Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) (Lab)
(Urgent Question): To ask the Prime Minister to make a statement on the Government’s handling of the Windrush crisis.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sajid Javid)
I am honoured to have been asked this morning to become Home Secretary. I start by making a pledge to those of the Windrush generation who have been in this country for decades and yet have struggled to navigate through the immigration system: this never should have been the case, and I will do whatever it takes to put it right.
Learning about the difficulties that Windrush migrants have faced over the years has affected me greatly, particularly because I myself am a second-generation migrant. Like the Caribbean Windrush generation, my parents came to this country from the Commonwealth in the 1960s; they too came to help to rebuild this country and to offer all that they had. So when I heard that people who were long-standing pillars of their communities were being impacted for simply not having the right documents to prove their legal status in the UK, I thought that that could be my mum, my brother, my uncle or even me. That is why I am so personally committed to, and invested in, resolving the difficulties faced by the people of the Windrush generation who have built their lives here and contributed so much.
I know that my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd), felt very strongly about this too. Mr Speaker, please allow me to pay tribute to her hard work and integrity and to all that she has done and will continue to do in public service. I wish her all the very best. I will build on the decisive action that she has already taken. A dedicated taskforce was set up to handle these cases; more than 500 appointments have been scheduled, and more than 100 people have already had their cases processed and now have the necessary documents. We will continue to resolve these cases as a matter of urgency.
We have made it clear that a Commonwealth citizen who has remained in the UK since 1973 will be eligible to get the legal status that they deserve: British citizenship. That will be free of charge, and I will bring forward the necessary secondary legislation. We have also been clear that a new compensation scheme will be put in place for those whose lives have been disrupted. We intend to consult on the scope of the scheme and we will appoint an independent person to oversee it. I hope that I can count on the full support of all hon. Members to make this happen as soon as possible. I end by making one thing crystal clear: we will do right by the Windrush generation.
I congratulate the Home Secretary on his new position occupying one of the great offices of state, and thank him for coming to the House to answer this urgent question after what must have been quite a busy morning.
Is the Home Secretary aware how ashamed many British people are about the Windrush scandal, how frightened and angry the Windrush generation and their families are, and how the scandal has resonated around the Commonwealth? He talks about the Windrush generation getting the legal status they deserve, but actually they were always British. They were always British citizens.
Is the Home Secretary aware that this is a matter not just for the Windrush generation and Commonwealth citizens from the Caribbean? The plight that befell the Windrush generation could also affect Commonwealth citizens who came here from south Asia and west Africa. What steps does he intend to take to protect later cohorts of Commonwealth citizens from the indignity and humiliation that the Windrush generation have had to suffer?
The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that it was the Prime Minister, as Home Secretary, who introduced the Immigration Act 2014, which removed Commonwealth citizens’ protection from deportation. The new Home Secretary has been part of the Government’s immigration implementation taskforce. Was he aware of the problems being caused to Commonwealth citizens? Was he aware of the warnings in an internal Home Office impact assessment? Was he aware of the warnings from the previous Communities and Local Government Secretary that the “costs and risks” involved in the “hostile environment” would “outweigh the benefits”? Will the new Home Secretary commit at the very least to reinstating the protection for Commonwealth citizens that was removed by the current Prime Minister in 2014? What progress has been made in identifying Windrush people who have been deported, detained or improperly refused re-entry? We will also soon want to know more about compensation and its levels.
The Windrush generation was my parents’ generation. I and most British people believe that they have been treated appallingly. The Home Secretary will be judged not on the statements he makes this afternoon, but on what he does to put the situation right and to get justice for the Windrush generation.
I thank the right hon. Lady for her kind remarks at the start. She asks whether Members are aware of just how angry so many people from the Windrush generation are. Of course we are aware. My predecessor was aware and the Prime Minister was aware, which is why they rightly issued apologies for the treatment of some members of that generation. I am angry, too. I shared with the right hon. Lady just a moment ago just how angry I am and the reasons why I am angry. Like her, I am a second-generation migrant, and I know that she shares that anger, but she should respect the fact that other people share it, too. She does not have a monopoly on that.
The right hon. Lady asks whether I am aware that the same issues could—I stress “could”—have an impact on other Commonwealth citizens, perhaps people such as my parents and others from south Asia who settled in this country. I am aware that that could be the case and I intend to look at that carefully. Right here and now, though, all the cases that have come up relate to the Windrush generation of people from the Caribbean who settled in Britain. That is why they are rightly the focus.
The right hon. Lady claims that protections were removed in 2014, but no such protections have been removed. People who arrived pre-1973 have the absolute right to be here, and that has not changed.
The right hon. Lady asks whether I am aware of anyone who may have been wrongly deported. I am not currently aware of any such cases, but I stress that intensive work is being done right now in the Department, going back many years and looking at many individuals, so I will keep the House updated on that.
The right hon. Lady closed her remarks by rightly reminding everyone that her parents were members of the Windrush generation. My parents were also part of the generation of migrants who came to this country in the 1960s. I hope that she can work with the Government to help those people.
Mr Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con)
Notwithstanding my sadness at my right hon. Friend’s predecessor’s departure, may I unreservedly welcome him to his new position as Home Secretary? He is absolutely right to have divided the subject clearly. Those who were wrongly taken up in the drive to get those who are here illegally out of the country should have their rights restored; they should be dealt with appropriately and helped accordingly. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is also right, for very good reasons, to pursue those who are here illegally? [Interruption.] Actually, many of them are abused by the people who traffic them over here. What happened to the cockle pickers in Morecambe bay and many others was the result of illegal migration that had not been cleared up. Will he therefore show his determination both to sort out the Windrush generation and help them and to continue to ensure that illegal migrants are taken away?
