Windrush Lessons Learned Review

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:57 pm on 21st July 2020.

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Photo of Nick Thomas-Symonds Nick Thomas-Symonds Shadow Home Secretary 1:57 pm, 21st July 2020

I thank the Home Secretary for her statement and for advance sight of it. I pay tribute to Wendy Williams and her team for their work and I welcome the further details set out today on changes at the Home Office, but the Windrush scandal must lead to real and lasting change.

The review powerfully exposed some of the terrible situations that people were forced into. Gloria, who had been in this country since she was 10, lost her job as a care worker as she was unable to renew her passport and prove her identity. Pauline, who came to the UK at 12 and qualified as a social worker, went on a two-week holiday to Jamaica that became an 18-month nightmare; she was detained and refused UK re-entry, losing her home and her livelihood. These are just two examples of the lives devastated by this scandal, and it is all the more shocking that just 60 people received compensation from the Windrush compensation scheme in its first year of operation.

Ministers must get a grip of the scheme. The review is clear that the Home Office should be more proactive in identifying people affected and putting right any detriment detected, with a focus on identifying people from elsewhere in the Commonwealth who may have been affected. Will the Home Secretary confirm today how many people the Home Office estimates are eligible for the Windrush compensation scheme? As of today, how many have applied? Of those, how many are from Commonwealth countries or related to them, and how many are from other countries—the category that arrived before 31 December 1988—and are now settled here? Will she explain why the published number of applicants seems so low, given the scale of the injustice? What does she expect the average turnaround time of a claim to be?

The Home Secretary mentioned in her statement that more than £1.5 million had been paid out. It is also the case that some people who were deemed eligible for the scheme early last year still have not received their compensation; for them, every day without that money continues to be a struggle. Will the Home Secretary also tell us which Minister is in charge of the scheme?

I turn to the other recommendations, of which there are 30 in total. Wendy Williams said:

“The department should publish a comprehensive improvement plan within six months of this report”.

The Home Secretary mentioned a delivery plan in her statement, but can she now confirm that, in line with the recommendations, she will publish it immediately? Another recommendation was that the Home Secretary should

“undertake a full review and evaluation of the hostile…environment policy…individually and cumulatively.”

The Home Secretary did mention that review, but can she tell us when she expects it to be completed? Wendy Williams’s review also recommended the creation of a migrants commissioner. What powers will the commissioner have, what budget will they control and when will the recruitment process for that vital post begin?

Nobody disagrees that the Home Office should be fair, humane and outward-looking, but the Home Secretary said at a recent meeting of the Home Affairs Committee that Wendy Williams was only a

“fraction away from calling the Home Office institutionally racist.”

Can I ask the Home Secretary how she felt about that? In view of that, what are her reflections on the decade for which the Conservative party has been in charge of the Home Office? The truth is that the Government are so little trusted in this area that it is vital that we maintain maximum scrutiny. The Black Lives Matter movement highlighted the need not just to recognise the discrimination and racism that black people continue to face, but to demand action.

Given their failure to act on so many previous reviews, the Government are falling woefully short on action. That is why we will be holding them to account for delivering the vital changes outlined in the report with the urgency that is required. Is not the truth that the Windrush generation, who gave so much to rebuilding the country after world war two, deserve nothing less, and future generations deserve so much more?