(Urgent Question): To ask the Home Secretary to make a statement on the operation of the Windrush scheme.
Righting the wrongs done to the Windrush generation has been at the forefront of my priorities as Home Secretary. That is why I apologised on behalf of this Government and our predecessors. History shows that members of the Windrush generation, who have done so much to enrich our country, were wrongly caught up in measures designed to tackle illegal migration long before 2010. We all bear some responsibility for that. This Government are acting to right that wrong. Our Windrush taskforce is helping those who have been affected. We are making it easier for those affected to stay and we have waived all fees. By the end of last year, some 2,450 individuals had been given documentation confirming their status. They were all helped by the taskforce which we set up in April. At least 3,400 have been granted citizenship under the Windrush scheme, which we opened on 30 May 2018.
The taskforce’s vulnerable persons team has provided support to 614 individuals, with 52 cases ongoing, and it continues to receive up to 20 new referrals each week. The taskforce has made 215 referrals to the Department for Work and Pensions to help people to restore or receive benefits, 177 individuals have been given advice and support on issues relating to housing, and 164 individuals have been identified by the historical cases review unit. Eighteen people have been identified who we consider to have suffered detriment due to their right to be in the UK not being recognised. Sadly, three of them are now deceased. I have written to the remaining 15 to apologise.
As part of putting right what has gone wrong, we are putting in place a compensation scheme to address the losses suffered by those affected. We have consulted on this to ensure we get it right, and we will bring forward more detail on the final shape of the compensation scheme as soon as possible, having carefully considered the views submitted. In December, the Home Office also published a policy for providing support in urgent and exceptional circumstances. This set out the approach and decision-making process for such cases. The policy will support those who have an urgent and exceptional need, and compelling reasons for why they cannot wait for the full compensation scheme.
Mr Speaker, I said on the day I became Home Secretary that I am determined to right the wrongs suffered by members of the Windrush generation. Let there be no doubt: my commitment remains resolute.
Home Secretary, I have asked you to make a statement to the House on the operation of the Windrush scheme. Your Department’s treatment of the Windrush generation has been nothing less than a national scandal. In November, we learned that at least 164 Windrush citizens were wrongly removed, detained or stopped at the border by our own Government. Eleven of those who were wrongly deported have died. You have announced three more today. Every single one of those cases is a shocking indictment of your Government’s pandering to far right racism, sham immigration targets and the dog whistle of the right-wing press. You have spoken about being a second—
Order. I have the highest regard for the right hon. Gentleman. Occasional descent into the use of the word “your” by accident is one thing, but a calculated repetition of the word “your” is not appropriate because a debate is conducted through the third person. I have not made any statement. I am not responsible for any scandal and I mildly resent any suggestion to the contrary. [Interruption.] Well, not this one anyway, as an hon. Lady rightly chunters from a sedentary position. But I do not want to interrupt any further the flow of the right hon. Gentleman’s eloquence, or, for that matter, the eloquence of his flow.
You are quite right, Mr Speaker.
Every single one of these cases is a shocking indictment of this Government’s pandering to far right racism, sham immigration targets and the dog whistle of the right-wing press.
The Home Secretary has spoken about being a second generation migrant himself. On taking this job he promised to do whatever it takes to put this wrong right. We are now 10 months on from when the scandal broke. Not a penny has been paid out to any Windrush victim in a compensation scheme. The independent Windrush lessons learned review has not yet reported. I say to you, Home Secretary, before the review is even complete, why, why are you deporting people? We have heard about deportation flights to Jamaica this week. You have detained up to 50 black British residents and given them open window removal notices. Why are you deporting them, given that this review has not reported and there has been no compensation?
How can you be confident that you are not making the same mistakes? Movement for Justice is working with 26 of those who are at risk of removal. Thirteen first came to the UK as children; nine came under the age of 10. Eleven people have indefinite leave to remain. Another has a British passport. Thirty-six British children will have their parents taken away by this charter flight—once enslaved, then colonised and now repatriated. Why do you say that these children should live without their parents? Why do you say, to the families of black British people who have been killed by your Department’s incompetence, that this is acceptable? That is what happens. We are now 20 years on from the Macpherson review, which found institutional racism in this country. I ask the Home Secretary: why is it that still in this country, black lives matter less?