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s warm remarks. I very much agree with him that our first priority is to help those members of the Windrush generation who have been affected. I also remind people that there is a separate issue of illegal immigration, and everyone in the country expects us to deal with that.
Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP)
I welcome the Home Secretary to his place and congratulate him on his appointment. It is only right to acknowledge the fact that he is the first person from a black and minority ethnic background to hold the office of Secretary of State for the Home Department.
I also acknowledge that the Home Secretary’s predecessor has done the right thing in resigning, given the circumstances in which she found herself. It was her misfortune to preside over a mess of the Prime Minister’s making. Although I have my political differences with the right hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd), I wish her all the best for the future.
A mere change of personnel at the Home Office will not resolve the underlying causes of the Windrush scandal. What has happened to the Windrush generation is not an accident, nor is it a mistake or the work of overzealous Home Office officials; in fact, it is the direct result of the unrealistic net migration targets set by the Prime Minister when she was Home Secretary and of the “hostile environment” created on her watch. It is the Prime Minister who created the fundamental reasons for the Windrush scandal. If the policies that she put in place are not changed by the new Home Secretary, we will have more disgraceful instances of maltreatment of people who have every right to be in the United Kingdom. EU nationals in particular are concerned about what awaits them after Brexit, for all the fine words of assurance.
I therefore have the following questions for the new Home Secretary. Will he commit to a root-and-branch review of the immigration policies that have led to this disaster? Will he commit to an evidence-based immigration policy that, in the words of the director general of the CBI, puts people before numbers and works to benefit our economy and society? Will he look seriously at the concerns of EU nationals living in the UK? And will he look at the clear evidential case for the devolution of powers on immigration to the Scottish Parliament, in recognition of Scotland’s particular demographic needs?
While it is always a pleasure to listen to the mellifluous tones of the hon. and learned Lady, who is a distinguished practitioner at the Scottish Bar, I hope I can be permitted gently to point out that she has nearly doubled her time allocation.
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con)
She gets paid by the minute.
She does not get paid by the minute. [Laughter.] I remember one very distinguished lawyer in this place in the last Parliament who I rather fancy had been paid by the word.
I thank the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) for her kind remarks about my predecessor. She asked a number of questions, but she started by saying it is not just about a personnel change. Of course, it is not; it is about action and having the right policies, and that is certainly what she will see from my Department.
The hon. and learned Lady talked about the kind of immigration policy she would like to see. I commit to a fair and humane immigration policy that, first, welcomes and celebrates people who are here legally—people who have come in the past or who are looking to come, and who want to do the right thing and contribute to our country—and what they have to offer our great country, but that at the same time clamps down decisively on illegal immigration.
Damian Green (Ashford) (Con)
I assure my right hon. Friend that he will receive very strong support from Conservative Members in his new job, which I am sure he will find stimulating and challenging in equal measure. Can he give some more detail on the progress of the special taskforce set up in the Home Office to deal with the Windrush problems? Clearly, the best way to remove the anxiety that so many people are feeling is to ensure that the taskforce gets on with its job quickly and gives people the assurance that they are getting the rights they have always deserved.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments. The taskforce was set up on 17 April and it has already looked at a number of cases. It has received some 6,000 calls, of which we estimate some 2,500 fall into the category of “the Windrush generation”. They are all being dealt with by an experienced case officer in a sympathetic way. More than 500 appointments have been scheduled and more than 100 cases have already been successfully resolved.
Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab)
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his new post and the statement he has made about supporting Windrush families, whom we all agree have been shamefully treated, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) said. Given the number of Home Office decisions that were got wrong in these Windrush cases, is he concerned about a wider culture of disbelief, about whether a net migration target is distorting decisions, and about the lack of checks and balances in the system to prevent injustice? As well as responding to the questions the Select Committee sent on Friday, will he look again at reinstating independent appeals and legal aid to prevent injustice in future, because this is not just about a fair immigration system; it is also about the kind of fair country we all want ours to be?
I thank the right hon. Lady for her remarks. I look forward to working with her, particularly on the work she does as the Chair of the Select Committee, and to the scrutiny that she will no doubt continue to provide. She asked a number of questions and I will take a lot of that away and think about it a bit more, if she will allow me. On targets, there were some internal migration targets and I have asked to see what they were before I take a further view on them.
Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
May I say to my right hon. Friend that if he does as well in this as he did on leasehold in his previous job, everyone will be grateful? May I also say to him that where people of my generation, who might have been Windrush generation, have been on the electoral roll for 30 or 40 years, it should be up to somebody else to prove that they were not on the roll by right? If they were on it by right, they should be assumed to be legitimate, resident citizens here and there should be no case of trying to prove where they were 14 years ago or 34 years ago. They were here, they are British, and they should be accepted as such.
I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks. I know Home Secretary sounds very similar to Housing Secretary, but it is Home Secretary. He is right about making the right assumptions. The taskforce is making the process of helping some people to find the right documentation a lot quicker, and this is being done in a way where we are able to act much more subjectively, taking into account all the evidence that has been put in front of us.
Sir Vince Cable (Twickenham) (LD)
May I add my welcome to the Home Secretary in his important role? Will he help to clear up the question about who knew what and when about Windrush deportations by publishing in the House of Commons Library the report prepared by the former Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond), in 2016, following meetings he had with Caribbean Ministers, because apparently this was copied to the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary at the time?
I will consider the right hon. Gentleman’s request.
