Motion to Consider
The Motion was considered in a Virtual Proceeding via video call.
My Lords, I am grateful to be able to return and have a full debate on the Windrush compensation scheme. I know that many noble Lords, including the noble Baronesses, Lady Benjamin and Lady Hamwee, were unable to participate at Second Reading of the Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill on 21 April. I hope that today’s virtual debate gives them, and other noble Lords who wish to speak on this matter, the occasion to do so.
I hope that noble Lords will have received my letter of 30 April providing an update on the Windrush compensation scheme. As we discussed this matter two weeks ago, I will keep my opening remarks to a few important points to give noble Lords a chance to participate in this time-limited debate.
I place on record again the Government’s commitment to ensuring that members of the Windrush generation are properly compensated for the losses and impacts they suffered as a result of being unable to demonstrate their lawful status. That is why, in April 2019, we launched the Windrush compensation scheme, with the first payment made within four months of its operation. I take this opportunity to remind noble Lords that there is no cap on the amount of compensation an individual can receive, nor a cap on the total amount of compensation that we will pay out.
We are doing all we can to make payments to individuals as quickly as possible, and to raise awareness of the scheme. To date, the Home Office has attended or hosted over 100 engagement and outreach events and task force surgeries throughout the UK. The Home Office is working with community leaders on a digital engagement programme, to ensure that outreach can continue despite the current lockdown. The number of claims submitted to the scheme so far is, however, much lower than expected and we recognise that there is more to do.
In March, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary announced a £500,000 community fund to enable grass-roots organisations to promote the Windrush compensation scheme and the Windrush scheme. We are committed to working with members of the community to shape the principles of the fund and intend to work with stakeholders to co-design it. The Home Secretary also announced that we will launch a national communications campaign, which will build on existing communications activities to raise awareness of the schemes and ensure that people know how to apply. We recognise that no amount of money can undo the injustice that some members of the Windrush generation have faced. We are committed to tackling those wider injustices as well.
As the Home Secretary said on publication of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, despite the diverse and open nature of this country, too many people still feel that they may be treated differently because of who they are or where their parents came from. That is why we are launching an expanded cross-government Windrush working group, to develop programmes to improve the lives of those affected. That may be through employment support programmes, dedicated mental health support, and specialist education and training schemes. We will continue to listen to stakeholders as we take forward establishing this group, and we are committed to ensuring that the Home Office, and wider government, protects, supports and listens to every single part of the community it serves.
Members of the Windrush generation have given so much to this country, often working in the sectors at the forefront in the fight against Covid-19. I put on record again my gratitude to all those members of the Windrush generation, and their descendants, who are working tirelessly to tackle this dreadful virus. Many people in this country owe them their lives. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, noted at Second Reading of the Bill, it is extremely worrying that BAME individuals appear to account for a disproportionate percentage of those affected and who have sadly died during this pandemic.
On 22 April, the National Institute for Health Research and UK Research and Innovation published a highlight notice requesting research to understand emerging evidence of an association between ethnicity and Covid-19 incidence and adverse health outcomes, and to respond to concerns that health, care and other key workers who belong to BAME groups may be particularly at risk. This call is designed to complement and add to existing work already being done by academic groups and Public Health England, which is also looking at wider inequalities.
The Windrush compensation scheme is only one aspect of a broad range of matters to be discussed in relation to the Windrush generation and the challenges that they have faced. We know that there is more still to do, and we will work with every part of government to tackle inequality and ensure justice for the Windrush generation. I beg to move.
My Lords, the scandal surrounding the Windrush generation, leading to the subsequent report by Wendy Williams, and the unlawful removal of British residents to countries that they might have left as children, was first highlighted by the Guardian in 2017 and came to a head in 2018. The scandal saw the deportation of individuals to Caribbean countries, including many to Jamaica.
I was part of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and we took evidence from individuals affected by the scandal. Some were remanded in detention centres, awaiting deportation. They talked about the effect of that on their mental health and about the separation from their families. All had lost their jobs and homes. The lack of documents affected all those who found themselves in this position. Many of these individuals arrived in this country as children, on a parent’s passport, and would not have had documents, or they travelled on a British passport before the country of origin gained independence.
The Government need to remember that the Windrush generation were invited here, after World War II, to rebuild the country. The jobs that were vacant were on the buses and railways, and in hospitals. People from the Caribbean who answered that invitation faced discrimination and racism from the start.
The scandal of the Windrush generation has been going on since the late 1990s and early 2000s. Many people who travelled to Jamaica, either on holiday or for the funeral of a family member, found themselves stopped at the airport and unable to return to the UK. Many died without having their cases looked at. The report also listed five cases, all giving different stories of their experiences, which I found upsetting to read. I can only imagine the distress that these individuals have gone through. We should do everything that we can to amend the mistake made against them. Wendy Williams’s report said that
“institutional amnesia and inadequate practice denied them their liberty. It denied them their freedom of movement. It denied them a normal life.”
In conclusion, Wendy Williams’s report made 30 recommendations. Will they all be accepted? Also, how can the Government avoid discriminating when making compensation payments to individuals while waiting for Royal Assent? Individual officers are still being asked to assess status, burden of proof and the amount that each recipient should receive. How can we monitor this and ensure that mistakes do not again cause the same distress which these individuals have gone through? In future, the Government should make sure that these concerns are heard as part of the lessons learned so that people’s rights cannot be taken away from them.
My Lords, in her response to Wendy Williams’ Windrush review, the Home Secretary said:
“we were all shocked to discover that they and their families were subject to such insensitive treatment by the very country they called home.”—[Official Report, Commons, 19/3/20; col. 1154.]
Sadly, insensitive treatment is regarded by many as the Home Office’s stock-in-trade. It took a commendable series of articles and a book by journalist Amelia Gentleman—as she rightly remarked:
“The ability to feel outrage is a powerful tool.”—
to bring that to a wider public.
The Windrush scandal was not a mistake or some unfortunate one-off bureaucratic error. It was a direct result of a pledging war between the two main parties to cut the numbers of immigrants—in particular, Tory political promises to reduce net migration to an arbitrary target of tens of thousands and
“to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration.”
The effect of the hostile environment policy was clearly racially discriminatory, but Ministers refused to listen to the chorus of warnings. Although stopping short of a full finding of institutional racism, Wendy Williams found
“an institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation”.
The scandal also displayed all the worst aspects of bureaucracy: complex laws that very few understood, coupled with historical amnesia; a “culture of disbelief” and refusal to listen to what people were saying; the distorting effect that targets can have; a cruel lack of humanity; misinformation, doublespeak and inaccessibility; the lumping together of different categories, in this case legal with illegal residents; sheer incompetence, such as in destroying vital files, poor record-keeping, absence of corporate memory and poor-quality decision-making; and resistance to legitimate criticism. Will we see not only compensation but real change? There is some hope that the frenzy of Brexit-fuelled anti-immigrant hysteria has waned, and there are indications of public appreciation of the positive value of immigration, not least in the NHS and care services.
One key test of the Government’s attitude will be the treatment of the 3 million EU nationals, but, like the Windrush generation, many of them have been asked for an unreasonable level of proof. In a welcome change of tune, Michael Gove told our EU committee yesterday that a physical status document might be considered. An appeal to the Home Office to change its habits of a lifetime might get little traction on the basis of sheer humanity and sensitivity, but in a world in which the UK will be competing for workers of all levels of skill it would be wise for it to ensure that its reputation for nastiness and incompetence does not continue to harm the national interest.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the opportunity for the House to discuss the issues raised by the Wendy Williams review and the Windrush compensation scheme, further to an initial debate about the Bill itself. I will press the Minister on one or two matters raised in that debate that did not receive a specific answer. We looked at the areas for which historical compensation can be paid. I raised the specific point about reputational damage to individuals, especially from the loss of their work or their removal from the country. Reputational damage should be a factor considered for compensation. Can the Minister reply on that matter?
