Windrush Compensation Scheme

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:21 pm on 23rd June 2020.

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Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department 2:21 pm, 23rd June 2020

As I outlined in my statement, I have been unequivocal on the change that is required at the Home Office. When I made my original statement following the publication of the “Windrush lessons learned review”, the hon. Gentleman was not in his current role, so he would not have heard the full statement that I gave then, or the answers that I gave to the many questions. I apologised for the absolutely appalling scandal that took place and I will continue not just to apologise but to ensure that the Home Office in particular learns the lessons and fundamentally changes its culture, the leadership and the way in which it treats people, and becomes far more representative of the communities that it serves. I said that back in March and I will continue to say it until the Home Office fundamentally shifts its own way of working and ultimately learns the lessons.

Of course, that will take time. There is no silver bullet to do this overnight, but the first step that we can take is to ensure that we continue to work together collaboratively across our society and across Government to tackle the injustices that were suffered. That is my mission, that is my aim and that is why I am accepting the recommendations. I think it is right, as I said back in March and as I have said in previous statements, that I continue to speak to Wendy Williams, which I am doing this week, and to work with her and with people in the Home Office to implement the recommendations in the right way. In fact, when the report was published earlier this year, Wendy Williams herself said that we should not just come out and accept the recommendations, but work through them. That is exactly what we are doing. That is the right response. That is the responsible way in which we do this, to understand the delivery.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the compensation scheme, and I agree: the payments and the way payments have been made have been far too slow. I am not apologising for that at all. I have outlined in my statement that it is right that we treat each individual with the respect and dignity they deserve. These are complicated cases. In fact, last week when I was here in the House answering oral questions, the issue came up and I put the offer to many hon. Members on the Opposition Benches to come into the Home Office and to spend some time with our casework team in order to understand the complexities of the various cases, particularly constituency cases that they themselves may have raised. That offer is absolutely open to each constituency Member of Parliament. They should come in and look at the case handling. These are bespoke cases, and each one is handled in a sensitive way.

For the benefit of those Members who are not aware of this, when offers of payments are made to individuals, those individuals have a period to consider the payment they are being offered. If they would like to discuss the payment or if they decline it and want a review, that review is conducted not by the Home Office but by HMRC, an independent body. Again, it takes time for HMRC to do the review, but that is the right approach. It was agreed with Martin Forde and the individual stakeholders who were consulted before the scheme was set up.

My final point in response to the hon. Gentleman is that, although we know that the Windrush generation has faced many, many injustices, recent events have shone a spotlight on a whole range of injustices across many communities in our country. The Prime Minister’s new commission is very much looking at how we can level up and at how we can address and tackle those injustices. We should be doing that collectively as a House, working together in a responsible way to look at how we can support individuals, communities and minority groups of all faiths and backgrounds. That is the right thing to do, and I hope that all Opposition Members, including the hon. Gentleman, will work in a collaborative and constructive way to move forward on these issues.