Sir Roger Gale (North Thanet) (Con)
My right hon. Friend has forcefully made it clear that he shares the desire of his two predecessors to resolve this issue as swiftly as possible. Does he agree with the Windrush constituent who spoke on Radio Kent this morning to indicate that although he was going to find it difficult to provide the necessary documentation, he nevertheless recognised that as a legal migrant he wished to control illegal immigration into this country?
I did not hear that interview this morning, but, from the way my hon. Friend explains it, I very much agree with that analysis.
Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) (Lab)
Given the comments the Home Secretary made over the weekend and repeated today about how he felt at the treatment of the Windrush generation, is he able to give an assurance to the 3 million EU citizens who have also been legally living here, in some cases for many years, that none of them will go through the same experience as they apply for settled status just because they are not able to provide all of the documentation the Home Office requests from them?
I do not want any person who has legally settled here, whether from Europe or any other part of the world, to go through the same experience.
Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con)
Will my right hon. Friend give serious attention to the introduction, as soon as reasonably possible, of not only secondary but primary legislation, to deem that all those caught up in this deeply regrettable omission, which has built up over decades, will have the same legal status as those who benefited from the provisions of the Immigration Act 1971, while at the same time controlling all illegal immigration?
I refer my hon. Friend to the comment I made earlier, when I said that I will do whatever is necessary to help, which means considering all legislative options, if necessary.
Ms Karen Buck (Westminster North) (Lab)
May I press the Secretary of State further on legal aid? Is it not the case that at the very moment at which people who had a perfectly legitimate right to be in this country were facing a hostile state, the means by which they could secure advice, advocacy and representation was removed from them? Will he ensure that nobody who now faces a similar situation will be denied the opportunity to get such advice and help?
I listened carefully to what the hon. Lady said, and she makes an important point about legal aid more generally and when it can and cannot be provided. That is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Justice is currently conducting a review of legal aid. A consultation is open and the hon. Lady should contribute to it.
Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment and pay handsome tribute to his predecessor.
The Windrush scandal really should not have taken us by surprise: it is the natural consequence of a system that has as its default position an assumption that a person is here illegally, with the onus being on the applicant to prove that they are here legally. That is the problem. A person has to prove that they are who they say they are and have a right to be here. Too often in offices, as a result of policy—let us not shift the blame—the default position is that the computer says no. Will my right hon. Friend undertake to have a radical rehaul of all these policies so that we shift the onus back on to the state to prove that a person does not have a right to be here?
I thank my right hon. Friend for her remarks. I can make this commitment to her. We need to make sure that when dealing with inquiries from the public, the immigration system behaves more humanely and in a more fair sense, and that it takes more into account what I would call the obvious facts, rather than just asking for a piece of paper to prove everything. I will look into the matter very carefully.
Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op)
I say to the new Home Secretary that it is not that, as he says, this could be happening to a wider group of people than those in the Windrush generation, but that it is happening, and it is because of the “hostile environment” policy, the cuts and pressures in his Department and the cuts to legal aid, discretion and appeals. How many people are his Department aware of who have been wrongfully deported or detained? In the midst of last week’s discussions, we were told that the Home Office was going to scrap the net removal target that has been at the heart of this argument; will the Home Secretary commit now to removing it?
First, if the hon. Gentleman knows of any cases of other affected people of which he thinks my Department might not be aware, please will he make me aware? He asked whether I am aware of any cases of wrongful deportation; I am not currently aware of any cases of wrongful deportation. He talked about the so-called “hostile environment”; let me say that hostile is not a term that I am going to use. It is a compliant environment. I do not like the term hostile. The terminology is incorrect and that phrase is unhelpful, and its use does not represent our values as a country. It is about a compliant environment and it is right that we have a compliant environment. The process was begun under previous Governments and has continued. It is right that we make a big distinction between those who are here legally and those who are illegal.
Heidi Allen (South Cambridgeshire) (Con)
I congratulate the Secretary of State on his new position, but share my regret that we have lost the right hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd), a parliamentarian of the highest calibre, from the Cabinet. Given the devastating impact on the lives of the Windrush generation of getting this policy or its implementation wrong, will he commit to ensuring that we do not repeat these mistakes with EU citizens on whose skills our country also greatly relies, plus develop a people-focused immigration policy that welcomes the contribution and skills that this country will need now and in the future?
I very much agree with my hon. Friend on the contribution that EU citizens have been making for many decades to our country, and that they continue to make. That is why I am absolutely committed to following through on our commitment so far that those who want to stay can stay, that we make that as easy as possible for them and that we celebrate their contributions.
Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green)
The Secretary of State pledges a fair and humane immigration policy. Will he put those words into action by ending the practice of brutal mass deportations by charter flight? These secretive flights are routinely used to send people to countries from which they may have fled in terror for their lives or with which they have little or no connection. Given the Home Office’s poor history of decision making and that it is almost impossible for people to appeal from abroad, does he agree that this cruel practice should end?
What I commit to is making sure that, at all times, our immigration policy is fair and humane. If the hon. Lady wants to write to me about what she thinks needs to be done, I will look at it.
Nick Boles (Grantham and Stamford) (Con)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his new job, though I wish that the circumstances of his elevation had been different. We need a new immigration policy for after Brexit. May I urge him—I believe that I speak for everyone on the Conservative Benches—to put his own stamp on that policy? We want to see the policy of the Home Secretary, one of the four great offices of state, and if that means retiring some legacy policies then so be it.
Having worked with me in a previous Department, my hon. Friend will know that in every Department in which I have worked, I have almost certainly put my own stamp on it.
Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab)
There is no question but that the commitment to get net migration down to the tens of thousands led to the “hostile environment” that affected the Windrush people. The Prime Minister recommitted the Government to that policy on 8 May during the previous general election. It seems inconceivable that she would make such a policy statement and then pay no attention as to how that policy was delivered. I do not expect the Secretary of State to have the details now, but can he write to me, and put a copy in the Library, of all the occasions when that has been on the agenda when his Department has met the Prime Minister to discuss how to deliver reducing net migration to the tens of thousands?
I would be happy to write to the hon. Gentleman.
Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his new job. He is absolutely right to focus his attention immediately on righting the wrong that has happened to the Windrush generation and the terrible way in which some of them have been treated, and I cannot think of anybody better to do the job than him. Will he also assure the House that he will not use this issue as a Trojan horse, like the Labour party has, and go soft on illegal immigration? Once people have gone through the full process and through the court system and are found to have no reason to be here, there should be a target for removing them from the country, and that target should be 100%. Anyone in this House who does not think that is out of touch with the vast majority of people in this country.
My hon. Friend rightly says that we should focus on the immediate issue of helping in every way we can those from the Windrush generation who have been affected; we share that determination. He also rightly pointed out that helping in every way we can those people who are here legally is perfectly consistent with having a compliant environment that ensures that everyone has to abide by the same rules on immigration.
Chuka Umunna (Streatham) (Lab)
The Home Secretary has a golden opportunity to turn the page on a toxic debate around immigration in this country, so he should dump the net migration target or at least take students out of it. Why do we not focus more on how we better integrate immigrants who come to this country, rather than attack them? The right hon. Gentleman said that he is the son of an immigrant—I am too—but what is he actually going to change and do differently from his two predecessors? All the warm words are great, but what will he do differently in order to stop this happening again?
With respect, I have had only about seven hours in the Department. If the hon. Gentleman gives me a little more time, I will set out what I am going to do.
George Freeman (Mid Norfolk) (Con)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on becoming the first Muslim Home Secretary. Having worked with him, I know that there is no one better to sort out this mess. I also pay tribute to his predecessor, who did the very honourable thing.
Does the Home Secretary agree that we need to remember while sorting out this mess that it is due, in no small part, to the last Labour Government’s illegitimate open-doors immigration policy? Many of us at the time warned that the policy would trigger huge problems for those who had come here happily and settled here as citizens; and so it has come to pass. Does he also agree that the Conservative party should take no lectures from the Labour party, as we have given the country its first woman Prime Minister, second woman Prime Minister and first Muslim Home Secretary?
As always, I very much agree with my hon. Friend.
Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab)
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his new position. He will get the unanimous support of this House if he really does sort out the terrible legacy of the Windrush situation, but will he also look at the nitty-gritty of the immigration department? All Members who deal with immigration cases day in, day out get so fed up—as do our constituents—with lost passports and lost letters. It is just incompetence. If the Secretary of State can get a grip on that sort of detail, things will really improve.
The hon. Lady is quite right to point out the importance of looking at the detail. All hon. Members hold surgeries and deal with our constituents’ cases, but our constituents really should not have to come to us with such issues. They should be dealt with properly and fairly through the system, and I will be looking at that very closely.
James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con)
I welcome my constituency neighbour to his new position. Does he agree that he needs to use his competence and managerial skill to get a grip on the detail of the Windrush situation and resolve it quickly—but, at the same time, to develop and ensure that we maintain a focus on controlling illegal immigration into this country as we move towards Brexit?
I very much agree with my hon. Friend. He once again points out the important distinction that must not be lost between legal migration and illegal migration.
Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
I thank the Home Secretary for his response to the urgent question and wish him well in his new position. What steps will he be taking to reassure migrants from other parts of the Commonwealth, and will he proactively make staff and time available to assist those people with any problems that they are experiencing?
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point about other members of the Commonwealth, to which I referred briefly a moment ago. I want to ensure that we are looking at this carefully to see whether we need to take further steps where people are affected. The hon. Gentleman will know about the taskforce that we set up for the Windrush generation. I will not hesitate in taking any further steps that would help.
Mrs Kemi Badenoch (Saffron Walden) (Con)
I welcome the Secretary of State to his new role. Like him, I have an immigrant background. I am not a second generation, but a first generation, immigrant. The fact that we are both sitting on these Benches is a testament to how open and welcoming our country and, in fact, our party is to new immigrants. In the Secretary of State’s previous role, he would have been overseeing plans this year to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Empire Windrush arriving in the UK, so he knows that this is not just an immigration issue, but a communities issue. Will he tell us of any opportunities that he may see for cross-departmental working to ensure that this situation does not happen again?
My hon. Friend is right to point out that there is a huge amount to celebrate about the Windrush generation, with the 70th anniversary of the arrival of MV Windrush occurring this June. My previous Department has done a huge amount of work on that, and I hope to work closely with it to make sure that we have the very best celebration we possibly can to show people from that generation exactly what they mean to this country and how much we respect everything that they have done for us.
Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab/Co-op)
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his new role and recognise his achievement as the first British Asian to be appointed to one of the four great offices of state.
On 17 April, I asked a named day parliamentary question of the Home Secretary’s predecessor requesting the number of Windrush citizens who have been denied or charged for NHS treatment. The answer was due a week ago, but it has not arrived. Will he please now tell the House how many of the Windrush generation have been charged for or denied NHS treatment? One such case would be one too many. What is he going to do about it?
First, I thank the hon. Lady for her opening remarks. I do not have the information she has requested. I am sorry that she has not received the reply to her named day PQ. I will certainly look into that when I go back to my office.
