Yvette Cooper promises Labour would ‘turn the page’ on Windrush scandal

<span>The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said: ‘This country owes an enormous debt of gratitude to the Windrush generation.’</span><span>Photograph: John Keeble/Getty Images</span>
The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said: ‘This country owes an enormous debt of gratitude to the Windrush generation.’Photograph: John Keeble/Getty Images

Yvette Cooper has promised to re-establish the Home Office’s Windrush unit, promising a Labour government would “turn the page” on the scandal with a series of measures such as expediting compensation claims.

Writing for the Guardian to mark Windrush Day she said the party would appoint a new “Windrush commissioner” who would “oversee the delivery of the compensation scheme” and be a “voice” for families and communities, adding that trust needed to be rebuilt between Windrush victims and campaigners and the Home Office.

A Labour government, she said, would start by ensuring that the Windrush compensation scheme is “delivered effectively”. It would also restore “community engagements to encourage applications, as well as the reconciliation events promised after the Wendy Williams Lessons Learned review but abandoned by the Conservatives”.

If the compensation scheme fails it would be overhauled “entirely … to ensure it commands the confidence of the community”, Cooper added.

Windrush Day, she said should be a moment to “pay tribute to a generation who arrived in the UK to rebuild our economy and public services after the second world war”.

But, she continued, it also “shines a searing spotlight on the terrible Windrush scandal” and the “shameful fact” it is still enduring because so many Windrush families “still haven’t seen the justice or the compensation they deserve”.

She referenced Windrush victims such as Paulette Wilson and Anthony Bryan, who told their stories, as well as the “brilliant journalism from Amelia Gentleman in the Guardian” and campaigning by Labour MPs such as David Lammy and Diane Abbott.

Their combined efforts, she said, brought to light “the shocking truth” about the way some of the Windrush generation were being treated by the British state.

The Windrush compensation scheme was launched in April 2019. Just over £90m had been paid out by the end of May, according to data from the Home Office.

However, victims and campaigners have said compensation payments should be speeded up and increased. There have been concerns that victims may miss out on compensation due to payment delays.

In November 2017, Paulette Wilson, who had lived in the UK for more than half a century, spoke to the Guardian about her treatment at the hands of the Home Office. The government had threatened to send her to Jamaica – a country she had not seen since she left it at the age of 10.

The Guardian continued to highlight case after case of Home Office brutality towards the Windrush generation. In April 2018 the then prime minister Theresa May apologised for the hurt caused to victims. Amber Rudd resigned as the home secretary that same month after misleading the Home Affairs select committee on deportation targets.

Cooper concluded: “This country owes an enormous debt of gratitude to the Windrush generation.

“A Labour government will turn the page. We are determined to ensure that there is meaningful change so that a scandal like Windrush can never happen again.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are committed to righting the wrongs of the Windrush scandal and making sure those affected receive the compensation they deserve.

“We continue to support individuals to access and apply for our Status Scheme so they can get the documentation needed to prove their right to be in the United Kingdom.”