My Lords, with the leave of the House I will repeat a Statement made in the other place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary.
“From the late 1940s to the early 1970s, many people came to this country from around the Commonwealth to make their lives here and help to rebuild Britain after the war. All Members will have seen the recent heart-breaking stories of individuals who have been in this country for decades struggling to navigate an immigration system in a way that they should never, ever have had to. These people worked here for decades. In many cases, they helped to establish the NHS. They paid their taxes and enriched our culture. They feel British in all but legal status, and this should never have been allowed to happen. Both the Prime Minister and I have apologised to those affected, and I am personally committed to resolving this situation with urgency and purpose.
Of course, an apology is just the first step we need to take to put right the wrong that these people have suffered but, before I get on to the steps that we will be taking, I want to explain how this situation has arisen. The Immigration Act 1971 provided that those here before it came into force should be treated as having been given indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK as well as retaining a right of abode for certain Commonwealth citizens. Although HMS “Windrush” docked in the port of Tilbury in 1948, it is therefore everyone who arrived in the UK before 1973 who was given settlement rights and not required to get any specific documentation to prove those rights. Since 1973 many of the Windrush generation would have obtained documentation confirming their status or would have applied for citizenship and then a British passport.
From the 1980s, successive Governments have introduced measures to combat illegal immigration. The first NHS treatment charges for overseas visitors and illegal migrants were introduced in 1982. Checks by employers on someone’s right to work were first introduced in 1997, measures on access to benefits in 1999 and civil penalties for employing illegal migrants in 2008. The most recent measures in the immigration Acts of 2014 and 2016 introduced checks by landlords before property is rented and checks by banks on account holders.
The public expect us to enforce the Immigration Rules approved by Parliament as a matter of fairness for those who abide by the rules, and I am personally committed to tackling illegal migration because I have seen in this job its terrible impact on some of the most vulnerable in our society. However, these steps intended to combat illegal migration have had an unintended and sometimes devastating impact on people from the Windrush generation, who are here legally but have struggled to get the documentation to prove their status. This is a failure by successive Governments to ensure that these individuals have the documentation that they need, and that is why we must urgently put it right. It is abundantly clear that everyone considers people who came in the Windrush generation to be British, but under the current rules this is not the case. Some people will have indefinite leave to remain, which means they cannot leave the UK for more than two years and are not eligible for a British passport. That is the main reason why we have seen the distressing stories of people leaving the UK more than a decade ago and not being able to re-enter.
I want to enable the Windrush generation to acquire the status that it deserves—British citizenship—quickly, at no cost and with proactive assistance through the process. First, I will waive the citizenship fee for anyone in the Windrush generation who wishes to apply for citizenship. This applies to those who have no current documentation and to those who have it. Secondly, I will waive the requirement to carry out a knowledge of language and life in the UK test.
Thirdly, the children of the Windrush generation who are in the UK will, in most cases, be British citizens. However, where that is not the case and they need to apply for naturalisation, I shall waive the fee. Fourthly, I will ensure that those who made their lives here but have now retired to their country of origin are able to come back to the UK. Again, I will waive the cost of any fees associated with this process and will work with our embassies and high commissions to make sure people can easily access this offer. In effect, that means that anyone from the Windrush generation who now wants to become a British citizen will be able to do so, and that builds on the steps that I have already taken.
On 16 April, I established a task force in my department to make immediate arrangements to help those who needed it. This included setting up a helpline to get in touch with the Home Office. Let me be quite clear: this helpline and the information shared will not be used to remove people from the country. Its purpose is to help and support. We have successfully resolved nine cases so far and made 84 appointments to issue documents. My officials are helping those concerned to prove their residence and they are taking a proactive and generous approach so that they can easily establish their rights. We do not need to see definitive documentary proof of date of entry or of continuous residence. That is why the debate about registration slips and landing cards is misleading. Instead, the caseworker will make a judgment based on all the circumstances of the case and on the balance of probabilities.
