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Home Secretary says there are “serious and significant” lessons for the Home Office to learn as she accepts Wendy Williams’ Windrush recommendations in full


Priti Patel commits to ensuring Home Office delivers for each part of the community it serves

Date of Publication:
24 June 2020

In a statement to the Commons yesterday on the Windrush compensation scheme, Home Secretary Priti Patel said that Wendy Williams' Windrush Lessons Learned Review shows that there are "serious and significant lessons" for the Home Office to learn.

Patel told the Commons she would be accepting the recommendations made by Wendy Williams in the March 2020 review in full.

Priti PatelImage credit: WikipediaThe Home Secretary said:

"Mr Deputy Speaker, yesterday we celebrated Windrush Day which marks the 72nd anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks.

"The ship carried hundreds of people who had left their homes to build a new life in the United Kingdom, and to help this country to rebuild following the destruction of Second World War.

"These are the men and women who built their lives and went on to build their homes in the United Kingdom.

"They, alongside many thousands of others who made similar journeys, along with their descendants, have made an immeasurable contribution to the social, economic, and cultural life of our country.

"When Britain was in need, they answered the call.

"Yet Mr Deputy Speaker, as we all know, they were the very people who went on to suffer unspeakable injustices and institutional failings spanning successive Governments over several decades.

"I have apologised for the appalling treatment suffered.

"And on the 19th March, Mr Deputy Speaker, I made a statement after I received the long awaited Windrush Lessons Learned Review from Wendy Williams.

"I have apologised for the appalling treatment suffered by the Windrush generation.

"The review itself was damning about the conduct of the Home Office and unequivocal about the 'ignorance and institutional thoughtlessness towards the race and history of the Windrush generation' by the department.

"There are serious and significant lessons for the Home Office to learn in relation to the way the Department operates. I and the Permanent Secretary are currently reviewing its leadership, its culture, practices and the way it views and treats all parts of the community it serves.

"These reforms, Mr Deputy Speaker, are only the start.

"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.

"And I look forward to discussing the plans further with Wendy this week."

In the Commons debate that followed the statement, Patel added in response to a question by Conservative MP Aaron Bell:

"My hon. Friend touched on the future immigration system. We have to make our system less complicated; it is far too complicated. The review touches on immigration policy throughout the '60s, '70s and '80s, as more legislation and more complexities were put in place. We need to start streamlining that, to make it firm but fair."

In response to Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, the Home Secretary said:

"There are plenty of examples in the report, as stated by Wendy Williams, showing that lessons should be learned by all political parties. In fact, the report contains quotes attributed as far back as 2009—to a previous Labour Government—on the hostile environment. There are many quotes with regard to members of the then Labour Government who expressed a desire to make the UK a hostile environment, including wanting to make those living here illegally ever 'more uncomfortable' and the need to flush out illegal immigrants. That is the ​type of language that, right now, we should not be using."

Conservative MP Tim Loughton asked the Home Secretary what she thought the reform and change would look like and how confident she was that the Home Office had capacity to actually deliver it. Patel responded:

"My hon. Friend is absolutely right to speak specifically about the changes required in the Home Office. We have already set that work in train—we did so straight after the publication of Wendy's review—primarily because the review itself is called the 'Windrush Lessons Learned Review'. It was a very humbling moment for the Home Office, in which to reflect on the previous conduct and the approach that the Home Office has taken, even in terms of corresponding to individuals, the way people were treated, and the way in which the Department and representatives have spoken to people, whether face to face or on the telephone. There are many, many stories—too many—of individuals who have been treated appallingly. In fact, when the Prime Minister and I met representatives of the working group yesterday, we heard awful examples of individuals being treated in a really inappropriate way, with the wrong kind of language, and being dismissed and belittled. That is simply not acceptable.

"There is a long way to go internally in the Home Office. The review will lead not only to culture changes but to changes in working practices. At a leadership level, I feel very strongly about ensuring that the Home Office is far more diverse and representative of the community that it serves. Sadly, at this particular stage, across all leadership functions, it simply is not. There is a long way to go in terms of making that change, and that is something that I am absolutely determined to make sure happens."

The Guardian's Amelia Gentleman noted in an article yesterday: "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'."

Though Gentleman noted on Twitter "we've slightly been here before with Home Secretaries promising cultural reform". She highlighted similar statements made by Patel's predecessors, Sajid Javid and Amber Rudd, and by former recent Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes.