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Windrush Lessons Learned Review

– in the House of Commons at 11:25 am on 19th March 2020.

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Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department 11:25 am, 19th March 2020

With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on the long-awaited Windrush lessons learned review.

I dedicate this statement to the Windrush generation. I have personally been deeply moved by reading this report. Given the national significance of this issue, I have published the review immediately. I thank Wendy Williams and her team for the important work they have undertaken.

The Windrush lessons learned review gives voice to members of the Windrush generation who legally arrived in the UK to help rebuild post-war Britain. These men and women built their lives and their home in Britain. These people have done so much for this country, from staffing the NHS to rebuilding Britain. These are the very people who worked hard, paid their taxes and had every right to be in this country.

They contributed to our communities, culture and society, helping our public services and our economy to thrive. They made our country stronger, more vibrant and more successful as a nation. That is why we were all shocked to discover that they and their families were subject to such insensitive treatment by the very country they called home.

As this review makes clear, some members of the Windrush generation suffered terrible injustices, spurred by institutional failings, spanning successive Governments over several decades. That includes

“ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the…race and the history of the Windrush generation”.

Today’s publication is part of an ongoing mission to put this right and ensure such events can never happen again, as there were far too many victims of Windrush.

Paulette Wilson was detained in an immigration removal centre and warned that she faced removal after living in the UK for 50 years. She spent decades contributing to the UK—working for a time in this very House—yet she was treated like a second-class citizen.

Junior Green had been in the UK for more than 60 years, raising children and grandchildren here, but after a holiday to Jamaica he was refused re-entry despite holding a passport confirming his right to be in the UK. The injustice he suffered was compounded when, because of this action, he missed his mother’s funeral.

Lives were ruined and families were torn apart. Now, an independent review has suggested that the Home Office’s

“institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation” contributed to it. This is simply unacceptable.

I have heard people speak of the decision making as a process that grinds people down to the extent that it makes them want to give up. I have heard people speak of being dismissed, and being labelled as a group of people who just do not matter and whose voice on this issue is irrelevant.

People have spoken to me of the indignity and inhumanity they still feel today following the experience of being made to feel unwelcome in their own country. They have described their experiences as unthinkable and unimaginable. However, there are people across the UK and even some Members of this House—including myself and the shadow Home Secretary—for whom this is unfortunately all too relatable.

There are lessons to learn for the Home Office, but also for society as a whole. Despite the diverse and open nature of our country, too many people still feel that they may be treated differently because of who they are or where their parents came from. Today’s report, which suggests that in the Home Office there was an

“institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation” is worrying for us all.

In her report, Wendy Williams is clear that lessons must be learned at all levels and by all political parties. She describes a set of measures that evolved under Labour, coalition and Conservative Governments. Those measures cover decades. She states that Ministers did not sufficiently question unintended consequences and that officials should and could have done more. We must all look to ourselves. We must all do better at walking in other people’s shoes. We must all take responsibility for the failings that led to the unimaginable suffering of this generation.

Let me be clear, Mr Speaker. Nothing I can say today will undo the pain, suffering and misery inflicted on the Windrush generation. What I can do is say that on behalf of this and successive Governments, I am truly sorry for the actions that spanned decades. I am sorry that people’s trust has been betrayed. We will continue to do everything possible to ensure that the Home Office protects, supports and listens to every single part of the community it serves.

Action has already begun. In recent months, I have met and listened to people whose lives were shattered. Since 2018, we have launched measures to put right the wrongs caused to individual members of the Windrush generation. We have taken action through practical measures to give those affected the assistance, certainty, reassurance and support they need. The Commonwealth citizens taskforce goes into communities to help and support people secure their legal status. More than 11,700 people have been granted a form of documentation that confirms their right to remain in the UK and guarantees their access to public services. Our vulnerable persons team has provided support to nearly 1,400 people, with approximately 120 people still receiving support. The team has supported more than 360 people to secure access to benefits.

To go some way in addressing the hardship suffered, the Home Office launched the Windrush compensation scheme. The scheme was designed in close consultation with members of the community and Martin Forde QC. Collectively, they have developed a compensation scheme that is straightforward to use and addresses the bespoke personal circumstances and needs of every applicant, with dedicated caseworkers assessing claims as quickly as possible. There is no cap on payments, dozens of which have already been made, and we encourage more applications. Those who are eligible will receive full compensation.

More than 100 community events have taken place so far. That includes more than 30 compensation scheme events across the country, from Southampton to Glasgow and Cardiff to Coventry. However, there are still people out there in need of our help who we have not yet reached. That is why in February, I extended the length of the compensation scheme by a further two years so that claims can be submitted until April 2023. I set up the Windrush stakeholder advisory group to rebuild links with communities to ensure that they are supported through compensation, but also to rebuild the trust that has been broken.

Today, I can confirm we will launch an expanded cross-Government Windrush working group to develop programmes to improve the lives of those affected. That may be through employment programmes, dedicated mental health support and specialist education and training schemes. To ensure that people know about the taskforce, the Windrush compensation scheme will have a dedicated communications campaign promoting the scheme. We will also open a £500,000 fund for grassroots organisations to promote these schemes, including provisions for specialist advice services. I would like to extend my personal thanks to Martin Forde QC for his support with the creation of the scheme.

I want to put on record my thanks to my predecessors—my right hon. Friends the Members for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid) and for Maidenhead (Mrs May), and the former Member for Hastings and Rye—who worked hard to understand and undo the suffering when these issues first came to light, and other Members, including the right hon. Members for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) and for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), who shone a necessary light on this injustice. I also want to thank the thousands of civil servants at the Home Office and across Government who work tirelessly every single day in challenging and demanding jobs to keep the public and our country safe. Whether on the frontline or working to develop policies for the future, their commitment to create a safer country for us all is commendable.

Since these injustices were brought to light, civil servants have used every endeavour to right the wrongs, giving people their correct status and supporting them in their financial compensation claims. However, it would be wrong for the Department to ignore Wendy Williams’s finding that the Home Office’s

“institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation” contributed to this. This is not something that can be resolved with an apology or compensation.

I will review the recommendations that Wendy Williams makes in relation to the way the Home Office operates as an organisation. I will continue to look closely at its leadership, culture, practices and the way it views the communities it serves. Over the coming months, myself and Matthew Rycroft—the new permanent secretary—and the second permanent secretary will work together with our dedicated staff at all levels to reflect on the recommendations, including those relating to compliant environment policies and cultural change. Fundamentally, I want to make the Home Office a better place to work. That will include a clarification of the Department’s purpose, mission and values, putting at its heart fairness, dignity and respect. We will put people before process.

The publication of this review is a small but vital step towards ensuring that the Home Office is trusted by all the people it serves. I encourage anyone who thinks that they have been affected by the Windrush scandal or who requires support or assistance to come forward. I will bring forward a detailed formal response in the next six months, as Wendy Williams has recommended, representing a new chapter for the Home Office. Let me assure the House that everyone at the Home Office will be asking the difficult questions needed to ensure that these circumstances can never arise again. I commend this statement to the House.

Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Shadow Home Secretary 11:37 am, 19th March 2020

We meet as a House of Commons at a time of unprecedented national crisis—a national crisis that none of us has seen before in our lifetime—but I am sure the Home Secretary will agree that we should not allow the fact that the review has been published at a time of national crisis to mean that the review and its recommendations are buried. The Windrush generation deserve better than that.

As the Home Secretary will know, the recommendations in this review have three main elements: that the Home Office must acknowledge the wrong that has been done; that it must open itself up to external scrutiny; and that it must change its culture, to recognise that migration and wider Home Office policy is about people, and whatever the objective, it should always be rooted in humanity.

The Home Secretary will be aware that the review points out:

“Some ministers and senior officials spoken to in the course of this review do not appear to accept the full extent of the injustice done to the Windrush generation”, and that they say

“the situation was unforeseen, unforeseeable and therefore unavoidable.”

More than one Member of this House foresaw the consequences of the hostile environment legislation years ago.

The review goes on to say that other Ministers and senior officials

“have expressed the view that the responsibility really lay with the Windrush generation themselves to sort out their status.”

Will the Home Secretary agree that, whichever politicians or officials said those things—Wendy Williams quotes them in the review—they were disgraceful things to say?

The review has many important and detailed recommendations. I cannot touch on them all, but I wish to draw the Home Secretary’s attention to a few. The review wants the Department to publish a comprehensive improvement plan within six months. Is the Home Secretary willing to assure the House that there will be such a plan? The review asks that the Home Office run a programme of reconciliation events with members of the Windrush generation. Does the Home Secretary commit to that?

Very importantly, the review says that the Home Office must look beyond the Caribbean, because persons from all over the Commonwealth who came to this country at that time would have been caught up in the same issues that the Windrush generation were caught up in. In fact, persons from the Caribbean are as anxious as anybody that persons from other parts of the Commonwealth—Africa, south Asia—also get the fairness and justice that they deserve. Is the Home Secretary willing to commit to reviewing data on other Commonwealth cases, as well as those from the Caribbean nations?

Is the Home Secretary willing to commit commission officials to undertake a full review and evaluation of the hostile or compliant environment policy and its measures individually and serially? Such a full review should assess whether they were effective and proportionate. Given the risks inherent in the policy that are set out in the report, the review must be carried out scrupulously, designed in partnership with external experts and published in a timely way.

Sadly, the Home Secretary did not feel able to share a copy of the review with the Opposition Front-Bench team. I have never before been in the situation in which a Home Secretary brought forward a major report of this kind and did not want to share it with the Opposition Front-Bench team—obviously that would have been under complete discretion. As it happens, I had to go into the Home Secretary’s office in Parliament to obtain the copy I have. It is almost as if the Home Secretary did not want full parliamentary scrutiny.

This is a detailed report that deserves detailed scrutiny. It is coming forward at a very difficult time for the nation as a whole, but the Opposition will be coming back to the issues raised in the report, because the Windrush scandal was not just a mistake; it was not just something that happened because people did not read the rules properly. As Wendy Williams points out, it was rooted in the systemic culture of the Home Office and the failure of Ministers to listen to the warnings they were given about what the effects of the hostile environment could be on people perfectly legally entitled to be here.

I have heard the Home Secretary’s apology, but people will believe her apology when they see her genuinely seek to implement the recommendations in this review. My mother was a member of the Windrush generation, so I know that one of the aspects of the Windrush generation was that they really believed they were British. They had no reason not to believe that they were British when they came here with their passports, UK and Colonies.

Let me assure the Home Secretary that, for the Windrush generation, it is not necessarily the money, or the loss, or the inconvenience, or even the tragedy of being deported. It is the insult to people who always believed that they were British, and who came here to rebuild this country, but who, because of the insensitivity and the structural issues in the Home Office, were treated in an utterly disgraceful and humiliating way. The Home Secretary should be assured that we will return to these issues until the Windrush generation gets the justice to which it is entitled.

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

First of all, let me say in response to the right hon. Lady’s point about the publication of the review that this is an independent review. I received a copy of it yesterday from Wendy Williams and I have, through all the due process in the House, laid the review this morning, in a timely way, in the Vote Office, using all the procedural routes that are normal to this House. I know that the right hon. Lady came to my office and picked up a copy, but copies were also available earlier on this morning—we checked that, and as she knows, I also gave her sight of my statement earlier, prior to coming to the Chamber.

I made a commitment to publish the report as soon as possible. It came to me yesterday, and I have done that, primarily because of the nature of the response and the concerns that this House has consistently and rightly raised when it comes to the Windrush generation. That, in my view, was the right thing to do, and I would not have been able to publish the review any earlier, because obviously it came to me from Wendy Williams yesterday. The timing of the report was decided by Wendy Williams, as the independent reviewer. Let me assure the right hon. Lady that I discussed with Wendy Williams yesterday how I will work with her on the recommendations going forward. I will be doing that over the coming months, in the way in which Wendy has asked and alluded to in the report. I will ensure that this issue continues to get the national prominence that it rightly deserves.

