The following Statement was made on Tuesday 23 June in the House of Commons.
“Yesterday, we celebrated Windrush Day, which marks the 72nd anniversary of the arrival of the ‘Empire Windrush’ at Tilbury docks. The ship carried hundreds of people who had left their homes to build a new life in the United Kingdom, and to help this country rebuild following the destruction of the Second World War. These men and women built their lives, and went on to build their homes, in the United Kingdom. They, alongside many thousands of others who made similar journeys, and their descendants, have made an immeasurable contribution to the social, economic and cultural life of our country. When Britain was in need, they answered the call.
Yet as we all know, they were the very people who went on to suffer unspeakable injustices and institutional failings, spanning successive Governments, over several decades. I have apologised for the appalling treatment they suffered, and, on 19 March, I made a Statement after I received the long-awaited Windrush Lessons Learned Review from Wendy Williams. I have apologised for the appalling treatment suffered by the Windrush generation.
The review was damning about the conduct of the Home Office and unequivocal about the
‘institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the … race and the history of the Windrush generation’
by the department. There are serious and significant lessons for the Home Office to learn in the way it operates. I and the Permanent Secretary are currently reviewing its leadership, culture and practices, and the way it views and treats all parts of the community it serves.
These reforms are only the start. I was clear that when Wendy Williams published her lessons learned review, I would listen and act. I have heard what she has said, and I will be accepting the recommendations that she has made in full. I am committed to ensuring that the Home Office delivers for each part of the community it serves, and I will come back to update the House before the Summer Recess on how we will be implementing the recommendations. I look forward to discussing the plans further with Wendy this week.
We have been working tirelessly to support the most urgent cases and those most in need. In April 2018, the Home Office set up the Windrush task force to ensure that those who needed documentation immediately could get it. A month later, the Windrush scheme was launched, providing free citizenship to those eligible for it.
The Home Office has a dedicated vulnerable persons team in place to provide immediate support to people suffering with a range of vulnerabilities, including the financial hardships and destitutions that have been well documented. The team also administers the urgent and exceptional payments scheme, which provides immediate financial payments. To the end of March this year, the team has made 35 payments, totalling more than £46,000.
Work is continuing unabated to ensure that those who suffered receive the documentation and the compensation that they need. So far, more than 12,000 people have been granted documentation by the Windrush task force, including more than 5,900 grants of citizenship, and the compensation scheme continues to make payments to compensate the losses and impacts that individuals suffered as a result of not being able to demonstrate their lawful status. The scheme was set up and designed with the backing of Martin Forde QC, in close consultation with those who were affected by the scandal, and in February I announced that I would extend it until April 2023, to give those who need our help as much time as they need to apply.
We are continuing to process individual claims as quickly as possible. The first payment was made within four months of the scheme launching, and many interim awards are being made where parts of the claim can be resolved more easily and more quickly than others. But let me be clear: it is not a blanket one-size-fits-all scheme. It was deliberately designed, with community leaders and Martin Forde QC, so that the claimant is at the heart of each and every claim.
Cases deserve to be processed individually, with the care and sensitivity that they deserve, so that the maximum payment can be made to every single person. I simply will not call for targets when it comes to dealing with claims. These are incredibly personal cases—individual cases—that must be treated with the care, the dignity and the respect that they deserve.
I want everyone who has been wronged to get the maximum compensation to which they are entitled, and through this bespoke scheme, we are working to achieve that. This compensation covers a very wide range of categories—far more than any comparable compensation scheme. It covers immigration fees; it covers loss of earnings; it covers benefits; it covers homelessness; it covers destitution. Overall, it covers 13 separate categories. Assessing claims in this way is ultimately beneficial to those who are making them, but it takes time to assess them and it takes time to get it right. While claims are being processed in full, many interim and exceptional payments have been made to make sure that people have access to money—to the funds that they need now.
Clearly, I share the desire to see more claims completed. The rate of claims has already increased significantly in the past few months: as of the end of March, more than £360,000 had been awarded, and further offers have been made of approximately £280,000. I can confirm today that more than £1 million has been offered in claims so far, and more payments and offers are being made each week, but we can—and of course we must—do more. My determination to right the wrongs and the injustices suffered by the Windrush generation is undiminished, and I will do all I can to ensure that more people are helped and more people are compensated in full. If additional resources are needed, they will be provided.
Now is the time for more action. We all have a duty to help those affected by this terrible injustice. Individuals will benefit from the compensation scheme only if they are sought out and encouraged to apply. We are working extensively with community groups and leaders to raise awareness of the Windrush task force and the compensation scheme, including with vulnerable people through the vulnerable persons team. Anyone who needs help or support to make a claim will receive it. The Home Office has funded Citizens Advice to provide free and independent advice and support, and has hosted or attended more than 100 engagement and outreach events throughout the United Kingdom. As Members know, my door is always open, so I urge Members of the House to ensure that their constituents’ cases or concerns are raised immediately with me and my team, so that they are progressed and resolved.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, I have made sure that no one is left behind. Working with community leaders, I have launched a digital engagement programme so that outreach can continue despite the current social distancing measures. The first virtual support event was held on 21 May, and on 19 March I announced a dedicated new communications campaign to promote the Windrush schemes, as well as a £500,000 fund for community organisations to run outreach, promotional and support activities to increase awareness.
We know, however, that there are a range of other issues and injustices affecting the Windrush generation and their families. Yesterday, I announced a new Windrush cross-government working group, which I will co-chair with Bishop Derek Webley. The group brings together community leaders with senior representatives from a number of government departments to address the challenges faced by the Windrush generation and their descendants, spanning programmes on education, work, health and much more. The Prime Minister and I spoke to members of the group yesterday to discuss many of the actions needed and to deliver solutions. The first formal meeting of the group will take place this Thursday. I look forward to taking the work of the group forward, alongside the inspirational co-chair, Bishop Derek Webley.
Northing can ever undo the suffering experienced by members of the Windrush generation. No one should have suffered the uncertainty, complication and hardships brought on by the mistakes of successive Governments. Now is the time for more action across the Government to repay that debt of gratitude and to eliminate the challenges that still exist for them and their descendants. Only then can we build a stronger, fairer and more successful country for the next generation. I commend this Statement to the House.”
The Windrush scandal is a national cause of shame, and the Wendy Williams review exposed the callousness and incompetence that caused such deep injustice. The Windrush generation and their families have made an enormous contribution to every aspect of our national life since the arrival of the “Empire Windrush” 72 years ago. However, many faced appalling racism, extending beyond abuse to a lack of fair access to the basic necessities of life, including housing and jobs. The Williams review has brought home the extent to which these issues, and the associated deep injustice, remain; injustices that have been highlighted by Black Lives Matter.
The Home Secretary has said that the Government are accepting all 30 recommendations in the Williams review, but we will have to wait until nearer the Summer Recess to find out how, and over what timescale, the Government intend to implement them. At the moment we are still at the stage of words, not actions, from the Government, which still have other reports, including the David Lammy review, on which they have so far failed to act. This Government are quick to set up reviews and working groups, but slow to act on findings and slow to right the wrongs identified.
In her Statement, the Home Secretary informs us that she has established another cross-government working group to address the challenges faced by the Windrush generation and their descendants. How does this further working group relate to the
“expanded cross-government Windrush working group, which will take a strategic view of a range of issues relating to Windrush and wider race inequalities”—[Official Report, 6/5/20; col. 551.]
announced by the Home Secretary on 19 March this year, to which the Minister made reference during our debate on the Windrush compensation scheme on 6 May?
On 6 May, the Minister, on behalf of the Government, said that the Home Office estimate was that the Windrush compensation scheme would cost between £90 million and £250 million, based on 11,500 eligible claims. At £250 million, that works out at just below £22,000 per head, and at £90 million, it works at below £8,000 per head. Is that still the Government’s estimate of the number of eligible claims, and is that still the Government’s estimate of the cost of the scheme? If it is, do the Government believe that an average compensation settlement, on the Government’s figures, of somewhere between less than £8,000 and just below £22,000 represents a fair figure in the light of Wendy Williams’s words that:
“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”?
