All 3 contributions to the Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Act 2020 (Ministerial Extracts Only)

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Mon 10th Feb 2020
Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill
Commons Chamber

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Contingencies Fund Bill
Commons Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting & 2nd reading & 2nd reading & 2nd reading: House of Commons & Committee: 1st sitting & Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons & Committee: 1st sitting & Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons & 2nd reading & Committee stage & Committee stage
Tue 21st Apr 2020
Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill
Lords Chamber

3rd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard) & Committee negatived (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee negatived (Hansard) & Committee negatived (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading & Committee negatived

Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

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2nd reading & 2nd reading: House of Commons & Money resolution: House of Commons & Programme motion: House of Commons & Money resolution & Programme motion
Monday 10th February 2020

(4 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Act 2020 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Priti Patel Portrait The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Priti Patel)
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I beg to move, That the Bill now be read a Second time.

Members of the Windrush generation came to the United Kingdom to rebuild Britain after the war, and they have contributed so much to our country, our economy and our public services. It is no exaggeration to say that we would not be the nation we are today without the men and women who came here to build a life, to work hard, to pay taxes and to raise families. They included nurses and midwives, and their overall economic contribution helped to rebuild post-war Britain. That is why the whole country was shocked by the unacceptable treatment of some members of the Windrush generation by successive Governments over a significant number of years. They are people who have done so much for our country and who had in some cases arrived on these shores when little more than infants, yet they were effectively told that they were not welcome.

This was a terrible mistake by successive Governments, and the implications will be felt for many years. Some suffered tremendous hardship and indignity as a result of an erroneous decision. They were denied a right to work, or to rent a place to live. Some individuals were even detained or removed, leading to families being broken up and left without parents or grandparents, and it is only right that those who have experienced hardship as a result are offered proper compensation. No amount of money can repair the suffering and injustice that some have experienced, and this Bill is therefore a vital and important step in righting the wrong, but there are still many issues to be addressed.

The Windrush compensation scheme was formally launched on 3 April 2019, and it was designed to ensure that full and proper compensation could be made. The scheme rightly includes a personal apology to each person issued with the award of compensation and, most importantly, it allows those who suffered to avoid court proceedings in the pursuit of justice.

Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op)
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The explanatory notes for the Bill show the full scale of this scandal, and state that the estimated compensation cost based on 15,000 claimants would range from £120 million to £310 million. The Home Secretary was not in the Chamber for my question to the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster), a few moments ago when I said that the wider issues with the immigration system and the failings of the Home Office, including unlawful detentions and deportations, are also costing millions of pounds. Will she commit to publishing the full cost of the wrongful deportations, outside the Windrush scheme, over the past few years and put that information before the House, so that we can see what has been going on in her Department? She is refusing to give that information at the moment.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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The hon. Gentleman has raised some significant issues here. We are still waiting for the lessons learned review from the independent—

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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If the hon. Lady will let me finish instead of jumping up in such a way, I will answer her question. [Interruption.] Let me just state this, and I will answer her question if she will bear with me. The lessons learned report has yet to be submitted to Ministers in the Home Office by the independent adviser, Wendy Williams. That is not a shock to anybody, and it is right that she should have the time to undertake her review. It is a fact that the review has been going on for two years, but she will bring it forward in due course and I will receive it when it is ready. It is fair to say—I do not think anybody can question this right now—that we want to know the full scale of what has happened and the background to it, and that is the purpose of the review. At the right time, we will be able to look at everything in the round. If I may say so, this is not about publishing pieces of evidence at this stage. It is important that we look at everything. The report will come to me once Wendy Williams has had the time and space to consider everything, because this is an independent review. It is not for the Home Office to dictate anything around that report. We will wait for that, and then of course we will look at everything that is required.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Home Secretary for giving way. I know she is impatient with my impatience, but I am speaking on behalf of constituents of mine who died while waiting for their compensation. They were promised that compensation before they died, and their relatives are still unclear about whether any of this is ever going to be resolved. That is why I am impatient. Can she even tell us how many people have died while waiting for their compensation to be settled?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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Let me say a few things to all hon. Members about not just the compensation scheme but Windrush. Many of us, including me, have made representations to the Home Office on behalf of our constituents. That is a fact and we have all worked constructively in doing so. The hon. Lady mentions being impatient. If I may say so, these cases are complicated, as I am sure she recognises. [Interruption.] The hon. Lady is shaking her head, but the cases are complicated in terms of the provision of information, background, data and evidence, and this will take time. [Interruption.] They are complicated cases. They have to be looked at on a case-by-case basis. This is not about providing a carte blanche assurance or a cheque to people. It is right that there is due process. We want to get this right and I make no apology for that.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I have given way already. If I can just finish, it is important that we do this in the right way, provide the right amount of time and ask people to work with the Home Office to find whatever evidence is required.

Lucy Powell Portrait Lucy Powell (Manchester Central) (Lab/Co-op)
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I thank the Home Secretary for giving way. Some of the cases are, indeed, complicated, but does she agree with me and many of my constituents with whom I have spoken, that her Department has overcomplicated the issue? As she said at the beginning of her speech, we cannot put a value on some of these things. The approach being taken is arbitrary, but she could apply discretion and make it a lot simpler

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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It is a fact that this is not about money. Money cannot compensate for the awful experience and hardship that people have been affected by. We should be very clear about that. [Interruption.] An hon. Lady says, “It helps.” There is a scheme and a process, which I will come on to as I make progress with my speech. It is right, however, that we have the right process, and I will explain how we will do that. We should never lose sight of the fact that this scheme has been established. It is difficult but there are ways in which we are going to make this simpler, undo some of the bureaucracy and make swift progress with some of the cases that have been raised.

Simon Hoare Portrait Simon Hoare (North Dorset) (Con)
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A moment ago my right hon. Friend used the word “mistake”, and I think it is right to remind ourselves that the Windrush scandal was not a conspiracy but a cock-up of the most enormous magnitude. Will she confirm that she is confident that her Department and ministerial team are now fully on top of these kinds of issues so that that sort of scandal will not happen again?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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My hon. Friend raises issues that go right to the heart of what happened in the Windrush scandal. No Government would want to preside over something so scandalous, and there has to be recognition that responsibility was attributed to successive Governments. It is right that we wait for the review from the independent adviser, Wendy Williams, which will have lessons for us all, including the Home Office and previous Governments. I think it will have plenty of information about what happened. We want to build on that and make sure that we learn the lessons.

Many of the comments made thus far have reflected on the compensation scheme and its complexities and design. I will now focus on its design. The Home Office’s first priority was to ensure that the scheme was accessible to claimants. In doing so, it has considered some 650 responses to the call for evidence and nearly 1,500 responses to the public consultation. The Home Office held several public events across the country to give potential claimants the chance to make their voices heard. Martin Forde QC, himself the son of Windrush parents, has a wealth of experience and complex knowledge of public law and compensation matters, and he was appointed by the then Home Secretary in May 2018 to advise on the scheme’s design. Late last year, Martin and I launched the Windrush stakeholder advisory group and met key stakeholders and community representatives to hear their personal testimonies and views. Ministers and civil servants will rightly continue to work with them, and they will continue to listen to those who have been affected to ensure this scheme works for them. Their personal views and considerations have been taken into account in the development of this scheme, and the House should note that the views of stakeholders have been instrumental to its design. That is why, last week, the Home Office announced the scheme will be extended by two years so that people will be able to submit claims up until 2 April 2023.

The Home Office also announced amendments to migration policy to apply a more flexible approach to the cases under review, and rightly so. The Home Office will now consider all evidence provided on the steps an individual will take or has taken to resolve their situation, which is an important change.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab)
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The Home Secretary is being generous in giving way.

I welcome the extension for applications to the scheme, but the Home Secretary will be aware that, nearly two years ago, the Select Committee on Home Affairs also recommended a hardship scheme. We were concerned that, in practice, this compensation scheme would take too long for many people who are in urgent need of compensation and some sort of support following these shocking injustices. Our report mentioned four people: Anthony Bryan, Sarah O’Connor, Hubert Howard and Judy Griffith. Shockingly, two of them have still had nothing, despite facing great hardship, and the other two died before they could get any compensation or hardship support at all.