First of all, let me thank the right hon. Gentleman. At least he has raised this important issue of Windrush—it is good at any time to update the House on this, in many different ways—but I have to take issue with his tone. He does himself no good service—a huge disservice—in the way that he speaks and the tone that he has used to suggest that there is even an ounce of racism in this House, and to ignore the facts. He chooses to ignore—[Interruption.] He could have made this into an honourable debate by looking at the actual issues and thinking about how we can help people who have been affected.
The right hon. Gentleman chooses to ignore that, for members of the Windrush generation who have been affected in a wrong way—as I have recognised and as many Ministers have recognised at the Dispatch Box—this began under previous Governments and continued under successive Governments, including the Government that he was part of, when he voted time and time again for compliant environment restrictions. He supported those restrictions on a number of occasions and now he chooses to speak out about some of the inadvertent effects of that.
The right hon. Gentleman also rightly brought up the issue that—as I have said before, including in the House—sadly, some people who were wronged are deceased, but he should know that a number of those people died under a Labour Government. The deportations took place under a Labour Government and he makes no apology for that. The right hon. Gentleman mentions the deportations of foreign national offenders. I think the information that he referred to, if I have understood him correctly, is about a charter flight to Jamaica of foreign national offenders only—every single one of them convicted of a serious crime. The UK Borders Act 2007, which he supported, requires that the Home Secretary issues a deportation order for anyone who is a foreign national offender. It does not matter which part of the world they are from, whether it is the United States, Jamaica, Australia or Canada. That is a legal requirement. If he does not want that to happen, he is asking me to break the law, and he is also saying that a person who is convicted of a serious offence as a foreign national offender should be allowed to stay in this country, so either he has changed his mind or he does not know what he is talking about.
Lastly, the right hon. Gentleman brings up the compensation scheme. He is right to raise that because we are absolutely committed to making sure that those who were wronged receive proper compensation. That is why I appointed an independent person, Martin Forde, QC, who has done an enormous amount of good work on this. He asked for an extension of the compensation scheme so that he could speak to even more people who were affected. I brought that to the House and I accepted that extension, and we are now working through what he and his team have done to come forward with a well thought through compensation scheme that is generous and supports members of that generation. In the meantime, we have put in place the vulnerable persons scheme that I referred to earlier, and an exceptional payments scheme, which has started making payments.
I just say this finally: if the right hon. Gentleman really wants to help, he should reflect on his tone and not use this as some kind of political football.
It was a Labour Government who in 2007 passed the UK Borders Act making it a legal requirement for Her Majesty’s Government to deport foreign national offenders who commit serious crimes in this country. May I support what the Home Secretary has said and urge him to ensure that foreign national offenders who commit crimes are sent back to the countries from where they came, because we do not want them in this country?
My hon. Friend refers to a law, which represents the will of this House, that was passed in 2007, which, I say again, the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) and many of his colleagues supported, and which requires the Government to deport foreign national offenders who have committed serious offences. None of those being deported are British citizens or members of the Windrush generation, who are exempt under section 7 of the Immigration Act 1971.
This morning, the news broke that Ms Sims had been denied help from the Windrush compensation scheme because she was not from the Caribbean. Just like Windrush, this is a result of the Government ignoring credible warnings about the impact of their policies. The National Audit Office found that the Home Office showed a surprising
“lack of curiosity about individuals who may have been affected, and who are not of Caribbean heritage.”
What steps is the Home Secretary taking to ensure that, as Martin Forde QC has recommended, officials are aware that people other than those from the Caribbean are eligible? Will he commit to widening the remit of the Windrush review and compensation scheme? Can he justify Windrush victims being defined so narrowly? Some 186 people were formally refused help from the Windrush scheme. Can he guarantee that none of them was in fact eligible?
We have heard reports that the Home Office is restarting charter flights to Jamaica. Like those of many MPs, my constituency office phone has been ringing off the hook. Some 85,000 people have signed a petition. Why does the Home Secretary consider now an appropriate time to restart these flights? Victims of this scandal have not yet received compensation. The Windrush lessons learned review has not yet reported. A full year after the scandal broke, we do not know how many people have already been detained or deported. The hostile environment remains in place.
I understand that many of the detainees have been convicted of a criminal offence, but after Windrush, the Government have not proved they have the processes in place to make sure the wrong people do not end up on this flight. Will the Home Secretary urgently bring proof to this House that none of the people on the flight is a British citizen or has any other claim to be in this country? I understand the flight is due to leave from a Royal Air Force base. Does he accept that the militarisation of deportations sets a dangerous precedent of deportation happening behind closed doors?
