Windrush Compensation Scheme - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:47 pm on 3rd April 2019.

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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) 3:47 pm, 3rd April 2019

I thank both noble Lords for their questions and join the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, in commending the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, for all the positive work that she has done in this area. She is a joy to work with and a great advocate for the members of the Windrush generation.

Turning first to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, about exactly how the scheme will work, I rarely use a prop in this place, but I happen to have one on me. I refer him to the complete guide to the Windrush compensation scheme, which can be found both in physical copy and on the GOV.UK Windrush compensation scheme website. The rationale behind this came about through the consultation to learn at first hand from the various stakeholders how the scheme might work best and most efficiently. Making the application form as easy to complete as possible was the number one priority, while reaching out proactively to people was the second.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, asked about the various events taking place. Clearly an event is being held in Parliament today with the Home Secretary, and 15 community events have been planned over the next three months. They are open to anyone of any nationality. The first will be held in Lambeth Town Hall this Friday and a full schedule will be published shortly on GOV.UK. He also rightly made a point about social media. It is the best way to get information out as quickly as possible and we are using it to publicise the scheme. I will be tweeting and I hope the noble Lord will retweet my message because we all have a leadership role to play in this.

The FCO is also working to promote the scheme overseas because we want as many eligible people as possible to claim. So that they can do so, promotional materials are being sent to all posts. Tomorrow, the Immigration Minister will brief the Commonwealth high commissioner in the UK. We are placing adverts for the scheme and the events in core publications. Here in the UK, we will write to those who have already been supported through the task force to let them know about the compensation launch, as well as to those who have signed up for updates on Windrush. The onus is on us all to go through the channels we know to publicise the launch of the scheme.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, also asked about the definition of “close family members”. They include a mother, a father, a child, a brother or sister, a wife or husband, a civil partner and unmarried long-term partners living together. All fall within the remit; if someone has been affected by some of the detriment relating to the Windrush generation, in turn their close family members will also have been affected.

I have answered the question about social media. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked me about the events taking place. Oh, the Box got it wrong and I was right: it was the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. In any event, it is helpful for all of us to know what events are going on and where. I have a list of the various places: Bradford, Birmingham, Bristol, Leicester, Manchester, Swansea, Cardiff, Newport, Belfast, Nottingham, Glasgow and London.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked about the hostile environment. This has been batted around quite a lot. As my right honourable friend the Home Secretary said earlier, successive Governments do not have clean hands over what has been described as a hostile environment. Unfortunately, it started under Labour and finished under the current Home Secretary. Being in a compliant environment is far more appropriate.

The noble Lord also talked about the “proof of good character” provision. There has always been a good character test for a reason. Clearly, if someone fails it through criminality, that needs to be brought to the fore.

He also talked about the physical document. A lot of discussion has taken place about this issue in terms of the EU settlement scheme. People feel uneasy that they do not have a physical document. In fact, what the Government are bringing forward is the use of a digital token. Such a token cannot be lost like a physical document and it will assist people in whatever area of life they need help with, be that work, rent and so on. The digital token can be checked for that specific purpose, although obviously there is a data protection issue here. I recognise that some people do not like not having something physical in front of them, but of course they will be notified by email or letter that their claim has been processed and has gone through. However, I accept the point being made by the noble Lord. He also asked whether we will support the Lib Dem amendment to the forthcoming immigration Bill. We shall consider it when it comes to your Lordships’ House, and I am sure we will have a great discussion on it.