Mr Marcus Jones (Nuneaton) (Con)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment. Having worked closely with him, I know that he will do a diligent and good job. I welcome his statement. He is absolutely right. The Windrush generation have every right to be here legally. They are British citizens. My constituents expect that everything that can be done will be done to make sure that we regularise their legal position. My constituents also expect this Government to tackle illegal immigration. I would be grateful if my right hon. Friend could give them reassurance on both fronts.
Yes, I can give my hon. Friend’s constituents an assurance on both those issues. We will absolutely do everything we can, and go much further if we have to, to help in every way with the problems that some members of the Windrush generation are facing. At the same time, we will maintain our policies around illegal migration, because that is exactly what the British public wish to see.
Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
The new Home Secretary does not like the phrase, “hostile environment”, but it came from his boss, the Prime Minister. It was she who presided over the immigration targets, she who introduced the “Go Home” vans, and she who allowed the Home Secretary’s predecessor to make a speech at the Tory party conference about targeting companies taking on foreign workers. That is the “hostile environment” that this Government have created. When will the Prime Minister accept personal culpability for Windrush and the net effect of the hostile environment?
I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the phrase “hostile environment” actually existed under successive Governments and began under a previous Labour Government. But this is not about which party introduced a phrase; my point was that I do not like the term, “hostile”, and I will not be using it.
Order. Given the level of interest, the House’s propensity for rehearsed mini-speeches as prefaces to questions needs today to be curtailed. I am looking for short, preferably single-sentence inquiries. I am looking, in fact, in the direction of the author of the textbook on the matter, the right hon. Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne), but I do not know if he was standing. No. What a pity: he could have educated colleagues.
Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)
I will have a go.
Well done—very well done indeed! Splendid fellow!
Sir Desmond Swayne
While I know that the Home Secretary favours the word, “compliance”, some of us believe that hostility to lawbreaking is a proper response.
I think we both agree that we must have a compliant environment.
Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab)
Unlike the right hon. Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne), I welcome the Home Secretary’s rejection of the “hostile environment” policy. It has affected many alongside the Windrush generation. More than 30,000 students, mostly from the Indian subcontinent, had their visas cancelled midway through their studies because of allegations, which I believe are largely untrue, of cheating in the test of English for international communication. I will write to him about their plight. Will he undertake to look carefully at the case of TOEIC students?
Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con)
Just as my right hon. Friend did in his previous Department in fighting anti-Semitism, looking after the victims of Grenfell and championing affordable housing, will he make social justice a defining part of his mission in his new role, so that something like the Windrush saga can never happen again?
I can make that commitment. Every part of this Government is committed to furthering social justice, and that will be at the heart of my Department.
Ruth Smeeth (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Lab)
To follow on from my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), such is the chaos of our immigration system post the Windrush crisis that a gentleman called my office this morning asking whether he was going to be “Windrushed”. He arrived here from Italy in 1967 at the age of seven. What does the Home Secretary want to say to him?
First, I am sorry that the gentleman whom the hon. Lady refers to has those concerns and that anxiety. No one wants anyone to suffer in that way. I do not know if she has already passed the details to my Department, but if she does, I will certainly look at that.
Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con)
As a Kent MP, I fully recognise the mixed blessing of the UK as an attractive place to live for migrants, both legal and illegal. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that the Windrush generation and all cases dealt with by the Home Office will be treated with humanity and compassion?
I can give my hon. Friend that assurance.
Marsha De Cordova (Battersea) (Lab)
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his new post. It is rumoured that there will be a chartered flight this week deporting people back to Jamaica. Can the Home Secretary confirm whether a flight is scheduled, and if so, whether there will be any individuals on that flight from the Windrush generation?
I can tell the hon. Lady that I am not aware of any such information, but I will take a close look.
Johnny Mercer (Plymouth, Moor View) (Con)
The Windrush scandal is appalling—there is no doubt about it—but there seems to have been some wilful conflation here, not helped by the crashing irony of the shadow Home Secretary talking about my right hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd) not being on top of her brief. Will the Home Secretary outline to me and others in Plymouth what exactly is wrong with a compliant policy—I know he does not like the word “hostile”—on illegal immigration, which is what we want to see from this Government?
I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that the answer is absolutely nothing. It is right that we have a compliant environment when it comes to immigration, and in fact when it comes to all laws, to make sure that those laws are enforced. It is not just the right thing to do for everyone in the country, but it is particularly right for migrants who come here legally and wish to settle in our country. They also want to know that that is the correct route and that those who are here illegally will be dealt with.
Naz Shah (Bradford West) (Lab)
First, from the daughter of a Pakistani migrant to the son of a Pakistani migrant, mubarak upon your appointment.
DCLG played an integral part in the implementation of the “hostile environment” policy under the right hon. Gentleman’s watch. Can he outline exactly what he did to resist that? Can he confirm that he now has permission to bring the axe down on his own Prime Minister’s shocking and shameful legacy in the Home Office?
I thank the hon. Lady for her opening comments. She talks about the compliant environment. The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 and the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 were introduced not by this Government but by the previous Labour Government. Many Governments have been working consistently to make sure that we have a compliant environment.
Mrs Helen Grant (Maidstone and The Weald) (Con)
I welcome my right hon. Friend to his new role. Having worked with him, I know what a good, compassionate and caring man he is, and I know he will make an excellent Home Secretary.
The Windrush generation and their children, some of whom sit in this House, have made an enormous contribution to the making of modern Britain. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we must all do more to celebrate and communicate the enormous role that they play and have played over the years? With that in mind, will he agree on his first day in the job to meet with me, or even better visit with me, Paul Reid, the director of the Black Cultural Archives, based at 1 Windrush Square in Brixton, to discuss the excellent work it does not just in the community but for the nation?
