My Lords, the Windrush scandal is, without doubt, one of the most unfortunate episodes in this country’s history. My family came to Britain as refugees from Uganda, so I understand how it feels to leave the only country you have ever known behind. To be told that you are not welcome in the country you thought was your home is one of the most painful experiences one can imagine.
When we arrived in Britain, we were given shelter and assistance by the Conservative Government led by Ted Heath. The treatment of the Windrush generation was the opposite. These people included veterans who had fought in both world wars for king and country but were later made to feel desperately unwelcome. They saw themselves as British, with their right to citizenship enshrined in law, but the treatment they received from some of their fellow Britons was less than welcoming. The new arrivals faced discrimination in employment and housing as well as socially. They were prey to vultures like Peter Rachman, who terrorised his Caribbean tenants with bouncers, dogs and impossible demands for rent. To have endured this treatment only to be told later that you have no right to remain is nothing short of scandalous. Not only the immigrants but their children have been badly treated.
I therefore wholeheartedly welcome the Government’s efforts to put right these grave injustices through the Windrush compensation scheme. It is vital that those who have suffered can seek redress and support as much as possible. Those in positions of authority must learn from past mistakes to ensure that they are not repeated in the future. The review by Wendy Williams forms an important part of this learning. I would be grateful if my noble friend the Minister could inform your Lordships’ House as to what steps Her Majesty’s Government are taking to implement the findings of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review.
It is deeply regrettable that, to this day, we do not know how many people have been affected by this disaster. Many lost their jobs, were evicted, detained in migration centres, denied medical treatment, or may have been deported. Worst of all, we know that a number have passed away without being able to seek justice. I sincerely hope that the Windrush compensation scheme will go some way towards restoring trust and healing the wounds caused to victims and their loved ones.