The Minister also discussed briefly in her opening remarks the point about improving the lives of those directly affected. There were some examples of what that might mean, but very often a fundamental aspect of improving the lives of people who come from a Caribbean culture is to pay them due dignity and respect. I suggest that the Minister and the Government might seek to bring together an annual conference in the Palace of Westminster—not a perpetual conference of apology, but one of listening, heeding, supporting, enabling and empowering those who feel that their contributions might well have received some kind of financial return, but who, in effect, need to be respected, heard and listened to with greater dignity.
The particular questions raised by the specific issues referred to in Wendy Williams’ report cause us to ask the hard questions. Who was institutionally ignorant in the Home Office? Who was thoughtless? Was this simply down to political direction, as referred to in the previous speech, by Governments of both colours wanting to limit the amount of immigration, or was there some kind of systemic thoughtlessness within the structures and permanent operations of the Home Office?
We await the Home Secretary’s reply, which is permitted to be within six months of the publication of the report. Might the Minister advise us whether she can give a specific date when that reply, analysis and return will come from the Home Secretary? Could she also give some consideration to how the Home Office will in reality deal with this institutional ignorance? The only way to remove ignorance is to educate; the only way to remove thoughtlessness is to empathise. What specific actions of empathy and education has the Home Office undertaken to ensure that these aspects are removed?
I have one further point. Over time, those in power forgot about these people’s circumstances. If the Minister would allow it, could we put in place some way to make sure that we never forget—to bring them together, honour them, bring dignity to them and provide them with due respect?
My Lords, I thank the Minister for allowing this virtual debate. Almost two years ago, the Windrush scandal astounded this country. The hostile environment policy operated by the Home Office was shown to be discriminatory and damaging. It had neglected a critical principle that is foundational to my Christian faith: human dignity.
Process must support people. This needs to apply not only to our migration policy and departments, as clearly set out in the lessons learned review, but to the way we do what we have committed to do, such as the Windrush compensation scheme. From that standpoint, we need to evaluate how accessible the scheme is to those who are trying to rightfully claim underneath it, and that it is a process that honours their human dignity.
However, there are clearly indications that this is not presently the case. The Windrush compensation scheme was launched 12 months ago. Since then, figures show that only 35 people have been granted urgent and exceptional support payments totalling £46,795. The scheme is expected to pay out between £20 million and £30 million—in other words, the compensation offered thus far does not seem to reflect the scale of the scandal. Many victims have been adversely affected for years—for decades—suffering ill health, homelessness and mounting debt. Some, sadly, have passed way as a result of the scandal.
Not only does the speed at which the compensation is distributed not seem to honour the dignity of those affected but there is also the issue of accessibility. The compensation scheme application process should be reduced from its 18-page document, for which external help is so often required. It needs to create an easy, accessible document for survivors and community organisations. This would simply be in line with the best practice under the Equality Act.
Lastly, I highlight the fact that there is a significant lack of trust in the scheme, because the department that has been accusing victims for so long runs it. Serious consideration needs to be given to an external organisation managing the scheme, which would help in rightly building the confidence in what the scheme aims to deliver.
My Lords, this coronavirus pandemic has shown us who really matters in our country. Of course, we all immediately think of the NHS staff, but we would all be starving if we did not have tens of thousands of people stacking shelves and lorry drivers delivering vital supplies 24 hours per day. I pay tribute to them, as well as the dustbin men, farm labourers, cleaners, cashiers, sewing machinists, vets’ assistants, call centre staff and hosts of other low-paid workers who have been keeping us going in lockdown and getting our deliveries to us. These and other low-paid manual workers are the heroes of this pandemic. Many of them are doing exactly the same work that the Windrush generation came here to do.
The people who will not be missed are the rather vacuous celebrities and rapacious lawyers—but no doubt the lawyers will crawl out again to mount massive claims against the NHS and everyone else they can think of whom they perceive to have deep pockets. They have contributed nothing to help us get through this crisis but will be out in droves, ambulance chasing, when it is over. That is why I am pleased that they will not be part of the Windrush claims process.
Many of us could not be in the Chamber at Second Reading, but I was concerned at some noble Lords’ comments that lawyers should be permitted to submit claims or even get legal aid to do so. We all know that lawyers who work on a no-win no-fee basis will rip off the client, who gets left with a tiny award at the end of it. If they were to get legal aid for this, they would rip off the taxpayer.
Some noble Lords, including the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, said that the form was too long and complicated, so I downloaded it to have a look. It is long but relatively simple, and claimants need to complete only the sections that relate to their individual circumstances. I think my noble friend the Minister has designed the compensation scheme and the forms to be as clear and simple as possible. For me, the telling point is that they were tested by the users, who found them satisfactory.
For those who want or need support to make a claim, the Home Office has funded Citizens Advice to provide free independent advice and support, and there will of course be the £500,000 fund for grass-roots organisations to promote the Windrush scheme and provide advice. In view of the scheme’s simplicity and the help available, there is no need for lawyers to get their noses in this trough on either moral or practical grounds, and I urge my noble friend the Minister not to budge on this.
My Lords, I first thank the Government for tabling this Motion today, enabling a wide group of Members to take part in the debate on the Windrush scandal compensation scheme. Having only three minutes means that it is difficult, if not impossible, to get across all the points I want to make. I have agreed with the contributions made by noble Lords so far and am certain I will agree with those made during the rest of the debate.
I have a number of questions to ask the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, and I hope she can respond to them when she replies to the debate. If not, I look forward to receiving a written response copied to all Members of the House speaking in the debate.
Can the Minister set out the terms of the compensation offered to victims? By that, I mean the framework. Is this a full and final settlement? Can it be revisited? It would also be helpful if the Minister confirmed to the House that, if people have been deported, all the costs associated with their return to the UK will be borne by the Government without any question, and that this does not form any part of the compensation package itself.
Moving on to jobs that have been lost due to the actions of the Government, is the compensation received seeking to address that in all relevant cases, and will there be any action by the Government to help people find re-employment? Where people have lost their homes, they could have lost their tenancy. What action will the Government take to get victims back to the position they enjoyed in respect of their housing before they suffered this injustice? Finally, what are the oversight proposals to ensure that victims are treated properly and fairly and do not suffer further injustice?
My Lords, in 2017 I was honoured to be asked by the Government to chair the Windrush Commemoration Committee, to create a Windrush monument in recognition of the contribution that Caribbean people have made to Britain. In 2022, the monument will be erected at Waterloo station, where thousands of West Indians like myself arrived in Britain before dispersing across the whole of the UK. However, the committee is finding it hard to make this a joyful experience, because of the Windrush scandal and the shame hanging over the country. This needs to be solved urgently.
Like many West Indians, I have dedicated my life to serving this country. We were brought up in the Caribbean to believe that we were British—part of the motherland—and taught at school to celebrate British history. In 1960, I was one of the lucky children who arrived in Britain with my own passport, but the Windrush scandal has shown that it could have been so different for me had I not had one.
Life during those early years in Britain was harsh, brutal and cruel. My whole family, all eight of us, lived in one room, as there was little accommodation available for Caribbean people. I saw those signs saying, “no Irish, no dogs, no coloureds”. I had people spit at me. Grown men lifted my skirt and said, “Where’s your tail, monkey?” I was not served in shops; I was even turned away from the church. These were the indignities that we had to suffer, with resilience and determination. We were made to feel as though we did not belong. We felt a sense of betrayal, as the general public knew nothing about us, but we were too proud to return or tell families back in the Caribbean about the hardship, discrimination and rejection we were facing. Besides, there was little money, because the jobs available were low paid. My mother had three jobs in a day to try to make ends meet.
