All 1 Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick contributions to the Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Act 2020

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Tue 21st Apr 2020
Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill
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Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

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)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Act 2020 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.