Holness, and the Labour MP David Lammy have called for those denied services, wrongfully detained or deported to be awarded compensation.

Tory immigration policy was “reminiscent of Nazi Germany” – Bob Kerslake

Lord Kerslake has made clear the unease among politicians and civil servants at the set of policies implemented when May was Home Secretary, that have now come under scrutiny amid the Windrush scandal. 

The phrase ‘hostile environment’ was used by May in a 2012 interview, when she was Home Secretary. It involved legislation and regulation to “tackle illegal immigration” and help bring the net number of people coming to the UK down to “tens of thousands a year”. 

Theresa May had repealed parts of the previous government’s immigration legislation and amended overlapping legislation, to narrow the criteria that qualify UK citizenship, making them much more difficult to meet from 2010 onwards. The subsequent amendments were even more harsh. 

The changes involves migrants having to prove their immigration status when accessing NHS services and housing. Landlords and employers are also expected to enforce new policies or risk fines.

Emblematic of Lynton Crosby’s trumpeted dog whistling tactics, the much-criticised, extremely racially divisive ‘go home’ vans where dispatched by the Home Office in 2013,  displaying billboards with the message: “In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest.”

Remarkably, the vans, which some said out did UKIP in terms of displays of racism, prompted Nigel Farage to criticise them as “nasty” and “Orwellian.”

 

Appearing on BBC 2’s Newsnight, Lord Kerslake, head of the civil service between 2012 and 2015, told presenter Evan Davies about how the civil service gave advice on “some of the challenges of the policies”, especially over taking action against people who are “acting lawfully”. 

Asked whether May, then Home Secretary, was challenged, Lord Kerslake responded:  “It was not just a question of the Home Secretary being told that, the Prime Minister was as well, and this was a very contested piece of legislation across government departments.

The changes since 2010 involve migrants having to prove their immigration status when accessing NHS services and housing. Landlords and employers are also expected to enforce new policies or risk fines. (See also: Windrush: Home Office officials raised concerns over immigration rules says ex-civil service chief)

Yet the prime minister attempted to duck accountability and divert legitimate criticism from the opposition by making an outrageously expedient and deplorable, inaccurate swipe about the “rife antisemitism” in the Labour party. 

Still, it’s a change from the usual deeply divisive, confict-laden and untrue comments about Corbyn’s “special relationship” with Russia. It doesn’t do much for diplomatic relations and de-escalating conflicts when Conservative politicians and right-wing media pundits make openly insulting and disgraceful claims that Corbyn is “Russia’s useful idiot”. Aggressive playground politics, that weaponises Corbyn’s internationalism, diplomacy and respect for diversity, and further underlines Russian observations of “Russiaphobia” in the UK. 

It seems that the humbling public confession of telling outrageous lies and humiliating apology from Ben Bradley, following the threat of legal action, isn’t a sufficient lesson for the wider party to stop telling lies. Utterly despicable behaviour from the government.

 

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Deplorable BBC bias

On a site that makes the deeply ironic comment “Why you can trust BBC News“, which is definitely not because it is “accurate, impartial, independent and fair,” the BBC spectacularly failed to report that the prime minister misled parliament yesterday.

It wasn’t even commented on that May’s claim contradicted previous Home Office statements. The BBC have consistently failed to uphold public interests.  They fail in  challenging injustice, dishonesty and more generally, in holding an increasingly authoritarian government to account. There was no mention of the point of order made by Dawn Butler, either. Basically, the BBC are stage-managing democracy, or rather, they hold up a facade of democracy, on behalf of the authoritarian, media-monitoring Conservatives. 

I can’t believe that even the Daily Mail‘s account of yesterday’s prime minister’s questions was substantially more accurate, balanced, impartial and objective than the BBC’s frequently repeated propaganda. This morning, the record had not changed – May’s lie was presented and repeated as if it was an irrefutable truth, despite the fact that it was significantly challenged in parliament. 

I will stick to reading Hansard records. I know I can’t depend on the BBC for delivering factual and impartial accounts. However, I can always depend on the Corporation for their pro-Conservative grovelling, constructed PR stories and lessons in what not to do while a prejudiced, vile and dangerous authoritarian government systematically targets discrimination at one social group after another, while trampling on their human dignity and violating their human rights. 