All this meant that culturally, people from that generation did not go on holiday, travel abroad, register for a passport or take part in any national register. This partly explains why so many people did not have the necessary documents and became caught up in the Windrush scandal, facing unbelievable hostility with little compassion, consideration or cultural understanding, some dying due to the stress and trauma.
Thanks to much campaigning, the Windrush compensation scheme was meant to help correct the injustice, but little progress has been made. Minimal funds have been paid out and faith in the Home Office is at an all-time low. To move forward, trust in the Home Office needs to be restored, as it is still associated with the hostile environment, complicated forms and deportation flights. Trust is also needed in the appeals system, especially when cultural decisions are to be made, and in those in the Caribbean who are part of the scandal.
How does the Home Office intend to restore that trust? One suggestion is for the Government, in order to restore confidence, to establish an independent advisory group and chair, reporting directly to the Cabinet Office, on the implementation of all 30 vital recommendations of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review by Wendy Williams. The Windrush monument will be a way to define and celebrate black British history. Let it not be the Windrush scandal.
Lord Woolf? We cannot hear the noble and learned Lord; we will perhaps come back to him. Lord Sheikh.
My Lords, the Windrush scandal is, without doubt, one of the most unfortunate episodes in this country’s history. My family came to Britain as refugees from Uganda, so I understand how it feels to leave the only country you have ever known behind. To be told that you are not welcome in the country you thought was your home is one of the most painful experiences one can imagine.
When we arrived in Britain, we were given shelter and assistance by the Conservative Government led by Ted Heath. The treatment of the Windrush generation was the opposite. These people included veterans who had fought in both world wars for king and country but were later made to feel desperately unwelcome. They saw themselves as British, with their right to citizenship enshrined in law, but the treatment they received from some of their fellow Britons was less than welcoming. The new arrivals faced discrimination in employment and housing as well as socially. They were prey to vultures like Peter Rachman, who terrorised his Caribbean tenants with bouncers, dogs and impossible demands for rent. To have endured this treatment only to be told later that you have no right to remain is nothing short of scandalous. Not only the immigrants but their children have been badly treated.
I therefore wholeheartedly welcome the Government’s efforts to put right these grave injustices through the Windrush compensation scheme. It is vital that those who have suffered can seek redress and support as much as possible. Those in positions of authority must learn from past mistakes to ensure that they are not repeated in the future. The review by Wendy Williams forms an important part of this learning. I would be grateful if my noble friend the Minister could inform your Lordships’ House as to what steps Her Majesty’s Government are taking to implement the findings of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review.
It is deeply regrettable that, to this day, we do not know how many people have been affected by this disaster. Many lost their jobs, were evicted, detained in migration centres, denied medical treatment, or may have been deported. Worst of all, we know that a number have passed away without being able to seek justice. I sincerely hope that the Windrush compensation scheme will go some way towards restoring trust and healing the wounds caused to victims and their loved ones.
My Lords, before beginning my contribution today, I would like the House to note my entries on the register of interests.
Many years ago, at the start of my teaching career, I was employed by the Inner London Education Authority in several schools in the London Borough of Lambeth—Stockwell Manor, Beaufoy boys’ school and finally Priory Park School—now all amalgamated and changed. I did not realise that I would meet a chair of governors of Priory Park School many years later on these Benches: my noble friend Lord Boateng.
Each school had a multi-ethnic intake of pupils, mainly from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds; it was a wonderful experience for a Welsh valleys girl to engage with this wide variety of cultures. I was living in Brixton at the time, and this was indeed the heart of the Caribbean community in south London. Little did I realise then what problems would arise almost four decades later for the parents of those pupils and indeed for some of those youngsters themselves.
The compensation scheme has fallen short of expectations. British citizens have been wrongfully detained and deported, lost jobs and been prevented from returning home from abroad. By the Government’s own admission, they are continuing to fail the Windrush victims. The scheme is not well publicised. Many are frightened to claim the compensation through fear of the “hostile environment”, and I believe that, to date, only a very small percentage of claimants have received compensation.
The Government should provide funding for voluntary groups to assist claimants to apply for compensation. The investigative nature of the documentation requires a great deal of form filling, and it is not often possible by individuals as it involves HMRC, medical records and council records. So people are caught between situations as they try to find appropriate evidence and to avoid contact with the authorities for fear of being deported or detained. This fear has led to great problems in finding enough documentary evidence to support claims.
More than 12,000 people who were wrongly classified by the Home Office as illegal immigrants have now been given citizenship or some other form of documentation proving that they have, and always had, the right to live in the UK, but there are more than 3,700 outstanding cases with the Windrush taskforce. Those people who still await an outcome, in some cases for more than a year, have been left with great anxiety at a time when the Government should be doing everything they can to speed up and support the applications. Will the Minister say whether people will be able to appeal a compensation decision? Why is legal aid not being made available to pursue claims?
My Lords, I have two points to make in my contribution. They are to do with the isolation of part of the Windrush community in some parts of the country. I recall that, during the coal miners’ strike of 1984-85, I was asked to look after the only black miner out of 2,500 miners working at Manton colliery in Worksop. When the union asked whether I would take him under my wing, assist him and look after him during the strike, I asked why. The answer was “For his safety.”
In those coal-mining communities and in similar rural and semi-rural communities, there are scattered around many individuals who are from the Windrush generation and who are potentially eligible for compensation, but in my experience they tend to be less well connected to others of that generation and therefore more isolated in terms of information. There is one very straightforward thing that does not appear to have happened, so I propose to the Minister that she should write to local newspapers, such as the Worksop Guardian, the Mansfield Chad, the Retford Times and the Doncaster Free Press, spelling out in simple terms who is eligible and why and what they can do about it. That will open it up to those individuals, some of whom I assisted in my former representative role to apply and win the compensation they were due.
My second point echoes that made by the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra. My experience of coal miners’ claims for industrial injury is that solicitors and claims handlers took one-quarter, sometimes more, of the settlement, and people will not come forward in the same numbers. Citizens advice bureaux ought to be empowered and given a modest degree of funding to promote the case and give advice to individuals, whatever kind of community they live in. Then those in areas such as Nottinghamshire who are due compensation will have the opportunity to get it.
My Lords, this scheme is an attempt to compensate a generation of people who found themselves with a genuine and terrible injustice. It is a real stain on this country’s recent history, highlighted by that moving speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin. I draw to the attention of the Government another injustice that will not be addressed by this measure yet affects many of the Windrush generation and many others, too, throughout the world.
Monica Philip was one of the Windrush generation who accepted the invitation from the British Government to emigrate from the Caribbean to help fill the employment gap in the UK. She arrived in the UK shortly before her 21st birthday in 1959 and worked tirelessly in a variety of jobs, including as a courier for 15 years in the Ministry of Defence. Her mother’s illness and failing eyesight forced Monica to leave the UK and return to Antigua in 1996, two years before her due retirement age.
In 1998, Monica was advised that she was entitled to a UK state pension, payment of which commenced in October 1998 at a rate of £74.11 per week; but it has remained at that level ever since. It is extremely unfair that this hard-working lady, who is now of course elderly, accepted the UK Government’s call to work here and, after paying for 37 years the same contributions as everybody else and then accepting the responsibility of returning to Antigua to look after her ailing mother, was effectively cheated out of her rightful pension. Her younger sister, who also emigrated to the UK but remains here, received a full pension which, with annual increases, is roughly double that of her elder sister.