The impact assessment for the Windrush compensation scheme says:
“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.”
In other words, the Government also regard the Windrush compensation scheme as likely to save them money. Could the Minister clarify whether accepting an offer of compensation under the scheme also means that the claimant can no longer take legal proceedings against the Government on this issue?
There is provision for an independent review by an HMRC adjudicator where a claimant is not satisfied with the outcome of their claim. Can the Minister confirm what appears to be the case—namely, that the Home Office can choose to reject the recommendation of an independent review?
The Government also said in the debate on the Windrush compensation scheme last month that
“the award levels take into account existing precedents and ombudsman-recommended payments.”—[Official Report, 6/5/20; col. 548.]
What are the existing precedents, bearing in mind the way the Windrush generation were treated over so many years and the damning findings and words of Wendy Williams? Also, which ombudsman’s recommended payments were being referred to?
The progress in dealing with claims to date has been painfully slow. Apparently just 60 people were granted compensation in the first year of the scheme’s operation. The Home Secretary declines to apologise for the delay, but rather accepts it and simply implies that the pace is now increasing. Can the Minister say how many staff are involved in processing claims, expressed in full-time equivalents, and whether any of this work has been outsourced? The number of those who have received payment is small compared with the Government’s estimate of eligible claims. Does the Minister think that the number of claims to date reflects a lack of confidence in a Home Office that Wendy Williams said showed “a lack of empathy”?
Can the Minister say what the average compensation payment to date has been? How many claimants have referred their claim to an independent reviewer? In how many cases has as an independent reviewer recommended a change to the original decision? Have such recommendations all been accepted in full by the Home Office?
The Home Secretary has said that she will come back to Parliament before the Summer Recess to provide an update on how the Government will implement all the Williams review’s recommendations. That will be an opportunity for the Government to show that they recognise that the time for action is now. Not to do that would be to fail the Windrush generation yet again. I accept that I have asked a number of specific questions in response to the Statement. I would appreciate being given the information I seek and will be happy to accept a written response to the specific questions that cannot be responded to today.
My Lords, one of the recommendations of Wendy Williams’ review is that the Home Office
“devise, implement and review a comprehensive learning and development programme which makes sure all its existing and new staff learn about the history of the UK and its relationship with the rest of the world, including Britain’s colonial history, the history of inward and outward migration and the history of black Britons.”
I was struck by that when I read the review and three months on it has even greater resonance. I readily acknowledge that I am someone with gaping holes in her education that need to be filled. I, for one, need to learn what I need to learn, in the widest sense. It is not only Home Office staff who need that learning.
We all know the importance of leadership. The Home Secretary and the Permanent Secretary are reviewing Home Office leadership and culture. Can the Minister tell the House whether this has external facilitation? Does it cover the whole of the Home Office?
The Home Secretary says in her Statement:
“I have apologised for the appalling treatment suffered”.
A sincere apology is not something made and then done with; it must be constant and its sincerity demonstrated by action. The Statement later refers to the challenges faced by the Windrush generation and their descendants. It is wider than that. As Wendy Williams wrote in her first recommendation:
“The sincerity of this apology will be determined by how far the Home Office demonstrates a commitment to learn from its mistakes by making fundamental changes to its culture and way of working, that are both systemic and sustainable.”
Her seventh recommendation, which follows seamlessly, is for
“a full review … of the hostile/compliant environment policy and measures—individually and cumulatively.”
It should be scrupulous,
“designed in partnership with external experts and published in a timely way.”
That policy, whatever it is called—the hostile or compliant environment policy—is far-reaching and callous. It is racist.
The National Audit Office, in December 2018, commented on the department still showing a lack of curiosity about individuals who may have been affected and who are not of Caribbean heritage, on the basis that this would be a “disproportionate effort”. “In the circumstances”, the NAO reported, “we find this surprising”.
