Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick debates involving the Home Office during the 2019 Parliament

Thu 29th Feb 2024
Thu 12th May 2022
Tue 21st Apr 2020
Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill
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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

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Thursday 29th February 2024

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Windrush Generation: 75th Anniversary

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Friday 7th July 2023

(10 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick Portrait Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick (CB)
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My Lords, this is a marvellous moment when we can celebrate remarkable lives, great sacrificial people, or fill our faces with the tears and sadness of the distress that they feel.

Some 135 years before the “Windrush” ship came to Tilbury docks, a great English writer, Jane Austen, gave us the words “Pride and Prejudice”. For so many who came on the HMT “Empire Windrush”, and for the Windrush generation, it was pride: they were proud to come, to give, to serve, to sacrifice, to rebuild, to be representing their own dignity and their own freedom, proud to help Britain reshape, remake and live again. However, for so many others it became prejudice—fearsome, troubled, traumatic, turbulent and, ultimately, incarcerated.

I am a son of a Windrush family. My father came here in 1954. He was a dental surgeon who trained at Edinburgh University. He gained a medical qualification, then a dental qualification, then a dental surgery qualification—a long journey. His father before him was a doctor, not serving in the Caribbean but as a missionary in Angola, where my father was born. Having come to the UK to train, my father went to Jamaica. In the little town of Savanna la Mar—Sav la Mar, or Sav, as the Jamaicans love to call it—he met my very dear mother. They are both now long passed. He fell in love with her while doing her teeth, which is a curious way to discover someone else’s delight. I used to ask my mother, “What did you have in there that was so fascinating?” She never knew, but they married in the parish church in Sav la Mar and made their way here in 1954, coming first to Widnes, a strange little town in the north-west of England where I was born in, dare I say it, 1958.

My father practised at 103 Albert Road, Widnes. I remember so very well that in 1962, when I was just four years of age, I was walking with my mother up the high street towards my father’s practice—he was an NHS dentist, because those were the days of NHS dentists. There was a gentle illustration of the travail that was around us. A lady stopped my mother. It always comes back to my mind; I see every second of it. There was I, a little boy holding my mother’s arm. It was a winter’s day. She had a classic old-fashioned winter coat with false fur around her neck, as we did not have much money. This lady said to my mother, holding her arm, “Tell me, before you came here, did you used to live in trees?”

We laugh at that now but, back then, people’s images of us were not quite that of savages but were certainly that we were not sophisticated—that we had come from poverty to enrich ourselves as well as the nation. I remember my mother’s gentle and kind response so well. She reached out her hand, took the lady’s arm and said, “No, dear. We lived in houses just like you”, and we walked on. She had that spirit of, “I am here to make a life for my family; I am not here to fight your ignorance”.

Just a year ago, at an event in the City of London, a lady had noted that I was on the list of guests and came up to me. She said, “Was your father Petain Hastings of Albert Road, Widnes?” I said, “Yes, he was”. She said, “Well, your father did my mother’s teeth, for which I am eternally grateful to you”. I said, “Look at mine; they mirror my father’s work as well”, and we shared great grins with each other: pride in service and support, joy in giving, and delight in creating a new life.

My brother was born in Huddersfield and moved to the United States to become the dean of MIT. I remained here to become the chancellor of Regent’s University and now the chairman of SOAS at the University of London. We have made a life. But, on the way here today, a Caribbean mother rang me to tell me about her son—32 years of age, reincarcerated for a minor, pathetic, minuscule error. A man who served 10 years inside for crimes he should never have committed, who was released last year, is now back in an approved premises. Why? The prejudicial, discriminatory mindset of the system did not want to give him the grace of a tiny mistake, given all the progress he had made, but made the assumption of continuing danger.

That remaining prejudice causes this fear of policing and the criminal justice system. I experienced that on Wednesday, after the teachers who were striking took their great parade past Parliament Square. It was difficult to get into the House’s parking facilities using my pass, which of course entitles us to be present and not obstructed. A policeman barked at me in an unacceptable way that I should not have moved until he gave me freedom to do so. I pointed out that he had no right to obstruct. He did not like it, but he could not stop me. If I was not me, I might have been banged up against the wall. That is the trauma that the next Windrush generation continue to live with, which must be stopped.

