LibLink: Derek Laud on the Windrush debacle

The investigative work of Amelia Gentleman in the Guardian has uncovered the implications of Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’, and let us not kid ourselves with talk of Amber Rudd’s resignation, responsibility for this falls squarely upon the head of our Prime Minister.

Former Conservative speechwriter, and now a member of the Liberal Democrats, Derek Laud wrote for the Guardian over the weekend. In his powerful piece, he highlights that the impact of Government policy on Windrush pensioners is not an isolated error;

It cannot be incidental that some of the most important issues facing us today are about matters of freedom, liberty and choice. I think it profoundly wrong that the UK is the only country in Europe that locks up people without any limit on how long they can be detained. The government’s data protection bill purports to give us more control over our own personal information. However, buried in the details lurks another sinister intention. The intention includes an “immigration exemption”. This allows the government the power to remove data protection rights from anyone whose details are processed for “effective immigration control”. This is all May. She has created a nation where the burden of proof is now reversed: guilty until proven innocent.

Meanwhile, what of the Home Office? Is it really that it is staffed by people who hate foreigners, or is it simply a result of our constitutional settlement?

David Walker isn’t, to the best of my knowledge, a Liberal Democrat, but his knowledge of how the Civil Service works and thinks should be essential reading for policy makers.

He writes here about the culture of the Home Office and the relationship between politicians and public officials. He takes the view that, like so much of Government, it’s not black or white, but shades of grey…

The truth is somewhere in between these extremes, but it’s not recognised in any authorised version. Big departments such as the Home Office are full of bureaucratic nooks and crannies where decisions are made daily about process, without much, if any, reference upwards. Civil servants consume media like everyone else and if they read that May wants something and it coheres with what their managers are asking, most just go for it.

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16 Comments

  • ………………………Civil servants consume media like everyone else and if they read that May wants something and it coheres with what their managers are asking, most just go for it………….

    I think there’s even more to it; in a climate of ‘Go Home’ vans it is hardly necessary for detailed instructions to be passed down from ministers.
    As James Brokenshire’s leaked letter (written when May was at the Home Office) shows, Derek Laud’s ‘guilty until proven innocent’ is spot on….

  • John Marriott 23rd Apr '18 - 12:27pm

    Is it JUST possible that, if the 2006 ID Cards Act not been repealed by Parliament in 2010 we might not now be facing this embarrassing situation?

  • I think the problem would have come to a head sooner if the requirement for ID cards came into force – Windrush people would have had difficulties proving their identities at that point.

    Here we see the terrible consequences of pandering to anti-immigration rhetoric. The good thing is that backlash politics is starting to meet its own backlash.

  • let us not kid ourselves with talk of Amber Rudd’s resignation, responsibility for this falls squarely upon the head of our Prime Minister.

    Interesting, on yesterday’s Peston On Sunday [ https://www.itv.com/hub/peston-on-sunday/2a4458a0066 ] the evidence and finger pointed directly at May with Rudd as the successor largely picking up the mess and continuing the policy; yet only Rudd was being called to stand down…

  • Phil Beesley 23rd Apr '18 - 1:47pm

    @Mark Valladares: “Meanwhile, what of the Home Office? Is it really that it is staffed by people who hate foreigners, or is it simply a result of our constitutional settlement?”

    Or something about fear of power? Or perceived power and perceived to being wrong?

    Junior civil servants — or out-sourced civil servants — inspect personal documents and process forms. More senior civil servants make decisions, based on the evidence presented to them and on law. Police and prosecution services do similar work all the time for criminal complaints; but they observe fuzziness and do not presume that every potential infraction requires a legal response.

    Is there something about the Home Office or its culture? It is hard to understand why a UK resident might be deported or denied NHS treatment after living here for 40 odd years; how is such a decision made without it being made at the top; does the system work so that the top never hears about it.

  • Phil Beesley 23rd Apr '18 - 2:15pm

    @Andrew Toye: “I think the problem would have come to a head sooner if the requirement for ID cards came into force – Windrush people would have had difficulties proving their identities at that point.”

    Should we talk about “Windrush people” to describe Caribbean immigrants? Who is a “Ugandan Asian”?

  • >Who is a “Ugandan Asian”?
    I think they all received full British passports, but I could be mistaken – as I only have the experience of one friend and her family to go on.

