With Permission, Madame Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a statement on progress on the Windrush Lessons Learned Review.
As I have said in this place many times before, the Windrush scandal is an ugly stain on the face of our country and on the Home Office.
Wendy Williams’ independent report laid bare institutional failings over several decades that let down so many who had given so much to Britain.
It was damning about the conduct of the Home Office and unequivocal about ‘institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation’.
As I told this House at the time, this was simply unacceptable.
And my response has been swift, strong and uncompromising.
I apologised unreservedly for the injustice, hardship and suffering of members of the Windrush generation at the hands of successive governments.
I promised to listen and act: to reform the culture of the Home Office, to better represent all of the communities we serve.
And last month, I announced that I accepted the review’s important findings and that I would come back to the House to update you all on progress towards implementing these recommendations.
After years of injustice, and countless warm words, the Windrush generation deserve to know that action is urgently underway.
Over £1.5 million pounds has now been offered by the Windrush compensation scheme.
Bishop Webley and I launched and hosted the first meeting of the new cross-government Windrush Working Group to address the wider inequalities affecting the Windrush generation and their families.
Three sub groups have now been established to look at how we implement the recommendations, how to design the new Community Fund, and how to best work with the new Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities.
And this group is also advising on our new communications campaign to encourage more people who were affected to come forward.
I’d like to put on record and give my thanks to Bishop Webley and to everyone involved for their ongoing support as we not only implement the findings from the lessons learned review, but also as we come together to improve our engagement, our communication, and also our outreach to the communities affected.
This is just the beginning.
Urgent and extensive work is taking place across the Home Office, and beyond, on all the recommendations.
Together the Permanent Secretary and I are reviewing every aspect of how the department operates – its leadership, the culture, policies, practices and the way it views and treats all parts of the community it serves.
My ambition is for a fair, humane, compassionate and outward-looking Home Office that represents people from every corner of our diverse society which makes our country great.
And that means confronting Wendy Williams’ findings head on to deliver lasting change.
To do this, we have divided the recommendations into five parts.
This will ensure sweeping reforms to our culture, policies, systems and working practices reach across the entire department; an approach Wendy has welcomed.
And we are consulting external experts, community organisations and the very people the Home Office has failed in the past in an extensive programme of engagement to ensure officials understand the change that is needed and that the organisation at every level learns the lessons of what went wrong.
I have been clear to my officials that this is not a box ticking exercise. A delivery plan has been drawn up to ensure meaningful and rapid action.
We are embracing the need to change our culture across the board, and in many cases going further than the recommendations that Wendy has made.
I will now set out just some of the work underway on the recommendations under each of the five themes.
Firstly, righting the wrongs and learning from the past.
I have apologised unreservedly to the Windrush generation, but sadly we know their faith and their trust in those who sit on both sides of this House has been badly damaged over many years.
A series of reconciliation events to rebuild the relationship between the Home Office and those who were affected will now take place. This is an essential step to enable people whose lives were shattered because of Windrush to articulate the impact this scandal has had on their lives.
We must learn from the past.
Mandatory training is being introduced for new and existing members of staff to ensure everyone working in the Home Office understands and appreciates the history of migration and race across this country.
Every single existing or new member of Home Office staff will be required to undertake this learning.
And we are going further by introducing a new process to ensure that all new policies are developed in an inclusive way, factoring cultural and historical context, and with effective mechanisms to monitor, and where necessary resolve, any concerns.
Secondly, we will create ‘An Inclusive Workforce’ in the Home Office.
The Home Office must reflect the diverse communities it serves at every single level.
There are simply not enough Black, Asian or minority ethnic staff working at the top in senior roles and there are far too many times when I am the only non-white face in the room.
Action must happen now.
So right now, I am introducing more diverse shortlists for senior jobs, specialist mentoring and sponsorship programmes to help develop a wider pool of talent and drive cultural change.
And while it is reassuring that the Home Office is on track to meet its aim of 12% Black, Asian and minority ethnic representation in senior roles by 2025, my ambition is to go further. Because a department cannot truly reflect the communities it serves unless it represents the very people from within the community they serve.
Protecting, supporting and listening to every single part of the community it serves is a vital lesson to be learned.
Thirdly, I am changing the Home Office’s ‘Openness to Scrutiny’.
Policy and decision making must be rigorously examined to ensure any adverse impact on any corner of our society is identified and is acted on quickly.
So to ensure we better understand the groups and communities that our policies affect we are overhauling the way in which we build up our evidence base and engage with stakeholders across the board.
I expect my officials to engage with community organisations, civil society and the public, and I will be looking for evidence of this in every piece of advice that ministers receive.
Wendy Williams was clear that a lack of insight into the community experience meant the Home Office missed opportunities to anticipate the Windrush scandal.
She stated that officials should and could have done more. She effectively said, we must all do better at walking in other people’s shoes.
I will overhaul the department’s risk management framework so we can identify problems sooner, understand the unintended consequences upon people and communities of decisions, and keep the protection of the public at the heart of what we do.
This will give officials the knowledge, the understanding and responsibility to raise risks and concerns, rather than hide them, and ensure that they are listened to and acted upon.
Fourthly, there will be ‘Inclusive and Robust Policy making’
It is key that we build institutional memory and reflect past learnings and experiences when setting out any new approaches.
So mandatory training on the Public Sector Equality Duty and the impact assessment process is being rolled out across the department, including for the most senior staff.
And all impact assessments and submissions to ministers must – as well as considering the equalities impact – they must also address the risks to vulnerable individuals and groups.
The final, and most critical theme, Madame Deputy Speaker, is ‘A More Humane Approach – People Not Cases’.
This is at the heart of ensuring nothing like the injustices faced by the Windrush generation can ever happen again.
The injustices of Windrush did not happen because Home Office staff were bad people, but because staff were themselves caught up in a system where they did not feel they had the permission to bring personal judgement to bear.
Madame Deputy Speaker, I myself have heard from victims directly when they have spoken of decision as a process. A process that ground people down. A process that lacked compassion toward the very people who should have been supported.
I have heard of people being dismissed as if they did not matter and as if their voices were irrelevant.
Putting people first will be built into the reforms we make.
Everyone making decisions must see a ‘Face Behind The Case’. We must feel empowered to use our own discretion and pragmatism in decision making.
The overwhelming majority of the British public would agree that it is right that those with no legal right to be in this country must not be allowed to exploit the system.
But we must protect the law-abiding majority, and to build and maintain public confidence in the immigration system it should not be easy for those here to illegally to flout the rules.
But we must make sure we have the right protections in place for those who status should have been assured.
We need a system that has to be fair.
What happened to the Windrush generation is unspeakable, and no one with a legal right to be here should ever have been penalised.
I have tasked my officials to undertake a full evaluation of the compliant environment policy and measures – individually and cumulatively – to make sure this crucial balance is right.
I have asked them to evaluate the changes that were made to immigration and nationality laws over successive governments to ensure that they are fit for purpose for today’s world.
And if those changes weren’t communicated effectively enough, we will act to make them so.
Have no doubt: where we find problems, I will seek to fix them.
But equally be under no illusion: if people are here wrongly or illegally, then naturally we will act.
We are determined to get this right.
We owe it to the Windrush generation and their descendants.
Wendy Williams has asked that we carefully consider our next steps to deliver both meaningful and lasting change.
I will deliver on that commitment and of course Madame Deputy Speaker continue to update the House.
In September 2021, Wendy Williams will return to the Home Office to review our progress.
I am confident she will find the start of a genuine cultural shift within the department.
A Home Office that is working hard to be more diverse, more compassionate and worthy of the trust of the communities it serves.
I commend this statement to the House.