We all need to exercise our imagination and put ourselves in other people’s shoes when we consider what actions we may take, so I am pleased to hear that the Home Secretary will be accepting Wendy Williams’ 30 recommendations in full. I do not know whether there is any significance in the future tense “will be accepting”. We look forward to their implementation and to tangible outcomes.
When we first debated the report, I acknowledged that not all the implementation could be immediate. I also acknowledge that claims made to the compensation scheme must be considered and assessed. After all, some claimants may be claiming too little. But that does not mean that every “i” must be dotted and every “t” crossed before any payment is made.
The Statement refers to the urgent and exceptional payments scheme. I will resist going down the road of exploring whether the whole situation, and the claims, are exceptional, and whether they are urgent, given the age and current situation of many if not most of the claimants, brought about by their experiences, but I will ask the Minister whether the 35 payments totalling over £46,000 made to the end of March are the same as the
“many interim and exceptional payments”
“have been made to make sure that people have access … to the funds they need now”.
The figures seem woefully small. Does the Minister have more up-to-date figures? We are used to reporting by government on a three-monthly basis and reasonably so, but I would have thought in this case that Ministers would have wanted to see how payments are going month by month, in respect of every category of payment.
I will also ask the Minister about further offers. I cannot make the amounts mentioned add up to anywhere near “over £1 million”. Can she break that figure down? Can she explain “offered”? That suggests conditionality. Are claimants expected to agree that an offer is accepted in full and final settlement? If so, what advice can they access before doing so, and is this in the spirit of the apology?
The Home Secretary said she
“simply will not call for targets.”
I agree that these are “personal” and “individual” cases, as she said—or, indeed personal and individual people—to be treated with care and respect. However, I have asked in a Question for Written Answer—it was only last week, so I am not accusing the Minister of being slow in responding—what the Government’s targets are for the number of claims settled in full and the number of interim awards made within different periods after the commencement of the scheme. Sometimes there is a place for targets, and stretch targets at that. To aim high in paying what must for many must be much-needed cash is, in my view, one of those targets.
Finally, the Home Secretary is committed to ensuring that the Home Office delivers
“for each part of the community it serves”.
That is all of us, not only those with whom it has direct contact, but those on whose behalf it acts. We would all like to feel it acted in our name.
I thank the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for those points. I join the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in paying tribute to the Windrush generation, two days on from the anniversary of the arrival of the “Empire Windrush” at Tilbury docks. He referenced the Williams review, an excellent document that is moving in so many ways and which, most importantly, tells the stories of people.
The noble Lord asked about the timescale, the Government having accepted the recommendations. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary made clear yesterday that she will come to Parliament before the Summer Recess to set out in more detail the terms of the implementation of the recommendations. It is good news that she has accepted every single recommendation.
He also asked what the differences were between the various groups—the cross-government working group, the stakeholder advisory group and the Prime Minister’s group. They complement each other. First and foremost, as he articulated, we need action. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary will be co-chairing a cross-government working group, with Bishop Webley as co-chair, and other community leaders who are equally driven to bring about the difference that we want. This is not a single-department issue; it goes right across government. The group will support us in delivering some of the practical solutions on issues spanning education, work and health, in providing that advice on our response to the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, and in upholding our commitment to the Windrush generation.
Noble Lords probably know that the Windrush stakeholder advisory group has always been central to how we have shaped our response in supporting the Windrush generation. Community leaders and groups from across the country have provided invaluable contributions and insights as part of the Windrush stakeholder advisory group, which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary launched last September. They will all complement each other in different ways.
The noble Lord asked about the lower and upper estimate, and whether it was still the same. As far as I know, it is still the same. Obviously there will be a wide range of awards within that, and in terms of whether we are mitigating the risk of litigation, the Home Secretary and I are thinking about it in a totally different way—not of mitigating litigation but of assisting people in getting the awards that they deserve and making the process easy for them. Yesterday, my right honourable friend talked a lot about how some of the cases are quite complex, because they go back many years, across different areas of government and different types of need. It is not about avoiding litigation; it is about making things as easy as possible for people.
