Windrush - Motion to Take Note

– in the House of Lords am 12:21 pm ar 29 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Baroness Benjamin:

Moved by Baroness Benjamin

That this House takes note of the Windrush scandal and the implementation and effectiveness of the Windrush Compensation Scheme.

Photo of Baroness Benjamin Baroness Benjamin Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

My Lords, lives have been ruined, people have been falsely accused of lying and breaking the law, many have faced mental health issues and some have died without compensation—no, I am not referring to the Post Office scandal but to something equally shocking and unjust: the Windrush scandal, which I prefer to call the “Home Office scandal”, because that is what it is, the Home Office’s scandal. I have stood in this House on a number of occasions over the years, highlighting and drawing attention to this disgraceful state of affairs, and I am frustrated to bring this debate before the House once again to demonstrate that the matter is still as distressing as ever for the thousands of victims.

As we approach the sixth anniversary of the scandal emerging and the fifth anniversary of the launch of the Government’s Windrush compensation scheme, it is with great sadness—and extremely unfortunate—that we are still talking about the scandal today and not focusing on the extraordinary contribution the Windrush generation has given to our nation. The Windrush generation should be defined not by the scandal but by the enormous contribution they have made to Britain, starting back in 1948 when they were invited to come and help rebuild Britain after the war, many leaving their children and families behind. I am part of that generation and it was with great pride that I chaired the Windrush Commemoration Committee to oversee the creation of the magnificent, award-winning National Windrush Monument designed by Basil Watson, which proudly stands at Waterloo Station to celebrate this important part of our British history.

It has become a symbolic place of pilgrimage for adults who recall their trauma—and they weep. Many children who are studying Windrush visit the monument, which is so uplifting. But, sadly, the shadow of the scandal hangs over us as it remains clear that the injustices suffered by the Windrush generation still need to be addressed in a more urgent and timely manner than is currently the case. Victims are suffering from trauma and serious ill health, both physical and mental.

The number of people affected by the scandal is likely to be much higher than estimated by the Home Office. Figures vary dramatically and can be confusing but, as far as I can gather from lawyers, out of the potential 7,500 Windrush claimants—that is, those who have obtained status documents and have suffered detriment—only 2,097 have received compensation. That is £75.9 million out of the £500 million put aside.

The Home Office scandal caused by the hostile environment policy resulted in untold harm to the hard-working people of the Windrush generation. These citizens lost their homes and became homeless, living on the streets or being accommodated by friends or family in overcrowded properties. They lost access to their bank accounts and had to borrow and beg for money to survive. They lost their driving licences and their pensions. They suffered the humiliation of having to borrow from or take handouts from their adult children. They could not access benefits. They could not access the NHS, so their health suffered and many died as a consequence of the lack of timely medical treatment.

Their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren also had their British citizenship denied. Many young people’s higher education stopped as they could not establish their citizenship. Many were unlawfully detained in detention centres, causing them humiliation, shock, embarrassment and mental anguish. That, in turn, affected their physical and mental health. Many were unlawfully deported, as admitted by the Government. Some were taken to countries they did not know and had to live on the streets without family support. Many died without receiving compensation.

This is a human story, full of injustice and emotional trauma. The survivors of the scandal feel let down and unheard, and their situations misunderstood. They are not illegal immigrants, refugees or asylum seekers; they are British citizens who entered the UK lawfully to study or work.

After years of work and dedication to Britain, it has been pointed out by Age UK that one of the many hidden consequences of losing employment and entitlement to benefits due to the scandal is that many drew their private pensions early to make ends meet. This has led to reduced private pension pots. In some cases, a loss of employment may have led to the loss of a private pension. However, loss of private pensions is not currently included in the scheme’s calculation of loss of earnings. This is despite repeated calls from campaigners for the inclusion of private pensions.

While being locked out of employment, claimants have also missed out on their workplace pensions which they have accumulated over many years. This is particularly important because the majority of the Windrush victims are of, or approaching, pensionable age. Estimating these losses is complex but, as they are a direct result of action taken by the Home Office, Age UK believes that the Government should find a way to cover them in the compensation scheme. So will the Government consider including loss of future earnings, which is not currently compensated for, under the scheme?

One of Britain’s largest unions, Unison, has told me that its fears were realised as reports came in of compensation claims being delayed longer than a year, complex forms, small payments and high levels of proof. The compensation scheme has placed victims under scrutiny, treating their claims with suspicion and placing their applications and lives in limbo. This has to end.

Thankfully, there are a number of lawyers, and individuals such as Patrick Vernon, who have got organisations to join together to set up the Windrush Justice Clinic to support and assist Windrush victims. They have all told me that victims are nervous about coming forward, for they know that the same people responsible for deporting them are also dealing with the compensation scheme and believe that this scheme should be overseen by an independent body. I have received dozens of case studies to justify this.

The Government must understand that victims are coming from a starting point of having their core beliefs destroyed by this scandal. They have little or no trust in authority, meaning that lawyers assisting them must first get over the hurdle of persuading them to trust and believe that they and others are there to help—others such as Glenda Caesar. She came to the UK as a baby, lost her job as an NHS administrator in 2009, faced deportation and was denied the right to work for nearly a decade. She now represents other Windrush victims and their claims for compensation. Just last week, someone working here on the Parliamentary Estate contacted me about problems they are having with a Windrush compensation claim. I connected them with Glenda and with other agencies.

Windrush victims need support similar to those affected by the Post Office scandal. The former government adviser to the Windrush compensation scheme, Martin Forde KC, who has since become one of its fiercest critics, said that the process for the Windrush victims to claim compensation

“is still very document heavy”.

It moves very slowly and the scheme cries out for legal aid.

Retired judges, senior parliamentarians and forensic accountants all are working on the postmaster scheme. Why are the Government not applying this kind of expertise to the Windrush compensation scheme? Anyone who has seen the form will know how complex it is, especially as many claimants are in their 60s and 70s and have no access to the internet. Even lawyers and solicitors say that they are having problems with the three different types of form: the primary application form is 44 pages long; the close family member application form is 24 pages long; the representative of estate application form is 46 pages long. All come with vast online support notes and the requirement of a large number of supporting historic documents. Lawyers have told me that these forms are one of the biggest hurdles to getting people to apply.

The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee agreed, and said that the scheme should be transferred to an independent body. This is something I called for from these Benches back in 2019. I was told by the Minister that it would take up to two years to implement. That was five years ago. This scandal is not going away. As the Justice 4 Windrush campaign, led by Colin McFarlane, has shown, this has wide support from all sectors of society across the country—the campaign’s online letter to the Prime Minister has also called for an independent body to be established.

No amount of compensation can ever erase the hurt and humiliation that the Windrush generation have suffered since their arrival in the motherland, when signs in the windows read, “No Irish, no dogs, no coloureds”. I witnessed those signs. We have heard so much about righting the wrongs for the Windrush generation but the Government’s good intentions must be matched by good outcomes. The Wendy Williams compensation recommendations were accepted by the Government with good intentions, only for three important ones in the report—including having a migrant commissioner—to be rolled back on in the most disrespectful way, as I highlighted in this House last year. It is clear that the Government must demonstrate their well-crafted words of intent through well-crafted actions, and stop this further humiliation and undignified treatment of the Windrush generation.

There is an automatic payment of between £10,000 and up to £100,000 for those British citizens who have been granted documentation through the status scheme, as they have suffered a high level of impact on life. This should be decided in six weeks, said the Government, but it has taken much, much longer. Why?

To make matters worse, it has emerged that children born in the UK after 1983 are now being rendered stateless. This highlights the need for a renewed approach, working in partnership with national organisations that support those affected on a daily basis, to ensure not just that wrongs are addressed but that related issues faced by those caught up in the scandal are fully considered.

It is now more important than ever to properly resolve this situation for the thousands of people affected, with compassion, consideration and empathy, as quickly as possible in view of their age and trauma. Once they have been sorted out, their descendants’ lives can also be sorted out.

We have had five Secretaries of State dealing with the Home Office scandal, yet only one has taken the time to meet with the Windrush victims, some of whom are sitting in the Chamber today. They are proud, hard-working people who have contributed to British society, but they have been humiliated in the most disrespectful way. Will the Minister show empathy and take time to meet them personally after this debate? For progress to be made, it is essential that trust and confidence in the relationship between the Home Office and the Windrush generation is restored. Sadly, we are far, far from this. The solution should be for an independent body to deal with this scandalous, heartbreaking, cruel and shameful episode of British history, because trauma lasts a lifetime.

Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Ceidwadwyr 12:36, 29 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, on securing this important and timely debate. The noble Baroness has done so much to champion the cause of Windrush and to celebrate the contribution of this valued community to British society. The personal journey of the noble Baroness is faithfully documented in her autobiography, What Are You Doing Here?—a very good read.

My involvement in Windrush was awakened as a result of a Question I was down to answer from the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, in your Lordships’ House on the need for a dedicated national Windrush day on 22 June, the anniversary of the arrival at Tilbury of the “Empire Windrush” so many years before, in 1948. I was convinced. It was a privilege to work alongside the noble Baroness.

