Windrush Compensation Scheme

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:18 pm on 9th April 2019.

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Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Shadow Home Secretary 1:18 pm, 9th April 2019

I congratulate my right hon. Friend Mr Lammy on securing this important urgent question.

The whole House knows that the Windrush generation was let down by successive Governments, Labour and Conservative, but with this derisory compensation scheme, the Windrush generation has been let down once again. I draw it to the attention of the House that although I did get early sight of the Home Secretary’s statement on 3 April, I was not provided with early sight of the scheme rules, and I appreciate the opportunity to question the Minister on them today.

This scheme compares very unfavourably with the criminal injuries compensation scheme, whose awards are aligned with compensation for loss under common law. Claimants are also allowed a statutory right of appeal of awards. They are also allowed legal aid for those appeals. None of that is true in any meaningful sense in the case of the Windrush victims. How can the Minister possibly justify that?

The Opposition believe that the Home Office must pay for losses actually incurred. For instance, claimants will be paid just £1,264 for denial of access to child benefit. It is easy to quantify what people would have lost altogether. Why cannot they get that exact sum of money back, plus interest? There is only £500 for denial of access to free healthcare. It is easy to quantify how much people had to spend when they had to access private healthcare. Why cannot they get that money back?

On awards, the scheme provides compensation for detention. However, in the false imprisonment case of Sapkota v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, the courts upheld three common law principles. First, detention is more traumatic for a person of good character. Secondly, a higher rate of compensation is payable for the first hour. Thirdly, historic damages awarded in precedent cases must be adjusted and uplifted to present-day values. The deputy High Court judge in that case awarded Mr Sapkota £24,000. This proposed scheme provides nothing like those common law damages.

The amounts offered for wrongful denial of access to higher education are pitiful. The scheme offers just £500, but all the research shows that the lifetime benefit of access to higher education is counted in tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of pounds.

This scheme is shoddy, unfair and unjust. Ministers did not make all the information available to Her Majesty’s Opposition when we were able to respond to the scheme. Some might say—I will not say it—that Ministers were attempting to conceal the reality of the derisory nature of their scheme. Above all, the Home Secretary said there was no cap. These tariffs are a cap. We are asking Ministers, even at this late stage, to review these unfair tariffs, remove the cap, and give this generation the justice they deserve.