First, I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s tone and approach of asking sensible questions, and he deserves answer to them all.
The hon. Gentleman raised the case of Ms Willow Sims, who I heard on the radio this morning. It was the first time I had heard about the case, and I was very concerned. She said she had written to me, which I was interested to hear, and I checked this morning. We received the letter on 28 January, which might help to explain why I have not seen the letter yet. That said, the Department was aware of the case before that, because her Member of Parliament wrote to the Department—in October, I believe—and Ms Sims is now getting the help she deserves. We will look further at why she was turned down for help by the taskforce, because that should not have happened.
The hon. Gentleman then mentioned the compliant environment. I remind him and the House that what he refers to as the compliant environment, which is about taking action against those who are in the UK illegally—in other words, people who have broken the law—began with laws that were passed under a previous Labour Government in 1997, 1999, 2002 and 2008 and which many of his hon. Friends will have supported. If Labour’s policy is now to abolish all those rules, it should be clear about that.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the compensation scheme, which I have said a bit about already. We are determined to have it in place, and I want it to be as fair and as generous as possible, but, in the meantime, the exceptional payment scheme has begun. I set out exactly how that would work in a policy paper published and made available to the House at the end of last year.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned foreign national offenders. I want to make it very clear that the flight in question, assuming he is talking about the same flight as the right hon. Member for Tottenham, is to Jamaica and that everyone on it who is being deported is a foreign national offender from Jamaica. All of them have been convicted of serious crimes, such as rape, murder, firearms offences and drug trafficking, and we are required by law, quite correctly, to deport anyone with such a serious conviction. This law applies universally to all foreign national offenders.
The hon. Gentleman should know that most liberal democracies around the world have similar laws in place. British offenders in foreign states are often deported back to the UK, including from Jamaica, which has in the past deported British nationals who have committed serious offences back to the UK.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s comments. It is very important that we clear up these difficult cases. Can he confirm that those applying to settle under the Windrush scheme are receiving support in navigating the immigration system and that his Department continues to take a sympathetic and proactive approach when resolving applications?
I am happy to confirm that to my right hon. Friend, and he is right to raise it. From the moment the taskforce was set up, it was designed to make it as easy and simple as possible for people to use, and, as I said earlier, it has so far correctly documented almost 2,500 people.
I wish also to raise concerns about removals and deportations to Jamaica being resumed. By all accounts, we are talking about people who came as children, about parents with British children and even about Commonwealth soldiers. To all intents and purposes, therefore, we are talking about people who are British even if they are not formally citizens. The Home Secretary has mentioned foreign national offenders. Will he publish the full list of offences people are being deported for?
Even the issue of foreign national offenders is not straightforward. Stephen Shaw said in his updated report on detention that
“a significant proportion of those deemed FNOs had grown up in the UK, some having been born here but the majority having arrived in very early childhood. These detainees often had strong UK accents, had been to UK schools, and all of their close family and friends were based in the UK.”
In other words, the Home Office is often really deporting UK offenders to other countries. Has the Home Office even begun to engage with the issue Mr Shaw himself has raised? I am asking the Home Secretary not to break the law but simply to review it and change it if necessary.
What work has been done to establish how people from other countries, including Commonwealth countries, have been impacted by Windrush-type disasters? Finally, what will the Home Office do to prevent probably hundreds of thousands of EU nationals from being subject to the same hostile environment measures when they miss the cut-off date for settled status applications?
I want to be clear again about the flight to Jamaica mentioned by hon. Members: not a single person being deported is British—a person cannot be deported and be British; they are all foreign national offenders, and under the 2007 Act, where someone is given a sentence of at least one year, the Home Secretary is required to make a deportation order, and where it is four years or more, the Home Secretary is required by law to order a deportation.
The wording of the hon. Gentleman’s question seemed to suggest that he knew who was on the flight and who was not. Let me say gently to him that the flight has not happened yet, but the deportation of anyone who is on it will be carried out absolutely according to the law. Ultimately, this is about public safety, because these are individuals who have committed serious offences. I ask the hon. Gentleman to reflect on the fact that if we did not carry out the law, we would not only be breaking the law. Let us imagine what would happen if one of these people—someone, say, who had been convicted of murder—were allowed to stay in the UK and then committed that act again, against one of our constituents. What would the hon. Gentleman be saying to me then?