The Government were moved, ultimately. There was a dedicated Windrush day and a dedicated national service of celebration, the first at Westminster Abbey, and a celebration at Downing Street hosted by the Prime Minister, Theresa May—all of this with the vital three words, “with a budget”. Organised via the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government, as it then was, and securing afterwards exhibitions, music, dancing, food, historical perspectives and celebration of the vital contributions—economic, cultural, social and sporting—that have been given by this valuable community, giving an injection of diversity into national life, it was truly a great success. There were celebrations throughout the country, at Tilbury, Brixton, Manchester, Bristol, Leeds and Nottingham, and in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. I remember working alongside Paulette Simpson, Sonia Winifred and others, and the Voice magazine, all well and good. As has been mentioned, the noble Baroness headed up a committee to provide a lasting national monument. I see it regularly as I arrive at Waterloo station en route to your Lordships’ House—it is very fine indeed. Nobody could have done more than the noble Baroness—all this positivity and hope.

Meanwhile, alas, shamefully, the Windrush scandal was unfolding. The original Windrush settlers arrived in 1948, over 75 years ago. They were the first members of a generation who had been encouraged to move to the United Kingdom—our country—to help rebuild a new, regenerated United Kingdom after the ravages of the Second World War. And help rebuild it they did, with vital contributions to national services and national life.

My Lords, fast forward to the Immigration Act 1971. This Act gave Commonwealth citizens the right to live and work here in the United Kingdom; this was, after all, their country. People had built their lives here and generations followed them. Then, in 2017-18, it was revealed that many citizens who had lived here totally legally for generations, many of them from the Caribbean, were wrongly refused access to basic public services or charged for services that were theirs by right; in some cases, people were detained and deported. Just ponder that for a while. They were people with every right to be here—our fellow country men and women. This was, and is, a matter of national shame.

Our Government—a British Government—had no proper records and no appropriate paperwork and had, in many instances, seemingly destroyed landing slips for boats that had recorded people’s arrival dates many years before. This rightly caused horror and outrage at the injustice and the hardship inflicted. There was a need for drastic action. As has rightly been stated, the scandal raised serious questions about the Home Office, race and our country—and still does. Theresa May apologised and some positive action did follow: close to 16,000 people who did not have documentation then received it. Some—the accent is on “some”—compensation was paid, but not enough and not quickly enough in view of the massive losses inflicted.

Meanwhile, in June 2018, a review was set up. The Home Office appointed Wendy Williams, then Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, to conduct an independent review of the Windrush scandal, focusing on events from 2008 onwards. The review was published in 2022 and did not pull its punches. It is worth noting that, alongside this review, a transformation unit was set up in the Home Office to deal with the Windrush situation and carry forward Windrush policy. This was a reform agenda that successive Home Secretaries—Sajid Javid, Priti Patel and, initially, Suella Braverman; I stress “initially”—pledged to follow. My first question to my noble friend the Minister, who is certainly not personally to blame for the stuttering policy and serious errors that have been made, is this: why was that unit disbanded? I hope that he will do better than suggest that it is due to the significant progress we have seen—a suggestion that has been made previously and is, frankly, not credible. It is what might be called, if I may borrow a couple of phrases from across the pond, baloney or hogwash—or worse.

This brings me to the Wendy Williams review. I ask my noble friend: how many of the 30 recommendations that were accepted in full by the Government at the time have been implemented in full, and how many are yet to be completed? As we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, three key recommendations were ditched by Suella Braverman although they had previously been accepted in full by the Government. The ditching of those recommendations was bemoaned and labelled a mistake by Theresa May in her compelling review of what happened in her book, The Abuse of Power. The recommendations included, as the noble Baroness said, the appointment of an independent migrants commissioner; the review and strengthening of the role of the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration; and the organisation of reconciliation events between members of the Windrush generation and officials and Ministers. Why did the Government go back on their acceptance of these key recommendations? Why, why, why? Was it all down to the personality of that particular Home Secretary? If so, will the position be reviewed by the current Home Secretary and those recommendations restored? I do hope so.

Let us be honest about the position we are in. Among a generation of people and their descendants, largely from the Caribbean, many have been treated abominably. There was recognition of that by Theresa May, the then Prime Minister, and some action, but not enough and not speedily enough. Rather than take our foot off the accelerator and apply what appears to be a handbrake turn, as was done under Suella Braverman, we should press full steam ahead. Every time the Home Office feels inclined to veer to the complacent, the smug and the self-congratulatory, it needs to remind itself of the people who have died without a penny piece of compensation. It needs to remind itself of the backlog of claims and the complex forms that had to be filled in. Above all, it needs to remind itself of the outstanding compensation claims that exist and of the searing, justified, burning sense of injustice rightly felt by a section of our own community—by our very own country men and women.

Photo of Lord Davies of Brixton Lord Davies of Brixton Llafur 12:46, 29 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, it is the 1950s. Ferdy, Bernie, Dennis and Lennie arrive in London from the West Indies full of optimism about their futures. That is the opening premise of the musical, “The Big Life”, which has returned to the Theatre Royal Stratford East. Life turns out to be harder than they expected.

I mention this because it is where Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” meets the Windrush generation. It is not just a great ska musical; it is also a timely reminder of how much we owe each other and how much we have all benefited in different ways, as was highlighted so strongly by the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin. Another reminder is the welcome decision by the Mayor of London to choose Windrush as the designation of one of the untangled Overground lines. Appropriately, the Windrush line goes through Brixton—we will leave for another day the unfortunate fact that it does not stop there—and, as has already been mentioned, there is a Windrush sculpture in Waterloo Station.

Recognition of the Windrush generation’s role in these different ways is of course welcome; equally, what would be even more welcome is fulfilling the promise of compensation for the British citizens from the Commonwealth who were wrongfully deported, detained and denied their rights. A promise made is not the same as a promise delivered. Much more needs to be done to address fully the harm caused by past policies and neglect, which is why I heartily welcome today’s debate and thank the noble Baroness for her excellent, compelling speech. I also welcome the strong speech from the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth. He mentioned many people who have been involved in this campaign but I particularly welcomed his reference to the work of Sonia Winifred. I look forward to the Government’s response to the powerful arguments being presented—although, at this stage, I must say that I do so without a lot of optimism.

The Government’s failures concerning the Windrush generation must be highlighted in five key areas. The first is legal status and documentation. Changes in immigration law over the years did not account for these individuals, leaving them without easy access to the necessary paperwork to prove their right to live in the United Kingdom. Given the passage of time and complexity of the issues involved, the burden of proof should be appropriate, which it clearly is not at the moment.

Secondly, we must account for the “hostile environment” policy that ruled for too long. Without documentation to prove their legal status, many were denied access to healthcare, housing, employment and benefits. Some were detained; some were even deported. These harms were not one-offs: they echoed throughout their lives and down the generations.

I mention here the case of the significant number of British citizens who were chronically sick and mentally ill but sent to Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean between 1958 and 1970. The policy was that each patient should have

“expressed a wish to return” and be sent only if there would be “benefit” to the patient and “suitable arrangements” in the receiving country. In practice, it has to be asked whether vulnerable patients had the capacity to make such decisions, and it is far from clear that the receiving countries had the capacity to provide these people with adequate care.

The third issue is the lack of government support and action. Although the Government have acknowledged the injustices faced by the Windrush generation and established the compensation scheme, the process has been too slow, too complex and inadequate to address the losses and hardship experienced. This has already been explained clearly. A major problem is the lack of support for claimants. I understand from an excellent report in the latest edition of the Brixton Bugle that Southwark Law Centre is taking the Government to the High Court for refusing legal aid to a claimant through the Windrush compensation scheme, and I wish them every success.

Another concern, in the research from the King’s College legal clinic, is that, of comparable compensation schemes, the Windrush compensation scheme has statistically

“the lowest success rate and highest refusal rate for applicants, with only 22% (1,641) of those applying receiving compensation and 53% of initial applications being refused”.

We must ask how many of those are because of the sheer complexity of the process rather than the fact that they were not entitled. I hope that the Minister will address these concerns in his response. Additionally, are sufficient resources being provided to the relevant high commissions so that they can support claimants resident in those countries?

The fourth aspect is that this is part and parcel of the racial discrimination that the Windrush generation has had to face as part of the broader issue that all people from minority-ethnic groups have faced within the UK’s immigration system. The challenges continue to demonstrate systemic issues of racism and discrimination, which need to be addressed. A dedicated unit is the only real answer to that problem.

Then there is the impact on people’s lives. The Government’s failures have had a profound impact on the lives of many members of the Windrush generation, affecting their mental health, financial stability and sense of belonging to the United Kingdom. I highlight the mental toll on claimants and their families caused by the Government’s inadequate response. Even after the initial crisis, victims continue to face negative experiences because of these policies. The trauma experienced by the Windrush generation can be passed down to subsequent generations. Families must grapple with the emotional aftermath, affecting the mental well-being of children and grandchildren.

I very much hope that the Minister will be able to give us some hope in his response that these issues will be addressed.

Photo of Lord Woolley of Woodford Lord Woolley of Woodford Crossbench 12:54, 29 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I also pay tribute to my dear noble friend Lady Benjamin. She is right to say that this scandal should not define the Windrush generation, but she is equally right to say that we must address it and effectively deal with it.