I should like to highlight another Antiguan, Harold Williams, who left the island in 1955 aged 20. He worked hard and was always employed; he did his National Service here in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers regiment. For 40 years, Harold contributed diligently to the national insurance scheme. When he returned to Antigua, he was at no time informed that his pension would be frozen on his return. These frozen pensioners never have an increase in the basic pension, and this iniquity exists for the majority of Commonwealth countries. Strangely, in the Caribbean only Barbados and Jamaica do not have frozen pensions.
In my years in the other place, I consistently heard Ministers of all Governments give their excuses for this state of affairs. It can be resolved without a huge cost to the Treasury. I know that the measure we are discussing cannot address this; indeed, the Minister is not from the relevant department. However, this is indeed another stain on our country’s much vaunted sense of fairness and equality. I urge the Government to think again and I will return to this until we right this wrong. I thank noble Lords for their indulgence in letting me raise this issue today.
Yes, you have me. I apologise, but the system went down. I welcome this debate and am delighted to take part. I refer to my entries in the register, which include my membership of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, chaired so well by the right honourable Harriet Harman. I also acknowledge the help I received from the excellent Library briefing for this debate.
The finding of the Joint Committee on the Windrush generation makes very sad reading, as confirmed by the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin. When something goes wrong in a society, it is very important that the society not only acknowledges that this has happened but makes sure that it is redeemed, in so far as that is possible. There are times when any Government can depart from the standards that the rule of law requires. I hope that the Minister will accept without reservation that this is such an occasion. If so, the state is under a clear obligation to remedy the situation. In doing so, it should adopt a generous and open approach.
Sadly, although the Government appeared initially to be adopting the correct approach, they have departed from it. It is worrying that the question of compensation has not been dealt with expeditiously. I cannot believe that more claims would not have been concluded if the Home Office had shown greater flexibility. I can understand why the former shadow Home Secretary said:
“The amount and the quantity of the payments are pitifully small”.—[Official Report, Commons, 10/2/20; col. 626.]
I agree with Wendy Williams that a more personalised and sensitive approach to claimants should have been adopted. Even with my experience many years ago of acting in the courts for most government departments for five years, it takes my breath away that the Home Office, having failed to make or conserve any records, tries to rely on the inadequacy of the Windrush claimants’ efforts to produce records and establish the right to citizenship given to them by the Immigration Act 1971. Then, for a time at any rate, the Home Office turned on its head the burden of proof. A more appropriate approach would have been to give the claimants the benefit of any reasonable doubt. That is what should be done. It is not necessary for representation; what is needed for justice to be done to the claimants has not happened yet.
My Lords, given the time limit we have today, I want to make three specific points. First, the Windrush scandal has touched every part of Britain. In Lewisham Deptford where I live, my local Member of Parliament, Vicky Foxcroft, recently noted that she is now handling cases for 22 people who are part of the Windrush scandal. I pay tribute to her and her team and to the excellent but underfunded Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network, which works with local people on these issues. Sadly, in one of the cases, a constituent’s father died while awaiting a decision on his Windrush application. I want therefore to ask the Minister: where an applicant dies before a decision on their application is made, would a relative still be eligible to claim under the deceased person’s estate claim? It seems that parental status needs to be settled before an application can be considered.
Secondly, community confidence in the scheme is low. It is deeply disappointing that the scheme has paid out so little to so few. An independent system managed outside the Home Office has, sadly, been ruled out by the Government, yet some of the recommendations from Wendy Williams’s review are about changing the culture in the Home Office. For example, she states that staff should learn about,
“the history of inward and outward migration and the history of black Britons.”
Have the staff working on Windrush taskforce and scheme gone through this type of learning? If not, why not, and will they?
Finally, we need to learn from decisions already taken continually to improve the scheme. The latest figures show that fewer than one in 20 Windrush claimants have received compensation. Knowing the reasons given for negative outcomes would allow for an assessment of whether any part of the process, such as the need to gather a large amount of evidence, are barriers to successful claims. Will the Minister commit to a review of negative outcomes to inform our understanding of the scheme and how it works in practice?
My Lords, it hardly seems possible that this issue could have assumed greater significance now than when it first came to public attention in 2017, but this pandemic has highlighted the extraordinary contribution of the Windrush generation and their descendants to the UK and to vital public services such as health, social care and transport, making even more shameful the treatment they received as a result of the Windrush scandal. Some of them have answered government’s call and come out of retirement to help this country through our current crisis, echoing their response in 1948 when they boarded “Empire Windrush” to help rebuild a nation devastated by war.
This scheme is an important step towards redressing the considerable wrongs visited on those original pioneers and on other Commonwealth citizens, injustices powerfully articulated by the noble Baronesses, Lady Lawrence of Clarendon and Lady Benjamin. I want to address three points.
The first is on the importance of getting implementation right. I welcome the establishment of the cross-government working group and the £500,000 community fund for grassroots organisations to promote and advise. However, as I noted at Second Reading, grassroots organisations are effective because they are community-specific and, given the range of communities and locations involved, this funding may not be sufficient.
Concerns have also been raised about the complexity of the process and whether this contributes to the small number of applications having been received so far: around 1,000, despite the Home Office estimating that some 15,000 people could be eligible. Lack of access to legal aid may be a factor, and so might lack of trust. Is the Minister confident that the Home Office can earn the confidence of communities which have every reason to be nervous of engaging with it?
Secondly, I want to stress the importance of adopting the lessons of Wendy Williams’s review more widely across government. As she says, we must
“go further to right the wrongs”.
With that in mind, I urge the Government to address the growing risk that the EU settlement scheme becomes what some charities are already calling “this generation’s Windrush”. Does the Minister share my concerns that we risk creating once again a tier of second-class citizens and that the lessons of Windrush have not been learned?
Finally, we should not imagine that this scheme on its own will end the discrimination against BAME communities so clearly evident in relative rates of poverty, access to education, housing and employment and in social and health-related inequalities. This has been highlighted in the gravest of ways in the disproportionate numbers of BAME patients and NHS staff critically ill with, and dying from, Covid-19.
This scheme is welcome, but we would most effectively honour the legacy of the Windrush generation by a wholehearted commitment to eradicating, once and for all, the inequality, discrimination and denial of rights that gave rise to and perpetrated one of the most shameful episodes in our national life.
My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for giving us this opportunity to discuss what was indeed a failure of British law, politics and bureaucracy. Tens of thousands of people’s lives were damaged or destroyed as a result. It is an even greater scandal because, as the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, said, these are the people contributing so greatly to dealing with the coronavirus epidemic at the moment. Indeed, they are more likely to catch the virus themselves, so they are putting their lives at risk. These are people who helped to build up our country after the Second World War and who are clearly British. They were put through a terrible time and it was exacerbated by the fact that Ministers in the Government had this policy of a hostile environment. That sadly did not help. I hope that the Minister will give us an assurance that this will never happen again.
A related matter that I want to mention is the freedom of the press. I did a report on this for the Council of Europe recently. It is so vital in our democracy. The Guardian needs to be commended for the way it highlighted this. One wonders what might have happened if there had not been such concentration on this by the media and the revelations that highlighted it.
I want to ask the Minister three things in relation to the scheme, which I hope she will deal with in her reply. First, the compensation payments seem to be calculated on the financial impact—loss of income, loss of access to housing and other things that people suffered. Can we have an assurance that there will be some compensation for the grief and the psychological effects? They can be assessed, so some assessment should be made and that must be included as well.