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out, because I am not a socialist..” springs to mind yet again. 

Looking through the BBC article, the lack of independent and critical analysis leaves me wondering if Lynton Crosby and the numerous other PR/communications consultants employed by the Conservatives have been been distributing crib sheets again. One commentator on BBC News this morning, said “It as to be said that Lord Kerslake has been an advisor for the Labour Party”, as if that somehow negates his account, and the harrowing accounts of those people who are watching their lives fall apart because of the racist and Kafkaesque bureacracy of extremely punitive, socially divisive and discriminatory government policies. 

Back in 2011, Theresa May said: “The government should not be “constrained in removing foreign nationals by the Human Rights Act as it attempts to reduce levels of immigration into the UK.” Her offensive speech was designed to stigmatise immigrants, spoken in the language of hardened authoritarianism. And there was also catgate.  


I think the The British Broadcasting Corporation has become the CCBAC: The Complicit Conservative Bystander Apathy Corporation.

The Ministerial Code of Conduct

I feel very strongly that no politician should lie in parliament, or set out to deceive the public, least of all, a prime minister. The Conservatives have a long history, however, of role modelling atrocious behaviours, and delivering socially divisive rhetoric that signals a permission for public prejudice, discrimination, abuse, bullying and hate crime. 

The Ministerial Code, which sets out standards of behaviour expected from all those who serve in Government, says: “It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister. ”

And if the person who knowingly misled Parliament is the prime minister? Well, you can make a formal complaint to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Office here.

The prime minister has also violated the Nolan principles, which are:

Selflessness: Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest. 

Integrity: Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence their work. They  should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships. 

Objectivity: Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias. 

Accountability: Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny necessary to ensure this. 

Openness: Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner.Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for doing so. 

Honesty: Holders of public office should be truthful.

Leadership: Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

You can complain about the lack of objectivity, fairness, balance and impartiality of the BBC here

It’s time we demanded democratic accountability from our government, and facts instead of propaganda from the media.


 

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17 thoughts on “We must not permit the prime minister to tell lies in parliament with impunity, it’s dangerously authoritarian behaviour

    1. You are really sailing close to the wind with your assertion that the PM deliberately misled parliament, best you start saving for the libel action that is likely to be taken against you.

      Like

      1. Oh, it isn’t just my ‘assertion’. A point of order was made in parliament regarding this issue. The Home Office had already confirmed that the decision was taken in 2010 to destroy the documents, and carried out in October of that year. Anyone wishing to sue me would first need to prove that what I have said is intentionally untrue, and it is not. Furthermore, a spokesperson for No.10 confirmed later that same day that Theresa May’s version of events was not correct, instead transferring the blame to the UK Border Agency (UKBA), saying: “In October 2010, the operational decision was taken in relation to the specific registry slips themselves. The prime minister was not involved in this process, this was an ‘operational decision’ taken by UKBA.” She most certainly knew this was the case, being Home secretary at the time and since. To blame Labour was shameful. To mislead parliament is disgraceful and she herself would expect anyone else doing so to resign.

        But if you fancy giving it a go, well go ahead and sue me. However, don’t hold your breath for me ‘saving up’ anything, anytime soon for you. I had to laugh at that.

        Theresa May knows that this issue was raised in parliament by MPs from Labour, including Dawn Butler, who made the point of order I discussed. That is on the Hansard record, along with the Home Office responses that contradict the PM’s rather spiteful and dishonest account in Parliament last Wednesday.

        That the PM is accused of misleading parliament is common knowledge. It’s not the first time, and veiled threats being trolled on my site, like yours, won’t stop me from writing about such matters.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. Thank you for discussing the discrepancy between what the PM said in response to the leader of the oppositions question about the decision to destroy records and records about the timing. If it was reported, I missed it. Generally, the idea to require non specialists such as landlords or employers to decide on a persons status is bound to be racialist in practice, simply because the question about where someone is from most readily comes to mind when they present a different appearance. It’s unfair to put landlords and employers in this position, as well as being brutally unfair to the section of society which falls foul of these questions.

    Liked by 2 people

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