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 Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 1:18 pm, 9th April 2019

I congratulate Mr Lammy on securing this important urgent question. It is imperative that the victims of the Windrush scandal are compensated justly for the terrible treatment that they endured.

I was a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights which took evidence from two of the victims of this disgraceful scandal. Anyone who heard their testimony about the effect of wrongful detention, and of years of persecution and threatened deportation, would regard some of the amounts in this scheme as derisory. After a year-long wait for the compensation scheme, it is disappointing that it has serious flaws, some of which have already been enumerated by others. It seems to be a great deal more mean than was suggested by the Home Secretary at the Dispatch Box, when he said that there would be no cap on the scheme. A cap, however, has clearly been introduced through the back door by applying internal caps on pay-outs, which will equate in effect to caps on how much individuals receive.

As has been said, some of the pay-outs under the scheme are wholly unacceptable: £250 per month for people who were rendered homeless as a result of that unjust treatment; or a maximum award of £500 for legal affairs. The Home Secretary refuses to compensate people for the full cost of immigration law advice; he claims that they do not need legal advice to make an immigration application. Any of us who deal with immigration matters in our constituency surgeries knows that not to be the case. Those of us who study closely the Home Office files of the individuals who gave evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights will tell you that only with the assistance of lawyers did they manage to disentangle themselves from this mess.

Is it not time for the Home Secretary to admit that removing legal aid from immigration matters was a huge error? The Government must fully compensate those of the Windrush generation who had to pay out of their own pockets to defend themselves against that state injustice. Will the Minister accept that the minimal pay-outs under this scheme will achieve nowhere near justice for such people? Does she agree that, if the Government were truly serious about rectifying the wrongs of the scandal, they would look at this scheme anew and scrap the hostile environment, which already threatens to have the same impact on European Union citizens applying for settled status.