Secondly, the Minister said that there was no cap on the expenditure, but at the moment only £20 million to £30 million is allocated. Some 15,000 people have applied, but the Office for National Statistics thinks that six times as many could be eligible. Can we get an assurance that the money in the budget will be increased to take account of that?
Finally, can we get an assurance that any knock-on effect on the younger generation will be taken account of, to support the sons and grandsons of this generation and to make sure that this sort of thing does not happen again? We have a duty to learn from this and make sure that we, and future British Governments, never let this kind of thing happen again. I hope the Minister will give us some assurances in her reply.
My Lords, there is only one race: the human race. When I was a parliamentary candidate in Cheltenham in 1992, I was accused by an angry woman of bringing racism to the town. I replied, “Madam, before I came to Cheltenham, you had no black people here.”
In 1948, the British Government made a desperate call to the Caribbean for workers, but they also got people. My Jamaican father fought for Britain as a sergeant in the Eighth Army in the Second World War. He was one of thousands from the Commonwealth answering the call to help rebuild post-war Britain. When he came to England on the HMS “Windrush”, my father was shocked to see posters warning, “No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs”, but consoled himself with the observation, “Well, at least I’m first in the queue!”
Ironically, it was my father’s talent as a professional cricketer which meant he experienced a higher level of racism at exclusive events such as Ascot and Henley, to which most black people were not even invited. He also became the first black soccer referee in the 1950s. The players were so stunned to see a black referee that they forgot to shout and swear at each other on the pitch.
My mother also came from Jamaica in 1948. Her father had been a dedicated chief of police in Jamaica and was awarded an OBE. She served for many decades as a nurse in our NHS. When she retired, she became a volunteer hospital visitor for the Stroke Association. My parents are model examples of the Windrush generation who endured racism and other challenges to make a positive contribution here.
It must be recognised that many of the Windrush generation, like my mother, became the dedicated backbone and inspiration for the excellent NHS we are currently saluting for saving our lives and keeping us safe during this Covid-19 virus period. In 2002 I had the privilege to open an orthopaedic hospital in Kingston, Jamaica. It was ironic to hear from the management that a major challenge that Commonwealth hospitals have faced over decades is the continuing loss of excellent nurses and other skilled medical staff to more prosperous nations such as Britain.
I spent many years at the BBC as a producer and presenter at White City. I wondered if it was called that because everyone above kitchen level was white. It is against that personal background that I found the Windrush scandal so outrageous. However, it is not just about the Windrush generation; this scandal offends the whole nation and affects the reputation of Britain across the rest of the world.
I have some questions for the Minister. What is the total number of claimants so far? Only £62,000 has been awarded so far, which is a pitiful sum. Legal aid is a right; it is not about fat cat lawyers, it is about justice. Will there be a permanent independent adviser? Will the Minister consider extending the deadline because of the problems we now have with Covid-19?
We are a nation of immigrants. Because of this episode, we are now learning to value many people, key workers, who have previously been overlooked. This is a new era, like the roaring 1920s and the Second World War. This is the new roaring 2020s, when victims have the opportunity to become victors. This is a shake up to wake up.
It is about equality and justice for all. As Martin Luther King said, we have all come on different ships, but we are all in the same boat now. After the chess game is over, the black and white pieces all go back in the same box.
My Lords, like others, I very much welcome this debate, and indeed I welcome the compensation scheme in general terms. I also thank the Minister; I know my noble friend is determined to act justly with regard to the scheme.
We have an incredible paradox. At the same time as the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, whom I was very pleased to work alongside, and I were delivering Windrush Day, to be celebrated on 22 June every year as a national day of celebration by all Britons, not just proud Windrush Britons and their descendants, we were faced with the Windrush scandal. We all admit that it is a scandal and that it needs dealing with quickly and fairly. Against that background, I have four areas that I would like the Minister to address by saying what is being done. I know that many of these are being brought up by Wendy Williams in her review as well.
The first is the need for a personalised approach so that every individual is treated individually. Every case is different and they do not deserve to be lumped together, as seems the case at the moment. Will the Minister please commit to this happening and ensure that it does?
Secondly, others have referred to the speed of treatment of cases, including the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, and I very much agree. According to Home Office figures, there had been 1,108 claims to the end of last year but only 36 payments. That is 3%, which is totally inadequate. I really hope that the Minister is able to give us some sort of road map for how this backlog of claims—there must be a backlog—will be dealt with, because many people will die before they get their claims settled.
Thirdly, I appreciate that the deadline of the scheme has been extended to 2023, but against the backdrop of the dreadful virus and the slowness that there must now be—I do not point the finger of blame at anyone in particular for that—it may well be that we need to look at an extension beyond that. I would welcome an assurance from the Minister in that regard.
Lastly, on the complexity of the application form, I tend to agree more with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London than with my noble friend Lord Blencathra. Although some people will be able to deal with the form, it is 18 pages long. It is not totally complex but there are complex parts of it, and there are 44 pages of guidance. Many people will need help so that they are able to fill in the form and ensure that they get their claim.
I would be grateful if my noble friend could take up these points. In so far as she is not able to deal with them in her response today, although I hope she is, I would be grateful if she could write to me and ensure that others in this debate are copied in on the response.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving us the opportunity to debate again this very sad issue. Many noble Lords have spoken of the problems and the history of this massive unfairness; it is a real human disaster. I suspect that it goes back to what I have seen for many years as the institutional racism of the Home Office.
My noble friend Lord Foulkes talked about the work that the Guardian has done in reporting on about 1,000 wrongful immigration offence reviews not being started for two years, and a backlog of 3,720 since the scandal was uncovered. Has the Home Office really changed its spots, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, suggested?
I recall that an early draft of the Williams report called the Home Office institutionally racist, and reckless in developing a defensive culture around immigration policy. Of course, you do not often get away with criticising the spoon that feeds you, as I found with my HS2 report. Has the Home Office really changed its spots?
I recall the immigration Bill, which I think has now been withdrawn. Like the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, I have to question how our hospitals would survive without immigrants. How would the academic world survive without the movement of world-beating academics? The hospitality sector is in very serious trouble, as I spoke about last week. Then, of course, there are the fruit and vegetable pickers; we now have to fly them in from Bulgaria, forgetting all about social distancing, which seems not to matter. We are in a worse state than Germany, where the chairman of the German fruit growers’ association was reported as saying that Germans are the wrong shape for picking fruit and do not like bending down. I think that applies to the UK as well.
The Home Office needs to change its spots and get rid of this dogmatic and unfair approach, which will do nothing to help our economy recover. Will the Home Office reflect fully on the Williams report and its recommendations? Will the Minister support the excellent suggestion from the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, of an independent review? That is a great idea, but it must be truly independent, and preferably not led by the Home Office.
This has been a heartfelt debate, and I am only sorry that the system has not shown every speaker on the screen, although we have heard from them all other than my noble friend Lord Dholakia. As I have been able to see what my noble friend was going to say before the debate started, I hope he will have another opportunity to make what I know would have been a very clear and tough speech.
Let us contrast the photographs of the bright, eager faces of people arriving here in the 1940s and 1950s, looking forward to a new life and contributing to the UK, with those who later found out that not only were they not wanted, they were not recognised. The terms for what many of them did are topical: key workers, essential workers. Wendy Williams as well as parliamentary committees have used case studies that include current photographs. The experiences of individuals illuminate the whole. The media have used case studies too, and I pay tribute, as others have done, to the investigative journalists who have shone a light on the scandal. Amelia Gentleman’s book is analytical, distressing and shaming. The compensation scheme, in the words of the recent Bill, applies to
“certain categories of persons in recognition of difficulties arising out of an inability to demonstrate lawful immigration status.”