Previously, the burden of proof on some of the Windrush generation to evidence their legal rights was too much on the individual. Now we are working with this group in a much more proactive and personal way to help them. We were too slow to realise that this was a group of people who needed to be treated differently, and the system was too bureaucratic when these people were in touch.
The Home Office is a great department of state. It works tirelessly to keep us safe and to protect us. It takes millions of decisions each year that profoundly affect peoples’ lives, and for the most part it gets these right. But recent events have shown that we need to give a human face to how we work and exercise greater discretion where and when it is justified. That is why, going forward, I will be establishing a new customer contact centre, so that anyone who is struggling to navigate the many different immigration routes can speak to a person and get the appropriate advice. This will be staffed by experienced caseworkers who will offer expert advice and identify a systemic problem much more quickly in the future. I will also be putting in place 50 senior caseworkers across the country to ensure that, where more junior members of staff are unsure about a decision, they can speak to someone with experience to ensure that discretion is properly exercised.
There has also been much concern about whether the Home Office has wrongly deported anyone from the Windrush generation. The Immigration Act 1971 provides protection for members of this group if they have lived here for more than five years and if they arrived in the country before 1973. I am now checking all Home Office records going back to 2002 to verify that no one has been deported in breach of this policy. This is a complex piece of work that involves manually checking thousands of records. So far, 4,200 records have been reviewed out of nearly 8,000 which date back to 2002, and no cases have been identified that breach the protection granted under the 1971 Act. This is an ongoing piece of work and I want to be absolutely certain of the facts before I draw any conclusions. I will ensure that the House is informed of any updates, and I intend to have this data independently audited once my department has completed its work, to ensure transparency.
It was never the intention that the Windrush generation should be disadvantaged by measures put in place to tackle illegal migration. I am putting additional safeguards in place to ensure that this will no longer happen, regardless of whether they have documentation or not. As well as ensuring that the Home Office does not target action against someone who is part of the Windrush generation, I will also put in place greater protection for landlords, employers and others conducting checks to ensure that we are not denying work, housing, benefits and services to this group. These measures will be kept carefully under review, and I do not rule out further changes if they are needed.
I turn to the issue of compensation. As I said earlier, an apology is just the first step we need to take to put right these wrongs. The next and most important task is to get those affected the documents they need. But we also need to address the issue of compensation. Each individual case is painful to hear, but it is so much more painful, and often harrowing, for the people involved. These are not numbers but people—with families, responsibilities and homes, and I appreciate that. The state has let these people down, with travel documents denied, exclusions from returning to the UK, benefits cut and even threats of removal—this to a group of people who came here to help to build this country; people who should be thanked. This has happened for some time. I will put this right and, where people have suffered loss, they will be compensated. The Home Office will be setting up a new scheme to deliver this, which will be run by an independent person. I will set out further details around its scope and how people will be able to access it in the corning weeks.
I am also aware that some of the individual cases that have come to light recently relate not to the Windrush generation but to people who came to the UK after 1 January 1973. These people should have documentation to confirm their right to be here, but I recognise that some have spent many years here and will face similar issues in documenting their rights after so many years in this country. Given that people who have been here for more than 20 years will usually go on a 10-year route to settlement, I am ensuring that people who arrived after 1973, but before 1988, can also access the Windrush task force so that they can access the support and assistance needed to establish their claim to be here legally. I will consider further, in the light of the cases that come forward, whether any policy changes are needed to deal fairly with these cases.
I have set out urgent measures to help the Windrush generation document their rights, how this Government intend to offer them greater rights than they currently enjoy, how we will compensate people for the hardship they have endured, and the steps that I will be taking to ensure that this never happens again. None of this can undo the pain already endured, but I hope that it demonstrates this Government’s commitment to put these wrongs right going forward”.
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, for repeating the Statement made yesterday in the other place by her right honourable friend the Home Secretary. As the noble Baroness said, from the late 1940s to the early 1970s, many people came to this country from around the Commonwealth to make lives here and help rebuild Britain after the war. Before that, many of them fought in the British Armed Forces to defeat both Nazi Germany and Japan—people such as my friend Sam King, who served in the RAF during the Second World War. Sam came back to Britain in 1948 on the “Empire Windrush”, served his local community as a postman, was the first black mayor of the London Borough of Southwark and was awarded the MBE for his services to the community. Sam loved this country very much. He sadly passed away at the age of 90 in 2016. It is people such as Sam King who have been treated in such a shameful way.