As has been said by many, the treatment of the Windrush generation is one of the country’s greatest contemporary scandals. Six years ago, almost to the day, the nation began to wake to the reality of a hostile immigration environment that had been in place for decades. Only then, six years ago, were the trauma, heartache and pain laid fully bare, thanks in no small measure to the dogged determination of those such as Amelia Gentleman, Patrick Vernon, Lee Jasper and many others. As a matter of fact, back in 2019 I joined Lee Jasper and other campaigners in a march on Westminster demanding justice.

It is worth reminding ourselves of how this scandal affected tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent people’s lives, some directly and many others indirectly. More than 160 individuals were deported or detained. For example, grandparents who had lived here for more than half their lives were deported to countries they had not visited since early childhood. Some went on holiday to visit families and were not allowed back into the country. Many were financially ruined or sacked, found themselves destitute and were blacklisted—I hate that term—from jobs, unable to open bank accounts and denied life-saving medical treatment. These British citizens were demeaned and hounded by the state—the state that this most loyal of British generations called the mother country.

Think about this for a second. Can you ever ask for a greater loyalty than from a generation whose ancestors were enslaved and then colonised by the UK but who nevertheless fought in two world wars to ensure the freedom of that nation and then, after the war, accepted the pleas of politicians such as Enoch Powell—there is an irony there—to come and rebuild a post-war broken Britain? These remarkable citizens, with the purest of hearts, rightly or wrongly referred to this nation as the mother country.

It is this generation, my mother’s cohort, who the King of England and much of the Commonwealth described as pioneers. He went on to say, as part of the Windrush 75th anniversary celebrations:

“History is, thankfully and finally, beginning to accord a rightful place to those men and women of the Windrush generation … It is, I believe, crucially important that we should truly see and hear these pioneers who stepped off the Empire Windrush at Tilbury in June 1948—only a few months before I was born—and those who followed over the decades, to recognise and celebrate the immeasurable difference that they, their children and their grandchildren have made to this country”.

For the record, the King held two wonderful events to celebrate the 75th anniversary: one at Buckingham Palace, which I and my noble friend attended, and another at Windsor Castle. In sharp contrast, I am not aware of any celebratory events that No. 10 or the Home Office held for the 75th anniversary celebrations, but I am very much aware that this Government and subsequent Governments have treated this generation with utter contempt.

Around the week of the Windrush 75th anniversary celebrations, for example, the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman—not one for much empathy towards people of African descent, Muslims, and those who crossing the channel—did little or nothing beyond announcing the abandonment of three of Wendy Williams’ key Windrush recommendations.

They are worth noting again. Recommendation 3 is that the Home Office should

“run a programme of reconciliation events with members of the Windrush generation … Recommendation 9 … introduce a Migrants’ Commissioner responsible for speaking up for migrants and those affected by the system directly or indirectly … Recommendation 10 … Review the remit and role of the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, to include consideration of giving the ICIBI more powers with regard to publishing reports”.

Since those six years, what has changed? What has been achieved? Well, according to Age Concern and the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, not enough. Simple facts: about 15,000 undocumented people have been given paperwork by the Home Office since the scandal, proving that they have, and always had, the right to live here. Officials initially expected that a similar number might claim for compensation, and anticipated paying out somewhere upwards of £200 million. Some progress has been made—so far, the scheme has paid out £75 million to 2,000 claims—but the scheme remains slow and bafflingly complex, and demanding of sophisticated legal advice.

Navigating this process is difficult for any legal advisers, so how can someone stripped of their dignity, and not working, even begin to navigate this complexity? The victims of the Windrush scandal are not offered legal aid and, as such, this House should note and recognise, with great shame, that people are literally dying while waiting for justice. To date, 53 individuals have died waiting.

Have the Government and the Home Office learned anything from this very brutal abuse of power scandal—one which, as has been said, has similarities with the Post Office scandal? It appears not.

According to the indomitable Amelia Gentleman, the Home Office team that was tasked with transforming the department after the Windrush scandal has been formally disbanded. Three teams with the directorate were working on post-Windrush issues: one on ethics—think about that for a second—another on training and monitoring progress on reform commitments and a third on engagement, who were told, “Your work is over”.

After many years of deep suffering, how do we properly right this wrong to a generation that deserves better? Step one—urgently—take this away from the Home Office. It has proven incapable and/or unwilling to effectively deal with this. For me, it is a little bit like an unrepentant burglar being asked to give back the booty they have stolen from victims: it ain’t happening. Step two—give free legal aid and fast-track compensation, with clear published targets. Step three—lower the burden of proof for claims and compensate fully for losses and impact on life. Step four—reimplement those teams that were engaged with the work on ethics. Might I suggest that, right across government, a standing item with every prospective policy legislation should have this? Step five—full implementation of Wendy Williams’ review, with a turbocharged team to deliver.

Finally, I would like to see, and my friends visiting today would like to see, a gathering of all those Prime Ministers still alive and with us from the 1970s to come here, collectively, and sincerely apologise. They include John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak. We need a collective, heartfelt apology for the damage caused, before it is too late.

Photo of Baroness Burt of Solihull Baroness Burt of Solihull Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol 1:05, 29 Chwefror 2024

I congratulate my noble friend Lady Benjamin on securing this debate, for the eloquent and passionate speech she made today, and for the brilliant monument installed at Waterloo station last year, to which her tireless campaigning led.

Although many people will have heard about the Windrush scandal, they—like me—may not know how it arose. The tale is worth retelling, because it sets the context of how the Windrush scandal was allowed to arise, and how it went from bad to worse. Under the Immigration Act 1971, foreign nationals ordinarily resident in the UK were deemed to have settled status and given indefinite leave to remain. However, many people were not issued with any documentation confirming their status, and the Home Office did not keep a full register confirming who was entitled to this status. So the fault for what subsequently happened lies, at least in part, at the door of the Home Office.

Then we had the “hostile environment”, initiated by Theresa May in 2012 with the intention of deterring illegal immigrants—but the Home Office started checking more widely. By late 2017, media coverage started to pay attention to individual cases of long-term residents facing hardship due to their difficulties in proving their lawful immigration status. Jobs, homes, healthcare and welfare benefits were lost, as we have all heard. People were detained, removed from the UK and denied re-entry to their homes following trips abroad.

I can only imagine what it must have felt like to be faced with billboards saying, “Go Home or Face Arrest” and the psychological distress felt by people whose residence was suddenly called into question after so many years. Research by the University of London found that psychological distress suffered by the Windrush population rose markedly after the Immigration Act 2014 and the subsequent Windrush scandal came to light. This had a worse psychological effect than the coronavirus on the general population.

Some interim measures to redress the damage were introduced and Theresa May apologised in words to the effect of, “But I didn’t mean you”. But it was too late—the hostile environment had spread and infected large parts of the white British psyche.

We have heard that, in 2018, Wendy Williams began her review of “lessons learned” and made 30 recommendations, which were accepted in full by the then Home Secretary Priti Patel. The compensation scheme was introduced in 2019, administered by the Home Office. It is shameful to note that by 2023, fewer than 2,000 claims had been settled—only 13% of the outstanding claims.

UNISON has commented that the Home Office administrators of the compensation scheme have

“placed victims under scrutiny … treated their claims with skepticism and placed their … lives in limbo. For too many of those affected, the compensation scheme feels like more of the same rather than … justice”.

The Home Office, aided and abetted by the “hostile environment”, was clearly the source of the problem. I cannot see it being capable of delivering the solution any time soon, given its record so far. It seems clear to me that administration of the compensation scheme, as has been called for by so many others, should be placed in independent hands. Age UK and many others, including the Lib Dem group here, are calling for this.

Even when compensation has been offered, some offers were insultingly low and arguably the most important element of all—loss of private pension—was not considered, consigned to the “too difficult” box. Many of these individuals are now pensioners, with no opportunity to make up the lost pensions they would have received.

After Priti Patel accepted the Wendy Williams recommendations in full, the next Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, reneged on three—to have a migrant commissioner to engage with migrants directly, to have a review of the remit and role of the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, and to have reconciliation events with Windrush families. Wendy Williams said that the Home Office must

“open itself up to greater external scrutiny” and advised it that it was

“vital to improve the accountability, effectiveness and legitimacy of the system”.

UNISON is currently working with other parties to provide a legal challenge to this decision and has been given permission to go to the High Court this spring. In September 2021, Wendy Williams reviewed progress and said that the Home Office was

“potentially poised to make the … changes it needs to”.

Given that in 2023 it was only 13% through the case load, I wonder whether she is anywhere close to being satisfied.

I will ask four questions of the Minister. First, will the Government ask Ms Williams to include a further independent review of progress as part of her current wider remit to look at the Home Office’s functioning more generally?

Secondly, a Home Office source said that they were worried that reneging on three of the recommendations previously committed to signalled that it was

“rolling back from the commitments that we publicly made about not repeating those mistakes”.

What evidence does the Minister have that this is not the case, and that the hostile environment is a thing of the past?

Thirdly, will the Government hand the management of the compensation scheme to an independent body? It would help to restore trust and confidence. If the Minister was considering responding by saying that this would prolong completing the job even further, perhaps he could consider that it could hardly be slower.

Fourthly, on pensions, will the Government consider creating a team of actuaries to work solely on pensions claims? That way, it would not hold everything else up.