Order. Let me gently point out that approximately 30 Members are seeking to contribute. I am keen to accommodate them, but it is imperative that we have short questions and short answers.
I remember the Macpherson report, in which I was tangentially involved, and I would say that we have come a very long way since then. With that in mind, will the Secretary of State confirm that he will give a date soon for the compensation scheme?
I can confirm that we will be saying something about the compensation scheme very shortly.
The Home Secretary said that he would supply monthly updates to the Home Affairs Committee, but we have not received an update since December, and that referred to the circumstances up to 31 October. Since then a very damning report on the Windrush situation has been published by the National Audit Office, raising a series of concerns about ongoing immigration casework and policies and the impact that they might have. The Home Office has not issued a proper response to that report either. When will we receive a substantial response to its recommendations that recognises the serious anxiety about the possibility that many of the failings relating to the Windrush situation are continuing today?
Let me first thank the right hon. Lady and her Committee for their scrutiny of this important issue. She knows that we are absolutely committed to providing her and the Committee with regular updates, and we will continue to do so. We always endeavour to include as much information as we can, and I hope she agrees that we have tried to make those updates as detailed as possible. She mentioned the NAO report, and I welcome that scrutiny as well. We looking into the report carefully in order to establish whether more needs to be done.
I thank the Home Secretary for the constructive, honest and compassionate way in which he and his Ministers have dealt with a very difficult situation. However, the treatment of members of the Windrush generation highlighted a number of deep-seated concerns about the manner in which the Home Office operated. Can the Home Secretary reassure the House that all the lessons that can be learned from the situation—not just specifically in relation to the Windrush generation, but in the wider context of the culture of the Home Office—will be learned? In particular, can he reassure us that there will be a greater emphasis on the fact that we are dealing with people, and that this is not just about policy?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am acutely aware that almost every decision that the Home Office makes has an impact on someone’s life, and we must ensure that every single one of those decisions is fair and made appropriately. That is the reason for the lessons learned review and a further, deeper review of some of the operations of the Home Office.
As the Home Secretary will know, I have encountered dozens of Windrush cases, and the taskforce has dealt with many of them well. However, one of my constituents, Owen Hainsley, will be on the plane that has been discussed. He came here, aged four, in 1977. He has left the country only twice since then, and on neither occasion did he go to Jamaica. He has no family there, but he has three children in this country, all of whom have British citizenship. He is well known on the music scene in Manchester, where he works with disadvantaged young people. He served two years in 2015. His British citizenship should have been regularised, but owing to an administrative error on the part of the Home Office, that did not happen. He is now being deported to a place to which he has not been for more than 40 years.
This is a grey area. Owen Hainsley is not a foreign national in any terms, and we are effectively making him stateless. I dealt with a very similar case—a Windrush case—in which the Home Office did not deport someone but granted that person, who had a criminal record, indefinite leave to remain. So the Home Secretary does have that discretion. Can he use it in this case, because this is a scandal?
The deportations to which the hon. Lady refers took place under the UK Borders Act 2007, which I mentioned earlier and which was debated in the House as a Bill. It gives little if any discretion to the Home Secretary, but every single person who is being deported is a foreign national who has committed a serious offence.
Is not a significant issue in all this the decision made in 2009, by the Labour Government of which the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) was a member, to destroy the landing cards and registry slips that constituted the only official documentation of some people’s arrival in Britain? Was not a mistake made then?
My hon. Friend has highlighted an important point, and it is worth emphasising. Members of the Windrush generation were affected by decisions made by a number of Governments, including the last Government.
Is not one of the lessons of the Windrush that when people have lived in our country for 20, 30 or 40 years, the idea that they should be deported if they do not have precisely the correct documentation is inhumane, and is not supported by the wider public? In the light of the Windrush scandal, will the Home Secretary review the unrealistic and draconian documentation requirements imposed on such people by the Home Office?
If the right hon. Gentleman is referring to cases in which someone does not have—to use his own words—precisely the right documentation, of course that should be looked at very carefully. The whole purpose of the taskforce is to work with such individuals to make the process as easy as possible, and to ensure that issues such as incorrect documentation are sorted out.
As we have already heard, it was a Labour Government who started destroying the landing cards of the Windrush generation. It was also a Labour Government who, under the Harold Wilson regime, forcibly exiled the Chagos islanders from the British Indian Ocean territory. As a result, members of the second and subsequent generations of the Chagos community do not have British citizenship. Will my right hon. Friend commit himself to looking into that as well?
