23 June 2020. The Guardian, UK: Priti Patel has promised significant cultural and systemic reform of the Home Office, as she accepted all 30 recommendations of the independent review into the Windrush scandal.
The home secretary’s announcement commits the government to undertaking a “scrupulous” evaluation of the risks and effectiveness of its controversial hostile environment legislation, and to ensure that all Home Office policies are “rooted in humanity”.
Her decision to implement the recommendations in full comes two days after the author of the Windrush Lessons Learned review, Wendy Williams, said there was a “grave risk of something similar happening again” if ministers decided not to implement the measures set out in her report.
The 276-page Williams review, published in March, offers a forensic analysis of the causes of the scandal, during which thousands of legal UK residents were misclassified as illegal immigrants, based on interviews with hundreds of people affected.
It was damning in its conclusions, finding that the Home Office displayed “ignorance and institutional thoughtlessness” on the subject of race, in part consistent with institutional racism.
Williams found that the Home Office was characterised by a “culture of disbelief and carelessness” and that there was a “lack of empathy for individuals”.
In accepting the measures set out in the report, Patel has committed “commission officials to undertake a full review and evaluation of the hostile/compliant environment policy and measures – individually and cumulatively” – recommendation No 7. This evaluation should assess whether the measures are “proportionate in meeting their stated aim, given the risks inherent in the policy”. Williams said this review must be carried out scrupulously in partnership with external experts and published in a timely way.
Patel’s decision is also an implicit acknowledgement that “systemic and cultural change is necessary”. The 30 recommendations require the government to introduce a new Home Office mission statement based on “fairness, humanity, openness, diversity and inclusion”, and force a change in culture to recognise that migration and wider “Home Office policy is about people” and should be “rooted in humanity”.
Patel has also accepted to create a migrants’ commissioner “responsible for speaking up for migrants”, and agreed that Home Office staff needed to be made to “learn about the history of the UK and its relationship with the rest of the world, including Britain’s colonial history, the history of inward and outward migration, and the history of black Britons”.
In a Commons statement, Patel said: “I was clear when Wendy Williams published her Lessons Learned review that I would listen and I would act. I have heard what she has said and I will be accepting the recommendations she has made in full.
“I am committed to ensuring that the Home Office delivers for each part of the community it serves and I will come back to update the house on how we will be implementing the recommendations before the summer recess.”
She added: “My determination to right the wrongs and the injustices suffered by the Windrush generation is undiminished and I will do all I can to make sure that more people are helped and more people are compensated in full. And if additional resources are needed, they will be provided.”
The shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, criticised the government for its slow progress in compensating those affected by the Windrush scandal, which he said had compensated “just 60 people in its first year of operation”.
Patel said: “I agree: the payments and the way in which payments have been made have been far too slow. I’m not apologising for that at all. I have outlined in my statement that it is right that we treat each individual with the respect and dignity they deserve. These are complicated cases.” She said more than £1m had now been offered in compensation.
Patel had earlier told MPs that work was continuing to ensure that those who suffered under the Windrush scandal would receive the documentation and the compensation they needed.
She said: “So far, over 12,000 people have been granted documentation by the Windrush taskforce, including over 5,900 grants of citizenship, and the compensation scheme continues to make payments to compensate the losses and the impairs individuals suffered as a result of not being able to demonstrate their lawful status.”
Patel was asked by Labour’s Yvette Cooper why Anthony Williams, who served in the armed forces for 13 years and was reduced to destitution when he was told he was in the UK unlawfully, 40 years after moving here from Jamaica legally as a seven-year-old, had been waiting for compensation for 15 months. Patel said his claim was “going through the quality assurance process”.