Before I sit down, I will refer to another, bigger picture that we might want to consider here. I wonder how many, if any, illegal immigrants actually gave up and went home, or were deterred from coming to the UK at all by the “hostile environment”. It certainly has not stopped people risking their lives in small boats in the channel—as we saw only yesterday from the tragedy in the news.

We can conclude that the Government’s immigration strategy is a failure, except in one sense. It has succeeded in helping to stir up racism and racial intolerance in this country and has fostered hatred against all immigrants and even people of second, third and further generations back. After all, the Home Office only responds to the tone set by the Government of the day; unfortunately, the Government of the day have been the Conservative Party, which has been setting the hostile environment tone for far too long.

Photo of Lord Adebowale Lord Adebowale Crossbench 1:15, 29 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, it is quite hard to contribute to this debate following the contributions of the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, for whom respect is required, the noble Lords, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, Lord Davies and Lord Woolley—we are good friends—and the noble Baroness, Lady Burt of Solihull.

My humble contribution is in honour of the people sitting in the Gallery, because they are dignity incarnate. I am pretty certain that the Windrush generation will not be known as a result of this scandal. It will not be their legacy. But the Home Office will be known. The Home Office’s culture, standards, values and purpose will be known as a result of this scandal.

This is outrageous. We all know it—not just those sitting in this Chamber but those outside. We all knew it when those lorries were driving around London talking about a hostile environment. We all knew that it did not just mean illegal migrants. On my journeys through London, the looks and comments I received—it was permission. It was the lowering of the standards of tolerance, grace, acceptance and dignity that this country is known for throughout the world. It was underlined by the Windrush scandal.

The Home Office’s culture is simply not fit for purpose if it cannot protect or administer for all citizens of this country equally. It should be of deep concern to this House that British citizens were abandoned by the Home Office, which as taxpayers they actually contributed to paying for. The apology was woefully inadequate then and, frankly, is woefully inadequate now.

The compensation process can be described only as cruel. It is almost designed to avoid the recognition of the continued trauma of the loss of income and pensions, already mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin. Why has it taken so long for this outrage to be resolved in favour of British citizens who have been so badly treated and wronged? One has to wonder why these victims of injustice have had to wait so long.

It is true that Age UK should be thanked for maintaining the spotlight on this outrage, but we should also pay tribute to my good friend Patrick Vernon, Amelia Gentleman and Colin McFarlane, whose film must be required watching and listening for anyone who takes seriously their role as a legislator in this country. Their tireless campaigning has kept this disgrace on the books.

In the context of the Post Office scandal, where the pace was immediate and the response instant, the Windrush scandal is glacial by comparison. What are we waiting for? What is the Home Office waiting for? What are the Government waiting for? I have to tell the House that, as the son of a nurse and the chair of the NHS Confederation, I note that many of the victims of this scandal have given loyal service to the NHS for many years.

The reason why the Windrush scandal is so important and goes beyond the incalculable pain and anguish of the victims is that it sends a signal not just to the Windrush generation but to all those people who look like them, speak like them, admire them or are younger than them. It sends a signal to people in this country who live with the Windrush generation about how much we care. The fact is that five Home Secretaries, given the responsibility of resolving this matter, did not even meet them. What greater signal could that send? We all know that what the chief executive does, what the chair does, sends a signal throughout the organisation. This is the Home Secretary we are talking about; it was unacceptable, incompetent and uncaring. Saying sorry just is not enough.

Seeing this outrage as urgent is the Home Office’s primary duty—a duty that it has ignored to date. The noble Baroness, Lady Burt, commented on “We don’t mean you”; I am sorry, but you do—you mean me, my family and all those people who care. In support of my noble friend Lord Woolley’s excellent recommendations, I say that it is critical that a specialist unit be set up to expedite the Windrush claims now. There is no excuse for the Home Office to continue the abuse of these good people. A second apology is due not only to the victims of the Windrush scandal but to the Windrush generation as a whole. I do not want to see parties; I want to see apologies. It is a generational scandal.

The noble Lord, Lord Bourne, asked a pertinent question about why. Why under Suella Braverman was an anchor placed on the progress and procedures that had been put in place to reverse this outrage? I would like an answer. We need to send a different signal not just to the Windrush generation but to the country as a whole. That signal needs to be a message of gratitude, dignity and apology to that generation who helped build the NHS and fought in two world wars, often going unrecognised, and who have built, with many others, this great country.

Photo of The Bishop of Newcastle The Bishop of Newcastle Bishop 1:23, 29 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, for securing the opportunity to debate this important topic. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, for his speech; it is an honour to follow him and with him I wish to acknowledge and honour those sitting in the Chamber today. I am personally indebted to the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, for being an inspiring role model. Being one of her “Play School” babies—I was born in 1973—I grew up with her visibility firmly in my view. However, as a child, and even as a young adult, I had no knowledge of her story or indeed of the narrative of the Windrush generation and the scandal associated with it. She has had an indelible impact on my life and being in her company in this House is a tremendous honour.

In the other place yesterday, a Question was asked about another matter of delay, the infected blood scandal compensation. This, and other areas of concern, such as Grenfell and the Post Office, mean that we have a tapestry of issues with recurring themes of redress, compensation and delay. Yet these are not just issues; they are about lives and they are about justice. I must note the disparity in processes that the noble Lord just mentioned.

I am only too aware that the Church of England is rightly getting its own house in order, albeit not fast enough. The noble Lord, Lord Boateng, is working tirelessly in his role as chair of the Archbishops’ Commission for Racial Justice. In her closing speech in a debate at the Church of England’s recent General Synod, the Bishop of Dover reflected that representation at all levels of the Church is not yet where it should be. In 2020, the members of the General Synod voted unanimously to apologise for the Church’s racism and to give thanks for the contribution of the Windrush generation and their descendants to British life and culture.

In my own context of north-east England, the city of Newcastle is passionate about its sport, particularly football. It is well documented that children of the Windrush generation changed football in Britain for ever. They confronted discrimination not just on the pitch, but, as the anti-racism charity Kick It Out reports, these players

“have had to cope with the additional pressure of beating racists on the terraces … in the media and in the boardroom”.

In 1996, the former Newcastle and Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, from his own experience of racist abuse, helped to found the charity Show Racism the Red Card. From its north-east origins, this charity now works tirelessly across the UK and plays a vital role in tackling racism within professional and grass-roots football. With this sporting context in mind, this issue is not a siloed one; it is about all of life, recreational and cultural, and especially about the lives of those who still wait for recognition and compensation. That is why we are here today, shamefully.

In my own life and work, calls for justice and reconciliation are deeply ingrained throughout the biblical narrative. Other faith traditions also speak into these themes. I find it deeply distressing that, as other noble Lords have pointed out, people have died waiting for their Windrush compensation claims to be processed. The noble Lord, Lord Woolley, told us that there have been 53 deaths. In 2023, there were more than 2,000 claims where victims received a zero payment, more than double the number in the same period in 2022. It is not hard to see or understand the impact of delays, and it is not surprising that claimants distrust and feel suspicious about the Home Office. They must feel that they are being retraumatised. They are being retraumatised by being asked for documents and proof in the same way that they were asked to try to prove their residency in the first place.

This scheme was meant to be designed to compensate for the failings of the Home Office in the Windrush scandal and to provide justice for those people, yet it seems that the tenor of many claimants’ interactions with the Home Office does not reflect that. A new report by University College London has found that government policies had a worse effect on the mental health of black Caribbean people than the pandemic lockdown had on the wider population, as the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, mentioned in her speech. This increase of psychological distress deepens the trauma and injustice.

Calls from victims, Members of this House and of the other place and many campaign groups to address all these matters are ongoing and are also seeking to ensure that legal aid is guaranteed to all eligible claimants, because this is a huge barrier, as the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, said. I, too, ask the Minister whether the Government will provide this or at least a system to recover legal costs, as the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, indicated in his excellent speech.

In the progress report on the “lessons learned review”—this has been referred to in many speeches—and in follow-ups, Wendy Williams said that the review of the compliant environment policies remains essential to ensuring that the Home Office learns from past experience and adopts a more compassionate approach. That matter was raised again in this House by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister of Burtersett, in November last year. Once again, I ask the Minister: what has happened to that review? We must surely rebuild the public’s trust in our Government. I fear there is a risk that the compensation scheme meant to redress injustice is becoming part of the problem and a source of injustice in itself.

Again, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for tableting this debate today. I commit to following her tireless work in this matter and to offering what support I can in my role.

Photo of Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Llafur 1:30, 29 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I feel that there is little I can say that will deepen the feelings we have heard expressed, mitigate the experiences that have been described to us or strengthen the arguments that have been put forward by the noble Lords who have spoken before me. I do not want simply to offer a gesture of support. I can only undertake in my daily life to put into practice the high ideals that they set and to live by the tenets of justice to which they have appealed. In that respect, therefore, I do not expect to have much of substance to say in this debate, but I did not want to miss the chance to say even that.

I have to say that the noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, and my friend, the noble Lord, Lord Woolley—and, in a moment, the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, by anticipation—are people who have kept us on our toes. However, I want to say a word of respect for one other contributor to this debate from across the Chamber: the noble Lord, Lord Bourne. It takes a bit of guts when you are in government to speak from the Government Benches as openly and frankly as he has. Yesterday, he was in an audience to which I spoke, and he said nice things to me afterwards; I am so delighted to have the chance to return the compliment today.