Those are weasel words. The recognition is that the Home Office was unable to recognise the law or rights. They are rights, not something that some people deserve, which is the language used too often by some Ministers, although not, I think, by the noble Baroness. It is as if they have to be earned and can be forfeited.
Victim blaming is never attractive. We are told that people should have contacted the Home Office, but it is a bit rich to have expected the Windrush generation to understand what the Home Office did not. Could any of us list all the provisions of our complex immigration legislation, any more than we could provide evidence for every year of our residence? I threw away my school reports when I cleared my mother’s house. The Home Office threw away records when it cleared an office, despite junior officials protesting about how often they referred to them.
I want to ask just a few questions beyond those asked by other noble Lords about the scheme and about the people who have been affected by what happened. What have the Government learned about outsourcing public sector work to the private sector? Have they logged the losses of jobs, of homes, of medical treatment and benefits denied? How many people were detained? I cannot let this moment go by without mentioning the detention, neither necessary nor proportionate when there is no risk of absconding, of people who were not criminals. In 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, we are putting at risk, by continuing their detention, people who are not criminals or who have served their sentence.
Why do some components of the claim to the scheme have to meet the criminal standard of proof, or its equivalent? This reflects the original problem that the Home Office required standards of proof that were difficult if not impossible to meet; to quote the review,
“an environment for staff to reject rather than be proportionate or objective in each case.”
Why is there not a longer cut-off date for claims? After all, the Government, in the shape of HMRC questioning taxpayers, can go back six years. How many people are now thought to have a claim and how many died before they even received an apology?
The Minister will resist any suggestion of a read-across to the EU settled status scheme, although I will make one, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Bull. I accept that some experience has been applied, but although the Windrush scandal may have been unforeseen, it was both foreseeable and avoidable. I would like to think that, in applying the settled status scheme, the culture of disbelief and of carelessness and ignorance has been ditched in favour of the recognition of a duty of care to applicants. The NAO referred to this too. The large proportion of grants of pre-settled, not settled, status that have been made surely raises a warning flag of problems down the line when applicants discover that what they have been granted is not what they had understood it to be.
It is right that the department should reflect on the review, but not all the recommendations require a pause. The hostile environment was designed to be read as hostile and intolerable to immigrants, and it was racist. Merely rebranding it takes political loyalties too far. Wendy Williams is measured but clear, recommending
“a full review and evaluation of the … policy and measures—individually and cumulatively … whether they are effective and proportionate in meeting their stated aim, given the risks inherent in the policy … and its impact on British citizens and migrants with status, with reference to equality law and particularly the public sector equality duty.”
Legislatively that environment can be dismantled now.
When the previous Home Secretary responded to a report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, of which I was a member, along with the noble Baroness, Lady Lawrence, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, on the detention of members of the Windrush generation, he referred to establishing a casework profession with a culture that puts the customer—perhaps not the term I would have chosen—at the heart of decision-making, and ensuring better use of face-to-face engagement. I think the Minister will acknowledge that there was scarcely any such engagement.
I do not know whether the Minister has up-to-date news on work on cultural change. She has referred to some of the processes now being undertaken. These may have been the subject of her letter of 30 April, which I do not seem to have received, so I apologise if I have raised points which are covered in that letter. Ms Williams’ review was of course not of the whole of the Home Office; nevertheless, it is surely widely applicable. She is clear about the importance of diversity in the Home Office, not just at junior levels, and about engagement with citizens, applicants and staff.
Ms Williams is clear too that some of her recommendations, if implemented, will have tangible outcomes: the level of successful appeals, the quality of casework, and better informed and better evaluated policy. Other outcomes are intangible but essential: the look and feel of the department, with a values-led culture and a mission bought into by all levels of staff.
The Government as a whole should reflect on the review, because there are lessons for the whole of government. I look forward to hearing in a few months’ time what lessons have been learned, and how they are being applied, so that all that is done is, to use Ms Williams’ phrase, “rooted in humanity.”
My Lords, I have not yet seen the Minister’s letter of 30 April either, so I hope it does not impact on what I want to say. This has been an important debate on an issue that will surely always be regarded as a stain on our country’s reputation for decency and humanity.
The independent Williams review into the Windrush scandal stated that it was “foreseeable and avoidable.” The compensation scheme is intended to compensate claimants for the losses and adverse impacts suffered. The impact assessment indicates that there will be a policy review in October 2024. Against what criteria, and with what objective, will the policy be reviewed?
The impact assessment says:
“There is significant uncertainty surrounding the volume of claims and associated costs. Compensation and operational costs are estimated in line with the 11,500 eligible claimants planning assumption … Total compensation costs range from £20.5 to £301.3 million … based on the volume range of 3,000 to 15,000 eligible claims”,
with a best estimate of £160.9 million. The impact assessment also has a paragraph headed “Description and scale of key monetised benefits by ‘main affected groups’”, which starts by saying:
“Benefits (compensation payments) relate to righting the wrongs suffered by those from the Windrush generation.”
It is no wonder that concerns have been raised about ownership of the scheme being with the Home Office if the Government regard these payments under the scheme as benefits—for which, presumably, the recipients should be grateful
It may also explain why the compensation payments appear to be modest, bearing in mind that the Government have accepted that lives were ruined and families were torn apart. Taking the Government’s best-estimate figure of costs under the scheme of £160.9 million and dividing it by the 11,500 assumed eligible claimants gives an average compensation award per claimant of approximately £14,000. That is not a lot, bearing in mind that compensation payments are intended to cover losses ranging from detention and removal, loss of employment, loss of housing, loss of access to healthcare, loss of education, loss of access to banking and what is described as
“impact on normal daily life”,
which apparently includes such things as
“missed key family events or inability to travel”.
Included in that must also be the feelings of rejection, humiliation and injustice; of suddenly being told, wrongly—utterly wrongly—that you have no status and no right to remain in the country you have lived in for much if not all of your life, the country you proudly regarded as your home in the same way as Members of your Lordships’ House do. Is all that worth compensation—or perhaps, in the Government’s eyes, a benefit payment—of, on average, £14,000?
The Prime Minister once infamously described payment of £250,000 per annum for his newspaper column as “peanuts”. He now heads a Government who are offering, at an average of £14,000 per head, just one eighteenth of “peanuts” as compensation to the Windrush generation and others. The Government have said that the compensation scheme allows those who have suffered to avoid court proceedings in pursuit of justice. Can the Government say whether accepting compensation under the scheme does or does not then preclude an individual from taking legal proceedings if that is a step they wish to explore?
The scheme provides for awards that are tariff-based and awards based on actual loss. Tariff-based awards are determined on the balance of probabilities, but for awards for actual losses the Government require firm evidence that the losses claimed were actually incurred. One can envisage that being a major hurdle for many claimants after so many years have elapsed. There is provision for an independent review by an HMRC adjudicator where a claimant is not satisfied with the outcome of their claim. However, the Home Office can then reject, as I understand it, the recommendation of an independent reviewer.
The tariff awards provide for a maximum of £10,000 plus for deportation; awards for detention based on the length of that detention; awards for loss of access to employment up to a maximum of £1,147 of actual monthly net pay; denial of access to child benefit, child tax credit or working tax credit at £1,264, £2,500 and £1,100 respectively; denial of access to housing services at £1,000; denial of access to free NHS care at £500; denial of access to higher education at £500; denial of access to banking services at £200; and homelessness at £250 per month, up to a maximum of £25,000.
Then we come to the tariff awards under the heading “Impact on Life”. These are meant to cover injury to feelings, including anxiety, distress and reputational damage; family separation; immigration difficulties when attempting to return to the UK; and deterioration in physical or mental health. However, only one award can be made under the “Impact on Life” heading and there are six levels of award, ranging from just £250 at level 1 to £10,000 plus at level 6. Qualification for level 6 requires
“profound impacts on a claimant’s life which are likely to be irreversible”.
The Home Office, under the appeal arrangements, will still ultimately be the judge of whether the award—even if it decides the strict criteria are met—is £10,000 or moves into the £10,000 plus bracket, and by how much. The Government say there is no cap on compensation. In practice, it is clear that there are many caps.
There is provision for discretionary awards under the scheme, but it does not look as though that discretion is going to be exercised too often, since the impact assessment says, under the “Discretionary Award” heading,
“Due to lack of data, this loss category has not been included in the analysis.”
In the impact assessment, under the heading “Benefits” of compensation, it is revealed that:
“The Government will also mitigate the risk of litigation and associated legal costs, which is likely to be more expensive than compensation through the scheme.”
Under the heading “Objectives”, the impact assessment says that the scheme
“minimises the risk of litigation”
“operates as cost effectively as possible while meeting the above objectives”,
one of which is that it
“seeks to compensate eligible individuals for certain financial losses they have experienced as a result of difficulty in demonstrating their lawful immigration status.”
If the scheme is to compensate only for “certain financial losses” experienced, can the Government spell out the kind of financial losses experienced that are not covered by the scheme?
The scheme has obviously been drawn up in part with a view to saving money on costly legal proceedings. When it comes to the level of compensation, we are not talking about some relatively minor event in which some got hurt; this was much more than that. As the Williams review said:
“The many stories of injustice and hardship are heartbreaking, with jobs lost, lives uprooted and untold damage done to so many individuals and families … They had no reason to doubt their status, or that they belonged in the UK. They could not have been expected to know the complexity of the law as it changed around them.”
Can the Government indicate the benchmark against which they determined that the levels of compensation we are talking about—with the average of around £14,000 per claimant—are fair and reasonable in the light of the words of the Williams review to which I have just referred?
The Williams review also stated quite clearly that the Home Office “must change its culture”. We do not want a similar situation arising over citizenship rights in the light of our withdrawal from the EU.
In March the Government said that they would bring forward a detailed formal response to the Williams review recommendations in the next six months. Does that timetable still stand in the light of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic?
A large number of points have been raised in this debate, and I hope that the Minister will respond as soon as is reasonably possible to any she is not in a position to respond to today. Subject to the Minister now persuading me otherwise, I just wish the levels of compensation that it is projected and intended will be paid matched the sincerity and genuineness of the Home Secretary’s Statement to Parliament in March, including the immediate apology, and I just wish the Government would now agree to reflect further on their compensation scheme.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate for some really powerful and thoughtful contributions. Picking up on the last point from the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, the Government’s will to right the wrongs of the Windrush generation is not diminished. The scheme is just one part of a broader range of matters to be discussed in relation to the Windrush generation and the challenges they have faced and, in some cases, continue to face.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Lawrence—the first Back-Bench contributor to this debate—said, the Windrush generation were invited here to rebuild this country. Not only that, but they have contributed so much to the current battle against the coronavirus. I also refer to the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, and my noble friend Lord Bourne. I was delighted to hear that he had helped her set up Windrush Day, and I am delighted about the Windrush monument that the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, helped set up.
There is no back-tracking or back-pedalling in our will to right the wrongs of this generation. I hope that, in some of the remarks I will make now in closing, I can demonstrate some of that. I also apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for their not having received my letter. I will recirculate it so that all noble Lords who have not seen it can have sight of it.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, asked about the design, scope and funding of the scheme. This goes to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, as well. We are absolutely committed to making sure that everyone who is due compensation can receive it. There is no cost cutting or penny pinching. We want everyone to have the compensation they are due. To that end, as I will demonstrate, we are helping them in their applications to achieve just that.
In designing the scheme, 650 responses to the call for evidence and nearly 1,500 responses to the public consultation informed the approach. We also held several public events, and Martin Forde QC, who is a very experienced barrister on all aspects of health law, was appointed by the previous Home Secretary to advise on the design of the compensation scheme.
Despite its name, the scheme is not limited to men and women who originally came to the UK from the Caribbean Commonwealth who have struggled to demonstrate their lawful status, and the eligibility criteria are clearly set out in the published scheme rules. The scheme covers a broad range of losses, and compensation is awarded according to both actual losses and tariff-based awards. To answer the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, the award levels take into account existing precedents and ombudsman-recommended payments. While some categories of awards have an upper limit, there is no overall cap on the amount an individual can receive in compensation under the scheme. There is also an uncapped discretionary category, which is for significant impact or loss not necessarily identified within the scheme in order to make it as flexible as possible.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned the impact assessment. It was published in February and outlines the Home Office estimate that the Windrush Compensation Scheme will cost between £90 million and £250 million based on 11,500 eligible claims. It is clearly a very wide range. It has reduced since the previous impact assessment due to lower than anticipated claims to date, which a number of noble Lords mentioned. There remains a high degree of uncertainty around the likely volume of compensation claims and the level of claims against the different categories. As a result, the impact assessment uses a number of different volume scenarios with a wide range of possible costs.
That is why we announced earlier this year that we are extending the scheme until 2 April 2023, so we are doing all we can to raise awareness of the scheme. As I said previously, there is a balance to be struck between having a date far enough in the future to enable people to feel confident that they have time to make their claim, but soon enough to encourage people to put in their claim. We feel that the two-year extension provides this, but there remains the option to further extend the duration, if that is required—to answer noble Lords’ questions.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked about the evidential requirements. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, talked about the benefit of the doubt. We have made the evidential threshold as low as possible, but we ask applicants to provide as much information and evidence as they can so that the best assessment of their claim and personal circumstances can be made. We want people to get the maximum compensation to which they are entitled and will work with claimants to support them in this, for example by contacting other government departments. To this end, a couple of individuals have already been awarded compensation for elements for which they did not originally claim, which demonstrates our commitment to working closely with claimants to ensure that they receive the compensation to which they are entitled.
However, I am sure noble Lords will agree that it is important that we are spending taxpayers’ money appropriately, and therefore we require that minimum level of information and evidence. Where awards are for actual losses, it is right that we seek to obtain an appropriate level of assurance that the losses were incurred in order to fulfil our duty properly to manage taxpayers’ money.
The aim of this approach is to fully reimburse those who can evidence their actual losses. For those who cannot meet the evidential requirements for an award based on actual loss, a tariff award may be made. Our approach is comparable with the employment tribunal’s approach to calculating loss of earnings, where an award to cover actual losses generally would be paid where the claimant is able to sufficiently evidence what those losses could have been.
There were some opposing views on claimant assistance and legal advice, from my noble friend Lord Blencathra, the noble Lord, Lord Mann, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Wilcox of Newport and Lady Bull. We have designed the compensation scheme to be as clear and simple as possible, so that people do not need legal assistance to make a claim. My noble friend Lord Blencathra outlined very eloquently the pitfalls of needing legal assistance, the lawyers scooping up all the money and the actual claimants not getting the money that they deserve. To that end, claim forms have been designed to be simple and easy to understand, and they were tested with users. Claimants need to complete only the sections of the form that are relevant to their claim, as my noble friend Lord Blencathra pointed out. However, for those who want or need support to make a claim, the Home Office has funded Citizens Advice to provide free independent advice and support, to answer the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mann, and my noble friend Lord Bourne. This advice is available to individuals in the UK and overseas. A tender is currently open to select an organisation to provide free independent advice and support to claimants for the duration of the scheme. To provide that continuity of service, the contract with Citizens Advice will be extended until the tender process is complete.
Some have suggested that we should allow applicants to recover legal costs incurred in applying to the scheme, but as my noble friend Lord Blencathra said, to do so might serve to encourage organisations to take advantage of people who are potentially very vulnerable, and charge them for unnecessary support to complete a claim. We have already heard of such terrible stories of no-win no-fee approaches. All we want is for the compensation to go to those who are entitled to it.
We aim to award compensation as quickly as possible. However, the time it takes to process each claim will depend on the complexity of individual cases, and it is right that we deal with cases properly. Where we can resolve part of a claim more quickly than other parts, we are making interim payments to ensure that claimants receive their awards as quickly as possible. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Warwick, pointed out that up to the end of December, only 36 payments had been made, totalling £62,198. I share the strength of feeling about these numbers, but many of these payments are interim payments, meaning that claimants may receive further awards later. Many more payments have been made since then. Further statistics will be published later this month.
As a comparator, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Mann, suggests that claims under that scheme take 12 to 18 months to conclude. We may also be able to consider a payment under the support in urgent and exceptional circumstances policy, to provide support to members of the Windrush generation who have an urgent and exceptional need.
The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, asked about the cap. Again, I assure noble Lords that we will pay whatever compensation is due. The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, talked about negative outcomes. We are continually monitoring the operation of this scheme, making amendments based on feedback, as changes to the rules earlier in the year, such as changing the date to 2023, demonstrated.
The department continues to work extensively with communities and stakeholders to raise awareness of both the Windrush compensation scheme and the Windrush scheme. To date, the Home Office has attended or hosted more than 100 engagement and outreach events and surgeries throughout the UK. We have used social media in a very targeted way to reach those who may be eligible to receive compensation and to encourage them to come to our events. Some 20,000 information cards have been distributed to affected groups and communications toolkits have been sent to almost 200 stakeholders.
The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, suggested moving the operation of the scheme out of the Home Office. This was also suggested at Second Reading. I can understand the concerns of those who think that the department that caused the problem in the first place should not be dealing with this. However, moving the operation of the scheme out the Home Office would risk significant delay and I do not think that anyone wants that to happen.
The first stage in deciding a claim for compensation is to confirm an individual’s identity and eligibility; this is linked to the immigration status of the individual. It would be difficult to decouple this from the Home Office without increasing the time taken to process an individual’s claim and issue payments.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London talked about external scrutiny, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin. We have put in place a number of measures to ensure that the scheme has an appropriate level of external scrutiny. To answer the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, we have an independent review process for those dissatisfied with their compensation offer. This is conducted by the HMRC Adjudicator—a non-departmental public body. The noble Lords, Lord Kennedy and Lord Rosser, both asked whether a compensation award is a full and final offer or whether it can be revisited. The award is always an offer. The claimant can accept it, at which point it becomes final, or they can request a review, as I have outlined. I hope that that helps answer the noble Lords’ questions.
The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, also asked about help with housing and jobs in addition to monetary payment. Where people are in immediate need, we have put in place measures to give them the support needed, such as a dedicated vulnerable persons team, which has helped more than 1,400 people, including with access to benefits and housing. Financial compensation gives claimants the freedom to choose how they wish to proceed. On 19 March, the Home Secretary announced an expanded cross-government Windrush working group, which will take a strategic view of a range of issues relating to Windrush and wider race inequalities. It will aim to develop initiatives to improve the lives of those affected by bringing together government and community stakeholders to co-design and deliver the response. That might be through employment support programmes, dedicated mental health support and specialist education and training schemes.
The noble Lord asked whether we paid for the flights of people who have been repatriated. I can tell him that 35 payments have been made under the support in urgent and exceptional circumstances policy. The total value of the payments approved is £46,795. In addition to these payments, three exceptional payments for flights to return to the UK were made before the official launch of the policy on 17 December. In addition to the three payments made for flights before the launch of the urgent and exceptional scheme, a further four payments had been made under the scheme to return individuals to the UK.
In addition, as interim independent adviser to the scheme, Martin Forde continues to provide external scrutiny and challenge on its operation and implementation. We continue to listen and respond to feedback received from stakeholders, including through the Windrush stakeholder advisory group which was launched last September, to ensure that the scheme is operating effectively and delivering for those whom it is designed to compensate. The changes announced by the Government earlier this year demonstrate our commitment to this and build on changes made to the rules last October.
I want to place on record again that no information provided by individuals as part of a claim for compensation will be used for immigration enforcement action.
The noble Lord, Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick, asked about reputational damage and where that would come in under the compensation scheme. It would be considered as part of the “Impact on Life” category, as would grief, which the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, asked about.
The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, asked about posthumous awards that might go to somebody’s estate. There absolutely is scope for that, and I think that posthumous awards have been made.
I think that it was the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, who asked about an annual conference. I am very happy to take that idea away. In her report, Wendy Williams recommends reconciliation events, so we will certainly consider that suggestion.
To go back to the compensation scheme, all the elements mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, would qualify for compensation.
My noble friend Lord Randall talked about pensions. This is not my expert area, so, if he is amenable, I will write to him.
I want to come to the lessons learned review, and I ask noble Lords to indulge me if I go a little over my time. The noble Baroness, Lady Lawrence, asked whether we will agree to all the recommendations in the review. Wendy Williams was really clear that we should resist the temptation to respond rapidly and suggested that we instead undertake a period of reflection, to engage staff at all levels to identify what should change. The Home Secretary has therefore committed to publishing the department’s response to the report within six months of publication. To address the point from the noble Lords, Lord Hastings and Lord Rosser, that would be on 19 September, if we are talking about six months from 19 March.
Noble Lords talked about various points in history when the Home Office failed the Windrush generation. Wendy Williams was clear that the injustices spanned 70 years. I would like to put on record at this point that we all need to look to ourselves and to the part that successive Governments played in how the Windrush generation was let down. Rather than the blame game, we all have our part to play.
The Windrush lessons learned implementation team has been set up to lead the response to the report, working with teams across the department and externally to take the steps needed to create a department that we can all be proud of.
The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, and my noble friend Lord Sheikh talked about trust and culture. That is at the heart of what the Home Secretary will reflect upon.
The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London talked about education and empathy. Wendy Williams made a number of points about training and education, which we are looking at very carefully. Outreach events that the department is currently running allow civil servants the opportunity to hear the stories of those who have been impacted. I can confirm that people working in the Home Office have asked me personally not to forget about the Windrush report. Yes, the Home Office has been institutionally thoughtless, but there are a lot of people working there who do not want us to forget about the Wendy Williams report, or our reflection on it and response to it.
We have already announced that we will launch an expanded cross-government Windrush working group to develop programmes to improve the lives of those affected. We will continue to listen to stakeholders as we take forward establishing this group and are committed to ensuring that the Home Office and the wider Government protect, support and listen to every single part of the community they serve.
Finally, I will talk about the EU settlement scheme and EU citizens. The EU settlement scheme has been designed to make it easy for EU citizens and their family members who want to stay in the UK to get the UK immigration status that they need. It is designed precisely to avoid another Windrush. We think that the constitutive system that we have introduced is the best approach, because it provides EU citizens and their family members with clarity about what they need to apply for, and when, and the secure evidence of their status that they need. We now have over 3.4 million applications, of which over 3.1 million have been concluded. People have until 30 June next year to apply.
I have gone over time, as usual. I am very grateful to noble Lords for the contributions that they have made. I thank everyone who has taken part in the debate.
Virtual Proceeding suspended.