I commend my hon. Friend for taking up this issue so energetically on behalf of the Chagos islanders, and I should be happy to discuss it with him further.
In December last year, the Home Office agreed to support members of the Windrush generation who had been mistreated by the Government with up to £5,000, but four of my constituents have found the arrangements for access to the fund overly stringent. Victims require immediate and ongoing assistance. Does the Home Secretary not agree that we should be ensuring that the people who were affected by the Windrush situation can re-establish themselves in the community? Moreover, there has been no cohesion between central and local government in this regard. I ask the Home Secretary to look at the system and make sure that it works for the most vulnerable people.
The hon. Lady has made an important point about joined-up government and the need to ensure that that approach is taken when we respond to the most difficult cases in particular. I can assure her that the Home Office has been working carefully with a number of other Departments, including the Department for Work and Pensions, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and the Treasury.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that if he did not authorise this latest flight carrying foreign national offenders, he would be failing in his duty of care, and he would be breaking the law?
My hon. Friend is correct. It would be breaking the law, and it would mean that we were not putting the safety of our people first.
In compelling evidence given to the Public Accounts Committee, we heard how difficult it was for Windrush victims to obtain housing. The Home Secretary listed the people whom he was helping, but the fact is that local authorities will need to allocate that housing, and given the squeeze that they are experiencing and the current housing demand, that is just not happening. Will he think again about what central Government can do to ensure that these people are not in the general housing queue, and that local authorities do not have to provide them with much-needed homes?
The hon. Lady makes an important point. As I said at the start, some people may have lost housing or been affected in other ways in their housing, and they are being helped. We are working closely with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which is speaking to local authorities. Where possible, we are trying to prioritise those cases.
I am grateful for the speedy resolution of individual cases, but will my right hon. Friend say something about the role that those who have been affected are playing in helping to shape the compensation so that we get this right?
Yes. When we started work on the compensation scheme, it was right to appoint an independent person, and that is exactly what we did. Martin Forde, QC, travelled across the country and spoke to as many members of the Windrush generation who were affected as possible. He asked for an extension to speak to even more, and we granted that.
I cannot respond to constituents who contact me about deportations tomorrow. They and I want to know whether any of my constituents are on those flights. I have phoned the Immigration Minister and been stonewalled again and again. The flights need to be suspended so that all individual circumstances can be properly examined. I am sure the Home Secretary agrees that this is an issue of trust and that, at the very least, the Department should engage in good faith with MPs on the matter.
I agree with the hon. Lady. I know that she has asked our Department a question, and we are looking into that. I hope she knows that, because I believe that we have communicated to her that we are looking into it. She is right that if any Member of Parliament has a question about any constituent, we will of course help in any way we can.
All of us who have Jamaican and other Afro-Caribbean communities will have apologised deeply, as I did, for the shameful, inadvertent mistreatment by successive Governments of some of the Windrush generation. I thank the Home Office’s Windrush help desk for its work in quickly resolving the immigration status of my two affected constituents. One has a strong case for compensation. Will my right hon. Friend confirm whether my constituent can file his application before the end of this financial year?
I thank my hon. Friend for his comments, which I welcome. He was right put things the way that he did. We will issue more details on compensation shortly, but we want to ensure, in the case of his constituent and others who are affected, that it is as generous as it can be.
In the light of the Sims case, which we heard about a few moments ago, and Sir Martin Forde’s comments, will the Home Secretary commit to further training for the Windrush taskforce in handling cases correctly, particularly complex cases?
I have asked for more information on the case of Miss Willow Sims, to which I referred earlier. When I heard her on the radio this morning, I was very concerned and determined to find out more. I do not want to prejudge that—I am waiting for further information—but I can make a commitment that if that information shows that more training is required or something needs to be done to ensure that such a case does not arise again, it will happen.
I know that the Home Secretary recognises that the Windrush generation have made a huge, positive contribution to the life of this country. It has therefore been strange to see Opposition Members defining them by the very small minority who have committed serious criminal offences. However, does my right hon. Friend agree that ensuring that compensation is available for those who have been unduly affected is important and should not be conflated with some of the issues we have heard about from Opposition Members?
I very much agree with my hon. Friend.