Will the Home Secretary urgently consider a hardship scheme, as well as a compensation scheme, because this affects too many people? I have been contacted about someone today who is currently homeless and still struggling to get any support at all. Will she look at these cases urgently to see what hardship support can be given?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I will look into those cases. Of course we have the exceptional payments scheme, which should stop anybody falling through—such people should receive those payments.

Meg Hillier Portrait Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op)
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I was interested to read the updated impact assessment, which reduces the assumption that there will be 15,000 claims to 11,500 claims. Will the Home Secretary explain why that is the case and whether the Bill will cover the 160,000 Commonwealth citizens who could be affected, to which the Public Accounts Committee drew attention last year?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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The numbers were reduced in the impact assessment due to the fewer-than-anticipated claims thus far. I will come on to Commonwealth citizens because, of course, this is not specific to Caribbean nationals.

Even though time has elapsed since individuals may have effectively been caught up in the Windrush issue—experiencing hardship, losing their job and, in some cases, also losing their home—I will, as I said to the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), look into any specific cases that hon. Members would like to raise with me. Our changes may help some people to qualify for a potentially higher award, particularly where it relates to the loss of employment.

“Windrush” has been used to describe what happened to a specific group, but that term and this scheme are not limited to those of Caribbean nationality. The scheme, of course, is open to anyone of any nationality who arrived and settled in the UK before the end of 1988, and to anyone from a Commonwealth country who arrived and settled in the UK before 1973. The scheme is also open to the children and grandchildren of Commonwealth citizens who arrived and settled before 1973, and to other close family members of such a person who may have been affected. In the cases of those who sadly passed away before compensation could be paid, a claim can be made by their estate.

Harriett Baldwin Portrait Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con)
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I welcome the steps my right hon. Friend is taking in this Bill. Will she outline how the measures she has just described are going to be widely publicised, to make sure that everyone who might be entitled to claim under this legislation knows about it?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I thank my hon. Friend for her question. I will come on to this issue, primarily because our stakeholder advisory group has a very important role to play in it and I will explain why that is shortly. Importantly, we will continue to work with third party stakeholders, such as Citizens Advice, and many other groups that we are engaging with. I am very mindful, of course, that we have to rebuild trust with the communities that have been affected.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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If I may, I will finish the point. To rebuild that trust, working with third parties and other stakeholder groups and organisations is vital, and we will continue to do that.

Lyn Brown Portrait Ms Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab)
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On that point of trust, the phone calls to my office today are about a flight tomorrow to Jamaica, and some of my constituents believe that this Bill is being used as some kind of flim-flam before that flight goes. Will the Home Secretary assure me that she will look carefully at every one of the cases that we bring to her to ensure that only those people who absolutely need to be deported are deported tomorrow?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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Let me make a few points on that. First and foremost, we should not be conflating this charter flight—the criminality—with the issue of the Windrush compensation scheme. The hon. Lady will know that the House has heard the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster) respond to the urgent question earlier, and every person on the flight has been convicted of some of the most serious offences and has received a custodial sentence of 12 months or more. That means that under the UK Borders Act 2007, introduced by the Labour Government at the time, a deportation order must be made. These crimes cover manslaughter, rape, violence, the appalling scourge of drug dealing and sexual offences against children, with a total sentence for this group totalling more than 300 years. It is important to say that the suffering of their victims is incomprehensible, and these offences have a real impact on victims and their communities. It is important to recognise that the individuals being deported have criminal convictions, and that this is about the criminality of the acts they have participated in, not their nationality.

Lucy Powell Portrait Lucy Powell
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Actually, this point is not about criminality; it is about whether people are or are not regarded as British citizens. That is the key issue we are discussing this evening, because when the Windrush generation and their descendants came here before 1973, they arrived on British passports—they might have said “Jamaica” or “Trinidad and Tobago” on them, but they were British passports. We are now looking at whether their citizenship was valid from that point or not. We are not now deciding whether they are British citizens; we are saying that they have always been British citizens, so whether or not they have committed a crime is irrelevant to whether they are British citizens. If they have committed a crime, it is our problem. They are our citizens, and we need to deal with it. That is the key issue here, and the Home Secretary has completely missed that point.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I do not think I have missed that point, because this is a charter flight for foreign national offenders—[Interruption.] Members are welcome to bring individual cases, but I can give the House the assurance, as my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary did earlier today, that—

David Lammy Portrait Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab)
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The right hon. Lady will understand that one of her predecessors resigned because she assured the House that the people involved were foreign nationals and they were not. I would urge her to tread more lightly if she wants to remain in post.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the comments made during the urgent question by the Minister. The facts have been provided. I say again that if individuals wish to make representations to the Minister about cases in their constituencies, they are very welcome to do so.

On the Windrush compensation scheme, simplicity and ease of use has been at the forefront of designing it. Requirements for evidence have been designed to be straightforward and easy to understand and, most importantly, not too onerous for the claimant. Our priority has also been to ensure that payments are made as quickly as possible. The first payment was made in July, within four months of the scheme being launched, and the Government want to ensure that all those who have suffered come forward and apply for compensation.

Abena Oppong-Asare Portrait Abena Oppong-Asare (Erith and Thamesmead) (Lab)
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Will the Secretary of State give way?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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No, I will not give way.

As mentioned earlier, the Home Office is extending the length of the scheme by two years, so people will be able to submit claims up to 2 April 2023.

I have outlined some positive steps, but we need to ensure that the scheme is underpinned by the necessary financial parliamentary authority, which is exactly what the Bill is designed to provide. Payments are currently made under the ministerial direction that was issued in July last year, but the Bill offers Parliament the opportunity to give its legislative authority for expenditure under the compensation scheme. Details of the scheme are set out in the non-statutory scheme rules, which give us freedom to amend the scheme swiftly where required. That freedom proved useful last October when, following feedback from stakeholders and claimants, the scheme was amended to allow a broader range of immigration fees to be refunded.

For the scheme to be effective, it is vital that awareness is raised, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire (Harriett Baldwin) pointed out, and that everyone who has suffered is given a fair chance to claim. Through the Windrush stakeholder advisory group, the Government are overseeing how to reach those who have been affected and hurt. There is no simple or straightforward way in which that hurt can be repaired or that trust rebuilt. It is a sorry fact that there are still members of the Windrush generation who do not have the documentation that they need. Some will not even know that they are entitled to apply for compensation. Others have been put off by false claims that funding for the scheme is capped at £200 million, or have been subject to much misinformation about the scheme, which of course needs to be addressed. We will of course work to correct those inaccuracies, rebuild trust through the advisory group and provide the compensation and justice that people deserve. The role of the stakeholder advisory group is to do exactly that and to find the best links to get back into the affected communities. In addition to that, the Home Office has, as I have already indicated, attended and hosted more than 30 engagement events to promote the scheme, and would welcome interest from Members who wish to support community events in their own constituencies.

No compensation can ever hope to undo the injustice of someone being told that they are not welcome in their homeland. Nothing that we can do or say can ever wipe out the hurt and loss that should never have been suffered in the first place, but we hope that the Windrush compensation scheme can go some way towards easing the financial burden endured as a result, and that we can begin to do justice to those who have contributed much to our country. The United Kingdom is making a start on a new era of openness, and it is a home to everyone with the talent and tenacity to contribute to national life. It is only right that we do everything in our power to redress this historic injustice, so I hope that Members from all parties will take an important step forward in doing so and join me in giving the Bill the support that it needs. I commend the Bill to the House.

--- Later in debate ---
Rob Roberts Portrait Rob Roberts
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My hon. Friend pre-empts me; I was about to refer to his speech. Unlike some comments we heard earlier to the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster), asking what the Home Office will do to help these people, my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker) has taken this on, found the information himself and gone about the work directly to try to offer the help his constituents need. I completely agree with him.

Kevin Foster Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Kevin Foster)
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I will keep it brief, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am more than happy to make a commitment to put out a “dear colleague” letter of the nature my hon. Friend describes.

