In the debate on the Windrush scandal, the immigration minister Caroline Nokes told MPs that the Government’s “compliant environment” was here to stay. The ‘compliant environment’ is the name used by the Government for what had been widely known as the ‘hostile environment’ and is the term favoured by Home Secretary Sajid Javid.
Javid said in April: “I don’t like the phrase ‘hostile’. So the terminology is incorrect and I think it is a phrase that is unhelpful and it doesn’t represent our values as country to use that phrase. It is about a compliant environment and it is right that we have a compliant environment.”
Yesterday in the Commons, Caroline Nokes said: “The Government’s compliant-environment policies, which were, of course, started under the previous Labour Administration, are an important part of our ability to make sure that those who have the right to be here and are entitled to goods, services and benefits can be correctly identified, and, equally, that those who are here illegally can also be identified. This Government do not intend to remove our compliant-environment policies; we believe that they provide an important part of our suite to address illegal immigration.”
Nokes said reducing immigration to “sustainable levels” was an “absolutely imperative” and “[a]s part of that, we have a compliant environment, which makes sure that people who are in this country illegally are not entitled to access the benefits and services that those who are here legally can.”
Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott accused the Government of a mere rebranding of the hostile environment policies that had caused the Windrush scandal.
Abbott told the Commons: “We learned from newspaper reports that the Government are losing the majority of their appeals in immigration cases. They are still trying to deport thousands of people who are entitled to be here. The Windrush scandal lives, even while some of its victims have died. This scandal is due to the Government’s hostile environment policy, which is supported by the entire Government, including the Home Secretary, who has tried to rebrand it. Ministers need to abandon the hostile environment policy. Unless and until they do, the reek of the Windrush scandal will forever be associated with the Home Secretary and this Government, not just here in Britain but throughout the Commonwealth.”
Joanna Cherry, the SNP’s Justice and Home Affairs spokesperson, agreed and asked: “When will the Home Secretary respond to calls from the Scottish National party and others, which we have heard today, for a full and proper revisiting of the hostile environment policy, which led to this scandal and which may yet lead to others?”
Labour’s Yvette Cooper and Wes Streeting both called for the reintroduction of immigration appeal rights.
Cooper said: “Does not the Minister recognise that, in Windrush cases, people lost their homes, their residency and citizenship rights, their healthcare rights and their jobs because the Home Office got decisions wrong and there was no right of appeal and no independent checks and balances? Does she not recognise that, if we are to have any chance of preventing Windrush injustices from happening again, there needs to be the restoration of immigration appeal rights?”
Streeting asked the immigration minister: “Why will she not reinstate the appeals, as the cross-party Home Affairs Committee suggests, and why will she not genuinely end the hostile environment?”
Caroline Nokes told the debate that that Government deeply regretted what had happened over decades to some of the Windrush generation and it was determined to put it right. A compensation scheme is in place and a ‘lessons learned’ review by an independent adviser has been commissioned by the Home Secretary.