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Windrush Compensation Scheme

Volume 745: debated on Wednesday 7 February 2024

2. What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for the Home Department on the time taken to process claims to the Windrush compensation scheme. (901442)

5. What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for the Home Department on the time taken to process claims to the Windrush compensation scheme. (901445)

14. What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for the Home Department on the time taken to process claims to the Windrush compensation scheme. (901455)

As of December 2023, 91% of all claims either had received a final decision or were less than six months old. The Windrush scheme has reduced the time taken to allocate a substantive casework decision from 18 months to less than four months. That includes making all essential eligibility checks together with a preliminary assessment to make an initial interim payment of £10,000 wherever possible.

In response to a parliamentary question, the former Immigration Minister, the right hon. Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick), confirmed that by April last year, 41 of the 6,122 Windrush compensation claimants had sadly died before their claims were settled—an increase of more than 100% since 2021. Will the Minister update us on how many applicants have now died while waiting for the Government to right the wrongs done to thousands of innocent survivors and their families?

I can confirm that we have been made aware of 53 claimants who have unfortunately passed away. I want to provide the hon. Lady with two reassurances: first, if we are notified an individual is suffering from a critical or life-limiting illness, their claim is prioritised; secondly, if they do pass away, their family are still able to pursue their claim.

Only 14% of 150,000 eligible applicants to the compensation scheme have received redress. Will the Government learn lessons from the Horizon scandal and listen to victims and campaign groups who are calling on them to lower the burden of proof for claims, and ensure that legal aid is guaranteed to all eligible claimants?

So far, £75 million has been paid out on more than 2,000 claims. I gently say to the hon. Gentleman that it is not appropriate to draw precise equivalence with things like the Horizon scheme, because that involved a judicial process, with different facts, different losses and different harms. However, we have been making consistent improvements to the compensation scheme, including making it easier for applicants to use, and we have rapidly accelerated the speed at which we make our payments.

Victims of the Windrush scandal have experienced huge injustices of destitution, humiliation and varied health issues, as well as delays in receiving compensation. To make matters worse, they do not currently receive compensation for the loss of private pensions. Will the Minister look into reducing the delays and compensating Windrush victims for private pension losses?

We consider each claim on its facts, and no two claims are the same. I would be happy to write to the hon. Lady about specific issues, but I reassure her that we do not take a blanket approach to each individual and we assess claims individually.

The Conservatives have failed the Windrush generation twice now: first by denying their rights as British citizens, and secondly by delaying their compensation, as we have just heard again. Labour would sort out the compensation scheme, re-establish the major change programme and Windrush unit scrapped by the Conservatives and appoint a Windrush commissioner to ensure that this kind of scandal never happens again. What is the Government’s plan here?

I find it difficult to accept that a scheme is failing when more than 80% of claims have now received a final decision, and more than 90% have either received a final decision or are less than six months old. So I disagree with that. I think it was suggested that we should take the scheme out of the Home Office—perhaps that is Labour’s proposal. I remind the hon. Lady that Martin Levermore, the independent adviser to the Windrush scheme, supported the scheme remaining in the Home Office in his most recent report, published in March 2022.

There is no accountability for the failures being felt so acutely by so many people who, frankly, do not have much time left to see justice. The Windrush generation and their families helped to build our NHS, but today we see big inequalities in health outcomes. Labour’s race equality Act would include a target to close the appalling maternal mortality gap for black and Asian women. It seems another nine months have passed since the maternity disparities taskforce last met—is that because the Minister for Women and Equalities thinks this is another of her alleged fake problems?

I say to the hon. Lady that that is not accepted. In fact, the Health Secretary made an announcement on maternal services this week; I think it would be appropriate to refer to my colleagues at the Department of Health and Social Care, and then I will write to the hon. Lady on this point.