  • John Marriott 23rd Apr '18 - 4:08pm

    @Andrew Toye
    Pity we scrapped ID Cards after WW2 then?

  • Phil Beesley 23rd Apr '18 - 4:19pm

    @Roland: “I think they all received full British passports…” dismisses the problems faced by Indians deported by Uganda. Or by voluntary migrants from the Caribbean to the UK in the 1960s and 70s?

    Few people keep a copy of the boarding card (“exit card” in reality) for 40 years after getting off a boat or plane. When a school has been knocked down by bulldozers, and the school was run by three different local authorities, it kept data, you reckon?

    When data was kept, it was never intended to be used years later for a different purpose. The boarding/exit card shows that somebody was on a boat or plane. School records record whether a lass or lad turned up.

    My ‘leccy bill shows that I have paid my bill at my address. It doesn’t prove that I live here.

  • Steve Trevethan 23rd Apr '18 - 6:21pm

    Might the responsibility for this cruel legislation lie with the MPs who voted for it?
    Should awards be given to the few, from several parties, who bravely, wisely and compassionately voted against it?
    Should we name and praise the three Lib-Dems who voted against it?
    Is there a glimmer of light in a dark sky, that the leader of HM’s Opposition voted against it?

  • Phil Beesley 23rd Apr '18 - 7:02pm

    @Steve Trevethan: “Should awards be given to the few, from several parties, who bravely, wisely and compassionately voted against it?”

    I hope I know what you are thinking, Steve.

  • David Evans 23rd Apr '18 - 7:48pm

    The simple fact is that those Conservatives are a corrupt, uncaring and fundamentally evil bunch who will say and do anything by pandering to the lowest common denominator they can get away with, in their never ending drive to retain power. To them, the Windrush generation are just another pile of collateral damage suffered in their drive to make the UK a country of people ‘just like us’. Collateral damage to be ignored unless it becomes too embarrassing, when compensation (which can never compensate) will be paid from our money to save their reputation and salve their conscience.

    How our leaders ever willingly got involved in government with them without realising this, and even then preferred to stay the course and destroy so much of Liberal Democracy rather than face them down as the cancer in our society that they are, is totally beyond comprehension.

  • OnceALibDem 23rd Apr '18 - 9:24pm

    “now a member of the Liberal Democrats, Derek Laud”

    You should be honoured to have him. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/4448790.stm

  • @Phil Beesley – My point, was that to my understanding, the Ugandan Asians are not in the same position as the “Windrush people”, with respect to citizenship and thus the documentation needed today to prove their right to remain; although I would welcome some clarification as I accept my understanding (and that of my friend, whose parents would have handled official matters back then) could be totally wrong.

    Also, with respect to the “Windrush people” it does seem that some were savvy to take the opportunity in the 1970’s to obtain a full British passport and so (currently) have avoided the evidence of residency problems.

    I think it is in this respect that anyone from the EU deciding to remain in the UK post-Brexit needs to decide whether they really want to remain and thus would be well advised to become a British passport holder or take the risk that at some future point a UK government will require they produce a few decades worth of proof of residency…

  • “Meanwhile, what of the Home Office? Is it really that it is staffed by people who hate foreigners,…”. Yes, probably. If you were a decent, fair minded civil servant and then were forced by your political masters to treat people as badly as possible, acting as if any person not born here of traditional (white) British stock is an illegal immigrant, a criminal without the need for a fair trial, would you stay in that post? You’d move to some other section or department, or perhaps into local government or the private sector.
    So those left – and those recruited once the Government’s aims and methods became clear – are presumably people who are happy to follow such rules. Or temporary junior staff who have to do what they’re told, until they can find a more honest job elsewhere.

  • Phil Beesley 26th Apr '18 - 6:42pm

    @Roland
    “Also, with respect to the “Windrush people” it does seem that some were savvy to take the opportunity in the 1970’s to obtain a full British passport and so (currently) have avoided the evidence of residency problems.”

    We have been overtaken by events. People who talk about things in more public circles have determined that the “Windrush problem” affects more people than those who came from the Caribbean in the 1950s. It affects Indian Asians and white people too.

    It was never “savvy” to acquire a full British passport; it was just the way to go abroad, the practical way.

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