My constituent Willow Sims came to the UK in the early 1980s and spent part of her childhood in the UK care system. She went on to have a career as a teaching assistant in local primary schools, where I first met her. In October, Willow came to see me. She had failed some immigration checks at work, so she lost her job and her recourse to public funds. My constituent is fully entitled to assistance under the Windrush taskforce scheme, yet due to mistakes at every level of government, and despite numerous representations to the Home Office by Willow, her solicitors and me, going as far back as October, her status has wrongly been brought into question. She now risks eviction from her home. Will the Home Secretary urgently rectify that chaos, apologise to Willow and meet me to discuss her case and what has gone so badly wrong?
I thank the hon. Lady for raising the case, not just today but in October. Had she not done so, Miss Willow Sims might not be getting the support she now gets. I am happy to apologise to Miss Sims for the Home Office’s mistakes in not recognising the importance of her case from the first moment she contacted the Home Office. I would be very happy to meet the hon. Lady to discuss it further.
Anybody listening would be horrified at some of the cases, and they are not interested in which Government introduced schemes under what Act in what year. Unfairness and injustice must be rooted out wherever they lie, and I trust the Home Secretary to get on and do that. I have considerable sympathy with the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), who raised the matter, and I agree with him that the Windrush scandal is a result of the dog-whistle politics that has plagued immigration. Does my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary agree that from now on, we will have an informed, grown-up, honest debate about immigration, particularly the benefits that it has conveyed to our country for centuries?
I very much agree with my right hon. Friend about the tone of the debate on immigration—on anyone who has settled in our great country, regardless of where they came from, why they came here and how long they have been here—and with her point about our taking more opportunity, across the House, to highlight the benefits of immigration, whether from the Commonwealth or elsewhere, and how those people have helped to make this country great.
The Macpherson definition of institutional racism is:
“The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racial stereotyping.”
There is no doubt that that—and much worse—has been the experience of the Windrush generation. Is not it time that the Home Secretary learned lessons and took action to prevent further institutional racism from continuing against the Windrush generation and others?
The hon. Lady chose not to listen to the point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry) made about the tone of the debate. If she is trying to suggest that there is institutional racism, she must accept that that was what existed under the previous Labour Government.
According to Movement for Justice, 18 people on the chartered flight are connected to the Windrush generation. One is a grandfather who served in the British Army; another one’s grandfather died as a serving British soldier, and two others are former British servicemen. I therefore do not understand how the Home Secretary can say that they are foreign nationals. I find his tone most disturbing. I am half Jamaican and very proud of it, but I feel that what he says is unhelpful to the Jamaican community in this country. Like him, I am second generation, but I feel that he sounds like a reincarnation of Enoch Powell.
The hon. Lady chooses to lower the tone of the debate when she could try to help her constituents. The whole House is proud of immigrants who have come to this country, whether they are first or second generation, and whether they came from Jamaica, Pakistan or anywhere else. The hon. Lady does herself no service by lowering the tone of the debate.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) on securing the urgent question. Will the Home Secretary confirm that 13 of the detainees who are scheduled to be deported this week came to this country as children? We know that there is a grey area in the definition of “British citizen” and “foreign national”; does not the right hon. Gentleman believe that it is time to review it?
The law is very clear on this. It focuses on the crime and on the nationality of the individual, as in whether they are British or not. When someone has committed a serious crime such as rape or murder, the law requires that, as a foreign national offender, they should be deported.
Order. I should just point out that the two debates to follow are very heavily subscribed. I am happy to try to accommodate remaining would-be questioners on the understanding that each of them will put a single-sentence question. We will be led in this important matter by Ruth Cadbury.
The Home Office said last year that Windrush applications would be turned round within two weeks, but my constituent, who has retired after many years working as an NHS midwife, is still waiting, six months later. When will the Secretary of State admit that the overstretched immigration system cannot cope with Windrush generation cases and apologise to those who are living in limbo?
Most applications are being turned round within a matter of weeks, but if the hon. Lady sends me the details of that case, I will take a closer look at it.
The Home Secretary says, “The law is very clear on this,” but when I held a Windrush surgery, all the people who came to it had been told by the Home Office that they were not British citizens. They have all now been told that they are British citizens, so I suggest that the law is not very clear and that there are grey areas. I have also been told that someone from my constituency is on that flight. Will he commit to looking into whether there is someone from my constituency on that flight and whether they should be there?
If the hon. Lady sends me more information about the individual she has in mind, I will of course look into that case.