This week’s Voice newspaper is headlined “Let’s save our boys”. It is talking about how Caribbean boys are five times more likely to attend a pupil referral unit, which is virtually a direct line to incarceration and imprisonment. The Department for Education and the Home Office know it. The key figure is that 1% of Caribbean children get five good GCSEs at pupil referral units—in other words, persistent, expected failure.

We want to restore the pride in the people who came here to build, but the prejudice remains too persistent. A summary of Jane Austen’s great book Pride and Prejudice says that it is “A story of girls who made hasty and rash decisions and learned to pay the consequences”. The people who came here as Windrush sacrifices did not make hasty decisions, but those who hold prejudice against them frequently do, whether compensations, incarcerations or referrals to pupil referral units.

I ask the Ministers present to stop skirting around these tough issues for young black men and women. Stop skirting around incarceration pressures and give us back the pride that was the reason for coming here and building a nation of equality and opportunity.

Queen’s Speech

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Thursday 12th May 2022

(2 years ago)

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Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick Portrait Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick (CB)
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My Lords, at Oral Questions in this House on 9 November 2020, my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham asked for the third time when Her Majesty’s Government planned to announce the chair, the timeframe and the terms of reference for a royal commission on criminal justice. The now disappeared noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Bybrook, replied that

“the Government remain committed to establishing a royal commission on criminal justice.”—[Official Report, 9/11/20; col. 798.]

That was of course promised in the manifesto in 2019 and committed in the gracious Speech of December 2019. On 7 July, the Law Society Gazette reported that the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, our great friend who stood down on right principle, said that the Government

“are absolutely committed to the delivery of this key manifesto pledge.”

We still have not seen it. Can the Minister put all of us who have been interested in this subject out of our misery and tell us whether a royal commission on criminal justice will or will not happen? If it is not going to happen, can he please tell us, so that we can stop fretting about it? If it is going to happen, there is not a lot of parliamentary time left in this Government’s tenure, so when might it happen and how might it report?

This is incredibly important to those of us who care about not just victims but perpetrators. The Government say an awful lot about wanting to ensure that our streets are safer, and that the police are the ones who should make our streets safer. After 35 years as founder and chairman of Crime Concern and founder and vice-president of Catch22, I venture to suggest that it is not the police who make our streets safer; it is the public, who desist from crime and who look after one another in communities and neighbourhoods, who make our streets safer. The police often arrive after the event; it is before the event that we must be primarily concerned with, not after it, when holding inquiries.

In opening this debate, the Minister stated that this gracious Speech and its prospective legislation were about issues that matter to the people of the United Kingdom. That includes fighting crime. However, it seems that one section of the people of the United Kingdom do not matter. We have already heard the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Gower, who is no longer in his place, defend stop and search, saying that it is up by 22%. Those of us who are connected to the communities most affected by stop and search, notably black people, will tell you that it is a hapless injustice and has destroyed confidence in communities and confidence in the police, and has unsettled those who would be more inclined to support the law so that they are less inclined to participate in it.

It is worth noting that, on 5 July 2020, a British black Olympian gold medallist and her partner, Ricardo dos Santos, were dragged out of their car, leaving a baby in the back, because police suspected that there was the smell of cannabis. That of course relates to the dreadful events around a child, which we have also discussed in this Chamber. Three days after what was almost, in a way, the terrible clubbing of those two—certainly they were handcuffed and dragged out of the car, leaving a baby abandoned—the hapless and now evaporated Ms Dick apologised for the abusive behaviour of the Metropolitan Police. Stop and search is massively, perpetually destructive and damaging, and anyone connected with minority communities knows what it does. If noble Lords wish to come with me to any of those communities, they will find that young men and women carry weapons to defend themselves against the police; often, because of the aggravation, they then get involved in aggravation that then involves unnecessary crime.