Despite the apology from the Government and their admission that a terrible wrong has been done to the Windrush generation, no Minister is taking any responsibility whatever for these gross abuses of the Windrush generation’s rights—their rights denied, their rights taken away and people who are in the UK legally being treated appallingly by the country they call home. So my first question to the Minister is: when is a Minister of the Crown going to accept responsibility for this scandal and resign? The noble Lord, Lord Bates, offered his resignation because he turned up late for Questions earlier this year—quite rightly, it was not accepted by the Prime Minister. This is a monumental scandal and what is offered here does not go far enough. A Minister or Ministers have to accept responsibility.
The Government’s hostile environment for illegal immigrants was badly designed and put together, with no thought given to how to ensure that people who are here legally would be protected and not caught up in that environment. People here legally should not be at risk of losing their jobs, driving licences or homes or be threatened with deportation. Does the Minister accept that some of the people who are here legally will actually be scared to come forward to the Home Office, having heard the terrible reports of abuses and denial of rights? What is she going to do to gain the confidence of these individuals, who need help and support but will be worried about coming forward?
At the bottom of my copy of page 2 of the Statement, the last sentence reads:
“Instead, the caseworker will make a judgment based on all the circumstances of the case and on the balance of probabilities”.
Can the Minister be crystal clear about exactly what she means here? That statement does not appear to be an unequivocal guarantee that people who came here as part of the Windrush generation will not have their rights taken away or be denied justice. They are still at risk of deportation from the country that has been their home for decades. Who is bearing the civil standard of proof? Is it the person or is it the Home Office? At the top of my copy of page 3 of the Statement, it says that, for some of the Windrush generation, the burden of proof,
“to evidence their legal rights was too much on the individual”.
Other than saying that,
“we are working with this group in a much more proactive and personal way”,—[Official Report, Commons, 23/4/18; col. 620.]
which I hope we would expect to be the norm, what has actually changed here? How are other people being treated when they enter the system? This is not shining a very good light on how Ministers run the Home Office.
In paragraph 6 on page 3, it says that a new customer contact centre will be “staffed by experienced caseworkers”. In paragraph 7 on the same page we are told that 50 senior caseworkers will be put in place to help junior members of staff who are unsure about a decision. Surely we should ensure that these matters are dealt with by experienced staff in the first place. Will the Minister comment on that and tell the House how the experienced staff at the contact centre relate to the junior members of staff mentioned in paragraph 7, who are making the decisions, and how the 50 senior caseworkers fit above that? That part of the Statement seems very confused.
I agree that it was never the intention that the Windrush generation should be disadvantaged by measures put in place to tackle illegal immigration; but they were, because of poor implementation and development of policy at the Home Office by Ministers. Because of that, people who deserved better have been treated badly by the state. They have been treated appallingly, and someone in the Government should take responsibility for that.
Compensation is referred to on the last page of the Statement. Other than saying that people will be compensated and a scheme will be set up, run by an independent person, there is absolutely nothing about compensation. Will the Minister give the House some more detail on what this will look like? We do not want to read in the media about people who, having been denied their rights, are being made to jump through hoops to get the compensation they deserve for the abuse they have suffered.
This is a shameful episode and it is about time someone in the Government took responsibility for it.
My Lords, I too thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. My noble friend Lord Paddick very much wanted to be here but is precluded by circumstances beyond his control. Not only he and I, and these Benches, but many others feel frankly ashamed to have discovered what has been going on. The Minister, whom I believe to be a compassionate, caring person, must be very uncomfortable too. She will understand that this is not a matter of what people “deserve”—the term used in the Statement—but of their rights.