Rob Roberts Portrait Rob Roberts
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I am very grateful to the Minister for that commitment.





As I mentioned earlier in my speech, Windrush was a terrible mistake that should never have been allowed to happen. The fact that people could live in this country for so long only for them and their families to face such daily hardships is undeniably unacceptable, yet the efforts put in by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to ensure that mistakes are being remedied are a great step towards ensuring that those impacted will see the compensation and security they deserve.

In winding up, I would like to echo the sentiments of my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double). I admit to my regret that up in leafy north Wales, before this terrible situation was brought to light, I had never heard the term Windrush, but I have over the past few years had occasion to look into these events. As my hon. Friend said, the individuals and families who came to the UK all those years ago came at our request to help us when we desperately needed their help. Their sacrifices and selfless acts deserved much more than we gave them and the events of this scandal have shamed us all. As many Members have stated, today and previously, we unreservedly apologise. I hope the Minister, in his closing remarks, can assure me, and those in my Delyn constituency who may have been impacted by Windrush, that he is planning to take the advice given by the lessons learned review, that he can reassure me that people should not be in any doubt about their status in this country, which they have called home for so long, and that they will, of course, see the compensation that their individual cases deserve.

--- Later in debate ---
Rupa Huq Portrait Dr Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton) (Lab)
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It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Ms Brown) and to be the last Back Bencher called in this thoughtful, sometimes passionate and always informative debate today.

The word “Windrush” used to have positive connotations, but in the past couple of years it has become symbolic with fiasco, catastrophe and, above all, scandal. I used to teach courses on post-colonial Britain, and I remember showing monochromatic slides of the SS Empire Windrush docking, with all those faces full of expectation and those people coming to make a positive contribution, with a new life in the motherland, and bursting with pride. These were brave pioneers, who went on to rebuild the nation and its public services from the post-war rubble and ruin, including as NHS nurses; my right hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) mentioned her own mum. These were people in our city and working on London Transport. I remember that at the height of John Major mania, if there was such a thing, they uncovered the bus conductor, a lady from Lambeth or Camberwell garage—one of the two—who had picked John Major for the post of bus conductor back in the day. So how did we get from all that positivity and expectation to a place where, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) said, this word is synonymous with national scandal? People who were legally in Britain and had been here for decades were denied basic rights. People were denigrated, detained and deported.

I am proud to be one of the 170 Members who signed a cross-party letter demanding that tomorrow’s forced deportation flight is withdrawn. I will not go into tons of detail on that issue because we had an urgent question on it earlier, but I am still none the wiser about when the lessons learned review will see the light of day. The demands of the letter are fairly modest. We know that, in line with the leaked review, there should be a pause in the process until the lessons are learned, so the sequencing seems all wrong. We still do not know when that review is going to come out. As has been said by my hon. Friends, people with no ties to places are being sent tomorrow to “destination unknown”—people who have families here are being wrenched away from them.

We are addressing the compensation scheme in this debate, so that is what I shall turn to. There are still victims out there who need justice. The process of an 18-page form that needs 44 pages of guidance to complete it is seen as onerous. The Government talk of compensation, but it feels like implementation is a slow, protracted and burdensome process. All the burden is on the claimant, who must often prove the unprovable. People feel unsupported. The “Dear colleagues” letter that the Minister sent around this morning said that Citizens Advice will be the partners in the process. In the London Borough of Ealing we have 360,000 residents—it is the capital of west London—but we do not have a citizens advice bureau. What is the mechanism for somewhere like that?

Many people are just completely unaware of the scheme, or are unwilling to make contact because of the connotations of the hostile-environment climate that the Government have fostered. The Home Office is often seen as a dirty word in immigrant homes. We are all constituency MPs as well, and week in, week out we see at surgeries the Home Office’s incompetence, with a bit of someone else’s case pasted into the letter a constituent has brought before us. People are waiting for years on end and told that it is a “complex case”, a term that I noticed the Home Secretary used in her opening remarks. It seems pretty tawdry for people who have been waiting for years and years to be told it is a complex case. The Home Office is the Department that is meant to administer the scheme and, as many of my colleagues have said, there is a level of mistrust and distrust if that same Department is judge and jury. I welcome the fact that the Minister mentioned in his note this morning that there is to be some independence, with a QC being introduced to the process, but we need finally to disentangle the two.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
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To be clear, Martin Forde QC, who is the independent adviser, is already in place, but we are looking to go through a recruitment process for the permanent appointment.

Rupa Huq Portrait Dr Huq
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I am grateful to the Minister for that and welcome his point. As I say, it looked a little vague, so I am pleased that we have got a bit more vagueness out of him this evening. We await to see the detail and what that turns into. Independence is a good thing in a process such as this one when there is historical distrust between these communities and the Minister’s Department.

Others have cited these figures: of the 1,108 applications —8,000 were expected—only 36 have led to anything. The £64,000 sum sounds very low for people who have had years and years of loss of earnings. Again, there is the issue of proving the unprovable. We have heard today that there are people who served in our armed forces for 10 years, yet that is not sufficient proof for whatever the hoops are that the Home Office wants people to jump through. It just looks like it is being done in a perfunctory way, almost to deter people from applying.

Where is the national media campaign? The Home Secretary talked at the beginning of the debate about doing travelling road shows, which I have yet to encounter in my own borough. Was it before or after the illegal Prorogation that £140 million was spent on the Get Ready for Brexit campaign, to excite people in a politically motivated, partisan, propaganda way? It contravened the civil service code, but all the complaints seemed to get swallowed up in the swirl of the general election. We need some sort of advice campaign for this scheme so that people know about it, because people out there are unaware of it.

As we all know, 60 million Brits woke up the other day without the right to live, work and study in 27 other EU nations as part of the greatest democratically accountable trade zone that the world has ever seen. Currently, record numbers of people with British passports are applying for other passports. The highest number is the 94,000 last year alone who applied to the Republic of Ireland, but people are even applying to other countries to which it used to be unknown for Brits to apply. Some 4,800 French passports have been applied for. That does not instil us with confidence that ours is a gold-standard passport anymore. When the Windrush generation have been waiting for years and years, that just adds insult to injury.

There are worries that other categories of people may be at risk from similar difficulties with the Home Office and the mix of cruelty and ineptitude that we have seen with this particular scheme and policy. The House of Commons Library briefing lists Chagos islanders, EU citizens and a whole load of other people who may fall into this category. A million people have applied for the EU settlement scheme, but we can already see people falling through the cracks, because that scheme is way short of where it should be. The Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier), said at the beginning of the debate that 160,000 people could be eligible to apply for Windrush compensation.

We should remember that this entire scandal cost the scalp of a Home Secretary. The massive governmental failure we have seen in respect of the relatively small numbers—in the thousands—caught up in the Windrush scandal should be a warning against demonising communities without ID. Additional burdens are now being created just for people to go and put an X in a box every five years—the Government are insisting on extra documentation just for voter ID—but we know that 3.5 million people do not have any sort of photo ID. It all bodes very ill. If we really are learning lessons, we need to take heed, especially as to date there has been only one conviction for election fraud in the 2017 general election. I await to see the figures from the recent general election, but it is all part of a pattern, is it not? It looks more hostile environment than one nation Government, which is what they claim to be.

To compound things, the Windrush generation are the people who faced those “No dogs, no blacks, no Irish” signs when they came to this country. Between the original 492 passengers who set sail on the SS Empire Windrush back in June 1948 and right up to 1971, many other people came from the British empire—I think the number is nearly half a million, including my own parents, who came in 1962 from the former East Pakistan. For all those people, all these things are a great worry. We are talking about compensation, but it looks like it is not forthcoming for a lot of people. The wheels of justice are being extremely slow to turn.

