Windrush Compensation Scheme

Debate between Baroness Coussins and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 24th November 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

First, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness and all that she has done for the Windrush generation. I totally agree with her that the scandal of it, which spanned several decades, and Parliaments and Governments of every colour, is indeed a stain on our history.

With regard to the evidence, we have designed the scheme to be as simple as possible, and its whole rationale is to pay compensation, as opposed to not paying it. So the scheme operates on the balance of probabilities, and we will work with individuals to support them to provide and obtain as much information as possible to support their claim. We want to make it easy, not difficult, for them to do so, so caseworkers will contact other government departments and third parties, such as previous employers, if necessary. In July, we published refreshed casework guidance that clearly sets out how caseworkers should apply the balance of probability and go about gathering that evidence. We want people to receive the maximum amount of compensation, not the minimum, to which they are perfectly entitled.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the noble Baroness’s Question refers to people who have applied to the compensation scheme, but what proactive action will the Government take to reach out and contact those who may be eligible to apply but still do not trust the Home Office and so have not put in an application yet?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As I said previously in Questions about the Windrush scheme, we have reached out not just to communities where we think applications might be forthcoming but to communities and faith leaders overseas, because we want as many people to apply as are entitled to—not just entitled to but deserve—the compensation for their suffering. To go back to the noble Baroness’s previous question, moving the scheme out of the Home Office would risk significantly delaying vital payments to those affected.

Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme

Debate between Baroness Coussins and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Thursday 28th October 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As I said, 1,700 individuals, mostly from Operation Pitting, have moved into permanent local authority housing. Two hundred local authorities have pledged to support families, with a further 6,000 places in accommodation pledged. We are also seeing people matched with jobs, with over 200 of the cohort having been offered employment. The other thing I am keen to see, because it is very helpful in promoting integration, is community sponsorship; 120 community sponsorship schemes are already in place, and I would like to see that expanded.

On the specific question of interpreters placed, I will not give the noble Baroness a figure today because I do not have it—or, if I have it, I cannot see it in my notes. However, I will get her that exact figure.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, can the Minister clarify whether Afghan nationals who were employed directly by or under contract to the British Council would qualify under the citizens resettlement scheme or under ARAP as the interpreters do?

Iraqi Interpreters

Debate between Baroness Coussins and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Thursday 14th October 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins
- Hansard - -

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to grant visas to Iraqi interpreters who worked with British armed forces in Iraq.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the Government owe a debt of gratitude to interpreters who have risked their lives working alongside UK Armed Forces. Iraqi interpreters were supported through the locally employed staff assistance scheme, which was established in 2007 and closed in 2016, during which time over 1,300 people were resettled here. Anyone now wishing to relocate to the UK may make use of the relevant routes in the wider immigration system, provided that they meet the requirements.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, eight of our Iraqi interpreters had their personal data breached some months ago, making them more vulnerable than ever to the hostility of the Iraqi Government and Iranian-backed militia. I know that the MoD is certain that we were not responsible for any breach but, nevertheless, the interpreters have no access to our embassy and the online visa application form takes them to a message saying, “Page not found”. Will the noble Baroness agree that, with the US set to withdraw by the end of this year, and with the lessons of relocating Afghan interpreters so fresh in our minds, now is the time to be proactive, to upgrade the risk assessment and to allow these eight interpreters to come to safety in the UK?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment of the noble Baroness’s question, which is that anyone who helps us should in turn be afforded the right for us to help them. Obviously, Iraq and Afghanistan were two entirely different situations but, nevertheless, people can come through a number of routes. I know that the noble Baroness is in frequent contact with my noble friend Lady Goldie, from an MoD point of view.

Security Co-operation

Debate between Baroness Coussins and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 2nd December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the UK is not seeking membership of Europol or Eurojust. That is not how third-country arrangements with these agencies work. We have not sought membership of either agency, but we are negotiating at what is clearly a very sensitive and late stage. In general, there is a good degree of convergence between what the UK and the EU have been seeking to negotiate.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, can the Minister give a clear assurance that, from 1 January, the police will continue to have unfettered access to the various EU databases which help them track and prevent transnational crime such as the trafficking of drugs, arms and people? Over 50 million requests are made of these databases every year from UK police forces. National security would clearly be at risk without access to them.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I agree with the noble Baroness about our capabilities. We are in the very late stages of negotiating an agreement on law enforcement, criminal justice and, as she says, those data exchanges that are so important. I cannot say more than that, but we have had some very useful discussions in this area and I am hopeful of a good deal.