The noble Lord also talked about HMRC being an independent arbiter. He is right that the arbiter of this is independent. Regarding work being outsourced, I do not think that it is, but I shall not give a definitive answer now. I will get back to him. He asked how many cases were referred to an independent reviewer. We are encouraging people to have their cases reviewed. Because of the breadth of this compensation scheme, it is not always appreciated how many different areas people can claim in. I cannot give a figure for the average compensation claim; if it is available, I will try to get it.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked whether we can learn about Britain’s colonial history in schools. She was talking about her own history education being confined to a very small area. Mine was confined to the unification of Italy, so I welcome any broadening of children’s history. Schools are autonomous in their ability to expand their curriculum. So much of our history is not only interesting but also frightening in some ways and great in others. As an adult, I regret not having learned more history as a child.
She asked whether this learning process is a “whole of Home Office” process. It is not just whole of Home Office; there is a lesson to be learned across government in weeding out prejudice and bias and ensuring that all people in this country can make the best of their talents and abilities. The Home Office is leading on this, but it is an endeavour for the whole of the Government. I would go further and say that it is a societal endeavour, given what we saw recently with Black Lives Matter.
The noble Baroness also asked about a review of the hostile environment. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary made it very clear yesterday that she accepts that what we have in the immigration landscape is complex. She wants to see a firm but fair immigration system in the future.
The noble Baroness also talked about stretch targets. I see her point, but the Home Secretary does not want to set any targets on where the cap is on money for the scheme. If she was asked for a target, it would be to ensure that every member of the Windrush generation who applied for their compensation gets the full amount that they are entitled to, but otherwise she is not setting targets.
The noble Baroness rightly asked for up-to-date figures on awards made. There are up-to-date figures, which must be quality-assured; they are released every quarter and will be in due course. Those figures will be higher than those I gave today and the Home Secretary gave yesterday. The noble Baroness also asked whether the offers are full and final. As I said to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, people are being encouraged to ensure that they get the full amount. In many cases, when the offers have been reviewed, the individual has been awarded a higher offer than they originally sought.
My Lords, the Windrush scandal identified a number of serious failings: institutional ignorance and institutional racism. I praise the Home Secretary’s decision to implement in full the recommendations of the independent review; she has demonstrated her commitment to ensuring that she responds to a challenging hostile environment. However, will my noble friend ensure that, alongside financial compensation, there is also mental health support, and that both are delivered speedily? Will she ensure that, as she rightly said, all departments review their processes and policies to reflect on how they, too, respond to and approach such matters?
My noble friend is absolutely right to highlight the other issues. This is not just about money; it is about a whole-of-government approach to looking at the wider inequalities faced in society. That is precisely what the cross-government working group will seek to do. Not only will it provide strategic input into the Home Office’s response to Wendy Williams’s Windrush Lessons Learned Review, but it will support the design and delivery of a range of practical solutions to address the wider challenges that disproportionately affect people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. As I said earlier, they will include programmes on education, work and health and, as my noble friend said, the mental health issues that may have arisen out of some of the difficulties that people faced.
History might include European history, Minister, but congratulations on the Statement. As “time to change” rightly becomes the mantra, what actions are under review when referring to “only the start”? We should not negate our past and the decisions of yesteryear, but we must learn from this sorry experience so that the UK is deemed respectful, tolerant and, importantly, inclusive as a nation, particularly when we consider our ongoing relationship with a broad breadth of alliances across the Commonwealth and beyond.
I agree with the noble Viscount that we can learn from the past in order to make our future world better. This cohort of people who have been systematically failed by successive Governments are a particular case in point. That is why a whole-of-government approach is being taken to look at just what the factors were, are and might be in future if we do not address them by introducing some more fairness into the way that we work.
My Lords, we are all implicated in the conscious and unconscious bias which bedevils our society. It will change only if we all take responsibility to make that change come about. Due to the age of those who came on the “Windrush”, time is of the essence in gaining compensation. Some of them have already died. What specifically is being done to speed up the process? On the more general issue, what is the relationship between the various groups, such as this cross-government working group and the race equality commission, and is the Minister sure that these groups will complement each other and expedite matters rather than confuse them?
