Windrush

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:44 pm on 2nd May 2018.

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Photo of Matt Rodda Matt Rodda Shadow Minister (Transport) (Buses) 5:44 pm, 2nd May 2018

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate. I would like to add my support to the contributions made by my right hon. Friend Ms Abbott and many other Labour Members, particularly my right hon. Friend Mr Lammy, who rightly said that the treatment of the Windrush generation has been shameful. I want to return to the central point of this issue, rather than discussing the nature of the motion, as some Conservative Members have tried to do.

It is now more than two weeks since my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham raised an urgent question in order to bring this serious issue to the attention of the House, and there has rightly been a lot of discussion and debate. Yet we stand here today still with a lack of clarity on how it will be resolved for all those affected, who, let us not forget, are British citizens. Serious questions remain about compensation, the burden of proof that we place on individuals, and what long-term protection there will be to ensure that the Windrush generation—and indeed others like them from other Commonwealth countries or the European Union—have their rights protected. This uncertainty adds to the anxiety and suffering of those affected.

The mistreatment of the Windrush generation is the key issue that many people in my constituency have been raising over the past two weeks prior to the local elections. People are very upset. There is very strong feeling across different communities, and across the whole of the town of Reading, about the wrong that has been done to people from this community. People are understandably upset that our friends and neighbours have been put in this position and have suffered wrong. The factor that has caused the most upset among my constituents is that these problems have been caused not by mistakes by officials implementing the rules but by the fact that this Government have promoted a hostile environment for migrants. The Government have introduced immigration policies that have created an environment that has placed a deeply unfair burden of proof on people who are here legally, have the right to be here, and yet feel that they are being asked to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they should be here.

The stories we have heard from people across the country of being detained, being denied access to NHS treatment, losing their homes, or suffering every other form of terrible pressure and abuse have sent shockwaves across every community in this country, including in my own constituency. I would like to put it on record that Reading has the largest Barbadian population outside the Caribbean island of Barbados itself, and is a focal point for people from that island who come to live in the UK. We have a very strong West Indian community in our town. I pay tribute to BAFA—the Barbados and Friends Association—and to community groups that represent other West Indian and Commonwealth communities across Reading. Reading is twinned with Speightstown in Barbados, and we have had visits from both the Prime Minister of Barbados and its high commissioner.

I therefore support today’s motion calling for all papers and all communications to be provided for the scrutiny of the Home Affairs Committee. With regard to next steps, assurances that there are no statutory or legal obstacles are not enough. The rights of Commonwealth citizens must be enshrined in law, so I would urge the Government to commit to restoring—