At a time when other London boroughs seem to be doing away with things such as Black History Month, I am proud that in my own, the London Borough of Ealing, we have had a Windrush flowerbed in our flagship park, Walpole Park, since 1998. It was re-consecrated or renewed—whatever is done to parks; it is not religious—in 2014. There is a sense that black history is being belittled by all these things. In the neighbouring Tory boroughs, Hillingdon and Wandsworth, they have done away with black history week and are calling it diversity week, which is not the same thing. All these things are not just for a week; they are about lives and livelihoods. I am incredibly fortunate that in my borough we have on a Friday the Acton Anglo Caribbean lunch club, members of which have been affected by the Windrush scandal, although I will not go into individual cases. We also have their kids, who have formed a group called Descendants, and the WAPPY youth group.

I welcome the extension of the timeframe to 2023 and the element of independence that we have talked about, and Labour is obviously not going to oppose the Bill because it is a money Bill that allows compensation, but the scheme is still woefully inadequate. Only 3% of Windrush claimants have received compensation and the scheme falls pitifully short of all the expectations on it. Even the Home Secretary herself, in her own words, and the Government, in their “Dear colleague” letter this morning, as good as admitted that they are continuing to fail the Windrush generation. That is all wrapped up in this whole hostile environment policy, which has created a climate of fear, so that people do not want to come forward. After all, this is the Government who sent “Go home or face arrest” vans all around the London Borough of Ealing.

The Government will not end the Windrush scandal until they completely do away with the hostile environment policy. That means they must repeal the Immigration Act 2014, which overturned legislation that had been in existence since 1973 and that was relatively liberal on freedom of movement.

Right at the start of this debate, the Home Secretary said that this is about ruling out inaccuracies. Many people do not have tons of confidence in this Government and in this Department, especially as it took people of the press—people such as the journalist Amelia Gentleman and campaigner Patrick Vernon—to shine a light on these murky waters in the first place. As I have said, this matter has already claimed the scalp of one Home Secretary. What we need is a proper restorative justice attitude—not something that is perfunctory. The Government may have achieved a stonking great majority, with dozens of new oven-baked MPs, but I hope that they do take heed of what we have been saying about the principle of restorative justice. They could introduce a flat-rate scheme with room for those who have complicated cases. They need to treat this as what it is—a genuine injustice and scandal—rather than in a deport first, ask questions later, too little, too late, inhumane way, which is what this woefully inadequate scheme appears to do.

--- Later in debate ---
Kevin Foster Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Kevin Foster)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I congratulate the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Streatham (Bell Ribeiro-Addy), on her first speech at the Dispatch Box. It was an assured performance with well-thought through points. It is safe to say that we have had an important and wide-ranging debate, touching on a range of issues relating to the Bill. Although I will not be able to respond to every single point, it is perhaps worth my responding to a few of them.

I noticed that both the shadow Home Secretary and the shadow Immigration Minister referred to the fact that we have not put this scheme on a statutory basis. Let me be clear about this: it is to allow a degree of flexibility around the rules where it is necessary. For example, in October, following feedback from stakeholders and claimants, we allowed a broader range of immigration fees to be refunded. Last week, following feedback from stakeholders, from the independent adviser and, to be fair, from members of the shadow team as well, we extended the period by two years, and altered the mitigations. Again, we are keen to engage with stakeholders and the independent adviser about future changes that may need to be made. That is we why we are not keen to put this on a statutory basis and put it all into a piece of primary legislation.

There were comments about the 8,000 taskforce applications, and the fact that, so far, only 1,100 are being followed up with a compensation claim. It does not automatically follow that someone who has secured documentation through the taskforce will then be instantly entitled to compensation. However, we clearly want to reach out, as we want to encourage people to make contact with the compensation team if they believe that there is a claim to be made.

We had a running theme throughout the debate of people who do not necessarily want to attend an event run by the Home Office, understandably in some cases, or to make direct contact with the Home Office. Some favoured approaching a trusted Member of Parliament in their local community. We are very clear that none of the information provided to the Windrush teams will be used for the purposes of immigration enforcement. We are quite happy to arrange for Windrush taskforce and Windrush compensation teams to engage directly with Members of Parliament, if they so wish, and with their constituents, and we are very clear that none of that information will be used for immigration enforcement.

Helen Hayes Portrait Helen Hayes
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister is right to say that many of the Windrush citizens are fearful of approaching the Home Office because of what it might mean for their immigration status now, but it is more than that. It is also about the total lack of trust in the Home Office and the lack of confidence that the very Department that has done them so much wrong has the capacity to deliver justice for them.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is why we are working with the stakeholder group and why we have an independent reviewer and a separate team. I have extended an invitation to my shadows, and I am happy to extend it to other Members of Parliament who have strong constituency interests, to visit the compensation team based in Leeds, to meet and talk with staff and to understand the work they do. We have taken note of the individual cases raised in the Chamber today. I do not think it would be right to respond in detail now from the Dispatch Box, but we will ensure that the details are passed on for further work.

I am keen to respond to an offer made by the shadow team and to work where possible with Members of Parliament to run engagement and outreach events in their constituency. We have already made an arrangement with the hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), and we will make it clear that it is not a Home Office event, but one run by a Member of Parliament with the team attending. As I said, none of the information will be used for purposes unconnected with the Windrush taskforce and the Windrush compensation scheme, and I hope we can give people confidence in what the sessions will be about.

In an interesting speech, the SNP spokesman, the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald), raised several considered points. We have already announced some changes to the mitigation policy, based on the advice from the independent adviser and feedback from stakeholders. The hon. Gentleman made a fair point about what happens when someone misses the deadline by a day in 2023 due to ill health, or perhaps a probate issue. We will continue to review the process, take advice and engage with stakeholders and the independent adviser. There is a balance to be struck between having a date far enough in the future to enable people to feel confident that they have time to make their claim, but soon enough to encourage people to put in their claim. We felt that the two-year extension also gives certainty on procurement for those who provide independent advice to claimants.

That brings me to another point made by hon. Members on how independent advice will be provided. To be clear, the initial procurement went to Citizens Advice and we have extended that until a new service is procured. We thought it right to do that, so that independent advice continued to be available to claimants. The procurement is an open process and we look forward to seeing bids involving groups that can get out and ensure that people get the compensation they deserve.

Regarding the scope of the scheme, it is open to anyone from a Commonwealth country who arrived and settled in the UK before 1973, anyone of any nationality who arrived and settled in the UK before the end of 1988, children, grandchildren and other close family members of such a person who may have been affected, and the estates of those who are now deceased but who would have been eligible to claim compensation. References commonly made to “the Windrush generation” are a shorthand way to ensure that the public are aware of what we mean, but we are not talking purely about people from the Caribbean; those from the wider Commonwealth are also affected.

In the detailed design of the scheme, we are committed to ensuring that everyone who is due compensation can receive it. We worked with the independent adviser, Martin Forde, to ensure that the evidential threshold is as low as possible, and the team will work with claimants to provide as much information as possible to support their claim, but when spending public money it is important to have a minimum amount of information and evidence required. The changes introduced last week show that we will respond to comments and experience, as claims progress.

The taskforce has a dedicated vulnerable persons team to provide help and advice where safeguarding and vulnerability issues are identified. I am advised that up to the end of September 2019, the team had provided support to nearly 1,000 individuals. We have a fast-track service, operated with the Department for Work and Pensions, to confirm status and residence and to arrange access to benefits. Again, we will pick up the cases mentioned in the debate today and make sure a response is given.

Lucy Powell Portrait Lucy Powell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I intervene to give the Minister the opportunity to respond to reports that the Court of Appeal has halted the flight due to take place tomorrow, deporting 50 people back to Jamaica. Does he think that the attention drawn to that case has helped to restore trust in the system or made the situation worse?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will not comment on a case that has only just been concluded. We will consider the judgment in detail, as it may not mean quite what some take it to mean on the surface. However, as I said earlier, this is a Government who follow the rule of law and fulfil our legal duties under the 2007 Act, which Labour Members were happy to support, and which uses the word “must”, not “may”.

The Windrush stakeholder advisory group was launched by the Home Secretary at a stakeholder roundtable on 26 September 2019. The group’s purpose is to help to join up community leaders, lawyers and faith groups across the country and to seek their advice on our communications and engagement strategy. I have listened to feedback from stakeholders and affected individuals and met some members of the panel soon after taking up my current role. The evidence that we are listening is seen in what we did last week by extending the scheme, as requested, and altering the mitigation policy, also as requested. We will consider any further suggestions via that process.

