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Windrush Victims: Compensation

Volume 661: debated on Monday 10 June 2019

On 3 April, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced the opening of the Windrush compensation scheme. The forms, rules and guidance were published on the same day. The freephone helpline is available to answer any queries. The scheme will ensure that those who have been affected are able to claim for the losses they faced and receive appropriate compensation.

How will the Government compensate Windrush victims such as my constituent who could not work for eight years because of his lack of status, losing his NI contributions and his pension? Are Ministers making sure that in such complicated cases people get the advice they need to fill out the forms, so they are not victimised yet again?

We worked very hard with the independent adviser, and indeed with victims of Windrush, to ensure the claim form was as accessible and as easily understood as possible. It is a complicated claim form, because there are 13 different heads of claims under which people are able to claim compensation, but we have set up a contract with Citizens Advice so they can get independent advice without having to resort to using lawyers.

Community organisations working with Windrush citizens, including the Black Cultural Archives in my constituency, report that the compensation scheme simply is not working. The form is too complex, advice is neither accessible nor specialist enough, and the burden of proof is far too high. Will the Minister review the scheme, acknowledge that it is not working, and, as an absolute minimum, provide immediate funding for specialist legal advice to be available not only by phone but in person to every Windrush citizen who needs it?

As I outlined, there is already a contract in place with Citizens Advice to provide that independent advice. There is an ongoing series of engagement events, with taskforce officials from the Home Office attending different community groups across the country, including in London. There have been two events in Newport. It is important that we get this right, which is why we worked with Martin Forde to have a scheme that gave us independent advice. It is important that we work through it. I know that at 18 pages the claim form is quite long, but of course individual claimants have to fill in only the components that are relevant to them, not every page.

This gross injustice with respect to the Windrush scandal is not an accident or a one-off; it is a direct result of the Government’s hostile environment policy. Have the Government considered how their hostile environment might affect migrants from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh now and in the future?

It is important to reflect that roughly half the individuals affected by Windrush had a negative impact pre-2010 under the previous Labour Government. We are determined to put right all those wrongs and ensure that wherever people have come from—people from a wide variety of countries, not simply the Caribbean, have made contact with the Windrush taskforce—they are given the support to go through the process of getting the documentation they need. Well over 4,000 people have secured British citizenship as a result, and over 6,000 people have the documentation they need to prove their right to stay in the UK.

The Minister has to begin to acknowledge communities’ grave concerns about the Windrush compensation scheme as it stands. They think that it is not working. She also needs to bear in mind that this is an ageing cohort, who will probably need more support on average than a cohort that is more mixed in age. The Home Secretary told the House in April last year that we

“will do whatever it takes to put it right”.

He continued:

“We have made it clear that a Commonwealth citizen who has remained in the UK since 1973 will be eligible to get the legal status that they deserve: British citizenship.”—[Official Report, 30 April 2018; Vol. 640, c. 35.]

What progress has been made on those promises?

Will the Minister reconsider some of the worst aspects of the current scheme? It will currently not compensate those who may have been wrongly deported. I quote from the document:

“It is difficult to determine whether inability to return to the UK is a loss”.

Of course someone being deprived of their home, job, family and community is a loss. How can Ministers say that it is “difficult to determine” whether there is a loss?

I thank the right hon. Lady for her question. It is absolutely because we acknowledge that people have been wronged that, in the last week, I personally have attended two separate outreach events for people who wish to understand the compensation scheme. It is why there are dedicated helplines. It is why we have put in place the scheme with Citizens Advice, so that it can provide advice. I reiterate that 6,470 individuals have been granted some form of documentation and 4,281 have been granted citizenship. As I said, there are 13 different heads of claim, including not only deportation, but loss of ability to work, loss of benefits and so on. We are absolutely determined to make sure that we compensate the individuals affected in a timely manner.