That sounds like a very worthwhile invitation. I very much agree with my hon. Friend that the contribution made to this country by the Windrush generation is immeasurable, and we should all celebrate that when it comes to the 70th anniversary.
Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD)
Will the Secretary of State assure me that the targets about which we have all heard so much and, although he does not like the term, the “hostile environment”, are not being used to encourage civil servants and officers to pursue people who are legally in this country and are British citizens, but who are now—like a constituent of mine who has been affected—being asked to prove once again that they are entitled to the passport they already hold?
I refer the hon. Lady to the comment I made a moment ago, because it is just as relevant: there were some internal migration targets, but before I comment further, I would like to take a closer look at them and form a view.
Douglas Ross (Moray) (Con)
I welcome my right hon. Friend to his new position. The actions taken by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd) were widely welcomed by the high commissioner of Barbados when he met the Home Affairs Committee last week, but the Home Secretary’s predecessor accepted that there was an issue with confidence in the measures put forward. What does my right hon. Friend think all Members across the House can do to ensure that the Windrush generation have confidence to come forward and to believe that the system will work for them, not against them?
I will continue to look at what further measures we can take to build confidence in the measures put in place, particularly the hotline and the taskforce. One thing we have made very clear, and I am happy to repeat it now, is that any information provided by anyone who comes forward—whether they call the hotline or come to one of the centres covered by the taskforce—will be used for no other purpose than that of helping them with the issues they face.
Sarah Jones (Croydon Central) (Lab)
Given the focus of Conservative Members on illegal immigration, does the Home Secretary wish to comment on the fact that under his Prime Minister’s “hostile environment”, which has seen so much injustice done to the Windrush generation, we have seen the Government’s total failure to achieve what they set out to achieve, with neither voluntary nor enforced removals having actually increased in recent years?
No, I do not wish to comment on that question, because it was just political point scoring and not serious in any way.
Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
From his earliest days as a Member of this House, my right hon. Friend has spoken out uncompromisingly against all forms of anti-Semitism. What will he do to encourage some other people in some other parts of this House to follow the fine example he has set?
In my previous role as Communities Secretary, I obviously had a big role to play—I was privileged to do so—in fighting race and hate crime of all types. In my new role as Home Secretary, I will work very closely with my successor to make sure that we are fully co-ordinated in fighting hate crime and that we look carefully, particularly with regard to anti-Semitism, at what more we can do.
Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) (Lab/Co-op)
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his new position, but let me give him some advice: whether the term is “hostile” or “compliant”, it is deeds not words that matter in this place. Three families who came to my surgery at the weekend have Windrush generation family members who have been deported from this country, so he has to be aware that there is a serious issue with deportation. He has told us how many people have called the hotline, but these families could not get through, so will he tell us how many members of staff there are? What will he do specifically to get legal advice to people who have already been deported, so that we can truly have justice for the Windrush generation?
The hon. Lady asks me about the taskforce. I understand that more than 50 officials are working on it, and we can increase that number if necessary. They are dealing with all the calls as they come in, and they have set up appointments for face-to-face meetings. As I said earlier, 500 appointments have been scheduled and 100 cases already resolved. If we need to add further resources, we will. If any member of the public who is listening wants to know, the number for the hotline is 0800 678 1925.
Alex Burghart (Brentwood and Ongar) (Con)
I welcome the Secretary of State to his position. My constituents want to know not only that the taskforce is doing its job and reaching out to encourage people to get in touch with the Home Secretary, but that the Government are using all the resources at their disposal to find out about registration for national insurance, electoral registration and registration for council tax to help people prove that they have been in this country for a long time.
I assure my hon. Friend on that front that officials and Ministers have been looking carefully to see what else can be done to help with finding appropriate documentation. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Immigration has already had meetings with other Departments to try to achieve just that.
Liz McInnes (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab)
Can the Home Secretary confirm that the Windrush generation and others have more than two weeks to apply for British citizenship, and that fees will continue to be waived until the Windrush generation issues have been fully resolved?
I am not aware that there is a completely inflexible deadline by which people can make applications. I want to take a closer look, if the hon. Lady will permit me to do so. I have not had enough time to look at the detail of every aspect of the matter yet, but I will take a closer look and get back to her.
Giles Watling (Clacton) (Con)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his new position, and on launching it with such power and style with his statement today. Does he agree that it is vital that we ensure that any compensation scheme is designed in consultation with those affected?
I agree with my hon. Friend. It is important that we do not rush to judgment about how the compensation scheme should work, and that we listen in particular to those who have been affected. That is why it is right to have a consultation on the compensation scheme.
Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab)
In my surgery this morning, I saw a young asylum seeker who came to the UK nine years ago aged 15 and is still awaiting indefinite leave to remain. He has attempted suicide twice. I also saw a grandmother who came here from Barbados in 1970 aged 10, and who is still waiting and hoping for British citizenship. Does the Secretary of State accept that the Government’s failures on immigration policy go way beyond the Windrush scandal, and is he determined to tackle all aspects of discrimination and excessive delay by his Department?
I reassure the hon. Gentleman that I am determined to tackle all aspects of this and make sure that we deal with everything as quickly as we can.
Maggie Throup (Erewash) (Con)
I, too, congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment, and I commend the speed at which the Home Office taskforce has, over the last week, assisted my constituents in applying for their permit cards. Given the advancing age of some of the Windrush generation, will he confirm that any reimbursement for travel to immigration centres will cover the most appropriate form of travel for the needs of an individual, especially as they get older, rather than just the cheapest option?