I thank right hon. and hon. Members for their insightful and thought-provoking contributions on the Bill and on the wider position of the Windrush generation. As has been said many times, and as the Government will continue to say, the Windrush issues were the result of a terrible mistake, for which I apologise again on behalf of the Government, in addition to the individual apology that each person receives with the compensation that they are entitled to. We hope that the Government’s commitment to the scheme will go some way to easing the financial burden and impact that some have endured, even though we recognise that compensation by itself cannot resolve all the hurt that was caused.

Each one of us in this House has a role to play and a duty to work to ensure that all those affected get the help they need to regularise their status. No one should be afraid to come forward through their Member of Parliament to the Windrush taskforce. The information will not be used for immigration enforcement. It will be used only for the purposes of the Windrush scheme. Similarly, no one should fear making a claim to the Windrush compensation scheme for what they are owed. We will continue to listen to stakeholders and others involved in this process to ensure that the scheme is fair. Part of that work is ensuring that the Bill is passed.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.



WINDRUSH COMPENSATION SCHEME (EXPENDITURE) BILL (PROGRAMME)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),

That the following provisions shall apply to the Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill:

Committal

1. The Bill shall be committed to a Committee of the whole House.

Proceedings in Committee, on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading

2. Proceedings in Committee, any proceedings on Consideration and any proceedings in legislative grand committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion three hours after the commencement of proceedings in Committee of the whole House.

3. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion four hours after the commencement of proceedings in Committee of the whole House.

4. Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings in Committee of the whole House, to any proceedings on Consideration or to other proceedings up to and including Third Reading.

Other proceedings

5. Any other proceedings on the Bill may be programmed.—(Leo Docherty.)

Question agreed to.

WINDRUSH CoMPENSAtIoN SCHEME (EXPENDItURE) BILL (MoNEY)

Queen’s recommendation signified.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of expenditure incurred by the Secretary of State or a Government Department under, or in connection with, the Windrush Compensation Scheme.—(Leo Docherty.)

Question agreed to.

Contingencies Fund Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage & 2nd reading & 2nd reading: House of Commons & Committee: 1st sitting & Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons
Tuesday 24th March 2020

(4 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Committee of the whole House Amendments as at 24 March 2020 - (24 Mar 2020)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Act 2020 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Jesse Norman Portrait The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Jesse Norman)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

As the House knows, we are living in unprecedented times. The Government have made it clear that they will do whatever it takes to mitigate and limit the effects of the covid-19 pandemic on the United Kingdom. To that end, we have a coherent, co-ordinated and comprehensive plan to support public services, equipping our doctors, nurses and other essential staff with the tools they require on the frontline in support of their work. It is a plan to protect businesses, jobs, wages and incomes through this difficult and uncertain period for the economy. At the heart of the Bill is a recognition that the Government must act swiftly and boldly to provide the resources necessary to limit, and ultimately defeat, the virus.

As the House knows, Parliament provides the Government with the authority to expend resources, capital and cash via the supply process. The process is begun with the publication of the main supply estimates, which we debate in this Chamber, and then the introduction of a supply and appropriation Bill. It is only once that Bill receives Royal Assent, usually in July, that Governments get the bulk of their resources, capital and, most importantly, cash to carry out their approved functions. Until the supply Bill passes, typically in July, Departments live on what is described as “vote on account” money. This money usually represents about 45% of the departmental spending on services from the previous year. It allows Departments to start spending from 1 April, and it normally provides sufficient funds to tide them over until the balance is delivered via the supply Act in July, as described. However, as events have been unfolding, it has become clear that additional departmental spending will be needed compared to last year, and for good reason. The scale and spread of the virus mean that we must act now to safeguard lives. The Government cannot afford to wait. No one in this House would want us to wait until July to deliver the resources that Departments need for the next financial year.

Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Bill is necessary because the economy has come to a halt; we have effectively halted it in order to put an end to this virus. There is a narrative that actually we could have toughed it out, and that we have sacrificed the economy for healthcare. That never really was a realistic alternative, was it?

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Government have not had any time for that narrative, nor has there been any decision in our mind other than to act as decisively, effectively and comprehensively as we can to defeat this virus and to protect livelihoods, businesses, jobs and wellbeing. That is what we are seeking to do. I do not agree—if I may say so to my right hon. Friend—that the requirements that this Bill seeks to address would or could have been accommodated in any other economic circumstances. To move at the speed at which we are moving to offer the support we are offering demands the cash movement that this Bill is designed to achieve.

Ed Davey Portrait Sir Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can the Minister confirm that the amounts that we are talking about in this Bill relate to departmental spending that may need to happen over the next few months, and that they do not relate to the balance sheet of the Bank of England or any of the lending facilities that have been made available to business?

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. This legislation, as I will go on to describe, relates to departmental spending. It as an advance against departmental spending that will be properly ratified, accommodated and acknowledged within the estimates process, as one might expect.

Departments—this goes straight to point just made by the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey)—need money from 1 April, and they need more than the House has already allocated to them via the vote on account. The Government cannot afford to wait until July to deliver the resources needed for the next financial year, and the Bill seeks to close that gap.

The House has long recognised that the Government sometimes need to act without recourse to the normal processes, which is why Parliament has historically provided for the existence and use of a contingencies fund. But Parliament has wisely limited the amount that can be issued from the fund to 2% of the previous year’s cash spend. For 2020-21, that amounts to some £10.6 billion, which would be more than adequate in a normal year. But, as we have discovered, we do not live in normal times. These times are without precedent in the modern era. Through this Bill, the Government therefore ask the House temporarily to raise the limit on the amount that sits in the contingencies fund to 50% of that expended last year; I should be clear that that is approximately £266 billion.

Let me go further and say—again, this is a response to the point made by the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton—that this is not new spending and it is not a blank cheque. All advances will have to be repaid once the main supply estimates are voted on in the summer, when the House will have the opportunity to scrutinise and debate where the resources have been allocated in the normal way. Nor does this represent additional Government borrowing. The Chancellor has said that he will update the Debt Management Office’s financing remit in April to reflect his recent announcements.

Quite simply, this Bill is about cash flow and the need to deliver the support we have announced without delay. It allows the Treasury to provide cash advances where they are urgently needed, and it provides for a safety net between supply estimates. This is an exceptionally short Bill, but it is an exceptionally important one in that it allows the Government to deliver the extraordinary package of support announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. It solves a cash timing issue arising from the current process, and balances the need for an urgent response to the unfolding crisis with the necessary parliamentary scrutiny and oversight.

This Bill is yet another demonstration of the Government’s commitment to fighting the threat from covid-19—protecting businesses, jobs and, most importantly, our fellow citizens, from the ravages of this deadly disease. I wholeheartedly commend it to the House.

--- Later in debate ---
Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

With the leave of the House, I will speak again. I am grateful to all Members who contributed to what, as the hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) said, was a very wide-ranging debate. In fact, it was so wide-ranging that it barely focused on the measure before the House. However, I commend those who discussed the Bill. It is a very important piece of legislation, and—let me say this very straightforwardly—I am very grateful for the expressions of cross-party support from the Opposition parties. That has been crucial to the way the Government have thought about and framed our response to this crisis.

The Bill is another key element in shoring up the very wide package of measures to fight the covid-19 outbreak and, as the House has recognised, it represents a proportionate legislative response to recent events. Of course, it is proportionate in part because it will last only for one year; it is not designed to run longer than that.

I will start with the comments by the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey), because he addressed the topic of the Bill; I am grateful to him for that. He made a series of important points. On whether the banks are really stepping up, as the hon. Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) said, we will know by the end of the process who have been villains and who have been heroes. I do not think the public will be shy in reaching conclusions of their own, and I am sure there will be plenty of quantitative bases for that when the moment comes.

The right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton asked why the number we will vote through today has been raised to 50% from 2%. That is a very important question. The reason is an anticipated escalation in the need for cash under—this point was made widely by colleagues across the House—conditions of radical uncertainty. It is also fair to say that it is not clear beyond any peradventure when the House will reconvene, and we have to accommodate the possibility of a delayed restart. As one might imagine, no assumption is made, but that possibility has to be contemplated.

