#wholenewsetupneeded. That’s what Nicholas Soames tweeted earlier today about the Home Office, suggesting that immigration control should be taken away from it. His idea reflects a concern that the department won’t be able to manage the new systems that will be needed post-Brexit for EU and non-EU foreign citizens alike. That worry has been increased by the Windrush scandal. It will be accentuated by claims earlier today that not only will the necessary systems for customs management not be Ready on Day One, but that they won’t even be Ready by Day 730 – that’s to say, by the end of transition. If customs systems aren’t ready, will border systems be ready either?
This is why we have called for an inquiry into lessons from the Windrush debacle – to be, as we put it, “headed up by someone who knows how the wheels of Westminster and Whitehall grind and clash”. Sajid Javid travelled some way towards this option in the Commons today when he pledged to “bring independent oversight and challenge to a lessons-learned review already under way in my Department. That review will seek to draw out how members of the Windrush generation came to be entangled in measures designed for illegal immigrants, why that was not spotted sooner and whether the right corrective measures are now in place”.
Those overseeing this review will presumably have access to all the necessary paperwork. Labour’s motion for debate opportunistically sought to limit publication of “all papers, correspondence and advice including emails and text messages” relating to Windrush to after the Coalition came to office in 2010 – thus conveniently excluding evidence from Labour’s own earlier period in government. That was reason enough to oppose it. But if lessons are to be learned, all the necessary evidence, stretching back from the Amber Rudd through the Theresa May to the Labour years in the Home Office, will need to be scrutinised properly.
That means oversight of the information required. It also means going the whole hog – from independent oversight of a review to an independent inquiry. To repeat: the Windrush children and illegal immigrants are completely different. The first have as much right to be here as anyone else. The second do not. The question is how the former came to be caught up in the “hostile environment” policy – to which, we also repeat, there can be no reasonable objection. The issue at stake is a straightforward one. Can we be confident that the Home Office is ready to take on an entirely new migration system? If you think not, then an independent inquiry into its workings is necessary. And that, by extension, would need to see the necessary paperwork.