I am committed to establishing a compensation scheme as quickly and as carefully as possible to help address what has gone wrong. The design of the scheme is naturally complex. I am therefore determined that we get it right and that we properly listen to those affected before taking final decisions on the design.
The Windrush scandal and the Government’s wider hostile environment policy have created an urgent need for independent advice for Windrush citizens seeking to confirm their status and access compensation. As there is no trust in the Home Office, the Black Cultural Archives in my constituency has for several months been running legal advice clinics for Windrush citizens, staffed by volunteer lawyers. They have seen hundreds of people and there remains unmet need. This essential work should not fall to volunteers. Does the Home Secretary recognise the need for independent advice from trusted organisations such as the Black Cultural Archives, and will he provide funding to enable independent advice to be available to everyone who needs it?
When I became Home Secretary, I said it was my first priority to help those affected by the Windrush situation. That is why one of the first things we did was properly staff the taskforce, and over 100 officials now work on it, ensuring that people are listened to and that applications are processed quickly. More than 2,000 applications have already been processed, most of them in a single day. Last week, we announced that some 584 applications for citizenship have been granted. I think we are dealing with this appropriately. I am always happy to listen to fresh ideas, but I think this is being taken very seriously by the Government.
A couple of months ago, I raised the issue of Raj Unalkat who was thrown out of Uganda and came to live in Taunton Deane for 40 years. As with the Windrush cases, he was welcomed to the UK but then told that he was going to be thrown out because he had no passport. Great news: today we have heard that he has got his passport. Will the Secretary of State join me in thanking everyone who helped and in praising our fast-track system, which is absolutely working? Will he work with me to try to get compensation for the work days Raj has missed?
Far too long!
I happily join my hon. Friend in welcoming that outcome. Of course mistakes are sometimes made in an organisation as big as the Home Office, with tens of thousands of applications to deal with each year, but it is appropriate that when mistakes are made they are corrected.
The Home Secretary’s letter to the Select Committee on hardship issues appears to suggest that members of the Windrush generation have been asked to sign non-disclosure agreements to get financial help before the full compensation scheme comes in. Will he confirm whether that is the case? If so, how many people have been asked to do so? Does he agree that it would be shocking if people who have been wronged by the Home Office are now being gagged by the Home Office to get the hardship support they need?
Let me be very clear that we are in the process of designing a compensation scheme. There has already been a call for evidence, and I will shortly be launching a consultation. Its design is going to be overseen independently by Martin Forde QC, and there will be no question with respect to the compensation scheme—no one will be asked to sign any kind of non-disclosure agreement or anything like that.