The right hon. Gentleman also asked whether this constitutes an increase in spending. This is not a spending matter; it is a cash matter, and he needs to be aware of that. To reassure him on the question of local authorities, this does include spending that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will make as part of the usual estimates process.

The right hon. Gentleman described his work examining processes for reviewing and considering Budgets, but this is not a Budget, so it does not fall under that. However, it is worth saying that we have an evolved system. It is a system that involves a lot of scrutiny— repeated days of looking at main estimates and supplementary estimates—but of course it is also a system that gives considerable authority to the majority party at any given time, and that is what constrains the ultimate outcome.

Ed Davey Portrait Sir Edward Davey
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hope the Minister is right on the banks, but my main point is about the estimates. Actually, we have only three days to debate the estimates. I have attended estimates debates in this House over the last 20 years; when we have estimates days, we never debate the estimates. That is my point.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is a different point. My point is that Parliament has plenty of opportunity to scrutinise spending. If it does not do that, that is a choice that it makes.

The right hon. Gentleman’s final point was about whether this Government believe, or any Conservative Government have ever believed, that markets can do it all. Let me assure him that no Conservative Government have ever believed that, and this one certainly do not believe that. At the risk of invoking one of my great heroes, Adam Smith, the position is that commercial society is a dynamic evolution in which forms of property are supported and recognised in law and then used to become the basis of profitable market development. That is how our system has evolved over many decades, and the state is integral to that process for all the reasons the right hon. Gentleman has described, so this is a way of agreeing with him.

May I turn to the comments made by the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell)? Again, I thank him for his support for the Bill, and I think that constructive attitude is important. He is right to call this the gravest crisis we have known, certainly for this generation. A strong theme in his speech and those of others was the need for more communications; it was also mentioned by the hon. Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson). Of course, we understand that on the Government Benches. During the debate, the House will be pleased to know, I got a text from gov.uk referring me to the coronavirus website. That is a direct intervention of a kind I am not sure I would approve of outside the context of a national crisis, but one that is very welcome in that context. It shows evidence of and bears testimony to the belief we have in this very important response and in the need for communications.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very grateful to the Financial Secretary for highlighting the issue that my right hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) and I raised about communication. The point about the gov.uk website is that not everybody knows about it, and a further point is that not everybody has access to the internet, particularly some of those most at need—older and more disadvantaged people—and that is where some of the other routes for getting information out there are so important.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Member for that point, and he is absolutely right. One role that every Member of this House can have is to spread the word among constituents to make sure that this is widely understood.

The right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington talked about the importance of consulting the trade unions. He will know that there have been consultations with Frances O’Grady and other trade union leaders, as well as with the Mayor of London, to try to build public understanding and a shared view of these issues.

A final point I would make about what the right hon. Gentleman described is that we have had statements on the Government’s response, two urgent questions, an Opposition day—we have one tomorrow—and two pieces of legislation in the last two days alone, so there has been every opportunity for parties across the House to question and interrogate us. As colleagues have been kind enough to point out, the Government have been working at tremendous pace, with every hour of the day being exploited for the purposes of trying to get the right outcome, and where we have imperfection, as it were, we will try to make this as good as we can over the next days and weeks.

Let me, if I may, move on to my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami). He asked what extra the Treasury will be borrowing as a result of this, and the answer is that this is a cash item, as he will recall. The debt management remit will follow, and we will set out the Government’s borrowing plans. He raised an interesting question about whether money spent in response to this crisis could be itemised differently in the national accounts. That is an interesting idea, and I thank him for it. He highlighted the impact of tech start-ups, and he is absolutely right.

I thank the hon. Member for Gordon (Richard Thomson) for supporting the Bill. I think he is absolutely right to talk about the need for business recovery. We do not share his excitement about a universal basic income, in part because it does not actually hug the need across the population as well as a well-functioning benefit system, and that is what we have tried to do. It is a live argument on both sides. Of course, there are parts of the spectrum, notably those on the state pension, where we have something close to a universal income already in place, although not necessarily at the level that people would have expected.

My hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) persuasively and interestingly illustrated the choices faced by Government and businesses through his own business, and I thank him for that. My understanding of the personal guarantee issue touched on by many is that the circumstances for the business loans are to be agreed between the lender and the individual. There might be some element of personal guarantee, but not as relates to the primary residence. The desire is to build the flexibility and potential availability that comes with that, but without compromising people’s ultimate wellbeing.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for St Ives (Derek Thomas) for his comments. Through his speech today and in his remarks in Treasury questions, he has registered his intense concern on this issue, and I thank him very much for that.

Let me wind up by saying that this is a proportionate legislative response to the crisis and that it seeks to close an important gap in cash flow in the estimates process. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time; to stand committed to a Committee of the whole House (Order, this day).

Further proceedings on the Bill stood postponed (Order, this day).

Contingencies Fund Bill (Money)

Queen’s recommendation signified.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Contingencies Fund Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any increase attributable to the Act in the sums to be issued out of, or paid into, the Consolidated Fund which is attributable to increasing, in relation to any time before 1 April 2021, the percentage specified in section 1(1) of the Contingencies Fund Act 1974 to a percentage not exceeding 50%.—(Eddie Hughes.)

Question agreed to.

Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
3rd reading & 2nd reading & Committee negatived & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee negatived (Hansard) & Committee negatived (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 21st April 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Committee of the whole House Amendments as at 24 March 2020 - (24 Mar 2020)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Act 2020 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Moved by
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am a bit out of practice —I am so used to doing things on Zoom now—but I am very pleased to be able to move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.

The whole country was shocked by the unacceptable mistreatment of some members of the Windrush generation by successive Governments. As the Home Secretary said on publication of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, despite the diverse and open nature of our country, too many people still feel that they may be treated differently because of who they are or where their parents came from. Many noble Lords have spoken passionately and movingly about the contributions made by the Windrush generation, men and women who came to the United Kingdom to rebuild the country after the Second World War. They built their lives and their home in Britain, and they have done so much for this country—their country. They worked hard, paid their taxes and contributed to our communities, our culture and our society. That is why we were all so shocked to discover that they and their families were subject to such insensitive treatment. Lives were ruined and families were torn apart.

This Government recognise that no amount of money can undo the injustice some members of the Windrush generation have faced or the hardship they have suffered. However, it is only right that all those who have been affected are offered proper compensation. This Bill, brought to this House as a money Bill, is therefore a vital part of delivering the Windrush compensation scheme. The compensation scheme was launched in April 2019. It includes a specific apology to each person, issued with the award of compensation. Most importantly, it allows those who have suffered to avoid court proceedings in pursuit of justice. There are 13 categories under which people can claim compensation, including “Impact on life” and “Discretionary”, and while some categories of award have an upper limit, there is no overall cap on the amount an individual can receive in compensation under the scheme.

Our priority has been to ensure that payments are made as quickly as possible. The first payment was made last July, within four months of the scheme being launched. To the end of December we had made 36 payments totalling £62,198, and many more payments have been made since then. However, some cases are more complex than others and it is right that we take the time to ensure these are dealt with properly. Where we can resolve part of a claim more quickly than other parts, we are making interim payments to ensure claimants receive their awards as quickly as possible, although we recognise the strength of feeling that we need to do all we can to ensure many more receive what they are due quickly.

Evidential requirements have been designed to be straightforward and not too onerous. Claim forms have been designed to be simple and easy to understand and were tested with users, so legal assistance is not required to complete an application. However, the Home Office has a contract with Citizens Advice to provide independent advice and support to claimants in the UK and overseas should they need it, and yesterday we announced the launch of a tender to select an organisation to provide this support to claimants for the duration of the scheme. The tender will be open from 22 April and close on 1 July and interested organisations can find out how to access the relevant documents on GOV.UK. The design of the scheme was informed by a public consultation, and the advice of Martin Forde QC, the independent adviser to the scheme. I thank Martin Forde QC for his ongoing support and invaluable insight.