We must note the Home Office’s continuing figures showing even last year that, despite the numbers being up by 22%—as was unhelpfully noted by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Gower—80% of all those stopped and searched had no questionable behaviour. The damage done to their psyche, their sense of Britishness and well-being, and to the identity of their communities, is unparalleled and almost unhealable. It must end. A royal commission—in the same way I am sitting on a commission with the Legatum Institute at the moment—has concluded that stop and search is the great evil of the system. It must end. The Public Order Bill should prevent it, and it is about time that the police realised that this act of perpetual discrimination is vile and repugnant.

I have one further comment on the gracious Speech. Saying that we will make our streets safer by further empowering the police forgets the fact that so many people now locked up in prison unnecessarily and without proper appeal will, because the courts are stuffed up and cannot respond properly to their responsibilities for justice, come out of the system angry, instead of recovered in their well-being. If we do not deal with injustices in the system, we allow the possibility of vast numbers of people on our streets being furious with a system that has damaged them for ever. Getting this right is fundamental to the security of our community. Please, let us have the royal commission.

EU Bilateral Agreements for Asylum Seekers

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Monday 6th September 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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It would be helpful to outline the process here. All migrants are tested on arrival with a lateral flow test and any refusing are treated as though they are infectious and are isolated. Due to a small possibility of false positives associated with lateral flow, any individual who receives a positive result at a residential short-term holding facility in England or an immigration removal centre will be offered a PCR test to confirm the result, and any detained individual with symptoms of Covid, or testing positive for Covid, will be placed in protective isolation for at least 10 days.

Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick Portrait Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick (CB)
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My Lords, is there not another question for the Home Office? Given the difficulties of last year’s endless reporting on Windrush and the Wendy Williams report that said the Home Office was institutionally racist and ignorant, how will it handle new asylum and refugee cases? Is this the right department to handle the increasing number of asylum seekers and refugees? Given that the United Kingdom is one of the poorest countries for receiving refugees and then processing asylum claims, and noting that the BBC reported this morning that from 2008 to 2019 the UK sent back almost as many Afghans as we have just received, is the Home Office the right department to be operating this scheme?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I disagree with the noble Lord on a number of points. I think this country is incredibly generous in terms of how it supports and welcomes people who need our help. He mentioned Wendy Williams. I very much look forward to welcoming her back later this month when she reports on the findings of her first report. I am also very pleased that the Minister appointed for Afghanistan refugee resettlement is my honourable friend VickyAtkins, who will be a very compassionate and suitable candidate for the role.

Windrush Compensation Scheme

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Wednesday 6th May 2020

(4 years ago)

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Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick Portrait Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick (CB)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the opportunity for the House to discuss the issues raised by the Wendy Williams review and the Windrush compensation scheme, further to an initial debate about the Bill itself. I will press the Minister on one or two matters raised in that debate that did not receive a specific answer. We looked at the areas for which historical compensation can be paid. I raised the specific point about reputational damage to individuals, especially from the loss of their work or their removal from the country. Reputational damage should be a factor considered for compensation. Can the Minister reply on that matter?

The Minister also discussed briefly in her opening remarks the point about improving the lives of those directly affected. There were some examples of what that might mean, but very often a fundamental aspect of improving the lives of people who come from a Caribbean culture is to pay them due dignity and respect. I suggest that the Minister and the Government might seek to bring together an annual conference in the Palace of Westminster—not a perpetual conference of apology, but one of listening, heeding, supporting, enabling and empowering those who feel that their contributions might well have received some kind of financial return, but who, in effect, need to be respected, heard and listened to with greater dignity.

The particular questions raised by the specific issues referred to in Wendy Williams’ report cause us to ask the hard questions. Who was institutionally ignorant in the Home Office? Who was thoughtless? Was this simply down to political direction, as referred to in the previous speech, by Governments of both colours wanting to limit the amount of immigration, or was there some kind of systemic thoughtlessness within the structures and permanent operations of the Home Office?

We await the Home Secretary’s reply, which is permitted to be within six months of the publication of the report. Might the Minister advise us whether she can give a specific date when that reply, analysis and return will come from the Home Secretary? Could she also give some consideration to how the Home Office will in reality deal with this institutional ignorance? The only way to remove ignorance is to educate; the only way to remove thoughtlessness is to empathise. What specific actions of empathy and education has the Home Office undertaken to ensure that these aspects are removed?

