Immigration: Hostile Environment - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:50 pm on 14th June 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development) 1:50 pm, 14th June 2018

Given that the noble Lord worked through the housing Bill with me, I hope that he would agree that the noble Lord, Lord Best, is a very experienced member of your Lordships house in the area of housing. Having the Immigration Minister co-chairing, as he asked, will lend great credence to the panel. I am sure he would agree that the bodies I mentioned are the type that we would want represented on the panel to ensure its housing expertise. I pay tribute to the groups that he mentioned, but they are not necessarily in and of themselves housing experts, although they have expertise in the area of immigration and slavery.

I must now turn to the Windrush generation, because I want to spend some time on that. I again pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Handsworth, and all those from the Windrush generation who came here quite legally to help to rebuild this country after the war. The Government, the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister have all said that the Government deeply regret what has happened and have made it a key priority to resolve the problems that have arisen and to ensure that it does not happen again. I also join the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, in paying tribute to his friend and all that he achieved in his life.

The Home Secretary has commissioned an independent lessons learned review, which will look at how members of the Windrush generation came to be entangled in measures designed for illegal immigrants, why it was not spotted sooner—this has been going on for decades; it is not a new thing—and why the right corrective measures will now be put in place. The review will take into account the experiences of those involved and wider reflections on Home Office culture as a whole. We have established the Windrush Scheme task force, which is working with members of the Windrush generation to resolve their status and ensure that they obtain the documents they need to evidence it.

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary also issued a call for evidence to inform consultation on a compensation scheme for members of the Windrush generation who have been wrongfully impacted by immigration measures. That call for evidence closed last Friday and we are currently analysing the responses. Simultaneously, we have strengthened the checking services provided to employers, landlords and public service providers to ensure that we are not denying work, housing, benefits or services to those who are here lawfully. We will be providing regular updates to the Home Affairs Committee on the progress of that work. Our focus now is on putting right what was so wrong in the past.

The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, asked me for an update on Windrush figures. As of 10 June, the task force has received 20,145 calls. It has referred 5,750 for call-backs and completed 5,740 call-backs and issued 1,651 documents.

We owe it to the public to ensure that we maintain effective controls on immigration and have measures in place to protect taxpayer-funded services. The compliant environment forms an important part of those measures.

The noble Lords, Lord Bassam and Lord Taverne, asked about tier 2 visas and for an update on NHS workers and doctors. As they will know, because it has been widely reported in the media this morning, the Home Secretary is currently reviewing that and he will make an announcement on it very shortly. I will be able to say more after the announcement, so I hope that the noble Lords will bear with me.

The noble Lord, Lord Taverne, talked about a specific case. He will understand that I will not discuss it on the Floor of the House, but I will write to him about it. He also talked about HMRC and people being refused resettlement on the basis of their tax returns. This is not about people making minor tax errors. We are now able to check what applicants told us in the past about their self-employment and compare it to what they have told HMRC for the same period. There is a clear pattern of abuse where, more often than not, the self-employed earnings used to claim points in the tier 1 application have been £10,000 higher than the self-employed earnings reported to HMRC. Where employment circumstances do not add up and applicants claim to have been working in a full-time low-paid manual job while simultaneously earning very high amounts from self-employed work for which the evidence is weak, we must consider paragraph 322(5), to which the noble Lord referred, and refuse the application where the evidence shows that the individual has not played by the rules and their character and conduct is such that they should not be granted settlement in the UK.

Before the noble Lord intervenes on me, I will make just one more point, because he then may not need to intervene. I will write to him on the case he raised separately and in no way am I saying that what I am outlining is anything to do with that case.