I would like not only to restate my commitment to delivering the compensation for those who became victims of the Windrush scandal itself, but to say that it is absolutely right, and it is my focus, my determination and my resolve, to ensure that the individuals whose lives were blighted and shattered as a result of a series of measures that, to quote Wendy Williams,
“evolved under the Labour, Coalition and Conservative Governments” receive the compensation that they deserve.
It is a fact that the injustices will not be resolved or fixed overnight, and I have levelled with the House on that point on a number of occasions. The mistreatment that the affected individuals endured was simply unacceptable. I will continue to do everything within my power to lead the Home Office in delivering on compensation, and to ensure that through the lessons learned review and Wendy Williams’s work, we right the wrongs and properly compensate those who were affected. That will not happen overnight.
I have already expanded the compensation scheme so that people will be able to apply to it until at least April 2023, but we have to go beyond that, and I would be more than willing to do so. We have made the criteria more generous so that people can receive the maximum compensation that they rightly deserve. I have said that £1.5 million of compensation has been offered to individuals, but of course I want compensation payments to be sped up. The scheme has already received 1,342 applications. Final offers have been made to more than 154 individuals. Urgent and exceptional payments have been made to hundreds of individuals—in fact, more than 1,400 individuals have been supported by the vulnerable persons team—and a significant number of cases have been closed.
As I think I said at the Select Committee just last week, a vast number of cases—I will say it now: 1,000 cases —are not just led by the Home Office, but split across other Departments, including Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions, in terms of ascertaining information and data. As I have said on previous occasions, outreach and engagement with people across a wide range of communities, including other Commonwealth countries, is vital. We simply, partly due to covid, have not been able to continue direct face-to-face engagement with community organisations and representatives in the way we had planned, but only by doing that can we identify others who have not even applied to the compensation scheme. More work needs to be done—I am very honest and open about that. Nick Thomas-Symonds speaks about scrutiny. He is more than welcome to continue asking questions and we will provide answers where we can. At the same time, we are subject to not full data and not full information and I would be more than happy to continue working with colleagues across the House, and all political parties, as I have done, to ensure that more people do come forward. That is something we should all collectively step up to and encourage.