I have one further point. Over time, those in power forgot about these people’s circumstances. If the Minister would allow it, could we put in place some way to make sure that we never forget—to bring them together, honour them, bring dignity to them and provide them with due respect?

Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill

Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick Excerpts
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)

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Read Full debate Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Act 2020 View all Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: Committee of the whole House Amendments as at 24 March 2020 - (24 Mar 2020)
Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick Portrait Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick (CB)
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My Lords, this is a short Bill of just two paragraphs; I will aim to keep my remarks similarly short. I realise that there is to be a wider debate—the noble Lord, Lord Newby, has referred to it—which we will be able to conduct at greater length and depth. Fundamental to the quality of this Bill and to the achievement of the scheme, I say in a spirit of appreciation that this compensation programme is a matter of honour for the Government. How it has been brought about may be considerably more complicated in its genesis but at least, thank goodness, the scheme and its resources are possible.

In the Statement on the Williams report made in another place and repeated in this House on 19 March, the Home Secretary apologised, saying that she was deeply, sincerely sorry. She commented further that people’s trust had been betrayed and that this was because the Home Office had

“institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation”.—[Official Report, Commons, 19/3/20; col.1154.]

Even though there are independent assessments and the possibility of independent considerations and committees, this is the same department with possibly the same individuals who will make the judgments on payments. Given the admission of the Williams report and the Home Secretary’s apology, can the Minister tell us who has left the Home Office in disgrace for being institutionally ignorant and thoughtless towards the issue of race—or is everybody still in place with the same mindset and approach, making those adjudications and informing how payments will be released?

It is interesting that the scale of the payments is potentially so large—in the 300 millions—yet could be as small as tens of millions. Those will be matters of judgment. I know that the Minister’s intentions are right, and are understood to be right, but can she, with her hand on her heart, say that the Home Office and its civil servants share the same desire for a more mature understanding of the impact on the Windrush generation and for the eradication of that ignorance? What cultural change programme has been undertaken in the Home Office among not only the civil servants responsible but the wider department?

As the Minister mentioned, the notes accompanying the Bill say that there will be different aspects of compensation in the scheme including a good list of categories, with their caps, of course. Will the Minister clarify whether what we might call mental health claims are available under the category of health compensation? These claims could be made, for example, by those who feel they have been unduly distressed, or whose distress arises from the severity of discrimination due to ignorance; or they could come from a category of people—many of whom I have heard from—who say that their reputations have been significantly tarnished as a result of being identified for removal, not being able to work or being unable to get appropriate public support. Does this category of help include mental health distress or other mental health impacts of discrimination, and does the category of detention and removal include compensation for reputational damage? We talk about reputational distress, about how much or how big or small, but who measures that? It would be interesting to learn in the Minister’s reply how assessments of that nature will be undertaken.

During the Commons debate, the Home Secretary referred to the establishment of a

“cross-Government … working group to develop programmes to improve the lives of those affected.”—[Official Report, Commons, 19/3/20; col. 1156.]

It is not clear whether the funding of that group will be associated with the compensation scheme, whether any of its outcomes will be funded by the scheme, or what the group will seek to do to improve the lives of those affected. Many tens of thousands of people, possibly hundreds of thousands, are affected, not just here in the UK but, of course, in other countries. They can apply for the compensation scheme and they rightly should. But how are their lives to be improved? What are the criteria for consideration of improvement and who will make those judgments?

Again, the Minister has referred to the £500,000 fund for enabling grassroots organisations to promote the compensation scheme. We are all grateful for that, but how will the fund be allocated? Will civil servants—who, I am afraid to say, have institutional ignorance—be making that decision? At the heart of my questions is this: how do we ensure that there is some genuine cultural independence and appreciation, and that communities of people affected feel that there has been a robust, mature understanding and some accountability within the Home Office as a consequence of this? These communities cannot simply be expected to believe that the same people who have made the bad decisions will make good ones.