We have listened, and will continue to listen, to feedback on the scheme to make sure it is delivering for those it is designed to compensate. Details of the scheme are set out in non-statutory rules, which gives us the flexibility to amend them where appropriate. For example, we announced earlier this year that we are extending the duration of the scheme by a further two years and changing the rules so people will no longer be expected to show they took immediate steps to resolve their status. This change means that some people may qualify for higher awards, particularly where it relates to loss of employment.

A review process for those dissatisfied with their compensation offer has also been established, first through an internal Home Office review and, if the claimant is still dissatisfied, through an independent review by the adjudicator’s office. Information supplied as part of a claim for compensation will not be used for enforcement action.

My department continues to work extensively with communities and stakeholders to raise awareness of both the Windrush compensation scheme and the Windrush scheme. The Home Office has attended or hosted over 100 engagement and outreach events and surgeries throughout the UK, but there is more to do to fulfil our commitment to those affected. That is why we announced last month a £500,000 community fund to enable grass-roots organisations to promote these schemes, including provisions for advice surgeries, the design of which will be shaped by community stakeholders, and a national communications campaign to raise awareness and ensure that people know how to apply.

No compensation can ever hope to undo the injustice of being told that you are not welcome in your homeland, but we hope that the Windrush compensation scheme can go some way to righting the wrongs of the past, in particular towards easing the financial burden that some endured as a result. That is why, even in the midst of the current circumstances, we have this Bill before us to fulfil our commitment to the Windrush generation and to discharge our financial duties to Parliament responsibly. Payments are currently made under a ministerial direction issued in July last year, but the Bill will ensure that expenditure under the scheme meets the expectation of financial regularity relating to both the 1932 concordat between the Public Accounts Committee and the Treasury, and the principles of Managing Public Money.

The Bill received support in the Commons, where it passed quickly without amendment. We want swiftly to grant Parliament the necessary financial authority for expenditure under the compensation scheme, and I hope noble Lords will give the Bill the support it needs to avoid any further uncertainty for members of the Windrush generation. I therefore commend the Bill to the House.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, and everyone who has spoken in this debate. Several things came to mind as I heard the various speakers.

First, my noble friend Lord Taylor of Warwick commented on “no blacks, no Irish, no dogs”. Were that still in force—the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, and I were babies then—half the speakers taking part in this debate would not be allowed in your Lordships’ House. It was lovely to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Watkins, on the back of my noble friend’s point, talk about some of her inspirations as a student nurse.

I also support the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Newby, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, about our BME friends who have worked in the fight against Covid-19, many of whom have died in the fight. Many people in this country owe them their lives, and we are eternally grateful to them.

This is rightly a money Bill, because it focuses on matters of financial regularity. The Home Secretary has said that there are still people out there who need our help but whom we have not yet reached—many noble Lords have referred to them today. That is why we have confirmed that we will launch an expanded cross-government Windrush working group to develop programmes to improve the lives of those affected. That might be through employment support programmes, dedicated mental health support or specialist education and training schemes. We will continue to listen to stakeholders as we take forward establishing this group.

Most noble Lords talked about the scope of the scheme. My noble friend Lady Verma, who cannot be here today because she is self-isolating, has asked me to talk about certain aspects of it. The Windrush Compensation Scheme is not limited to men and women who originally came to the UK from the Caribbean Commonwealth and have struggled to demonstrate their lawful status. It is open to Commonwealth citizens who arrived in the UK before 1 January 1973 and who are lawfully here because they have a right of abode or settled status or are now British citizens. It is open also to Commonwealth citizens overseas who settled in the UK before 1 January 1973 and to any person of any nationality who arrived in the UK before 31 December 1988 and is lawfully here because they have a right of abode or settled status or are now a British citizen. The scheme is open also to the children and grandchildren of Commonwealth citizens in certain circumstances, to the estates of those who are now deceased but who would have otherwise been eligible to claim compensation, and to close family members of eligible claimants where there is evidence of certain direct financial losses or significant impact on their life. The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, asked about mental health. Mental health would be covered by this aspect of impact on life.

Data published by the department on 27 February demonstrates that claims are being made by individuals of a range of nationalities, spanning the Commonwealth beyond the Caribbean. The scheme covers a broad range of losses: there are 13 categories under which claims can be made, such as impact on life, which I have just mentioned. There is also a “discretionary” category, which will enable people to claim for other losses not necessarily identified within the scheme. We want to be as flexible about this as possible.

The Government are committed to making sure that everyone who is due compensation can receive it. In designing the scheme, 650 responses to a call for evidence and nearly 1,500 responses to a public consultation informed our approach. We held several public events. Martin Forde QC, who is an experienced barrister on all aspects of health law, was appointed by the previous Home Secretary to advise on the design of the compensation scheme. We have made the evidential threshold as low as possible and will work with claimants to support them in providing as much information as possible to support their claim. However, it is important that we spend public money appropriately and therefore a minimum level of information and evidence is required. Where awards are for actual losses, it is right that we seek to obtain an appropriate level of assurance that those losses were incurred so as to fulfil our duty properly to manage public money.

The aim of this approach is to reimburse in full those who can evidence actual losses. For those who cannot meet the evidential requirements for an award based on actual loss, a tariff award may be made. Our approach is comparable with employment tribunals’ approach for calculating loss of earnings, where an award to cover actual losses generally would be paid where the claimant was able sufficiently to evidence what those could have been.

We have always said that we will listen to feedback on how the scheme is operating and continue to make improvements where they are identified to make sure that it is delivering for those whom it is designed to compensate. The changes announced by this Government earlier this year demonstrate our commitment to do this and to build on changes made to the rules last October.

I can understand concerns that the department which caused the issues facing these individuals should be the one deciding whether they are eligible to receive compensation. I hope that I can give some comfort on this. The Home Office is determined to learn lessons and right the wrongs experienced by the Windrush generation, and the compensation team is working hard to ensure that people get the compensation they deserve. As the Home Secretary said in her Statement on Wendy Williams’ Windrush Lessons Learned Review, we will continue to do everything possible to ensure that the Home Office protects, supports and listens to every single part of the community it serves.

On the operation of the compensation scheme, moving it from the Home Office would risk significantly delaying payments to claimants. I am sure that that is not what anyone would want. The first stage in deciding a claim for compensation is to confirm an individual’s identity and eligibility, and that is linked to the immigration status of an individual. It would be difficult to decouple this from the Home Office without increasing the time taken to process an individual’s claim and issue payments.

We have established an independent review process for those dissatisfied with their compensation offer. The independent review is conducted by the HMRC adjudicator, a non-departmental public body that is completely independent from the Home Office and can look at, among other things, whether the department has followed its policies and the use of discretion by the Windrush compensation team.

Lastly, as an independent adviser to the scheme, Martin Forde continues to provide external scrutiny and challenge on its operation and implementation, and we continue to listen and respond to feedback received from stakeholders to ensure that the scheme is operating effectively for claimants.

The noble Lords, Lord Newby and Lord Taylor, and others, spoke about funding, the impact assessment, award tariffs and caps on the scheme. I say again that the Government are making sure that everyone who is due compensation can receive it. The Windrush compensation scheme awards compensation according to both actual losses and tariff-based awards. While some categories of awards have an upper limit, there is no overall cap on the amount that an individual can receive in compensation under the scheme. There is also an uncapped discretionary category, which is for significant impact or loss not necessarily identified within the scheme.

Noble Lords referred to the updated impact assessment. Published in February, it outlines the Home Office estimates that the Windrush compensation scheme will cost between £90 million and £250 million, based on 11,500 eligible claims. That answers the question from the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Warwick.

Other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Newby, talked about the sheer breadth and extent of the spectrum of compensation. It has actually reduced since the previous impact assessment was published, due to lower than anticipated claims to date. However, there remains a high degree of uncertainty around the likely volume of compensation claims and the level of claims against the different categories. As a result, the impact assessment uses a number of different volume scenarios with a wide range of possible costs. The department will continue to review estimates as more payments are made, but I want to make it clear that there is no cap on the amount of compensation we will pay out to individuals.

