April 18, 2018
PM’s claim about destruction of landing cards and assurances over Albert Thompson’s treatment called into question
Government in chaos over Windrush after double setback for May
Theresa May’s attempt to get a grip on the Windrush crisis descended into chaos on Wednesday after two major announcements she made on the subject were immediately called into question.
In a day of confusion over the treatment of Windrush-era arrivals unfairly targeted over their immigration status, May promised that Albert Thompson, a London man denied free NHS cancer treatment despite living in the UK for 44 years, would now get the care he needed.
However, his lawyers said they had not been contacted to be told of any policy change, while Thompson – whose case was first exposed by the Guardian – also complained about being left in the dark.

Separately, an effort by May to blame Labour for a controversial decision to destroy landing card slips recording people’s arrival dates rebounded after it emerged that one of the decisions to implement the policy took place in 2010, when she was home secretary.
In other developments on a day of recriminations as the government tried and failed to draw a line under the crisis:
  • Two Home Office whistleblowers 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 summoned Amber Rudd, the home secretary, to appear before it next week and answer questions on the Windrush saga.
  • The Home Office said 113 cases had been reported to a hotline set up to try to resolve the issue.
  • The Jamaican prime minister, Andrew Holness, and the Labour MP David Lammy called for those denied services, wrongfully detained or deported to be awarded compensation.
The greatest uncertainty surrounded the case of Thompson – not his real name – who arrived in the UK from Jamaica as a teenager in 1973 to join his mother, and had been asked to pay £54,000 for prostate cancer treatment after he was unable to provide sufficient documents to show that he is in the country legally.
Pressed over the case at prime minister’s questions by Jeremy Corbyn, May said Thompson would now get “the treatment that he needs”. However, Thompson released a statement saying no one had got in touch with him to confirm what this meant, and that he considered the situation “outrageous”.
Praxis, a London immigration charity that is assisting Thompson, said he had been telephoned by a doctor from the Royal Marsden hospital late on Wednesday afternoon, but that this only informed him that he would be called in for new blood tests within two or three weeks.
The 63-year-old has been getting medication from his GP to control the cancer, but has been told he needs radiotherapy treatment, and it remains unclear whether he might still have to pay for his.
A statement from the Royal Marsden said: “Mr Thompson has been continuing on treatment by his GP under the direction of his cancer specialist. Throughout this period we have been committed to resolving Mr Thompson’s eligibility for further NHS treatment with his legal advisers. The cancer specialist has contacted Mr Thompson to assess him in clinic for his next stage of NHS treatment.”
However Thompson’s lawyer, Jeremy Bloom, said the position remained opaque. “The line from the hospital has always remained the same, which is, he can be treated if can pay or if he can prove that he has indefinite leave to remain,” he said. “And as far as we have been told, nothing has changed.
“It’s not just about Albert. People who can demonstrate that they’ve been here for decades should not be told that they need indefinite leave to remain or else they have to pay in advance for their NHS treatment.”
Thompson arrived in the UK in December 1973, months after the cutoff date for a law that gave Commonwealth citizens living in the UK indefinite leave to remain. In his statement, he said: “I got here in 1973, legally, to join my parents who arrived in the 1960s. I have worked and paid taxes. I have to get my treatment ASAP. I am very worried for all that is going on. If the Home Office destroyed the paperwork stating that I arrived here legally it’s their fault, not mine.”
The row prompted Thompson’s MP, Chuka Umunna, to accuse May in the Commons of misleading the chamber and request that she return to set the record straight.
In the dispute over the destruction of the landing records, May sought to ambush Corbyn at PMQs when the Labour leader asked her how this had happened. To gleeful shouts from Tory MPs in the chamber, the PM said the decision had actually been taken in 2009, when Labour were in power.
This contradicted a Home Office briefing from the day before. It later emerged that two decisions were made – in June 2009 and October 2010 – and that both were made by officials with the UK Border Agency, rather than ministers.
A Labour spokeswoman said the government position on the landing cards was “shifting by the hour”.
Corbyn devoted all his PMQs questions to the Windrush subject, saying the crisis had been caused by May’s decision as home secretary to create a hostile environment in which people had to actively prove their immigration status.

“This is a shameful episode and the responsibility for it lies firmly at the prime minister’s door,” he said. “Her pandering to bogus immigration targets led to a hostile environment for people who were contributing to our country. It led to British citizens being denied NHS treatment, losing their jobs, homes and pensions, thrown in detention centres like criminals and even deported.”
May countered by insisting it was right to seek to remove people without the right to be in the UK. “There is a difference between the Windrush generation, who are British, who are part of us and have a right to be here – and we want to ensure that we give them the reassurance of that right – and those other people who are here illegally,” she said.
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