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Windrush Generation: 75th Anniversary

Volume 830: debated on Wednesday 24 May 2023


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what plans they have to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush generation on 22 June, and what progress they have made in relation to those plans.

My Lords, we expect Windrush Day 2023 to be a bigger national event than any year to date. In January, the Government announced that they are increasing this year’s Windrush Day grant scheme from £500,000 to £750,000 to mark the 75th anniversary, with funds aimed at commemorating, celebrating and educating people about the contribution of the Windrush generation and their descendants. We will announce all successful projects shortly. In addition, we are progressing several further events across government to celebrate and honour the Windrush legacy on this important milestone.

I am very grateful to the Minister, particularly for the additional funds that have been made available. As I am sure she is aware, many of that generation came for better education and opportunities for their children, so it is sad to note that the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities found that the only ethnic minority group not out- performing their white counterparts at age 16 is the black Caribbean and mixed white and black Caribbean cohort. Can the Minister please ask whether Windrush scholarships, in FE as well as HE, could be established?

My noble friend brings up a really interesting idea, and I will certainly take it back to my colleagues in the Home Office. I am pleased the Minister in question is sitting here, and I hope he is listening carefully because I think that would be a very nice idea for the 75th anniversary.

My Lords, I wrote to the Prime Minister in February suggesting that, like his predecessors, he host a reception at No. 10 to celebrate Windrush Day and to meet the Windrush community and Windrush victims to hear their harrowing stories. I have not received a reply. He did not attend the Stephen Lawrence 30th memorial service, despite being down to speak. The Windrush community is questioning his support for them, so can the Minister assure the House that the Prime Minister is intending to demonstrate that he cares about the Windrush 75th anniversary?

I am afraid I cannot give that sort of information about what the Prime Minister is doing for Windrush, but I can say that across government there are numerous events going on. For a start, the Foreign Secretary has visited Jamaica only recently and discussed the positive contribution that Caribbean immigration had made to the fabric of the UK. The Ministry of Defence is using Windrush 75 as part of its Armed Forces Week, and we will be announcing plans in due course about what other departments will be doing to celebrate.

My Lords, in addition to parties and such celebrations, which I am sure we all welcome, might the Government not remember the Windrush generation by adequately compensating all those who are still waiting for justice—and not getting any younger?

We are paying out continually under the compensation scheme, and the Home Office continues to make improvements to how easily people can access that scheme. We have paid out £59.55 million across 1,599 claims to the end of March 2023, a further £11.11 million has been offered and is awaiting acceptance, and a final decision has been made on 62% of the claims—so we are working on this. We are working with claimants on how we can make it easier and will continue to do so.

I thank my noble friend the Minister for sharing the plans to celebrate the Windrush generation, but can we make sure that we celebrate the full diversity of that generation—not just the Afro-Caribbeans but the Indo-Caribbeans and Chinese-Caribbeans who came to the UK and worked in public services? I declare a personal interest in that my father came in 1952 on two boats: one from Guyana to Trinidad, and then one from Trinidad to the UK.

My noble friend is absolutely right that we should celebrate the whole generation and that group of communities. Looking at what is happening in London and Birmingham, I am sure that all those communities will be represented and celebrated.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the beautiful statue in Waterloo station commemorating the Windrush generation? It shows a father looking forward with ambition and determination, accompanied by a mother and a young daughter looking around with expectation and trepidation. They are standing on a pile of suitcases, which mark all their possessions in the world. There is an accompanying poem called “You Called … We Came”.

I hear the Minister’s reflections on the amount that has already been paid out, but there are still some outstanding claims. One wonders whether it is bureaucratic difficulties, rather than genuine will, driving that. Could not all those outstanding claims be settled almost in an afternoon, with people—including Ministers, with all their genuine determination to get this fixed—sat around a table, rather than having the ongoing questions that the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, has asked about when this will finally be settled?

First, yes, the monument is beautiful; if anybody has not seen it, they should do so. It is very moving and beautiful. The Home Office is making the compensation payments as quickly as possible, but each person’s claim is deeply personal and deserves to be processed with the utmost care and sensitivity, so that the maximum payment can be made to them. That is the way we are going to deal with these claims.

My Lords, the way that this country welcomes a stranger has never been more important, as we will be reminded later today when we debate the Illegal Migration Bill. Why are His Majesty’s Government, but more specifically the Home Secretary, rowing back on the commitments they made following the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, especially on the establishment of a new migrants’ commissioner?

The right reverend Prelate is referring to the Wendy Williams recommendations. Home Office officials looked at them and recommended to the Home Secretary that three of them are not needed. Extensive consideration has been given to how we deliver all the recommendations in an appropriate and meaningful way, ensuring that individuals have the opportunities to tell all their stories, amplifying the voices of individuals, engaging with the immigration system and driving scrutiny of the department. We think that those recommendations are unnecessary at the moment.

My Lords, we all owe enormous gratitude to the Windrush generation, who played a pivotal role in rebuilding the Britain that we know today. The Minister may recall that, during a debate in January, I asked her for a timetable for the Home Office’s implementation of the Wendy Williams recommendations. Unfortunately, less than a week later, the Home Secretary announced that some measures would not be delivered. I ask the Minister today for an update on the implementation of the measures the Government are committed to. It is tragic that the Home Secretary has not learned the lessons of that appalling scandal. Are the Government still not introducing the proposed safeguards to strengthen the borders inspectorate?

As I said in a previous answer, we will not be implementing those three recommendations. I probably have not got time to address here how far we have got with the other recommendations, but I will write to the noble Lord once I get that detailed information from the Home Office.

Does the Minister agree that on the occasion of this anniversary, it would be extremely fitting for His Majesty’s Government to announce that anti-racism should be an explicit part of the national curriculum, to be taught in all our schools in England?

That should be discussed and decided by the Department for Education; but now, when we are celebrating the wonderful part that the Windrush generation has played in our society, is not the time for us to discuss that.

My Lords, the 75th anniversary is perhaps a good moment for the Government to look at the issue of frozen pensions. Many people came over, helped to rebuild Britain, went back to retire in their home countries in the Caribbean and found that their pensions had been frozen, thereby missing out on thousands of pounds. Can the Minister go back to the department and find a way to alleviate this problem?

Yes, my noble friend is right: it is an issue and a problem. I will make sure that the Home Office is working on it and we will give him an update.