We are told that the Home Secretary is committed to resolving the situation with “urgency and purpose”. They are, indeed, needed, and more widely than on this issue. The position of the Windrush people—citizens who seem retrospectively to have become migrants—is a symptom, not a cause, of the problem. The cause, as we see it, is the culture within the Home Office, an attitude that one cannot avoid saying must come from the top: hostility or compliance—which seems to be the substitute term now—and certainly carelessness, by which I mean “care-less”, as in lacking in care.
That seems to be why every immigration lawyer to whom I have spoken says that the first thing they do is ask the Home Office what information it has on their client, because so often they find that it is wrong. That is why the Home Office has such a poor record before the tribunal. The Minister will not be surprised by this: it is why I sought to remove the Home Office exemption from the Data Protection Bill, which can be applied in the interests of effective immigration control—a matter others are now pursuing. The Home Office might say that it can choose not to apply that exemption or that it will be applied only when it is relevant, but it is the Home Office that has to assess these aspects.
My first question to the Minister is therefore a question and a plea. Before the UK finds itself in an even more embarrassing position—which I assure her I do not want—will the Government reconsider whether the exemption is just, wise or even common sense?
My second question is about staffing, to which the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, has referred. Are the officials concerned being redeployed within the Home Office, or is the establishment being increased? If so, may we have details of this? It has appeared for some time that Home Office officials are really overloaded. As regards the customer contact centre, or indeed any part of the work, is this being outsourced to the private sector? Again, may we have details?
Thirdly, what information will the Home Office publish so that we can see the whole picture systematically, rather than as a series of individual stories, and not just about deportations?
This affects many, many people. Another cohort, of course, is the 3 million EU citizens in the UK. They raise it in their current 128 questions on settled status. It must affect UK citizens abroad as well. Manifestations of the Home Office policy are very wide, but I will mention just two. One is the right to rent, on which the chief inspector has recently reported less than fully positively. One of his recommendations mentioned quality assurance checks. Another manifestation is immigration detention, to which people unable to prove their status have been consigned.
Immigrants might be legal, they might be illegal or perhaps they cannot prove their status, so the Home Office makes an assumption, if not a presumption, that they have no rights. This issue is more extensive than—I do not want to say “just”—the Windrush generation.
The noble Lord is so keen to get up that I was going to give him the opportunity, but he will get the opportunity. I thank both noble Lords for their comments, and echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, on the endeavours of the Windrush generation, who rebuilt this country after the war. Some of them actually fought in the war, and I pay tribute to the noble Lord’s friend Sam King: what a truly rich and fulfilling life he clearly led in his time in this country.
The noble Lord makes the point about no Minister taking responsibility. I have to say that when my right honourable friend the Home Secretary stood up yesterday, apologised and made very clear that she was going to put right this wrong, she took responsibility. It takes a big person to stand up and say, “Sorry, we’ll make this right”. So she firmly took responsibility yesterday, as well as in the weeks preceding.
On compensation, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary said yesterday that she will set out further details on its scope, but she made it clear that it would be run independently of government. Details will be set out in due course. The noble Lord also made the point about a hostile environment, which was made yesterday as well in the Question I answered. This country should be a hostile environment to illegal immigrants but it should not be a hostile environment to people who are here as of right, which is the whole point of what the Home Secretary is putting right here. These people are welcome in this country and we are not hostile to them. If anybody feels scared about coming forward—I hope none of the scaremongering is being generated within these walls—they should come forward. The Home Secretary made very clear yesterday that there will be a sympathetic and human approach to the help these people will get.
The noble Lord also commented on the balance of probabilities. I hope he appreciates that the Home Secretary yesterday made it clear that people can produce a wide range of evidence, including school and parish records. The evidence people will need to produce will be treated in a sensitive and light-touch manner. As regards the contact centre, experienced staff will deal with these cases. The point about the junior staff is that in every set-up there will be junior and senior staff, and where there is any difficulty in determining a case it will be passed to a senior member of staff. All the staff in the contact centre, as well as in the task force, will be trained, and nobody need feel any fear about approaching members of the task force or the contact centre, nor need fear the hearing they will get.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said that this was not about what these people deserved but about their rights, which were established when they came here as part of the Windrush generation and of course more recently. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary made it clear that perhaps the Home Office is sometimes too focused on cases as opposed to humans; she made it very clear that this is a human consideration.
