Windrush - Question

– in the House of Lords at 3:29 pm on 12th September 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Finn Baroness Finn Conservative 3:29 pm, 12th September 2018

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that compensation is paid promptly to those affected by the Windrush scandal; and when they intend to publish the review by Sir Alex Allan into the conduct of the Home Office.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

My Lords, the public consultation on the Windrush compensation scheme runs until 11 October. We will announce details of the final scheme and how to apply as soon as possible after the public consultation has ended. The review carried out by Sir Alex Allan was an internal review commissioned by the Permanent Secretary. The Home Secretary is considering whether a redacted version of the report can be published.

Photo of Baroness Finn Baroness Finn Conservative

I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for her reply. Does she agree that justice for those damaged by the Windrush scandal, as well as the urgent need to restore public trust in the Home Office, require that Sir Alex Allan’s report be published without further delay? It is always cover-up that causes the most harm, and full disclosure is now required. My right honourable friend Amber Rudd resigned as a result of what took place. If there is any sense that the Civil Service is closing ranks to protect its own, there could be a serious loss of public confidence.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

My noble friend makes two very good points, the first being about justice being seen to be served for the Windrush generation, to which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is utterly committed. To that end, he has asked Wendy Williams to conduct a review and report back by March. I agree with my noble friend, too, that clarity for both our elected officials and unelected officials gives the public confidence in Parliament. The Prime Minister said earlier today:

“I reassure my right hon. Friend that the Home Secretary has been looking at this issue, and the Cabinet Secretary is looking at this. We are committed to publication, but the form of that is currently being considered”.

Photo of Lord Paddick Lord Paddick Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, the action of the Home Office in relation to the Windrush generation may be welcome, but how many others who were legally in this country but without documentation from areas other than the Caribbean have been similarly wrongly deported or deprived of the means to live in this country? What assurance can the Minister give that the appalling treatment of the Windrush generation has not been repeated in relation to others?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

The noble Lord makes a point that he has made before, and it is a very good one. Certainly, the review being carried out by Wendy Williams will teach us some lessons for the future to ensure that this never happens again. In addition, as I think I mentioned the other day, this issue makes clear the importance now of identity assurance.

Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Labour

My Lords, if the Minister is so committed to getting this out in the open, why will the version of the report that is to be published be redacted?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

My Lords, I cannot second-guess the thinking behind some of the decision-making, but it might be to protect some people’s names. However, as I have just said, the Prime Minister has committed to publication, whether in a redacted form or not.

Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Housing)

My Lords, on the compensation scheme that is out for consultation, has the Home Office considered emergency payments to those who have been treated wrongfully and unfairly? I am thinking particularly of those in hardship.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

The noble Lord brings this up again and it is an important point, because we have heard anecdotal evidence of hardship. The Home Secretary recognises that. His immediate priority has been to help some of those affected to establish their immigration status but also to support people in advance of the compensation scheme being put in place. Where there is an immediate need—he outlined such a case to me the other day—we are supporting people to access housing and benefits and deal with immediate problems while removing immigration obstacles to their finding work. In addition, the noble Lord might want to know that we have signed an agreement with Citizens Advice, which can provide some of the professional bespoke advice that people might need.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Labour

My Lords, I declare an interest as the son of an Admiralty civil servant. I do not believe for a second that this disaster can be put at the door of civil servants. It lies elsewhere. Generally, civil servants perform in an admirable and loyal way and do as they are told by their political masters.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

My Lords, I hope that I have not conflated the two issues. The disaster of Windrush happened over decades under successive Governments. The Alex Allan review is entirely different, looking into what happened around the time of the former Home Secretary’s appearance before HASC.