I apologise to the right reverend Prelate because the line was not entirely clear. There was a little bit of feedback. I think he talked about the groups complementing each other and not confusing the whole picture entirely. He is absolutely right. He also talked about people who have died. That was brought up yesterday in the House of Commons. It is right that people whose parents or relatives have died take up claims for them, so the Windrush Advisory Group will be very much involved in engagement and outreach. The cross-government working group will be much broader and will look at the lessons learned report from Wendy Williams and a lot more broadly across government at what the right reverend Prelate talked about: unconscious bias and other things that plague some of the workings of our state institutions.
My Lords, the Windrush generation and their families have made an enormous contribution to our national life but have suffered massive racial injustice, aggravated by the way they have been mistreated by the Home Office over seven decades. The Williams review is damning in its conclusion of a lack of empathy. Compensation has been far too slow. There has been a lack of a sense of urgency. Implementation of the compensation scheme must now be given the highest priority and must not be slowed down by process. Perhaps we ought to have some timelines.
I thank the noble Baroness for making that point. We have got to get a balance on streamlining the process on often quite complicated situations. Yesterday my right honourable friend the Home Secretary invited Members of the House of Commons to see some of the casework that is going on to demonstrate how absolutely thoroughly we are considering and processing these claims. There is a balance to be struck between making sure that everyone gets the full amount to which they are entitled and doing it in a timely fashion. I do not disagree with the noble Baroness in part, but we need to do it thoroughly and properly and ensure that everyone gets the full amount to which they are entitled.
My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of the Windrush Commemoration Committee. For more than 40 years I have been striving for true racial equality, and I have sat on many panels and committees to address the issue—but to little avail. There are hundreds of recommendations in existing reviews; it is exasperating. So, while I welcome the formation of the Windrush cross-government committee and the promise to implement all Wendy Williams’s recommendations, if the Government are truly serious about tackling systemic racial inequality, the time has come to establish a far wider-ranging, effective and comprehensive race equality strategy. Will the Government commit to working together across government with appropriate stakeholders to implement a race equality strategy at Cabinet level?
I pay tribute to the noble Baroness for all the work she has done in this area. I hope that the progress we have made on this is some comfort after seven decades of inequality being built up because of successive Governments—we all need to look to ourselves—putting in place policies that have made it more difficult for members of the Windrush generation and others to settle and make their lives here. I shall certainly take back what she said about a race equality strategy. I hope the noble Baroness is happy about the cross-government working group in the sense that it brings in a whole-of-Whitehall approach not only to look at some of the lessons that Wendy Williams wants us to look at but to tackle the problems that occur across government departments in exacerbating race inequality.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that the Windrush scandal is only a symptom of deeper prejudice ingrained in human nature that can be tackled only with a less jingoistic and more questioning approach to the teaching of history and culture?
My Lords, would it not be wonderful and do a much better job of helping us make a prosperous new place for the UK in the world if the first thing that a prospective student read on the Home Office website was “Welcome”, if the first thing we said to someone who wanted to make their life here was “We appreciate the honour that you are doing us”, and if after that their cases and the hurdles and limitations were dealt with as if they were about people and were rooted in humanity, as Wendy Williams says? Does my noble friend think that there really is hope for such a culture change in the Home Office?
I do. I think that finally having a Government who acknowledge what went on over seven decades provides a real impetus. I find that we are one of the most tolerant countries in the world, but it is shameful how long this has been going on. Funnily enough, I looked at the internal Home Office website yesterday because I was looking up something in Parliament, and the first thing I saw was the history of the Windrush generation—so maybe things are improving already. We are certainly more knowledgeable about who the Windrush generation were, what they came here to do and the legacy of rebuilding Britain that they have achieved for us. So I have great hope—I think we must always hope—but we need to do this together.
