A Liberal Democrat government would move thousands of staff from the Home Office to the business department as part of moves to shift responsibility for processing visa and asylum applications, it has announced.
Around 9,000 civil servants would be moved out of the department if the Liberal Democrat Party wins power in Thursday’s election.
The Lib Dem manifesto, published last month, set out plans for a major shake-up of departmental responsibilities across Whitehall, which included taking responsibility for work permits, student visas and asylum decisions away from the Home Office.
The party plans to set up a dedicated unit to make these decisions, it said.
It has now confirmed that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will absorb most of the civil servants moved out of the Home Office.
Lib Dem home affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine said: “We will hand policymaking over to departments that aren’t infected by the Home Office’s toxic culture, and that far better understand the needs of our economy, our universities, and seekers of sanctuary.”
She said the new agency would be given the authority to “decide cases fairly and get them right first time, free from interference by populist politicians”.
She said the move would aim to avoid a, saying the department’s current approach “risks a repeat of the Windrush scandal for EU citizens”.
Her comments echoed warnings by the Commons Home Affairs Committee and Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee, which have called for the department to rethink its approach of giving successful applicants to the EU settlement scheme digital-only proof of their right to remain in the UK.
The Lords committee said in March that the Home Office must provide physical documents proving people’s settled status “given the clear parallels with lack of documents contributing to the Windrush scandal, and the fear that this causes for EU/EEA citizens”.
Expanding on her party’s manifesto commitments, Jardine said: “Scandal after scandal has proved that the Home Office is not fit for purpose.
“Decades of hostile policies from Labour and Conservative home secretaries have created an immigration system that no-one trusts, and that fails to respect people’s dignity.
“Thousands of people are wrongly refused visas or asylum, causing huge amounts of misery and wasting taxpayers’ money.
The party’s planned machinery of government changes also include setting up a climate change department, creating a cabinet-level chief secretary for sustainability role in the Treasury and establishing a railways agency to take over day-to-day decision making from the Department for Transport.