As regards the immigration exemption, I hope we will not conflate immigration rights with the cases of the Windrush generation, who, as the noble Baroness says, are here as of right, and we just need to regularise that status. Therefore I will not go into the immigration exemption in the Data Protection Bill. However, I will go on to discuss EU citizens, because that clearly points to how it is absolutely right to be proactive about having a system to establish settled status and to plan it well, which the Home Office has done. Those rights will be established early on rather than waiting 47 years beyond the point when people’s rights were naturally given but not documented in all cases. The noble Baroness asked about Home Office staff in the contact centre. There will be Home Office staff, and they are trained to a sufficient degree to deal with the cases that come forward.
I reiterate the words of my right honourable friend yesterday. These cases are being dealt with very sympathetically, and I hope that anyone who should come forward or knows of anyone who should come forward will be encouraged to do so.
My Lords, third time lucky—my apologies. I should first like to declare an interest. I am chair of Peabody, and if noble Lords have read the newspapers recently, they will have read of one case, reported in the Guardian, involving a well-regarded caretaker, Hubert Howard, who was forced to be dismissed from his job with Peabody in 2014 under these rules. He came to this country at the age of three. His only crime, if you can call it that, was to seek to return home because one of his parents was ill. This is a practical example of how organisations have contributed to the misfortune of these individuals.
The Minister has rightly said that the state has let these people down. In my career I cannot think of many examples where we have seen such a shameful and terrible miscarriage of justice. It makes me personally feel ashamed that this has happened in my country. I think we must acknowledge that, without the work of Amelia Gentleman in the Guardian, and indeed the work of David Lammy, we would not be having this debate today. Those cases would have carried on as injustices.
After what has been a painfully long period—even two or three weeks ago, the Government were still saying that this was a process where people have to go through the normal applications—the Government have recognised the wrong that has been done and have taken steps to address this. I think this is very welcome and we should acknowledge the scale of change in the Government’s position, but I fear there is a risk of further injustices happening. If we are to deal rightly with the Windrush generation, and with similar situations from other communities—this is the thing we must not lose sight of—there are some important questions to answer.
First, there is much talk of a change in culture and practice, but very little talk about a change in policy. Unless that happens, the practice will always be trumped by the policy. We know that the restrictions on illegal immigrants grew over time, but the dial was turned up very considerably with the 2014 and 2016 Acts. The environment was changed very considerably, too. My first question is: do we really stick with a very hostile environment in circumstances where we cannot be confident, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has said, that we have got the answer right on individuals? They suffer the injustice of us getting the proof wrong, or their proof not being clarified, and then we apply draconian policies. I ask the Minister: in the light of what we have learned here, should we not be seriously be revisiting the existing policies?
My second question is: how will Parliament know it has made progress on the Windrush generation? Where will we get that information from? Are the Government willing to consider an independent third party verifying the progress in tackling those cases? Given the scale of the injustice, that is something the Government should sign up to.
Thirdly, are the Government going to take a proactive approach to tackling those families identified in the Guardian and other newspapers, rather than just waiting for them to come to the call centre? I would personally like the opportunity to speak to Mr Howard to see whether we can offer him his job back.
I join the noble Lord in saying that this is a bad period—for successive Governments, actually—but that is not a reason to try to shirk our responsibilities as a Government. In terms of Mr Howard, the task force is aware of his case and we have contacted him previously, and we will be doing so again as part of this exercise. We are taking a proactive stance on cases we know exist.
The noble Lord also asked whether we should be revisiting some of our policy, for example in connection with the hostile environment. This is not a new thing. Successive Labour and Conservative Home Secretaries over the past 30 years have sought to make the UK a hostile environment for people who should not be here. Let us not forget the consequences of people who should not be here. They actually cause some of the worst detriment to people, for example through modern slavery and serious and organised crime. We do not want those people in this country. We do want this country to be a friendly environment for people who are here legally, so we will not back down—as successive Governments have not done—on tackling the pernicious practice of illegal migration to this country.