I also think, on that point, that this is the time for us all across this House to come together to right the wrongs. I have made it clear in my statement already that not only will I review Wendy’s recommendations on how the Home Office operates as an organisation, looking closely at, yes, the leadership, the culture, the practices and how it needs to put people before process—I cannot emphasise that enough—but I will also look at how we review policies and cultural change going forward. That is absolutely the right thing to do, but I emphasise that, in many of the measures and recommendations, and in the extent of the review—I have no doubt that when the right hon. Lady has the opportunity she will go through the review and read it, as I have—Wendy Williams is very clear that lessons must be learned at all levels, by all political parties. She describes the set of measures that evolved under Labour, coalition and Conservative Governments, and is clear those are lessons that we should all be learning, as politicians and as society, but also as Members of this House.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Conservative, Maidenhead

May I first associate myself with the unqualified apology that the Home Secretary has given to the Windrush generation? I have given my own apology previously, but I do so again today. This generation came here, they were British, they were here legally, they worked to build our country and they should not have been treated in this way. I recognise the commitment that my right hon. Friend has given to ensuring that the Home Office learns the lessons set out in the review.

May I draw my right hon. Friend’s attention to one of the elements that she referred to in her statement? Wendy Williams says in her review that

“a lack of insight into the community’s experience did delay an understanding of the problems being faced by the Windrush generation and led to opportunities being missed for resolving cases sooner.”

The Home Secretary referred to the fact that too many people still feel that they may be treated differently because of who they are or where their parents came from. Against that background, does she agree that the work of the race disparity audit, which I set up when I was Prime Minister, is absolutely critical in relation to this, and not just that that work should continue, but that every Department should act on the failings and the gaps in public sector provision for certain communities that are highlighted by that audit?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank my right hon. Friend Mrs May for her thoughtful comment. I emphasise and echo the work that she has done, but acknowledge her apology as well. She is absolutely right about the role of the race disparity audit. There is much that we can all take from this review. We should all as individuals be more conscious and aware not just of how we engage people, but of how we reach an understanding of communities and cultures, to help us all and to inform decision making and policies across Government in the future.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice Team Member)

This is a welcome statement and a welcome start, but it is only a start. The old maxim applies: legislate in haste, repent at leisure. The tragedy is that the price paid by some is significant and the actions of Government have been shameful, so an apology is both right and overdue. I recall as Justice Secretary of Scotland meeting a gentleman in his late 40s or 50s who, as a babe in arms, had left Scotland and gone to Australia. All his family and friends were in Australia. He had fallen from grace, developed an alcohol problem, committed a crime and been deported. I said then that the actions of the Government of Australia were shameful, and I repeat now that I believe the behaviour and actions of the UK Government are equally shameful when they replicate that. That gentleman was Australian, despite the passport he carried.

Will the Home Secretary ensure that those members of the Windrush generation who have been deported and who possess a different passport from the one that we in this Chamber have, but who are UK citizens the same as we are, are allowed to return? Will she also ensure that offenders from abroad who must be deported are rightly sent home, but that who possess a passport from Jamaica, Nigeria or wherever else, who have grown up in this country and are UK citizens, should be entitled to those rights?

Equally, although I believe the commitment to implement the recommendations is wholehearted and sincere, it is more than just a matter of living up to the recommendations; it must reflect the spirit of Wendy Williams’ report. I ask that the Government take on board those two points.

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I would like to make a number of points in response to the hon. Gentleman’s comments. First, he has already spoken to me about reviewing the recommendations, but I opened my statement by saying that I was deeply moved by reading the report, and I suggest that he too gives it some consideration and looks at the many recommendations made. In particular, I referenced the fact that we still have work to do in reaching members of the community, and I called for other individuals who feel that they have been affected to come forward, so that we can secure their status and provide the compensation that may be due to them.