My Lords, I respect the Minister for her diligent decency. Will she accept that, despite government promises, over 3,000 Windrush victims have still not received any kind of justice, and miserably fewer have received any compensation at all? Some have died, been deported or wrongfully imprisoned, lost jobs, pensions, homes, all their dignity and rights—leaving them and their families, all proud British citizens, utterly traumatised. Surely this is a crime against humanity, with Tory Cabinet Ministers, headed by Theresa May, responsible.
Now and in the future, we want to ensure that the people who receive compensation get the full amount to which they are entitled. The compensation scheme is very broad, so I agree with the noble Lord that, on the one hand, 3,000 not receiving any compensation at all is one thing, but we are working through the system and there are a number of offers in place. We want to ensure that people who take up those offers receive the full amount to which they are entitled, and that the relatives of people who have died—the noble Lord mentioned them, and a lot of people will have died in that time—are given the money they are due and that their parents were owed.
My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness because I know that she is very sympathetic to these matters. Does she agree with me that the Government, in particular the Home Office, failed in their legal duty to counter racial discrimination when they implemented their anti-immigration “hostile environment” programme, with devastating consequences? Will there now be swift and urgent action across all government departments, working together, particularly, as we have heard, with health services and education—I am thinking of those who are denied a university place, for example—to ensure that the families, especially those who have not already come forward, will receive the support and services they are entitled to and deserve? Justice delayed is justice denied.
My Lords, I am going to desist from making a cheap point about “hostile environment” and where it originated. I know that the noble Baroness will have heard my right honourable friend the Home Secretary say yesterday that she thought the immigration system was far too complicated and that she wanted to see a “firm but fair” system going forward.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her considered response and agree wholeheartedly with the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, that only a comprehensive race equality strategy will suffice to address embedded, institutionalised racism and Islamophobia. The Windrush report unequivocally deemed the Home Office unfit for purpose. I know the Minister accepts and understands that there is universal lack of confidence and trust in her department and its ability to manage this inexcusable scandal in a fair, humane and respectful manner. Therefore, will the Government consider how they can best work with Mr Lammy in the other place, and call on those leading and trusted individuals, including the Windrush advisory committee, to provide independent oversight as they proceed to remedy the decades of wrongs and centuries of hurt?
I think the noble Baroness will be very pleased to know that we do have a member of the Windrush generation—or their descendant, I think—on the advisory group. They must be front and centre and at the heart of absolutely everything that we do to right the wrongs of the past and introduce more equality into our society.
My Lords, I note that the compensation arrangements are a bespoke scheme which covers 13 separate categories. The scheme will need to be administered very carefully. I understand that the Home Office has funded Citizens Advice to provide free independent advice and support. I would like to make sure that the bureaux are staffed with competent persons who have the right attitudes; it is important that claims be handled swiftly and efficiently. Perhaps we need to consider having arrangements with legal aid law firms to deal with the claims. We ought to avoid any situation where middlemen are making profits out of misery. I know this has happened —my business is insurance.
I share my noble friend’s anxiety that people who could make money from Windrush might be trying to get involved and get a cut of what might be someone’s award. We have engaged Citizens Advice to help people. We have gone very far in trying to ensure that people do not need to spend money on legal advice; they can get free advice from the NACAB, which I think my noble friend will agree is a very trusted adviser.
I congratulate the Government on finally publishing this report and picking up—and hopefully implementing —all of its recommendations. Which report or review, and its recommendations, will the Government next pick up? Racism is still a problem in society. I might suggest David Lammy’s report.
My Lords, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has said she is going to come back to the House before the Summer Recess to outline progress and give more detail on some of the recommendations and the way forward for them with the cross-government working group.
My Lords, what worries me is the continual denial of proper justice to so many people—it might lead to another Windrush. In 2005, 17% of Home Office immigration decisions were overturned. Last year, 52% were overturned. There is something massively wrong, and I ask the Minister again if she will help me to get an overhaul of the Home Office’s procedures, so that we get fair justice and not another Windrush.
I think the noble Lord may be referring to the asylum process, where, yes, a high degree of claims are upheld on appeal. Part of that is because new information comes to light fairly late in the day. We are doing what we can to address this because it does not help or benefit anybody.