Windrush

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:10 pm on 2nd May 2018.

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Photo of Kirstene Hair Kirstene Hair Conservative, Angus 5:10 pm, 2nd May 2018

What has happened to the Windrush generation is completely unacceptable, and the Government must do all they can to sort out this mess as quickly as possible. I would like to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend Amber Rudd, who worked tirelessly during her time as Home Secretary and saw our country through times of unprecedented difficulty, including three major terrorist attacks. I also thank her for her response to the Windrush issue, during which time she acted without hesitation to put processes in place to correct past mistakes.

As the Government continue to right this wrong, I would like to seek assurances from the new Home Secretary on a few counts. First, we cannot underestimate the administrative difficulties faced by many in the Windrush generation, and indeed people from other Commonwealth countries, who came here prior to 1971, in proving their citizenship to the Home Office. Many simply will not have official documentation. I understand that the Government are accepting other forms of evidence, such as school records, but Ministers must not take their eye off the ball. We need the various arms of the Government—from the Home Office to the Department for Work and Pensions and from the Department for Education to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs—to work together to help those people build a picture of their life here in the United Kingdom. This is complicated work, and the new unit at the Home Office must stand ready to assist people through the process.

The Government have already taken positive steps, with a new dedicated team helping individuals to identify and gather evidence to confirm their existing right to be in the UK. They have ensured that no one affected will be charged for the documentation that proves their right to be here. They have also created a new website to provide the necessary additional information, so that as many people as possible feel that they can come forward. The Prime Minister and the Home Office have met and reassured leaders, charities, community groups and high commissioners from across the Commonwealth. They have outlined the actions that we are taking to help people to evidence their right to be here.

The issue of compensation has already been mentioned many times today. The Windrush generation have given us decades of service and hard work, and helped us to rebuild our communities—communities of which they are now an integral part. Any compensation scheme must have those affected at its heart, but there is no doubt that we have failed them. This was a failure of the British state and we must make it right. That means compensation for all those who were blocked from accessing vital services, who were threatened with deportation or whose lives have in any way been adversely affected by this failure. Only then can we show the Windrush generation that we are sorry, that they are valued, and that we are determined to look after them as the British citizens they are.

This sorry episode was a failure of process and of the system under successive Governments. We have heard a lot today about the impact of the hostile—or compliant, to use another word—environment. We have been told that it is putting off foreign doctors and nurses from coming to the UK. We have heard how the Government’s migration targets must be dropped. However, I would remind the Opposition that the compliant environment has nothing to do with this. It is about tackling illegal immigration. I believe that that is an important job of Government, and that it is what the public want us to do.

As a member of the Home Affairs Committee, I will work with Members across the parties to ensure that we examine what has gone wrong, that we scrutinise why it has happened, and that we work to find a way forward. We will make recommendations to the Government, and I look forward to working with Committee members on that. What has happened to the Windrush generation has been scandalous. It was a failure of the system, Madam Deputy Speaker, and those people are just as British as you or me.