In thinking about this debate, I was on two tracks as to any contribution I might make. The first was to take the report of Wendy Williams and make it the basis for our debate, but I would want to do that only if we went one at a time through the 30 recommendations she made to see what progress had been made in respect of each one. I know that we would pause at recommendations 3, 9 and 10 and possibly have rather longer debates there, but I would rather like to see how we measure the progress against all 30 of them. Granted, even 10 minutes each would not allow us to do that.

In the time available to me now, I can say only this: what a contrast it has been for me, as a member of your Lordships’ House, in the past three or four years as we have dealt with three pieces of legislation relating to immigration—the Nationality and Borders Act, the Illegal Migration Act and, soon, the Rwanda Act—which, when they were before us, commanded energy and support from the Benches opposite. Where there is a will, there is a way. The Government were definitely showing that they had a will: they therefore wanted to push matters through with energy and as quickly as possible. Contrast that with the length of time it has taken to deal with these proposals. Do not the Government feel that it would be a good thing to be able to say to the House, “Here are the proposals”—they may well be in line with those of the noble Lord, Lord Woolley—“and they will be enacted in the next year. We will put the same energy that we put into those other migration-related pieces of legislation into getting this sorted once and for all”? Would that not be simply wonderful? However, I suggest that noble Lords look at the well-peopled Government Benches today and ask themselves whether that will could possibly be mustered in respect of this matter.

Again and again in the debates surrounding the three Acts of Parliament that I mentioned, we have been told that it is important to stop the boats because the people of Britain want it. I do not know on what basis those who said those words really understood what they were saying but I know that, if we can get this matter wrapped up and dealt with quickly, it will be what the people of Britain want.

On that note, I am very happy, with four minutes of credit to everybody concerned, to take my place again.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green 1:35, 29 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port. The comparison that he made between the cascade of immigration of legislation we have seen being pushed through the House and what has happened with the Windrush scheme was telling. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, for securing this debate for us—although I join her in regretting that she has had to—and for introducing it so powerfully.

It is an honour to take part in this debate of the absolute highest quality so it seems unfair to single people out—but everyone says that before they do it anyway. I particularly single out the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, for so powerfully setting the scene of the enormous contributions made. I should warn the noble Lord that I intend to clip his speech and put it out on social media—be warned. I also join others in crediting the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, who has today powerfully carried the Back-Bench flag for his own Benches all on his own.

I will not apologise for briefly repeating some of the things that have been said before because it is important to see that they are driven home. It is telling that a number of people have referred to the Age UK report, which came out today. The fact that it is Age UK that produced the report is a reminder that there is huge urgency in dealing with this matter; people are dying before they receive compensation, which is important, but also before they receive the acknowledgment that comes with it, which is even more important to many people. As Age UK has said, it must not be too late. We cannot let more people go to their graves uncompensated for the enormous harm that they and their families have experienced.

We have heard the figures: by the end of 2023, fewer than 2,000 individuals had been offered compensation, and it was often clearly inadequate. That is fewer than one in seven of those who had been estimated to be eligible. Only around 7,600 claims have been made—little more than half of what was thought to be needed. What do we do? I offer strong Green Party support to the idea, which others have mentioned, of an independent body to take over this. For all the reasons that have been outlined by almost every speaker, the Home Office is inappropriate to handle the situation; indeed, it is not handling it. People are fearful of approaching the Home Office as it is associated with the hostile environment, and the administrative delays and errors in the appeals process mean that it just is not adequate. I pick up the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, and others, that the scheme must include compensation for the loss of private pensions and future earnings.

I also agree with the noble Baroness and others that this should be called the Home Office scandal, but I am afraid that I would turn that round and say that the Home Office is a scandal—a long-standing, enormous blot on the landscape of our governance. The Green Party’s position is that we need to split the Home Office in two. It is impossible for it to be both the policer of immigration and the body that is supposed to facilitate people’s entry into the UK and welcome them. However, we would go wider than the scandal and the failure of the Home Office; quite simply, our Government are not working at the moment. The Windrush scandal is a powerful demonstration and illustration of the fact that it is the most vulnerable and the poorest who pay the highest price for government dysfunction; this is something that is systemically true, not just true in this case.

I again echo the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, that no amount of compensation can make up for the suffering. However, it is an acknowledgment, and that is crucial. It is an acknowledgement not just of individuals but of the continuing problems in our society. A point that has not been highlighted is that it could be a powerful step towards healing the problems of racism in our society if an independent body is created and this situation is resolved as fast as possible, and people get the compensation they deserve.

While thinking about this, I have been looking at some of the recent reflections on racism in our society. Kalwant Bhopal, professor of education and social justice and director of the Centre for Research in Race and Education at the University of Birmingham, has focused on what is happening in our universities. She says that they are often taking tokenistic measures and failing to confront their complicity in racial injustice. The professor noted:

“There are only 100 black professors in the whole of the UK, and only four … Vice Chancellors” from minoritised communities. Curricula remain underweighted on issues of slavery, colonialism and imperialism. When people work on racism and social justice issues, it is too often considered personal research and something affecting them, and not something that gets the proper professional weight.

Reflecting on racism today, there is a major study, which I fear has got very little attention, from the University of Manchester, the University of St Andrews and King’s College London. The evidence for equality national survey, carried out by the Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity, reports that more than one-third of people from minoritised communities in Britain have experienced some form of racist assault. The report stresses that

“tackling racism is not just a case of merely removing ‘bad apples’ from workplaces and institutions … we need to seriously transform the policies and procedures”.

This has been a hugely powerful debate. I am not going to use my full 10 minutes because I want to keep the focus on the key points about Windrush. However, I will finish with a final question. If the Minister cannot answer this—I am aware it is not within his departmental responsibility—I hope that he might be able to write to all of us. It is important for us all to know how much is being taught in primary and secondary schools about the Windrush generation and the injustice they have suffered. It is crucially important that future generations know what has happened and have an understanding of the processes of what happened. The point, of course, is to make sure that we have change and do not find ourselves in your Lordships’ House in 10 or 20 years confronting a new, similar scandal.

Photo of Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick Crossbench 1:43, 29 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, all of us who have spoken so far in this debate have done so because of our profound respect and love for the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, but also because the Windrush reality confronts us, and we feel angered and aggrieved at the obvious discriminatory outcome that the Home Office is facilitating. The facts speak for themselves. We have said them; we know them; we understand them. If this was another ethnic group of people, it would not be this way. We encourage the Home Office to deny it.

My father came here in 1952. He came from Savanna-la-Mar, in Westmoreland, in Jamaica. He came here to join the NHS as a dentist. He brought my mother, who was a young nurse. My brother and I are the product of their adventure to Great Britain from Jamaica. When he and my mother came here, they told us stories of people’s comments and misunderstandings. I remember so clearly my mother, with me as a little four year-old boy at her side, being asked by a kind white lady in a northern town who did not understand, “Before you came here, did you really live in trees?” We chose to take no offence at that, but it never left me, because it told me that people did not understand what we had come to give over many decades.

I do not get angered and aggrieved unnecessarily at what people say to me, but I feel fury for our friends, who are here today, and for the multitudes around the country and the families of those who have died, who feel that they were scandalised and dismissed by a complacent department of government that arrogantly ignored their commands and demands, and simply felt that they were not worth it and could be put to one side.

We have said so much in this debate that does not need to be repeated. When the Minister replies, could he go back to the three points in the Wendy Williams report which a previous Home Secretary thought good to ditch? If it was fine for South Africa to have a truth and reconciliation commission, for the much-adored Rwanda to have a truth and reconciliation commission, and for Northern Ireland to have a truth and reconciliation commission, why is it not fine to have reconciliation for those who have been abused by careless public disregard, deliberately undertaken by a department of government which is evidently failing? If the Home Office could be inspected by Ofsted or a HMI, it would be in the red box, and we know that. Is it not time, seriously, to hand over the Home Office payments system either to an independent department or, maybe, to the Department for Business? When it comes to the Horizon Post Office issue, we have seen pace, energy, impact and speed.

The Government have seen fit to set a £75,000 immediate payment for everyone in the Post Office scandal, with £600,000 for those who were criminalised. Why can we not do the same here, instead of scrapping over whether it is £10,000, £15,000 or £100,000? Just blanket set it and pay it—and end this. If it is good enough for the postmasters, it is good enough for people who have served with their lives and many of whom have lost their futures as a consequence of this careless, arrogant, complacent and disregarding department.

We are not asking anyone in the Home Office to justify what has gone on or to explain that it will be better, because we are already convinced that it will not be. We are asking this department, which has had so many Home Secretaries rushing to Rwanda—although nobody else has—to spend some time rushing towards those who have been victimised by its own careless, arrogant and complacent disregard.

In conclusion, handing back many more minutes than previous Members have, I will make one final point. Would it not be right for this Government to go to the public in an election this year and say, “We fixed all these unfixed scandals: infected blood, the Post Office issues, the Windrush issues and a multitude of others. We fixed them because we’re fixers who get things done, rather simply handing them on to another Government to have to scrap around”? Get it done, get it done.

