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Immigration: Hostile Environment

Volume 792: debated on Thursday 12 July 2018


My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat in the form of a Statement the Answer to an Urgent Question asked in the other place earlier today. The Answer is as follows:

“Mr Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to respond on this Question and want to make our position very clear. We have put in place additional safeguards to ensure that legal migrants are not inadvertently caught up by measures designed to tackle illegal migration. It is right we make a clear distinction between those who are here legally and those who are not. We have made clear that it is not acceptable that those of the Windrush generation have been impacted negatively, and have apologised.

We are keeping under constant review the safeguards that were immediately put in place. We have introduced a temporary pause in the proactive sharing of Home Office data with other organisations, including banks and building societies, for the purpose of controlling access to services. Data on persons over 30 have been excluded from sharing to ensure that members of the Windrush generation are not inadvertently affected. This is a temporary measure.

We are also providing additional support to landlords, employers and public service providers through the Home Office checking service to ensure we are not impacting the Windrush generation. We have issued new guidance, which encourages employers and landlords to get in touch with the Home Office checking service if a Commonwealth citizen does not have the document that they need to demonstrate their status. We have issued similar guidance to other government departments providing public services.

The Home Secretary has said that it is his top priority to right the wrongs that have occurred. A lessons-learned review, which will have independent oversight, will help to ensure that we have a clear picture of what went wrong and how we should take this forward. We are carrying out a historical review of removals and detentions. At the same time, our task force is helping those who have struggled to demonstrate their right to be here are supported to do so, and we have committed to setting up a compensation scheme”.

My Lords, whatever the name, hostile or compliant, with the introduction of the Immigration Acts of 2014 and 2016 by the Prime Minister, people lawfully here in the United Kingdom have been treated shamefully. How will the suspension work? In three months’ time, do the Government intend to share the data that would have been shared over that three-month period, when the temporary pause comes to an end? What are they doing to ensure that the data are accurate, as the errors in data shared leave the injustice highlighted by the scandal?

The noble Lord will know that it is not simply the 2014 and 2016 Acts that have led to what is now called the compliant environment. He will recall that, back in 1997, right to work checks were introduced. Of course, there have been right to rent checks and addition on addition of compliant environment checks to ensure that people who are in this country to work and live are so lawfully. So it is not just the 2014 and 2016 Acts. Over time, identity assurance has increasingly been a requirement.

As for the paused proactive data-sharing arrangements, we have paused it as he says with other government departments and delivery partners on data for all nationalities over 30 years old, which takes us back to 1988, for a period of three months. My right honourable friend this morning undertook to make an assessment of it from that point. That covers HMRC, the DWP and the DVLA. We have also gone further with access to financial services measures and significantly restricted proactive data sharing with banks and building societies via Cifas for persons subject to deportation action due to criminal activity.

Did the noble Lord ask another question?

The Home Office Committee is reported as saying that, unless the Home Office is overhauled, the scandal will happen again for another group of people. For example, there is nothing in this Statement about the fact that officials in the Home Office are being put under pressure by being given targets for removals from the UK. How can officials use their discretion and compassion if they have to deport another 10 people by the end of the week?

The noble Lord will have heard the previous Home Secretary talk about previous targets for removal, which there were, and which had stopped for this year—they had been ceased. There were no targets for the deportation of criminals. But the noble Lord got to the nub of the point. The Home Office and the new Home Secretary have said that we need to take a far more humane approach to dealing with people—because these are people and not just numbers. I hope the noble Lord will agree that the way in which the Windrush issue has been dealt with under the leadership of the new Home Secretary has been more than humane. He has put a prime focus on ensuring that anybody inadvertently removed by the compliant environment measures that were in place are proactively sought, and remedial action will be taken to ensure that, through the compensation scheme, any hardship they have suffered will be recompensed in due course. The noble Lord is right in the sense that the culture needs to be changed—the new Home Secretary talked about that as well—to understand and recognise that we are dealing with human beings here.

If nobody else is coming in, may I ask the Minister to look at the question I asked her a few moments ago and write to me? I was asking about the data. If she could write to me, that would be very much appreciated.

I apologise to the noble Lord that I answered an entirely different question from the one he asked. I hope the House found it helpful anyway. I shall of course write to him on the data.