We have already confirmed that any out-of-pocket expenses, including travel costs, for any individual in relation to the work of the taskforce will be reimbursed. I am glad that my hon. Friend has highlighted the issue of speed. To reassure people who call the hotline and come to the taskforce, I make it clear that of the 100 cases I have mentioned that have already been resolved, most were resolved on the same day.
Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
In just two of many cases, the already deported Zielsdorf family from Laggan and my current constituents the Felbers in Inverness were deported, or threatened with deportation, on the basis of highly technical conditions or abrupt rule changes, without notification, during attempted compliance. Will the Secretary of State look into the role that the Government’s hostile targeting has played in those families’ unfair treatment, which has caused great distress to our highland community?
The hon. Gentleman mentions a couple of cases with which I am not familiar. If he wants to send me details, I shall take a closer look.
Rebecca Pow (Taunton Deane) (Con)
I too welcome the Secretary of State to his position, to which he brings his own particular personal insight and integrity. I also welcome the new fast-track system and wish to report that my constituent, who was thrown out of Uganda in 1973 and had a very hard time, has, as a result of the new system, been fast-tracked through and is delighted with his treatment. I have high hopes that he will be confirmed for ever to remain in Taunton Deane. Is it not right and essential that we have an immigration policy that is fit for the future, respects people’s rights and encourages aspiration?
I agree with every word my hon. Friend says.
Paula Sherriff (Dewsbury) (Lab)
How would the new Home Secretary respond to this quote, which is not from me but Anthony Bryan of the Windrush generation, who spent 50 years in the UK, followed by five weeks in a detention centre? He said:
“I feel like I helped bring down the Home Secretary…I feel sorry for her in a sense, because it looks like she is taking the punishment for Theresa May.”
I am not aware of all the details of Mr Bryan’s case, but I know it is being or has been dealt with and prioritised. If he knows anyone else who is in a similar situation, he should encourage them to contact the hotline.
Paul Masterton (East Renfrewshire) (Con)
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the waiving of the citizenship fee will apply to individuals who have documentation as well as those who do not?
I can confirm that.
Jenny Chapman (Darlington) (Lab)
Some people think that there is a link between political rhetoric that is hostile to migrants and hate crime. What does the Home Secretary believe?
I have seen no evidence of such a link. If the hon. Lady thinks there is and has some evidence, I will happily look at it.
Mary Robinson (Cheadle) (Con)
I join colleagues in welcoming my right hon. Friend to his new post. The children of the Windrush generation who are in the UK will in most cases already be British citizens. Can he confirm that where that is not the case they will be able to apply to naturalise at no cost?
Yes, I can confirm that.
Ruth George (High Peak) (Lab)
I welcome the Home Secretary to his place and the commitments he has made this afternoon on fairness and justice. Will he offer that commitment to constituents who have already been deported, particularly my constituent who was deported two weeks ago in spite of his partner being 34 weeks pregnant at the time? He was in the process of an appeal and there were no papers to deport him.
Clearly no one should be wrongfully deported—of course not. If the hon. Lady has any details—forgive me if she has already shared them with the Department—I will certainly take a very close look at them.
Michael Tomlinson (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (Con)
I commend the Secretary of State’s personal commitment to the Windrush generation, but any credible immigration policy must distinguish between those who are here legally and illegal immigration. Is it not striking that there is an absence of policy on illegal immigration from the Labour party?
I am glad my hon. Friend points that out. I very much agree with him about making that distinction. I believe the right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) was asked just this morning, in a number of interviews she gave, what would be the policy of the Labour party, and she had no answer.
Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab)
Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes), it says on the Government’s own website that the Windrush citizens have two weeks to “regularise their immigration status”. Will the Secretary of State look urgently at removing that statement from the website—it says that they have only two weeks—and give them a lot more time to deal with this situation?
I am looking again at that deadline.
Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con)
Similar to the Windrush situation is the plight of the Chagos community, who were exiled from the British Indian Ocean Territory under the Wilson Administration. Will my right hon. Friend agree to meet me to look at my British Indian Ocean Territory (Citizenship) Bill, which is currently before the House, with a view to righting this injustice?
My hon. Friend is right to raise the issue of the Chagos community, and I will very happily meet him.
Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab)
The Windrush generation built Birmingham and Britain only to be treated shamefully in the twilight of their years. This is a national scandal for which the Prime Minister must take personal responsibility. Will the Home Secretary clarify his earlier remarks about the compensation scheme? After 50 years in this country, Gloria Fletcher lost her job. As a consequence, she and her husband Derek are now deeply in debt. Given what the Home Secretary said, it looks like they might have to wait many, many months for compensation and justice. When will they finally see that justice delivered?
I think that I speak for the whole House when I say that we all want the compensation scheme in place as soon as possible. I hope that the hon. Gentleman agrees that it is right that we first consult on it—I hope to set up the consultation very quickly and to get input in particular from people who have been affected, including perhaps his constituents and others—to make sure that we are right on the detail and that the scheme properly compensates all those who have been affected.
Michelle Donelan (Chippenham) (Con)
I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend to his new position. Does he agree that there is absolutely no question but that the Windrush generation have a right to stay? However, that does not reduce the need for, or the importance of, policies that act as strong deterrents to those who are trying to enter the country illegally or are currently here illegally.
I very much agree with my hon. Friend about the need to clearly articulate the distinction between those such as the Windrush generation, who have every right to be here and need to be helped in every way with this difficult situation, and the need to maintain a strong, compliant environment to ensure that our immigration rules are followed by everyone.