Photo of Baroness Brinton Baroness Brinton Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol 1:48, 29 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I too congratulate my noble friend Lady Benjamin on securing this important debate on the Windrush scandal and the compensation scheme. I will focus mainly on the implementation and effectiveness of the compensation scheme. But first, like other speakers, I note my noble friend Lady Benjamin’s extraordinary contribution to challenging Ministers and others about the Windrush scandal over many years. The right reverend prelate the Bishop of Newcastle referred to being a “Play School” baby. I had the privilege of working on “Play School” with my noble friend Lady Benjamin as a brand-new trainee floor manager in the mid-1970s, and I have to say that it was a complete joy. As others said, and as she herself said, my noble friend Lady Benjamin chaired the Windrush memorial committee. I agree that the memorial is uplifting and moving. It is also a constant reminder, to those of us in the public eye, that something was got wrong and has still not been righted.

Others have spoken about how we have heard about the Windrush scandal in other parts of our lives. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, asked a question about children in schools. My noble friend Lady Benjamin’s book Coming to England is the most beautiful story about a Windrush arrival, and it is in almost all the primary schools I have heard about. I know that the children write to my noble friend Lady Benjamin because she and I talk about it. My own grandchildren were shocked by the racism that she faced as a six year-old. Our hope for the future is that, through the dramas and books, we will have a new generation who will not accept what has happened and will continue to fight.

What has happened at the hands of officials and Ministers is dreadful. As my noble friend Lady Benjamin said, members of the Windrush generation were never illegal migrants, so people being thrown out of their jobs, losing their homes and pensions, and being imprisoned and deported over many years is now a real disgrace. The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Brixton, talked about plays. We have now seen documentaries, dramas, screenplays and books. The Windrush generation has shouted from the rooftops—are we listening properly yet?

The noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, rightly said that we respect the Windrush generation, and our problem remains specifically with the Home Office and successive Governments. The Windrush generation’s perseverance and contribution to our country must be noted, and we need to be reminded. It has served large elements of our public services over the last 60 or 70 years—the NHS, transport—but it is now a key participant in every part of our working, social and community lives.

I will not go into the detail of what happened after 2017—many other noble Lords have talked about it—when media coverage started to bring attention to individual cases. But the way the Home Office has reacted, then and now, means that it is not held in any sort of regard at all. I do want to mention one person: former MP Norman Baker, who was the Home Office Immigration Minister in 2014. He resigned because he was not aware of those vans going round—he was not told before he actually saw them on the streets—and he felt that the lurch to the right on immigration of Theresa May in particular, and the Conservative Government, meant he could not continue to serve.

My noble friend Lady Burt reminded us of when and how the press and wider society became aware of the treatment of the generation. She set out the timeline of the government apologies in some detail. In 2018, Wendy Williams’ review and report focused on events from 2008—well before the coalition Government came into place. But absolutely at the heart of her findings was the fact that, despite the Government saying that they were taken by surprise by the scandal, she found that, over the years, officials and Ministers repeatedly ignored the warnings. She said that

“those in power forgot about them and their circumstances”.

This was compounded by successive Governments wanting to be tough on immigration by

“tightening immigration control and passing laws creating … the hostile environment … with a complete disregard for the Windrush generation”.

As with other departments and scandals, there were also institutional blockages in the Home Office that have made everything much, much worse. Wendy Williams also said that, while she was unable to make a definitive finding of institutional racism within the department,

“I have serious concerns that these failings demonstrate an institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation within the department, which are consistent with some elements of the definition of institutional racism.”

As others have said, she made 30 recommendations, which have been grouped under three headings. The first was acknowledgement: that the Home Office needed to acknowledge the wrong that had been done. The second was transparency: that the department must open itself up to greater scrutiny. The third was culture changes: that the department must change its culture to recognise that migration and wider Home Office policy were about people and, whatever its objective, should be rooted in humanity.

Many noble Lords have talked about the three recommendations that the Home Office initially accepted and then rejected. It is appalling that the third one, on reconciliation and training of Home Office staff, to which the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, referred, is gone. The ninth was on the commissioner, to which other noble Lords referred, and the 10th was on the review of the remit of the ICIBI, ensuring that it works closely with the migrants’ commissioner. These are at the heart of the cultural change of the Home Office, so will the Minister say whether those three recommendations will be reinstated now that Suella Braverman is no longer Home Secretary?

Time is short, so I will not say very much, but Wendy Williams, in her review in 2022, said that the Home Office had “obscured the full extent” of her original findings and this had led to “misunderstanding and incorrect implementation”. Can the Minister, therefore, say whether she will be asked back again, a further two years on, to complete that review, as other noble Lords have asked for, to ensure that the implementation and that change in culture do happen?

Turning to the compensation scheme, I have been speaking in your Lordships’ House on both the Post Office Horizon scandal and the infected blood scheme. There is a systemic problem in this country, with numerous Governments over many decades, about how these schemes are instituted. I absolutely agree with the recommendation from Age UK that, for this Windrush scheme, a separate, independent scheme should be set up. There is a much bigger ask—and I raised this in the Post Office compensation Bill, which went through in one day last month—that we actually need a truly independent body to oversee all compensation schemes where any public service is involved. The one lesson that we should have learned over the last 50 years is that the Government, their departments and their arm’s-length bodies cannot be independent when trying to administer compensation schemes. Will the Minister tell us if this is likely to happen?

The other points that have been made have also been covered in the other schemes. Despite people saying that the Post Office Horizon scheme is moving ahead swiftly, the postmasters are getting derisory amounts offered to them. They are still competing with a simplified form that is utterly bemusing. They still do not get any money for legal advice to help them apply. That is exactly true for the Windrush scheme as well, and this needs to be followed through.

As other noble Lords have said, the problem with a badly working compensation scheme is that it revictimises the victims. From these Benches, we absolutely want to see the Government put this scheme alongside the Post Office Horizon scheme and the infected blood scheme, at the heart of working at pace—a phrase they frequently use. The Windrush generation has supported and helped us in our country—their country too—for many, many years. Why are they still being treated as different?

Photo of Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Shadow Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 1:58, 29 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, for putting down this debate on what she calls the Home Office scandal. The theme in this debate has been to induce the Government to meet their commitments to the Windrush generation. I thank all noble Lords who, through this debate, have kept up the pressure on the Government to live up to their commitments. I would go so far as to say that this has been potentially an historic debate; it has been a strong debate that will resonate, and I hope it will resonate to make the Government act faster.

My noble friend Lord Rosser put down a Written Question, which was answered in February of this year, comparing the Windrush compensation rollout with the Horizon compensation rollout—a theme that has been picked up by a number of noble Lords. That was not to criticise the Horizon scheme but to highlight the problem of those seeking compensation through the Windrush scheme.

On 7 February 2024, my honourable friend Vicky Foxcroft asked Laura Farris, a Minister at the Home Office, what discussions she had had with the Secretary of State on the time taken to process claims to the Windrush compensation scheme. Responding, Ms Farris stated:

“As of December 2023, 91% of all claims either had received a final decision or were less than six months old. The Windrush scheme has reduced the time taken to allocate a … casework decision from 18 months to less than four months”.—[Official Report, Commons, 7/2/24; col. 233]

I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm that those figures are accurate.

Also, in November of last year, my noble friend Lord Davies of Brixton asked the Government what the reasons were for the Home Office’s decision to disband the team responsible for the Windrush policy in the department and what assessment they had made of the

“likelihood that this decision will undermine their commitments to the Windrush Generation”.

The Minister, who is again in his place today, responded by saying that, given the “significant progress” that the department had made since 2020, its response to the lessons learned review had been “embedded into everyday activities”. The noble Lord, Lord Bourne, described that as “baloney”—that is not a word that I would use myself; nevertheless, it is fair to say that he was sceptical about the response from his noble friend. The Minister also said that the

“embedded approach will better sustain the improvements made so far, and thereby our commitments to the Windrush generation and their descendants”.

Additionally, he noted that the teams working on the Windrush scheme and compensation scheme would “remain in place”, with there being

“no plans to close either scheme”.—[Official Report, 28/11/24; col. 1009.]

I look forward to the Minister updating the House on how they are planning to work at pace—a phrase we often hear in this House—to move towards a resolution on more of the cases.

In July 2023, the House debated the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush generation. The noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, led the debate, and she acknowledged that some progress had been made, but she urged the Government to redouble their efforts to ensure that appropriate funds are distributed.

As noble Lords will know, there is a long history to this scandal Suffice it to say that, on 16 April 2018, the then Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, apologised to the Windrush generation from the Dispatch Box in the other place. The following day, the then Prime Minister, Theresa May, also apologised to Caribbean leaders at a meeting in Downing Street. The then Home Secretary then went on to outline several actions that the Government were taking to address the issues faced by the Windrush generation. The actions included: first, conducting reviews of historical Caribbean cases that the Home Office wrongly actioned for either deportation or removal; secondly, establishing a Windrush scheme to issue confirmation of status documents and, in some cases, the granting of British citizenship free of charge for applicants; thirdly, creating a Windrush task force to assist individuals who may be eligible under the Windrush scheme; and, finally, establishing a Windrush compensation scheme. How is all that going?

I would be grateful if the Minister can correct any of the following figures—various have been cited, but I have some more. First, in 2023, more than 2,000 victims received zero payment, despite the Government accepting that they are victims. The noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, raised the issue of the loss of future earnings, and that should be part of the calculation. If it were part of the calculation, would the Government revisit those zero-payment decisions for those 2,000 victims? That happened despite the Government guaranteeing that all those eligible would receive full compensation in 2020. Can the Minister say whether there is any flexibility in revisiting those cases, or do the Government regard them as closed?