There is something more fundamental, though. No amount of compensation or any process now can resolve the injustices that have happened. My focus right now is fundamentally not only to ensure that the recommendations are reviewed and undertaken, but to work with colleagues and Wendy Williams to ensure that we do this in the right way to bring about the change that we all want to see.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

I commend my right hon. Friend for her statement and for the apology she has given. The reality is that the Windrush generation, when they arrived here, were met with racism and outright hostility. That they have been treated so badly after so many years of service to this country is an absolute disgrace and a stain on our society. Will my right hon. Friend say a little more about what she can do to reach out to people who have been deported, or who are outside this country and wish to return but are not covered at the moment by what the Home Office is doing, so that they too can receive justice in the right way?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend is absolutely right in his reflective remarks about the citizens who came to our country legally, in effect to rebuild our nation and join our public services. For many decades, that generation experienced great hostility and overt racism in our country. As much as our country has moved forward, made progress and changed, as I said, there much that we need to do and we must all look at ourselves. He is also right to highlight people of other nationalities—citizens of Commonwealth countries in particular. The shadow Home Secretary also referred to Commonwealth citizens who were caught up in this. I know the report speaks very much about the Windrush generation—people who originated in Caribbean communities—but many other people from Commonwealth countries have been affected. As part of our work in the Home Office, we will of course endeavour to reach out through our engagement programmes to individuals from Commonwealth countries too.

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Labour, Tottenham

Wendy Williams’ Windrush lessons learned review is a brutal indictment of the Home Office, which shows that it is wholly unfit for the society it is supposed to serve. The review states that the Home Office displayed “institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness” on race issues that is

“consistent with some elements of the definition of institutional racism.”

The review accuses the Home Office of having a “defensive culture” that makes it deaf to those raising genuine concerns. Will the Home Secretary accept today, in this House, that, as was said previously, this was not a mistake or an accident, but a systemic pattern of appalling behaviour, rooted in a toxic internal culture and a failure of the Department to understand Britain’s colonial history?

Will the Home Secretary commit at the Dispatch Box to implement every single recommendation in this review? Will she review the £62,000 that has been paid out to those who should be compensated by far more? Will she ensure, at the Dispatch Box today, that she will end the hostile environment, which amplified things and has brought this about? The report asks for contrition and genuine understanding. We will hold her to account and to her word that that contrition is genuine, so that we right these shameful wrongs.

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to work with us all, collectively, to right these wrongs. I have been clear in my statement today, not just in giving an unequivocal apology, but in highlighting, as Wendy Williams has in an incredibly moving and thoughtful way, many of the issues that have led to the 30 recommendations she has made in this review. I will come back to the House and give all the recommendations full consideration.

The right hon. Gentleman has heard me say, and I have made this commitment to Wendy Williams, that I will work with her on reviewing the recommendations. That is the right thing to do. It is the right way to prevent something such as this from ever happening again.

The right hon. Gentleman also asked me about the culture within the Home Office. I have been clear that I am going to review all aspects of the Home Office. I will continue to look at the leadership, and at the changes we need to make to the culture and to policies; I have been clear about that in my statement. I will absolutely come back to the House, once I have worked with Wendy Williams, and share the details of how we will proceed as a Department in picking up the recommendations in this lessons learned review.

Photo of Gareth Bacon Gareth Bacon Conservative, Orpington

My right hon. Friend has disclosed that the first time she received this was report was yesterday and that she published it at the earliest possible opportunity today. Will she also disclose when officials at the Home Office first had sight of this report?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend is right to say that I received the report yesterday and, such is its importance, I published it today. Last July, Wendy Williams began the representations in the Maxwellisation process; those officials who have been involved and engaged in this process did not have sight of the actual review or report, because obviously it has taken time for that to come together, but there has been ongoing work and dialogue with key officials, former Ministers and many other interviewees Wendy has worked with for the publication of this review. That has taken place over a long period of time.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee

This report is deeply disturbing, but it also tells us many of the things we have been raising concerns about since the Windrush crisis emerged. The result of it is that British citizens have been deported, been denied NHS treatment, been cost their jobs and been made homeless by the actions of the British Government, who act in all of our names. So all of us should be deeply ashamed by what has happened to the Windrush generation and determined that this should never happen again; the conclusions on racism are particularly damning. The Home Secretary will know that consecutive Home Affairs Committee reports, and reports from previous Committees as well, have often raised many of the concerns embedded in this report: concerns about the hostile environment; about the casework culture— the culture of disbelief; about the net migration target; and about a series of problems within the Home Office, but they have not had an impact. Some of the most damning conclusions in Wendy Williams’ report are that this was foreseeable and avoidable and that, since the Windrush crisis broke, the action that has been taken has been dealing only with the symptoms and not the causes. Will she therefore urgently agree to accept all the recommendations about scrutiny and openness in the Home Office, so that she can prove to Parliament that she is, in fact, going to make the fundamental changes that are needed?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The right hon. Lady is right in her identification of the issues that existed over a period of time—Wendy Williams was also very clear about them in her review. Over several decades, and under successive Governments, those policies were part of the culture and the environment of the Home Office. I am clear that I will review all the recommendations, and I will work with Wendy. There may be recommendations that I can proceed with sooner rather than later, and I am absolutely committed to doing that, because there are structural and cultural issues at the heart of this. They are so self-evident in this report that no one can sit back and digest them lightly, or close their eyes and ears to many of the challenges and to some of the deeply moving points that have been made. I will come back to the House on this, but I will work absolutely vigorously with Wendy to look at every single recommendation and consider which ones we can proceed with at pace and very soon.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Speaker of the House of Commons

I aim to run this to about 12.15 pm.

Photo of Bob Stewart Bob Stewart Conservative, Beckenham

As someone who has served in the military with soldiers from the Windrush generation, may I say that we never once thought of them as anything other than British? We looked in their eyes, and the eyes that looked back were British to the bone.

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank my hon. Friend for his comment. This review gives voice to people from the Windrush generation, who, of course, not only came to the UK legally, but were part of our country. They contributed to our country, our economy and our public services in an unprecedented way.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Chair, Public Accounts Committee

The Home Secretary has said, “We will continue to do everything possible to ensure that the Home Office protects, supports and listens to every single part of the community it serves.” I commend the work of Councillor Carole Williams in Hackney, who is doing amazing work, pulling together the community and setting a better model than the Home Office’s for how that engagement could work.

I also want to ask the Home Secretary about the other 160,000 Commonwealth citizens in this situation, which is something that the Public Accounts Committee raised. While she is on her feet, will she also tell us what she is doing about people with no recourse to public funds who are part of the community she serves, who will be facing very difficult circumstances if they are unable to work because of covid-19?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Lady raises a number of points. First, I thank everyone who is involved, and has been involved, in many of the outreach groups and the events that have taken place across the country. I have mentioned the stakeholder group in particular, which is something that I set up. I have spent a lot of time with volunteers and community activists, and their work has been remarkable and should be commended. There is much more that we need to do on that basis, and that equally applies to members of other Commonwealth countries. This report is very clear about that, and I am very clear about that as well. I said in my statement that we have not done enough yet to reach out to everyone, and that there is a lot of work to do in reaching out to other individuals and communities. I have asked other colleagues and Members of this House to work with us and their communities so that we can ensure that we reach the people who need help and support. That goes exactly to the point about recourse to public funds. I spoke about assistance with benefit claims and things of that nature. Again, we need to identify those individuals, and there is more we can do collectively.

The hon. Lady touched on the current crisis with covid-19 and how we will continue to do these things. That is a fair challenge to us all, because we will not be able to hold events in the way we had planned to. Much more work will now take place through media campaigns and our casework approach, but also through one-on-one communications. I would like the individuals she mentioned in her constituency, and other individuals who are working at the grassroots, to get in touch with me and my office. We will absolutely work with them to create a network locally.

Photo of Joy Morrissey Joy Morrissey Conservative, Beaconsfield

I was pleased to hear my right hon. Friend announce a fund for organisations to promote the various Windrush schemes. Will she confirm that the money will be directed to grassroots organisations? Will she also share the contact details for the various schemes with MPs so that we can direct our constituents appropriately?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I have announced today that we will open a £500,000 fund for grassroots organisations. All Members’ constituents, and organisations locally, can benefit from that outreach. I will publish details shortly of how we can work together—the House needs to come together—and make sure we can reach out to these individuals and communities. I will make those details available to everyone.

Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Chair, Committee on Standards

The Home Secretary is aware of the serious dent in trust in her Department and the Government that these events have created in the community, which explains in part why the take-up of compensation so far is so low. One absolute running sore is deportations, particularly of people who have spent virtually their whole lives in this country—who have been brought up, educated and had their values and ethical views inculcated in them here—and who have served sentences for criminal convictions in this country, but then found that a further penalty is imposed on them, which causes huge resentment. In her review of policies, could the Home Secretary look again at the policy and the practice of deportations? I fear that, until this issues is addressed, the community will continue to feel very deep suspicion of her Department’s motives.

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Lady touches on a fundamental issue, which is that breach of trust. I know from the time I have spent with individuals from the Windrush generation and with advisory groups, and from speaking to groups and individuals, that it is fundamental, and it is a fact that that breach of trust will take a considerable time to repair. In doing that, there are a number of things that we will have to address. That includes, of course, our engagement and our approach, but also giving an absolute assurance that we are there to serve people and to support them in correcting their status and making their financial compensation claims. That is, effectively, what we are doing.

On top of that, I can give an assurance, as I said, that as part of the review and the recommendations I will be considering, I will review the way in which the Home Office operates—yes, the leadership and culture, but also many of the policies. I have touched on cultural change, but there is also the compliant environment policy.

Photo of Paul Holmes Paul Holmes Conservative, Eastleigh

Has the Home Secretary ever experienced institutional racism at the Home Office?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Racism is not an issue that we should take lightly at all. As I said in my statement—other Members of the House can reflect on this—many people, including people of my own background, leave the house every single morning knowing that they could be treated differently because of who they are or where their parents came from. We have to do much more as a society on how we treat people, but also to understand the causes and deal with issues of racism at every single level.

Photo of Matt Rodda Matt Rodda Shadow Minister (Transport) (Buses)

I welcome the Home Secretary’s statement and the report. This is quite clearly the most dreadful scandal and, as she rightly said, a breach of trust. Will she now reassure the House that she will do everything in her power to try to mend that breach of trust, and that she will treat the Windrush generation with the respect they deserve?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the tone of his question and for the points he makes. I urge all right hon. and hon. colleagues to look at the review. It is deeply moving and powerful. In many ways, it gives a voice to people who felt that their voice was taken away from them. My focus is to do right in terms of the wrongs that were undertaken and, more than just apologising to the individuals and communities affected, to review the recommendations and ensure that my Department puts people before process.

Photo of Nickie Aiken Nickie Aiken Conservative, Cities of London and Westminster

It is clear that my right hon. Friend is appalled by what she has read in the report. She has spoken with compassion, and I believe fully that she will ensure the Home Office changes. If there is one person who can do it, it is my right hon. Friend. However, can she give me an assurance that there will be no cap on the compensation awarded under the Windrush scheme?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend is right to point to the scheme itself. I have spoken about the scheme and the way it works. There is no cap at all. I repeat my plea to all colleagues in the House to work with us to bring forward cases of claimants in their constituencies. I thank colleagues who have done that—not just recognising those individuals but working with the Home Office to ensure that those who are eligible receive the full compensation.

Photo of Wendy Chamberlain Wendy Chamberlain Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Wales), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

This report and the Windrush scandal itself demonstrate how, under the hostile environment, people who have every right to live in the UK are far too often wrongly denied access to housing and other services, including the NHS. Now more than ever, ensuring access to healthcare for those who need it is crucial. In particular, it is vital that no one who needs to be tested or to seek treatment in relation to covid-19 is put off by uncertainty over their immigration status or fears that they will find themselves detained or reported as a result. Will the Home Secretary therefore guarantee that there will be no sharing of personal information from the NHS to the Home Office for immigration purposes?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I have already made it clear that the lessons from this review must be learned at every level. The hon. Lady raises a very important point about covid-19, access to public services and public health. As far as I am concerned, that is not an issue we will need to deal with. When it comes to the Windrush generation—the individuals we have been speaking about who were involved in this review—they will be able to access public services and public funds in the way I have spoken about.

Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Industrial Strategy)

The Windrush generation were British. They should not have been caught up in our immigration system, but they were. The Home Secretary’s apology and use of the past tense remain unconvincing while the hostile environment they experienced is still in place. The all-party parliamentary group for Africa, which I chair, reported on the disgraceful treatment of African visa applicants. As a constituency MP, I see every day, delay, neglect, discrimination and stereotyping in Home Office processes. Will the Secretary of State say today that our immigration system must be not only fair and fast but welcoming, and that that is the standard to which she will hold herself?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

First, Wendy Williams describes in the review a set of measures that evolved under a number of Governments over many decades. Clearly, we all need to move on and look at—[Interruption.] If the hon. Lady had waited patiently for me to finish my sentence, I would have said that we need to look at the review and recommendations. I have been very clear about the work I will undertake in the Home Office in terms of reviewing policies, but also on policies that relate to the compliant environment and cultural change. In my time as Home Secretary, I have been consistent about having a firm, yes, but fair immigration policy to ensure that we are welcoming to people who can come here and contribute to the United Kingdom. That is exactly the signal that our country should be sending to everyone across the world.

Photo of Helen Hayes Helen Hayes Opposition Whip (Commons)

Is the Home Secretary now beginning to understand how fundamental and profound the breach of trust in the Home Office is that stems from the Windrush scandal? In my constituency, there are Windrush citizens who are fearful of coming forward to claim compensation because of that breach of trust, and many more who live in daily fear of the possibility that their lives might also be ruined by the Home Office. Specifically, they live in fear of ending up on a charter flight. As recently as last month, the Home Office was having to remove passengers from a charter flight because it had not followed due process. Will she commit to pause charter flights and suspend them until the lessons learned review has been implemented in full?

Will the Home Secretary also join me in paying tribute to the Black Cultural Archives on Windrush Square in my constituency? It has played an exceptional role in stepping forward to provide support for Windrush citizens, when grassroots funding was being called for, but was not provided by the Government? Will she confirm that the BCA will now be funded to do its vital work of helping to enable Windrush citizens to come forward to claim the compensation for which they are eligible?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I have been very clear in my statement today about not just the lessons learned review, but the changes that need to come forward. That is not an overnight revelation. I have been working on this in the Home Office. The hon. Member will have heard in my statement about the work I have undertaken with members of the Windrush generation, the advisory group and the compensation group to understand many of the issues, the challenges and the injustices—I have heard about those experiences at first hand, as no doubt she has—and to understand how we can address them directly.

The hon. Lady has also heard me say today, and I can confirm again, that we are announcing a £500,000 grassroots fund to help support, and to help with the dissemination of information that will support, members of the Windrush generation and others who may have been caught up in this and some of the policies and processes of the past. It is quite clear that there is a great deal more work to do.

The hon. Lady asked about deportations, and in reference to the flight that departed several weeks ago I can give her an assurance that there was no one from the Windrush generation on that flight. Not only that, but that deportation took place under the UK Borders Act 2007, which was introduced by this House of Commons under a previous Labour Government.

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Labour, Nottingham South

The Home Secretary has already acknowledged that the Home Office has not investigated the impact on those from Commonwealth countries outside the Caribbean and has excluded from consideration those with a criminal record who were wrongly deported. Can she confirm that the research will now be extended, as Wendy Williams recommends, and will she ensure that sufficient resources are made available so that the work is carried out as soon as possible?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I will be looking in detail at every recommendation that Wendy Williams has put forward, and I will be working with her on the delivery of many of them.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

Six years ago, over 30,000 overseas students from Commonwealth countries lost their visas when they were accused by the American firm ETS of cheating in its TOEIC—test of English for international communication—English language test. It has since become clear that many of those accusations, in fact almost certainly most of them, were without foundation. In learning the lessons of Windrush, will the Home Secretary ensure that students who are innocent get an affordable route to finally clear their names?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The right hon. Member has raised this point with me previously, and I thank him for raising it again today. I will look into it. He has asked me to do so, and I will absolutely take that away.