On independent oversight of what we are doing, the Home Secretary has announced that an independent person will be put in charge of the compensation scheme. I am sure that there will be plenty of time and room for debate in this House, as has already taken place, to scrutinise the effects of some of the measures that the Home Secretary outlined yesterday.
My Lords, I am sorry that I am the only one on this side of the House, but I echo the expressions of shame that have already been made on both sides of the Chamber. This is a very sad day, but my noble friend the Minister was right to say that the blame is in fact cumulative and that all of us who have voted on any immigration measures have inadvertently perhaps played a part. I would like to suggest this to my noble friend: I do not like the expression “those people”; we are dealing with fellow British subjects and citizens who have the same rights as anyone in this Chamber, and that must be underlined. I would like my noble friend to discuss with the Home Secretary that a High Court judge be asked to look at all the various Acts and measures to which she referred in the Statement to see where misinterpretation could have arisen and what we can do about it. It may well be sensible for a new Bill to be presented to your Lordships’ House and another place, clarifying and rectifying the measures which have led—however inadvertently—to our treating our people so despicably.
I thank my noble friend for being the one person behind me, and I of course echo his points: this is a shameful episode in our history. The rights of these people are the rights of British citizens. However, I do not think it was the misinterpretation of legislation but rather its unintended consequence that did not—I do not want to say “confer”—confirm the rights of these people. They are not illegal migrants and that is why my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is going to right this wrong as soon as we can. He talks about other people perhaps being victims of a similar thing. That is why the measures we have in place for EU citizens are so important, so that this type of unintended consequence does not happen in the future.
My Lords, this is the third time in the last week that I have spoken on this appalling issue, and it breaks my heart to do so. The image of broken-hearted elderly men and women of the Windrush generation weeping on television over the truly unbelievable treatment they have received will remain with us for a long time. They are etched on the nation’s mind and consciousness. It could so easily have been my life being torn apart, but it is good to see the Government showing remorse and determination to put right things that should never have happened.
Will the Government, rather than just relying on victims coming forward, as the Minister has said several times, be proactive in reaching out to local communities and black-led churches to engage with those who have lost trust and confidence and are too traumatised to come forward? They truly are. For some, financial compensation will never be enough, but can the Minister tell the House if the compensation package will include backdated benefits and pensions for those who lost entitlement to those benefits, including those who were wrongly deported and now live abroad?
I want something good to come out of all this, something positive. The country wants it. The Windrush generation needs it; they deserve it. As a mark of true sincerity and respect for those people, for all the Windrush generation and the country, will the Government consider having a Windrush day to celebrate what the Windrush generation has done for this country? They feel so much part of the fabric of our rich country, so let us show them that they are appreciated on 22 June every single year. Windrush day is what we need, so the Government can really show that they care.
The noble Baroness’s idea of a Windrush day is wonderful and I will certainly take that back. She is right that, rather than relying on victims coming forward, we should be proactively going out and ensuring that those who should be coming forward and require our assistance will do so. She is right on that proactive approach.
On compensation, I had a brief word with my colleague from DWP yesterday. The whole structure of the compensation scheme will be revealed in due course, but that is certainly an area where compensation might be appropriate, particularly if someone could not access their benefit because they were deemed not to be a citizen of this country.
My Lords, in circumstances such as those we have listened to, read about and discussed with colleagues and friends, there is always a great temptation to treat them all the same when we come to talk about restitution, reparation or whatever is appropriate. I ask that the civil servants who were involved in carrying through the policy be properly briefed, so that they understand the individuality of each case and apply to those people what is appropriate and just.
I could not agree more with the noble Lord. These are people. They are not numbers; they are not cases. They are people; they are human beings. Quite often they are human beings who have suffered terrible loss in the difficulties they have faced. I will certainly take that back to the department. I echo his sentiments that we are dealing with human beings here.