Will the Secretary of State please estimate how many people have had their access to healthcare affected? Also, if an individual has passed away due to being a Windrush victim, is the scheme open to a claim by their family members?
We plan to ensure that the scheme is open to family members in such cases.
My constituent has been waiting since 26 December for a decision on his Windrush application. The process has taken nine times the length of the two-week turnaround period that was promised. That is unacceptable when people cannot work, cannot claim benefits and are struggling to live, even though they are from this country.
If the hon. Lady sends me more details, I will take a closer look at that case.
Before the Windrush scandal became the Windrush scandal, many cases took years to resolve and victims disappeared because they feared deportation. To avoid future injustice, will the Secretary of State guarantee that all Windrush-style cases, including those involving people not from the Caribbean or Commonwealth countries, will be dealt with in a similar fashion?
The work of the taskforce is open not just to members of the Commonwealth who have come to Britain, but to anyone who came to the UK before 1988.
Last year, I helped a family in my constituency to get the passports to which they were entitled but were scandalously being denied. The family now find themselves in dire financial straits due to a family member’s terminal illness. When will they be paid the compensation that they are due, and when will they get a decision from the exceptional circumstances fund?
The exceptional payments scheme has started to pay out, and decisions are being made. We will be announcing more details of the compensation scheme shortly.
The Home Secretary will have heard Members expressing their very real concern about the status of those who are due to be deported this week. Will he therefore personally review the documentation and circumstances of each of those individuals before any deportation takes place?
Every one of those cases already has to be reviewed by a Minister.
I have written extensively to the Immigration Minister and to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions about my constituent, a Windrush citizen, who has been denied attendance allowance because she was not in the country during the assessment period. The only reason why she was not in the country was the illegal action of the British Government. Will the Home Secretary now accept that a lack of joined-up working between Government Departments on the Windrush scheme is compounding, increasing and prolonging the injustice that the Windrush citizens are suffering?
We work closely with the Department for Work and Pensions, and the hon. Lady gives an example of why that is absolutely necessary. If she wants to give me further details of her constituent’s case, we will look into it as a matter of priority.
Given what the Home Secretary has heard, does he really believe that my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) was inappropriate in his tone? Does he really think that someone is going to take him to court for exercising appropriate discretion, or does he in fact believe that it is right to deport first and ask questions later?
When it comes to the deportation of foreign national offenders, a lot of questions are asked first, including on the right of appeal, and we carry out deportations only if they are absolutely correct under the law. Ultimately, it is worth remembering that they are there to protect members of the public.
In conclusion to this important series of exchanges, I want to make two points. First, as colleagues will recall, I said nothing whatsoever about the tone of the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy). I referred simply to a minor breach of normal procedure in terms of the debate going through the third person, but I made no other comment about tone. This is an extraordinarily important matter affecting people’s lives. People can comment on each other’s tone, but for my part, from the Chair, I do not underestimate the intensity of feeling and the sense of real anger about this subject, which was extremely eloquently voiced by the right hon. Gentleman and many other Members.
Secondly, I have a sense, on the basis of some experience of sitting in the Chair over the past nine and a half years, that this matter will be raised again and again. It affects very vulnerable people, as Members on both sides of the House with any sensitivity will acknowledge, and it will not go away. Quite a lot of activity—I am not saying it is nefarious activity; I am not criticising the Home Secretary—is taking place under the radar, but the purpose of this House is to give voice to grievances and to seek redress for them, and there is nothing to stop Members raising this matter over and over again in the Chamber, day after day, if that is their inclination.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I should like to thank you for your comments, with which I am sure we all agree.
On the matter of tone, I know that the Home Secretary is robust, but he gets a great deal of abuse, even though he might not like to talk about it. I do think that the hon. Member for Lewisham East (Janet Daby) likening the Home Secretary, or indeed any Member of this place, to Enoch Powell is profoundly offensive. Would you agree, Mr Speaker?
I note what the right hon. Lady has said, and I sense that the Home Secretary might well feel greatly offended by that comment. He might feel that it does violence to his values, his record or his intentions, but nothing disorderly has happened, and I therefore do not feel that I can intercede. I would just say that we should all weigh our words carefully and remember the precept of “Erskine May” that moderation and—in so far as it can be deployed in matters as serious is this— good humour in the conduct of parliamentary debate tend to conduce to better outcomes. I will leave it there for today.