Helen Hayes (Dulwich and West Norwood) (Lab)
My constituent, Gretel Gocan, had lived in the UK for 30 years when she was wrongly denied re-entry after visiting Jamaica for a family funeral several years ago. Arrangements are now being made for Gretel to return home to the UK. Her health is fragile and her family would like her to be able to travel this week, but they are struggling to raise the £972 cost of the flight. Will the Home Secretary confirm that the travel costs of repatriating Windrush citizens who have wrongfully been denied entry to the UK will be met by the Government so that Gretel’s family can bring her home this week?
If the hon. Lady sends me details of that particular case, I will take a closer look at it.
Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con)
Will the Home Secretary assure the House that he will do everything in his power to make sure that nobody faces unnecessary delays or costs for NHS treatment in the future, as we saw in the case of Albert Thompson? Will he meet me to discuss the wider policy so that other people do not face unnecessary delays in the NHS as a result of our policy on visas for NHS staff?
My hon. Friend is right to raise this issue and I very much agree with what she says. What happened to Albert Thompson was completely unacceptable. We do not want anyone else to be in that situation, and I will very happily meet her.
Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
The Prime Minister received a letter from the former Home Secretary on 30 January 2017 apprising her of her continued work on the immigration policy. The Prime Minister is therefore complicit in all that has taken place. Is not the right hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd) merely a scapegoat for the Prime Minister?
My predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye, was a fantastic leader of the Department. She did some great work that I hope to build on.
Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con)
Key to putting wrongs right will be the work of the new Windrush hotline, which has already responded very quickly to my efforts to help one of my constituents to get British citizenship. There is a wider opportunity for my right hon. Friend to recognise the migrant contribution to our nation, so may I invite him in principle to come to an event at the Gloucester history festival at which we will celebrate the arrival of the Empire Windrush this September?
My hon. Friend can invite me in principle.
I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be inviting the Home Secretary to deliver an oration, rather than simply to sit there decoratively.
I am sure that that will entice the Home Secretary.
Chris Elmore (Ogmore) (Lab)
It appears from the outside that the right hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd) left her post in part because of incorrect briefings, and because papers were not sent to her, or were sent to her but not seen. May I ask the new Home Secretary, in all sincerity, whether he plans a root-and-branch review of the Home Office to decide whether it is fit for purpose in the long term?
From what I have seen already of the Home Office, I can say that I am lucky to have such a strong and professional team, but of course improvements can always be made in any Department, and I will be looking carefully to see how I can do that.
Chris Philp (Croydon South) (Con)
I warmly welcome the Home Secretary to his post—I know the whole team at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will greatly miss him—and also welcome the rapid action that has been taken to right the injustice that the Windrush generation have suffered. They are, of course, as British as any of us. When it comes to people here illegally, however, does he agree with the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, who, when shadow Home Secretary, said we needed proper enforcement and proper action to combat illegal immigration?
Yes, I do.
Chris Skidmore (Kingswood) (Con)
Does the Secretary of State agree that there is a vital distinction between the Windrush generation, who came to this country as British citizens, and tackling illegal immigration? As such, will he reject any calls for an amnesty on illegal immigration, which would only encourage traffickers and undermine those seeking legitimate routes to citizenship in this country?
I agree with my hon. Friend. No one in the Department is talking about an amnesty. It is right that we welcome those who are here legally, but maintain a strong, compliant environment for those here illegally.
Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con)
I welcome my former colleague from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to his new role. It is a delight to see him in his place today. I also welcome his comments about ensuring this matter is resolved quickly. Can he reassure me that he will work with local councils regarding records that they have that might help members of the Windrush generation to prove that they have been living here and their eligibility to remain?
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. He will know that I love working with local councils and I will continue to do so in my new Department. Local councils have a role to play in our immigration policy, particularly in helping those from the Windrush generation.
Alan Mak (Havant) (Con)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his historic appointment. Will he assure the House that as his Department engages with the Windrush generation, it will look expansively and sympathetically at the types of records and documents that it will accept as people build a picture of their time here so that these issues can be resolved quickly?
Yes, I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. The taskforce is already looking sympathetically at requests for documentation, which is why it is able to resolve many of the cases within days.
James Cleverly (Braintree) (Con)
Will my right hon. Friend ensure that once the consultation on compensation has been finalised, an attitude of generosity will be applied, and his Department’s famed proactivity and alacrity will be brought to bear when deploying the compensation scheme?
I agree with my hon. Friend. I look forward to discussing the issue of generosity with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor.
Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) (Con)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his wonderful new position. The Windrush generation, like many others, were a generation of pen, paper and hard-copy documents. On the decision in 2009 to do away with those hard-copy documents, will he, when he has a quiet moment, look back and see why no decision was made to back them up, in a computer age, and how that decision was brought about by officials or those leading the Department at the time?
My hon. Friend makes an important point that deserves to be looked at.
Robert Courts (Witney) (Con)
I welcome the Home Secretary to his new post. Will he assure the House that his primary focus will now be on giving practical assistance to those who need help?
My most urgent priority now, as I enter this Department, is to continue to build on the work set out by my predecessor to help the Windrush generation as quickly as I can, and in every way that I can.
Matt Warman (Boston and Skegness) (Con)
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s ground-breaking appointment. Does he agree that while a humane immigration policy demands that we take action on the Windrush generation, it is not inhumane to act on the legitimate concerns of ordinary working people about illegal immigration in this country?
I very much agree with my hon. Friend, who has reminded the House of an important distinction. This is about acting correctly and fairly in respect of those who are here for all the right reasons and are helping to make our country strong, while at the same time cracking down on illegal immigration.