My Lords, this is a situation where faceless bureaucracy and policy has forgotten that we are dealing with individuals. My issue is not to apportion blame, but to try to solve the problem as quickly as it can be deemed for the individuals involved. That will require joined-up government not just in policy but in its implementation. We are talking about driving licences, benefits, jobs and housing. Rather than just have a Home Office helpline, would it not be useful to have co-ordinated centres providing face-to-face meetings with local government across the country? In that way, the moment a decision is made, it will tip off other government agencies about that person’s right to remain and to have all the benefits due to them as a citizen. The unintended consequence may be that a decision is made by the Home Office but months have to go by before it filters through to the rest of government.
The noble Lord is absolutely right that of course, this does not just involve the Home Office. As he mentioned, a number of departments are concerned, including the DWP, the DVLA and all sorts of other government departments. I have every confidence that the centre and the 50 case- workers across the country will provide a joined-up approach and that people will not have to go to several different places in order to solve their case. It should be resolved in one place by co-ordinating with other government departments. I thank the noble Lord for making the point because it is a very important one.
My Lords, I want to underline what the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, said about the role of David Lammy MP and the Guardian newspaper, in particular the work of Amelia Gentleman in bringing this whole matter to light over the past few weeks. I feel bound to say that someone in the Home Office should have taken the trouble to read the debate on Windrush that we had in Grand Committee on 18 January, when I first raised the question of Paulette Wilson and Anthony Bryan, both of whom had been threatened with deportation. In the case of Mr Bryan, he was given an air ticket to go back to a country he had not lived in since he was a child, while Paulette Wilson was taken to Yarl’s Wood detention centre and obviously treated like a criminal. Had some notice been taken then—following the campaign led by the Guardian and David Lammy—we would have come to where we are today very much sooner.
Having said that, I am delighted that we are where we are. I should like the Minister to confirm that the culture inside the Home Office and the immigration department will change as a result of the Home Secretary’s statement yesterday. There are terrible reports of immigration officers playing a game in which they catch people in what is known as a “Gotcha culture”. When they think they have found an illegal immigrant, they mark it up as a victory. That sort of talk and action can no longer be tolerated. Can she give an assurance that that will stop? Also, can we now begin to have a proper debate on and give full recognition to the importance we attach to the immigrants among us? We are all immigrants in one way or another, so we should move away from the blame culture and xenophobic attitude which is colouring so much of our public debate.
I agree with the noble Lord that the culture is everything in an organisation and I hope that the Home Secretary’s words yesterday will have acted as a jolt to the culture not only in the Home Office but in other government departments because, in the end, everything is about human beings as individuals and citizens of this country. He mentioned our debate in Grand Committee and I will mention again what I have said: is not hindsight such a wonderful thing? If only this had come to light far sooner. It is 47 years after some of these people arrived, and indeed a lot longer for others. I understand that Paulette Wilson now has her documents and that Mr Bryan has had his status confirmed. That is an example of how, I hope, the Home Office is being proactive in its approach.
On David Lammy, I did mean to say when the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, made his point that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary also paid tribute to his work yesterday. I echo those comments.
My Lords, I have been listening to the debate for a while. I had no intention of speaking but I have been sitting here and thinking about when the Windrush residents first came here and how they suffered with accommodation, jobs and all the signs in the windows saying, “no Irish, no blacks, no dogs”. Now here we are again, almost 70 years later, talking about the same people who travelled here and are facing deportation and everything else. These people are suffering a double whammy. They should never have been put in this position, because they came here as British citizens. They were invited here, yet here we are now, talking about hundreds of people being deported and what we should do. This should never have happened. This country was never told in the first place that these people were invited here to build the country up; they did not just come here. The residents of this country never understood why the Windrush people came here in the first place.
The noble Baroness is absolutely right: it is a double whammy. I have often referred to the comments in the windows of bed-and-breakfasts here in the 1960s, saying “no Irish, no blacks, no dogs”. What a terrible insult they are to the noble Baroness, myself and anyone who is black, Irish et cetera. We are a country of immigrants. These people are here by right and she is absolutely right that they are here because we invited them.