The noble Baroness, Lady Watkins, asked about data on the number of applicants. There will be a quarterly update on GOV.UK. Given that the last update was in December, I am expecting one fairly soon.

The noble Lord, Lord Newby, talked about the number of payments made and the time to process claims, and I think that his challenge is absolutely fair. Up to the end of December, 36 payments had been made, totalling £62,198. We aim to award compensation as quickly as possible, but it does take time to process each claim, and it will depend on the complexity of individual cases. It is right that we take the time to ensure that they are dealt with properly. Where we can resolve part of a claim more quickly than other parts, we are making interim payments to ensure that claimants receive their awards as quickly as possible. Many of the payments made so far are interim payments, which means that claimants may receive further awards later.

The noble Lord, Lord Newby, and the noble Baroness, Lady Watkins, asked what proportion of claimants are successful. The latest data, released in February, to the end of December 2019, show that nobody had been rejected on eligibility grounds. There were some zero awards to eligible people who had not suffered financial loss or detriment.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, made a very good point about people with no recourse to public funds. Many of the measures that Her Majesty’s Government have put in place will support such people—for example, the coronavirus job retention scheme, the self-employment scheme and statutory sick pay are not public funds and are available to all. The Government have given more than £3.2 billion to local authorities to help them support those in need. Of course, for people with no recourse to public funds, that is quite often where the money comes from. Rental and mortgage protections are also available and people on human rights routes can apply to have their “no recourse to public funds” status lifted if their financial circumstances change.

On the length of time, just as a comparator, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority website suggests that claims under that scheme take 12 to 18 months to conclude, but that is not a reason to justify this. I recognise the strength of feeling, and we are working very hard to ensure that many more receive what they are due quickly. To the end of December, as I have said, no claims had been rejected. The noble Lords, Lord Newby, Lord Kennedy and Lord Hastings, made very good points about communications efforts. Of course, those efforts are not just by way of a quick tweet, as the noble Lord said; they are across the world and we are working extensively with communities and stakeholders to raise awareness of both the Windrush compensation scheme and the Windrush scheme.

The Home Office has attended or hosted more than 100 engagement and outreach events and surgeries throughout the UK, but there is definitely more to do to fulfil our commitment to those affected. It is essential that we engage with people directly. That is why last month we announced the £500,000 community fund that the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, mentioned, to enable grass-roots organisations to promote these schemes, including provision for advice services. We are committed to working with members of the community to shape the design and principles of the fund. That is why we intend to work with stakeholders to co-design the fund.

One thing that the compensation scheme covers under quite a broad category—I have already alluded to it—is the impact on life. This category is specifically designed to cover non-financial impacts that individuals might have faced as a result of being unable to demonstrate their lawful status; for example, an inability to attend significant family occasions, celebrations or events, or family separation. We have heard awful examples in this House of how that has happened. This category is awarded at a series of levels, with payments ranging from £250 for detriment where the effect on the claimant was fairly short lived, up to £10,000-plus where the effect was profound and likely to be irreversible. The scheme is also open to close family members of eligible claimants who may claim compensation in their own right where they have suffered a loss or impact.

The Government also consider it reasonable to expect that individuals who encountered difficulty evidencing their lawful right to be in the UK would have taken steps to try to resolve this. However, we have listened to feedback from stakeholders and affected individuals, and earlier this year we amended our mitigation policy so that a wider range of circumstances and actions taken by individuals to resolve their immigration status or mitigate losses or impacts are considered when deciding awards. Individuals are no longer expected to show that they took immediate steps to resolve their status, and this was clarified in new guidance published on 5 March. These changes mean that affected individuals may qualify for higher awards, particularly where loss of employment is involved.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Warwick, and others talked about claimant assistance and legal advice. We have designed the compensation scheme to be as clear and simple as possible so that people do not need legal assistance to make a claim. The claim forms have been designed to be simple and easy to use and were tested with users.

Evidential requirements have also been designed to be straightforward and not too onerous. However, for those who want or need support to make a claim, the Home Office has funded Citizens Advice to provide free independent advice and support. This is available to individuals at home and overseas. As I said, yesterday we launched the tender to select an organisation to provide free independent advice and support to claimants for the scheme’s duration.

The noble Lord, Lord Newby, mentioned the length of the form. Claimants need to fill in only the bits of the form that are applicable to them. While it might seem like a long form, they have to fill in only the pieces that refer to them.

Many noble Lords—the noble Lords, Lord Newby and Lord Kennedy, and the noble Baroness, Lady Watkins, in particular—mentioned the duration of the scheme. We want to make sure that everyone who wishes to make a claim can do so. That is why we announced earlier this year that we are extending the duration of the scheme until 2023 and why we are doing all we can to raise awareness of it. However, as the Immigration Minister said at Second Reading in the other place:

“There is a balance to be struck between having a date far enough in the future to enable people to feel confident that they have time to make their claim, but soon enough to encourage people to put in their claim.”—[Official Report, Commons, 10/2/20; col. 668.]


We felt that the two-year extension provides this, but the option remains to further extend the duration if it is required. The rules allow for an extension.

Noble Lords also talked about destitution, immediate need and significant hardship. Where people are in immediate need, we have measures in place to provide that extra support. The task force has a dedicated vulnerable persons team to provide help and advice where safeguarding and vulnerability issues are identified. To the end of February 2020, the vulnerable persons team has provided support to nearly 1,400 individuals. We have a fast-track service with the Department for Work and Pensions to confirm status and residence and to arrange access to benefits. We can also help with securing accommodation for those identified as homeless with local authorities. To provide support to members of the Windrush generation who have an urgent and exceptional need, we may also be able to consider a payment under the support in urgent and exceptional circumstances policy. To the end of February 2020, 33 payments have been made under that policy. Finally, the Home Office also has an agreement with Citizens Advice to provide bespoke professional advice, including debt advice, to anyone experiencing immediate financial problems.

All noble Lords talked about the Windrush Lessons Learned Review. On 18 March, the Home Secretary received the review from Wendy Williams, and updated Parliament and published the review at the earliest opportunity on 19 March. It makes compelling reading. It makes it clear that some members of this generation suffered terrible injustices spurred by institutional failings spanning successive Governments over several decades, including

“ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation”.

We are truly sorry on behalf of this and previous Governments that people’s trust has been betrayed.

The Home Secretary will bring forward a detailed formal response in the next six months, as Wendy Williams recommended. As noble Lords will recall, she specifically asked the Home Secretary to take time to reflect on this before she responded.

Noble Lords talked extensively about the compliant environment. The previous Home Secretary, my right honourable friend Sajid Javid, said that the words “hostile environment” would no longer be part of the way that the Home Office operated. The Government are absolutely committed to a fair and humane immigration policy which welcomes and celebrates those here legally, deters immigration offending and protects the taxpayer.

The noble Lord, Lord Newby, talked about the right to rent. This was introduced under the coalition Government and was about tackling unscrupulous employers and landlords to protect the vulnerable while also protecting good employers and landlords. It is in the interests of a fair society that those who play by the rules are supported while those who would otherwise be exploited are protected. The noble Lord talked about losing the right-to-rent judgment. We did not actually lose the judgment: the appeal has been allowed and we will await its outcome.

Gosh, I have gone on for 24 minutes, but I am sure that the House will indulge me. The noble Baroness, Lady Bull, asked about the stakeholder advisory group and how many times it has met. The cross-government group announced by the Home Secretary has not yet met because of Covid-19, but the Home Office stakeholder advisory group has met three times and has focused on communications campaigns—engagement and outreach, grass-roots campaigns and the new national campaign—and working on digital outreach options in the light of coronavirus. She also made a comparison with the furlough scheme. It is not really comparable because that scheme is just about employment and this is so much broader than that. The Windrush Compensation Scheme is dealing with people’s lives in the round and a lot of this goes back many years.

I hope I have answered all noble Lords’ questions. I am sorry to have gone on for 25 minutes. I thank all noble Lords and commend the Bill to the House.

Bill read a second time. Committee negatived. Standing Order 46 having been dispensed with, the Bill was read a third time, and passed.