Visas: Visitors from Peru

Debate between Baroness Coussins and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Monday 16th November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare an interest as president of the Peru Support Group.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, there are no plans to change the visa requirements for citizens of Peru. Visas are a key part of the UK’s border and national security system. The UK keeps visa regimes under regular review. A visa regime does not set a higher bar; it merely changes where the decision is made.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the UK is now the largest foreign investor in Peru, and the Government agree that they should strengthen their engagement with the Pacific Alliance, of which two other members, Mexico and Chile, are visa free. The requirements for Peru inhibit business, academic exchanges and tourism. Out of enlightened self-interest, would the Minister agree that on all economic and security criteria it is time now to restore visa-free status to Peru or, at the very least, remove short-term visa requirements as recommended by the international relations committee report last year?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, a visa regime is not necessarily a barrier to trade. We have really good trading relationships with many countries whose citizens require a visa to come to the UK. All non-EEA visitors to the UK are assessed against the same immigration rules, regardless of their nationality and whether there is a visa requirement. The processing times are very quick: 97% of non-settlement visa applications were decided within our 15-working-day processing time. As I have said before to the noble Baroness, we keep the regime under review.

Covid-19: Child Trafficking

Debate between Baroness Coussins and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Tuesday 29th September 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord will know that we have safe and legal routes. I say it time and again: we do not want children to make the terrible, perilous journey in those small boats to this country. It is also worth acknowledging that 65% of trafficking victims are in fact UK nationals.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, access to EU police databases and co-operation with multilingual officers has been crucial in helping to track and prevent transnational crime, such as child trafficking. What assessment has been made of how the pandemic could compound the impact of our leaving the EU on access to these resources and personnel?

Asylum System

Debate between Baroness Coussins and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Monday 28th September 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord will appreciate that the past nine months have been unprecedented in terms of being able efficiently to deliver certain things, including the outcome of asylum cases. I do not have the exact figure to hand—I can get it for him—but I would imagine that that process has slowed, given the Covid-19 restrictions we have all been living under.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, why is the Home Secretary not willing to use the discretion she has to revert to the rates of financial support for asylum seekers which were abandoned in 2008, when support was set at 70% of income support levels for adults and 100% for children?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think the noble Baroness will know that, in discussion with the ONS and others, we have set that rate as the one we think appropriate.

Covid-19: Support and Accommodation for Asylum Seekers

Debate between Baroness Coussins and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Tuesday 30th June 2020

(4 years ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the Government are looking into the frequency with which the allowance is paid. The increase is quite a bit above inflation, even though it may not seem like much. The assessment of the amount of money needed to purchase sufficient food is based on data from the ONS, looking specifically at expenditure on essential living items by people in the lower 10% of income groups, and is supplemented by market research.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, many children of asylum seekers have been severely disadvantaged during lockdown because their parents do not have and cannot afford the broadband or wi-fi connection, or the equipment needed, to access online schooling. The daily living allowance of a little over £37 barely covers essential needs. Does the Minister agree that for asylum seekers’ children, online education is also essential right now, and will she agree to look at an immediate and backdated uprating to reflect that?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I totally agree with the noble Baroness that children have been disadvantaged in their education during Covid, whether they are the children of asylum seekers or not. All hotels provide wi-fi, and I am almost certain that online learning can be provided. Of course, it is essential when people arrive here that they have a good grasp of English before they can learn anything at all. It is one of the things that is most important to people’s assimilation into this country.

National Asylum Support Service

Debate between Baroness Coussins and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 6th May 2020

(4 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My noble friend is absolutely right that migrants arriving in the UK should be assessed. Certainly, if they are being put into accommodation, we want to ensure that they are not Covid-positive. If anyone moved into initial accommodation —possibly a hostel-type arrangement—is symptomatic, they are moved into hotel-type accommodation so that they can segregate and isolate. I join calls every day with our Border Force colleagues, and I understand that their PPE requirements are adequate.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, what advice and information on Covid-19 is available in languages other than English, in what format and in which languages? How is it made accessible to people needing help from the National Asylum Support Service, including through the use of registered public service interpreters?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, all asylum seekers currently accommodated in asylum support properties can receive advice on asylum support and associated Covid-19 guidance and signposting through our advice, issue reporting and eligibility provider, Migrant Help. They can contact Migrant Help 24 hours a day on a freephone number if they need assistance or guidance. The AIRE service provides all the current process, policy and health guidelines, as well as immediate access to service providers for escalation. The translated public health guidance is available in 12 languages, with instructions to service users.