Secondly, as of January 2024, 1,932 people have received compensation so far, out of an estimated 15,700 victims. How long do the Government think that it will take to process the remaining claims?

A further point that a number of noble Lords have made is that the application process is still cumbersome and costly. There was talk about a 44-page document and other lengthy documents. There has been expert evidence from accountants and psychologists about what is needed to complete those forms. There is a strong case for some form of legal aid to help people do that. One of the organisations that has put this forward is the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit. My noble friend Lord Davies gave figures for a very high refusal rate, and spoke about pension compensation. Will the Minister comment on the points he raised? In addition to this, Human Rights Watch has recommended that, in the interim, independent oversight of the scheme should be guaranteed, with access to legal aid and the right of appeal to an independent tribunal. In fact, Human Rights Watch also recommended that the whole scheme should be independent and not run by the Home Office itself. Do the Government agree with those recommendations?

Comparisons have been made with the Horizon compensation scheme and the public consciousness of a historic injustice which is acknowledged by the British state. I have no doubt that the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, and other noble Lords who have taken part in today’s debate will continue to ensure that the Government follow through on their commitments and that justice is done for the Windrush generation.

I comment on only a couple of many outstanding speeches. The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, said, “Let’s be fixers. Let’s just get it done”. The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, spoke about the other scandals dealt with in the Victims and Prisoners Bill: the Horizon scandal, infected blood and Windrush. There is an impatience in all those scandals about how the Government are handling them. I acknowledge that it is complicated, but there is a sense of urgency which the Government need to follow through on. I also want to pay tribute to a particular journalist, Amelia Gentleman, who has done a lot of work exposing this scandal and really followed through on bringing it to public attention.

I want to conclude on the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, about the new generation. I went to a London comprehensive school and so did my children. There is an absolute lack of understanding on behalf of my children and children generally who been brought up in London about the extent of racism that was common in previous generations. I see that as a sign of hope. It is in part because of the ongoing work done by the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, and others. While of course we urge the Government to do more, it is right to say that there is hope of an improving situation in racial tolerance in this country, which we should celebrate.

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 2:08, 29 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate—they have made some very powerful speeches indeed. I start by offering my considerable thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, for securing this debate of course, but also more widely for the outstanding work that she has done on Windrush—whether it is celebrating the enormous contribution that the Windrush generation has made to our society, something we did last year for the 75th anniversary, or whether it is highlighting the injustice of the Windrush scandal. She has been nothing short of a shining light on this issue. For my part, I would like to personally salute the contribution of the Windrush generation, and of course their descendants. I associate myself with the introductory remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, who earned much credit for them.

This is an issue of deep personal resonance to the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, of course, but it matters to us all, as the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, explained very powerfully. It has been clear from all the other contributions as well, and for that I am thankful. I too use Waterloo station and, like my noble friend Lord Bourne, I commend the memorial statue there: it presents a powerful and vital image. We all wish we could turn back the clock and prevent the pain and suffering that the victims of the Windrush scandal have had to endure. I say gently to the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, that numerous events were held across all departments last year. He will know that flags were flown, No. 10 held a reception hosted by the Levelling-Up Secretary and the Home Secretary, and the largest-ever Windrush Day grant scheme was launched.

We cannot turn back the clock, but we can strain every sinew to provide the people affected with the help they need and the compensation they deserve, while ensuring that the failings that happened previously can never be repeated. The noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, is right: the Government have a responsibility to all our people. Righting the wrongs is, has been and will continue to be a priority for the Government. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, that we are fixing things, and to the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, that there is an urgency to do this and to get it right. We are determined to ensure that everyone who suffered because they could not demonstrate their lawful status in the UK receives every penny of the compensation to which they are entitled. There is no cap on the amount that can be awarded, and our priority is to award the maximum compensation at the earliest point possible. I repeat the promises made by successive Home Secretaries that there is no end date for the Windrush compensation scheme, nor for the Windrush documentation scheme.

Reference was made to the 15,000 people and the figure of £200 million in compensation, but I stress that these are from the very early planning assumptions published when the compensation scheme was launched. It did not represent a budget or a pot of money to be drawn from. Despite extensive and ongoing outreach efforts, significantly fewer claims have been received and the Home Office has adjusted its planning assumptions accordingly. The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Brixton, asked about individuals and their documentation confirming their status or British citizenship. The number who have been provided with that documentation is now more than 16,800 and our experience has been that many of them have not suffered losses or detriment owing to being unable to demonstrate their lawful status in the UK, so they have not needed to claim compensation, but the Home Office encourages anyone who wishes to make a claim to do so. As I said, the scheme has no end date and there is no cap on the amount of money the department will pay.

Photo of Lord Davies of Brixton Lord Davies of Brixton Llafur

Is there any estimate of those who are not entitled to compensation but would be entitled if pensions and future earnings were part of the scheme?

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My Lords, I will come back to the subject of compensation. I am going to attempt to address all the questions raised in the appropriate order. There is a lot to say and I have only 20 minutes to say it, so I ask noble Lords to bear that in mind when contemplating interventions. I will do my very best.

We have paid over £75 million in compensation. As of December 2023, over 80% of claims received had received a final decision and the majority of live claims were less than six months old. Payments to date include some very significant sums. More than 120 claimants have been paid over £100,000 in compensation. The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, asked about the 91% figure given by Laura Farris in the other place. As I said, 80% have had a final decision and 91% have had a final decision or have outstanding claims less than six months old, so that figure is correct.

The noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, and others raised the question of speed. As I said, the Home Office’s priority is to award the maximum compensation at the earliest point possible. The changes that the Home Office has made to the scheme since its launch mean that people now receive significantly more money more quickly—I referred to the 80% figure. However, in answer to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, about blanket amounts, I say that there are 14 different categories and each person’s experiences and circumstances will be different, so it is right that the Home Office takes the time to ensure that each claim is considered and understood carefully, so it can offer people the maximum compensation to which they are entitled. That said, the Home Office continues its efforts to reduce the time it takes to process claims. The length of time that individuals must wait for their claim to be allocated to a substantive decision-maker is now less than four months, down from around 18 months a year ago, and the four-month period includes all essential eligibility checks, together with a preliminary assessment to make an initial payment of £10,000 wherever possible.

The department is committed to ensuring people receive the compensation to which they are entitled, in all cases, including those where, understandably, there is limited documentary evidence. The scheme operates entirely on the balance of probabilities, and decision-makers receive in-depth training to ensure that this approach is applied fairly and consistently. Decision-makers use all the data and information available to them, and exhaust internal and cross-government routes before asking for more information from individuals. The Home Office also gathers information from third parties, paying for this where needed so that costs do not fall to claimants. That can include information from employers, HMRC, GPs and so on. We have a quality assurance team and an independent review process in order to ensure that all decisions are subject to a very high degree of scrutiny.

The compensation scheme was designed to be accessible to anyone, without the need for legal advice or assistance. For those who want or need support to make a claim, the Home Office provides free assistance through its independent claims assistance provider, the We Are Group. It has extensive experience of dealing with isolated and vulnerable people, and the Windrush team is also available on the phone to provide information and to discuss the process. In 2021 and 2022, the Home Office published new claims forms, developed in collaboration with stakeholders, which are simpler and easier to complete. Were our applicants allowed to recover legal costs in applying to the scheme, this may serve to encourage organisations to take advantage of potentially vulnerable people, charging them for unnecessary support.

On feedback and engagement with stakeholders and the community about the effectiveness of the scheme, as evidenced in the changes to the scheme since its inception we have continued that process, because the overhaul to the scheme in December 2020 significantly increased the amount of compensation awarded, and indeed the speed at which it can be paid. In 2021 and 2022, we published revamped claim forms, to which many noble Lords have referred. They were developed in consultation with stakeholders and are easier to complete. They are longer, but they are easier to complete, because they include more targeted and closed questions. The new forms have a Crystal Mark from the Plain English Campaign. As I have said, the changes were made in consultation with stakeholders, including the Windrush National Organisation, key advocates in the community who work collaboratively. Considerable changes were made to the forms while they were being redesigned, but if anybody cares to add to the process and make observations about the forms, the door is open and we are happy to listen.

In 2021, we launched a package of support to help those making, or those who have already made, claims on behalf of a relative who has passed away to obtain the legal documentation required to process their claims. In 2022, we broadened the homelessness category to allow awards to be made to people who were already homeless and then continued to be homeless due to an inability to demonstrate lawful status. We also introduced a fourth “living costs” category for close family member claims for costs incurred while supporting someone who lost their employment or benefits because they were unable to prove their immigration status. Last year, we made changes to the employment category which mean some people will be compensated for longer periods and receive more money, better reflecting their unique circumstances. Whenever changes are made, they are applied retrospectively.

To come back to the points that were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Davies, about why the scheme does not cover loss of employment opportunity, it is because this is a highly speculative issue, stretching across many facets of an individual’s life. The scheme cannot make financial determinations of this nature, since they will vary significantly from individual to individual. They depend on a multitude of factors which will be difficult and timely to assess in a fair and consistent manner.

In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, and the noble Lord, Lord Davies, the scheme does not cover occupational pensions because of the variable and complex nature of impacts on and future performance of those. However, through employment awards, individuals will recuperate the contributions they would have made into an occupational pension scheme at the time. Processes are also in place so that, where individuals were unable to work because they could not demonstrate their lawful status in the UK, their national insurance record is corrected so that their state pension entitlement is not affected.

On moving the Windrush compensation scheme from the Home Office, the Home Office firmly believes that moving the operation of the compensation scheme would risk significantly delaying vital payments to people. This was reinforced by Professor Martin Levermore, independent adviser to the scheme, in his report published in March 2022.

We continue to work to promote new applications to the scheme, and to engage with and gain the trust of affected communities. The scheme’s engagement team ensures there is regular dialogue with stakeholders from Windrush communities, who provide feedback and scrutiny. The compensation scheme engagement team supports events with external stakeholders from Windrush communities to provide the opportunity to speak to them about the impact the scandal has had on them and on their family’s lives. These engagement events also ensure that individuals and stakeholders get the correct information about the schemes—the Windrush documentation scheme and the Windrush compensation scheme.

Since February 2023, the Windrush compensation scheme engagement team has attended more than 30 events nationwide, including in the West Midlands, Bristol, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and London. This week, officials attended an event in Northampton which received positive feedback, commending the informative presentations and the benefit of one-to-one conversations with Home Office staff. Events are planned during the first quarter of this year, including in London, Edinburgh, and Nottingham again. We are also looking at opportunities to work with communities in Wales and Ireland. These engagement events ensure that individuals and stakeholders receive accurate information about both schemes, and a large number of such engagements have taken place.

All noble Lords asked about scrutiny of the scheme and how the Home Office considers claims. As I have explained, we have a multilayered review process to ensure the compensation scheme has an appropriate level of external scrutiny. If I may, I will go into detail on those layers. The tier 1 review is conducted by a separate team that has not worked on the claim in question. The tier 2 review is an independent review process with the adjudicator’s office. The independent person, Martin Levermore, to whom I have already referred, regularly engages with officials and publishes annual reports on the scheme. His third report was published on 1 November 2023 on GOV.UK. The Home Office has published a fact sheet and granular transparency data on a monthly basis, which provides detail on a wide variety of aspects of both casework and review. The Home Affairs Select Committee provides external scrutiny and visited the department to scrutinise proceedings. The Home Office has also hosted other stakeholders, such as the Windrush Defenders Legal and the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, on open visits, giving access to Home Office caseworkers.

On the subject of the Windrush programme and the lessons being learned, the Home Office is absolutely determined to deliver on its commitment to righting the wrongs of Windrush. That work continues at pace, and I am not ashamed to use the phrase. As one would expect, and should expect, in any government department organisational structures change over time to ensure that delivery for the public is effective and delivers value for money. It has been decided that responsibility for delivering various Windrush response projects and recommendations will no longer be managed through a dedicated team in the transformation directorate but will instead be embedded in our everyday activities in other parts of the department. I forget who, but someone referred to it as being part of the departmental DNA. I can confirm, albeit anecdotally from my experience, that this is something that is considered in pretty much every aspect of the work that we are currently doing.

Most noble Lords asked about the promises that were made in regard to recommendations 3, 9 and 10. Wendy Williams recognised the scale of the challenge that was set by her 2020 Windrush Lessons Learned Review and applauded the department’s response in rising to the challenge. As the former Home Secretary set out in her WMS of 26 January 2023, she did decide not to proceed with some of the recommendations in the original form. I am afraid I am unable to comment further because there are legal proceedings in train on that particular subject. However, as I have just said, work remains ongoing on the majority of the recommendations, by way of embedding them into the DNA of the department, and that work will not stop.

Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Ceidwadwyr

I am very interested in the ditching of those key recommendations—most contributors felt that was wrong. Can the Minister confirm that the current Home Secretary will consider reinstating them, whatever the nature of the legal proceedings, as they are a vital part of the Windrush policy?

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Again, I have to apologise to my noble friend. I would like to answer the question in detail but am unable to as a result of the legal proceedings. However, I will of course make sure that the Home Secretary is well aware of his and the House’s concerns about this matter.

The noble Lord, Lord Davies, asked about overseas engagement, particularly with regard to high commissions. We engaged with UK-based Caribbean high commissioners but we have also worked with British high commissions overseas to raise awareness of this.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, asked about education, which is incredibly important. On Windrush Day, the Department for Levelling Up launched a set of educational materials, which were uploaded to the National Windrush Monument website as part of the monument’s legacy programmes.

I have to confess that I have not read the book from the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin—I will—but perhaps, as book recommendations are being handed out, I should also commend one from my noble friend Lord Popat, A British Subject, which is a very good read on this topic as well. I am more than happy to meet the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, at any time. Just to be fair to my predecessor, my noble friend Lord Murray attended two Windrush National Organisation conferences, so he did make himself available.

The Windrush story is one of the most powerful and uplifting in our country’s history. The people who arrived on that day in the middle of the 20th century and their subsequent generations have contributed so much across so many areas of our society, as has been noted by all speakers. That they would go on to suffer as they did is a source of profound sadness to them and us all—and shame. We owe it to them to put it right and significant progress has been made, as I hope I have set out. But the job is not done and noble Lords have my assurance that the Government’s determination to right those wrongs is undimmed.

Photo of Baroness Benjamin Baroness Benjamin Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol 2:27, 29 Chwefror 2024

I thank the Minister for his comments and all noble Lords who have taken part in this important debate for their kind remarks. We are friends all over the House—on all sides of the House—which is great. It is what I try to do. I thank them all for their passionate speeches, which have shown that everyone across the House who has spoken cares about fairness and justice above everything else.

Perhaps I should declare an interest as part of the Windrush generation because I came to Britain aged 10 on my elder sister’s passport in 1960. Fortunately, when I was 17 my mother wisely decided to apply for passports for all her six children. Had she not done so, I could easily have become a Windrush victim.

The Home Office did not seem to have much difficulty in identifying people accused of being illegal and was prepared to deport them as quickly as possible. Yet it does not practise the ability to identify those who are eligible for compensation at the same speed.

I am naturally disappointed with some of the answers the Minister has given us—but not surprised, because the reality of the Windrush victims’ experiences is not as happy or as positive as he might have pointed out. He does not agree with me and noble Lords from across the House who have spoken that we need an independent body. It is a common-sense solution to end this unfortunate scandal. Members of this House have agreed with that for so many years now.

My noble friend Lord Bourne and I have been allies over the years, and I thank him for his support and kind words. It is always a joy to work with him, especially on the National Windrush Monument. I thank him.

The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Brixton, reminded us of the contribution the Windrush generation has given to the country and mentioned the new Windrush line, which will for ever keep it in public memory thanks to the Mayor of London. I thank the noble Lord for mentioning that.

I thank my noble friend Lord Woolley for his passionate and moving speech. He reminded us that the King has shown empathy with the Windrush generation by commissioning those 10 portraits, which will be part of the Royal Collection, celebrating the 75th anniversary of the arrival of Windrush pioneers. The Prime Minister held no such celebration, even though I wrote begging him to meet the Windrush victims.

My noble friend Lady Burt pointed out the low payments offered to claimants with no justification and, like other Peers, asked why the three Wendy Williams recommendations were dropped. I note what the Minister said, but we need to find out why this has happened. We have also called once again for that independent body.

My noble friend Lord Adebowale asked for an apology to not just the Windrush victims but all the Windrush generation and the majority of the people in this country who feel ashamed of the blot on the landscape of this British history saga.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle, my “Play School” baby, spoke with passion in calling for trust to be restored, as the nation deserves it. It feels ashamed of what has happened to these Windrush victims.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, for reminding us that this is not a party-political issue but a national issue.

Like others, the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, agreed that there should be an independent body. That is coming over time and again. She also pointed out that racism is still present in our society. Even children are facing this injustice, as I had to 64 years ago when I arrived in this country.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, who is an inspiration to me and a towering figure in the House. He suggested fixing the problem immediately, before the election. What a joy that would be. I will not have to call another debate if that happens.

I thank my noble friend Lady Brinton, my “Play School” colleague, for she has continued to support me on this issue and has pointed out that schoolchildren across the country are reading my book, Coming to England, and do not want to grow up in a society where we are dealing with this scandal. They see it as unfair and unjust. They write to me and say, “Floella, when I grow up, I will not be racist. I understand about Windrush. I want to be a decent human being in this country, embracing all people”. That is what children are understanding. That is what we have to show them as examples.

The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, outlined the timeline of the Home Office scandal, which is very focused in showing the injustice of this human story.

I thank all the organisations and individuals who have assisted with and contributed to this debate, including Action for Race Equality, Justice 4 Windrush, the Windrush National Organisation, the Windrush Justice Clinic, Age UK, UNISON and many more, all the lawyers who have advised me and the dozens of Windrush victims who have shared their harrowing stories. We have all come together, collaborating to bring this unhappy saga to a satisfactory conclusion. We have reached out to the Government and hope that they listen and act on what has been said today, because the fight for justice will continue. Once again, I thank all noble Lords for taking part in this important debate—and, yes, let it be the last time that I do so.

Motion agreed.