Anne Main welcomes Windrush investigation

2nd May 2018

Anne Main welcomes the investigation into the errors made in the immigration processes relating to the Windrush generation but cautions against extending the scope of documentation to be examined too wide as onerous precedents will be set.

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. I would like to address the motion on the Order Paper, because that is what we are here to talk about. Would that the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, were on the Opposition Front Bench. She actually spoke to the motion, and with great knowledge. I was disappointed that the shadow Home Secretary did not address the motion as the right hon. Lady did. She seemed to spend three quarters of her speech—

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I am afraid that I will not take any interventions from the shadow Home Secretary, as she absolutely steadfastly refused to recognise the requests of any Conservative Members and did not give way in any way, shape or form. If she would like to take a bit of her own medicine—

Order. The right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) is standing at the Dispatch Box, but the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) has said that she is not taking an intervention. [Interruption.] It is not for me to decide; there is no point in the right hon. Lady appealing to me.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I shall not be taking any interventions from the shadow Home Secretary, since she did not extend that courtesy to Conservative Members.

As I said, the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford got to the nub of this debate. We have to ask ourselves whether documentation is needed for the Home Affairs Committee to do its business. I think that it probably is. I think she will be diligent in that task. As I said, I would like to see the information taken from the range of documentation.

I thank the hon. Lady for giving way. I gently point out to her that the point I made was that it was not a matter for the Select Committee, but a matter for the House, to make a decision on the motion, and that we would choose how to respond. Although we have put our own questions to the Home Office, most of them are still unanswered. Clearly she will have her own points to make, but I ask her not to pray in aid my arguments.

I take the point, and I hope the right hon. Lady gets the answers that she deserves. I think that all Conservative Members feel that the Windrush generation have been done a huge disservice. To conflate this debate with other forms of immigration, slavery and whatever else people have chucked into the mix, including fishing, does a disservice to the debate we must have about the wrongs that were done in the processing of the Windrush generation.

Will the hon. Lady give way?

No, I will not give way on that point.

We need to look at the process and truly analyse it. Heartfelt apologies have been made, which is absolutely correct. Anyone whose life has been disrupted—I do not dispute that many have been—deserves that apology, but we need to look at how it went wrong and what went wrong and make sure that compensation, if appropriate, is given. No Conservative Members would say any differently. The people of this generation are here absolutely legally, and we need to ensure that their position is corrected, so that neither they nor their children or family in future have any of these issues.

However, the motion before us is about how much protection is given to the people who advise those in government. This wide-ranging text, mentioning Ministers, senior officials, special advisers and so on, makes such an onerous and invasive request. If this request was taken to the nth degree on every contentious topic—for example, the invasion of Iraq—where would it end? How can a Government get the information they need and think outside the box, and how can text messages be sent between Ministers, if they believe that nothing can be said within Cabinet that cannot at any time be requested in an Opposition day motion?

If there are papers that show how this process came to happen in the way it did, I hope they are brought forward, as the Home Affairs Committee has requested, but this motion goes to the nth degree of asking for “advice” to be published—what sort of advice? Does that include oral advice, minutes taken, emails and text messages? The motion also mentions “all papers” and “correspondence”, but it is only for the selective dates that the Opposition feel may be helpful to their cause. This is not the way to sort out a problem that has occurred over decades. This problem must be put right, and I believe the Home Secretary has the passion to put it right.

The semantics and picking apart of the word “compliant” is ridiculous. Most Conservative Members would agree that the Home Secretary is a man of great compassion who cares deeply about—

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have had to cope with the hon. Lady saying that we cannot link the Windrush generation to slavery. I have had now to cope with her suggesting that my “Oxford English Dictionary” definition of “compliance” in my speech was wrong. Can she correct the record?

I understand that passions are running high, but the right hon. Gentleman knows that that is not a matter for the Chair. He has made his point. The hon. Lady may address it if she wishes to, but it is up to her.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I simply said that we have had everything thrown into this debate, apart from a discussion of the impact of what the motion would deliver.

As I was saying, I believe that our new Home Secretary is a compassionate and caring man. The fact that he has been called a “coconut”, and all the other things he has had to endure in the short time he has been in office, just goes to show that we do not live in the tolerant society that I would like to live in. The fact that he has the dignity to address those comments in the Chamber but still not be deterred from doing the right thing by the Windrush generation is to his great credit, and long may he do so.

I do not think that this debate has been characterised by good temper on both sides. When the shadow Secretary of State will not give way to anyone, it certainly does not make for a debate; rather, it makes for a one-sided monologue read from notes. The implication of the motion is so far ranging and so constraining on any future Government, that it would be very dangerous to go along this route. The Windrush generation has been done a great disservice, but apologies have been made. I hope that there is a swift resolution, and I believe that under the current Government there will be.

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