Minors Entering the UK: 1948 to 1971 Debate

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Department: Home Office

Minors Entering the UK: 1948 to 1971

Eleanor Smith Excerpts
Monday 30th April 2018

(6 years, 2 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Caroline Nokes Portrait Caroline Nokes
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The hon. Lady is right—it is absolutely freezing. I have been shaking throughout the debate, although that may not be due just to the temperature.

That is an interesting question, and we are already working with the Ministry of Justice on a review of legal aid. I do not want people to have to use lawyers; I want them to be able to go through an easy process. I get the message from the hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) that we have to build trust, and I am determined to do so.

Caroline Nokes Portrait Caroline Nokes
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I will finish this point. I do not want people to have to incur more stress and cost—we will reimburse them for their legal costs already, as part of the compensation scheme, which I will address.

There is an important aspect here: we are determined to make this easy, by having the most senior and able caseworkers—who we are trying to empower, through a change of culture in the Home Office—to take decisions. We want not the “computer says no” attitude, which my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset and many others have referred to, but a position where, better than the computer saying yes, the human says yes. That is a real change.

Eleanor Smith Portrait Eleanor Smith
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I am one of the second generation of Windrush; my parents came in 1954. I really do not understand why people have to prove that they live in this country when they have children aged 30 or older and probably have grandkids, too. Why are we talking about having to prove it? Why can we not just give them a blanket exception? I do not understand why, if people have entered the country from 1948 onwards, and up to 1974, which is about 45 years ago, the Minister is talking about having to prove that they live in this country. Is that what she is saying?

Caroline Nokes Portrait Caroline Nokes
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There is a significant question of deemed leave and processes in 1973 that did not give people a legal document that demonstrated their status. That is the failing that we have to put right. There may well be people out there who do not come forward. We have to work to give people confidence, but also to give them an important document that enables them to go on and get their British citizenship—all at no cost. I do not want anyone to fall foul of this going forward. If we just grant deemed leave again, we may find ourselves in this situation again.

Many Members have mentioned the difference from EU settled status. That is an important and difficult point. Since I came into this job, a great deal of my time and energy have been taken up with making sure that the settled status scheme, which we will open later this year, will work. It matters to me that it works digitally and easily, and that, rather than the “computer says no” mentality, we have a default position whereby if people are here, the computer will say yes.

The hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West) asked about whether the app will work on iPhone; we have been working on that for many months. It works on an Android phone, but Apple as yet has not released the update that would enable it to work on iPhones. I recognise that that is a problem. I encourage all right hon. and hon. Members to talk about that, because I cannot force Apple to participate—I wish I could, but I cannot. It is important that, for those EU citizens, many of whom have been here for years just like the Windrush generation, we make the process simple, straightforward and digital.