Sajid Javid has told MPs “it could have been me” caught up in the Windrush scandal as the new Home Secretary promised to “do right” by British nationals wrongly denied their rights in the UK.
Hours after being appointed by the Prime Minister to replace Amber Rudd, who resigned on Sunday night, Mr Javid said the treatment of Windrush migrants made him “angry” and promised to “put his own stamp” on Home Office policy.
Ms Rudd resigned after admitting she had misled a parliamentary committee when she told MPs that the Home Office does not set targets for deporting migrants who are in the UK illegally.
Summoned to the Commons dispatch box to give an update on the Windrush scandal, Mr Javid confirmed that he would review those targets. The Home Office has already said they will be scrapped.
Mr Javid, the son of a former mill worker and bus driver who arrived in the UK from Pakistan in 1961, said the stories of Windrush-era immigrants threatened with expulsion from the UK had touched him personally.
“Like the Caribbean Windrush generation, my parents came to this country from the Commonwealth in the 1960s,” Mr Javid said. “They too came to help rebuild this country and offer all that they had. So when I heard that people who were long-standing pillars of their community were being impacted for simply not having the right documents to prove their legal status in the UK, I thought that it could be my mum, my brother, my uncle or even me.”
A specialist Home Office team established in response to the Windrush scandal has received 6,000 calls, of which around 2,500 have been identified as Windrush cases, Mr Javid revealed. More than 500 appointments have been scheduled and 100 cases have been successfully resolved.
The new Home Secretary ruled out using the phrase “hostile environment” in relation to measures to discourage illegal migration, saying it does not “represent the values” of the UK.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott called on Mr Javid to reinstate protections for Commonwealth citizens removed by immigration legislation in 2014, when Mrs May was at the Home Office.
Ms Abbott said: “The Windrush generation was my parents’ generation. I believe – and most British people believe – that they have been treated appallingly.
“And he will be judged not on the statements he makes this afternoon: he will be judged on what he does to put the situation right and get justice for the Windrush generation.”
Mr Javid said he was “angry too”, after Ms Abbott asked if he was aware how “frightened and angry the Windrush generation and their families are”.
He went on to say: “Like her, I am also a second generation migrant and I know that she shares that anger and she should respect that other people do – she doesn’t have a monopoly on that.”
Mr Javid also faced demands from Conservative MPs to “retire” Home Office measures developed by Mrs May.
Former minister Nick Boles urged the Home Secretary to “put his own stamp” on policy in the role previously held by the Prime Minister. “If that means retiring some legacy policies then so be it,” Mr Boles said.
SNP home affairs spokeswoman Joanna Cherry said Amber Rudd had done the “right thing” in resigning “given the circumstances in which she found herself”. “It has been his predecessor’s misfortune to have presided over a mess which was of the Prime Minister’s making,” she said.
Mr Javid has been replaced as Housing and Local Government Secretary by James Brokenshire, who resigned as Northern Ireland Secretary in January to undergo surgery on a lung lesion. The women and equalities portfolio, which had been held by Ms Rudd, has passed to Penny Mordaunt, the International Development Secretary.