07.02.2020

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Your guide to making sense of this whole mess.
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The elephant in the room.


Do you remember those heady days of 2018? A long, hot summer. It was 'coming home'. We were leaving the EU in March 2019.

It wasn't all good news, though.  News broke of one of the biggest political scandals for years and years. The Windrush Scandal.

Between 1948 and the early 1970s, nearly half a million people came to our country, mostly from the Commonwealth, to make a new life. We had lots of jobs rebuilding after the Second World War.

These newcomers weren't given anything fancy like identification. There just wasn't an idea of immigration like there is now. They'd get off the boat (most frequently) and head into the country to make their way in the world.

Fast forward to various crackdowns on immigration. People need to show ID. They need to show they have the right to be here, the right to remain.  Those who came during that period have nothing to show. Some of them came as small children and don't remember anything but this country.

It looks like warnings started to filter through as early as 2013 that things were wrong. Theresa May, then Home Secretary, had continued Gordon Brown's Hostile Environment for migrants and was stepping up pressure.

Long story short, the migrants who arrived during that period ended up detained, threatened with deportation and even, in at least 83 cases, wrongly deported

In April 2018, the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd resigned.

The period saw what many people consider Jeremy Corbyn's finest appearances in the House of Commons as Labour leader. He put repeated pressure on the government. Urgent Questions and Statements saw a packed chamber, with furious MPs questioning how any of this could have happened.

As with anything, though, the news cycle moved on. The government, as they had promised to do. A report was commissioned and a compensation scheme set up. 

This is taken from the government website: 'The Compensation Scheme is open to almost anyone from a Commonwealth country who arrived and settled in the UK before 1973 and suffered losses due to difficulties in evidencing their lawful status. Certain children and grandchildren of those arriving before 1973 and some close family members may also be eligible to apply.'

The government appear to be quite happy with this. They are quietly trying to sort out issues from the past, away from the glare of publicity. The problem is mostly solved. If they can just refrain from mentioning it, perhaps it will go away.

Except, the (very complicated) rules now demand Parliamentary approval. Which means that Windrush has to be back in the Commons on Monday.

The government will present this as a technical bill that frees up the money. Surely nobody disagrees with the compensation scheme, right? They haven't allocated too much time. The opposition parties, though? They'll take the opportunity to talk about the elephant in the room. They will want to talk not just about compensation, but also about current immigration policy, about the people currently being deported.

It's those current deportations that will take some of the limelight on Monday. That report on Windrush? It's been finished. The whole thing hasn't been published, but some bits have (inevitably) been leaked.  

The recommendation is around current deportations. Currently, any foreign nationals who are found to have committed crimes are deported to the country of their birth. That's a pretty popular policy. 

The trouble, according to the report, is about people who came to the UK as children. They haven't known the country of their birth. They have grown up, gone to school and possibly got jobs here. They speak English as their first language. Some of them enjoy Earl Grey tea. 

The report suggests that the law needs to be changed so that either people who came here at, say, under 13 years old should not be deported.  Alternatively, they say, we should reconsider the deportation thing altogether, making it only for the 'most severe cases'.

A deportation flight due to leave for Jamaica on Monday with up to 50 people on board. It has been estimated that two of these deportees would not be on the plane if the recommendations were in place.

The government say they don't comment on leaks, but also that they stick by their policy of deporting those foreign nationals found guilty of committing a crime. The PM himself said it was "right to send back foreign national offenders".
 
Post 2019 election, Boris Johnson has a majority that says he can do whatever he likes. Monday afternoon, though, will be an example of how Parliament can still make life feel very, very uncomfortable.
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Next week in Parliament (and Oxford)


Saturday: The family comedy politics show I do, with Tiernan Dioueb (from Comedy Club 4 Kids) hits the Pegasus Theatre in Oxford. Check out www.politicsforkids.co.uk for details. I would say this, but it's brilliant.
 

House of Commons:


Monday: This is when the Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill hits the Commons. Expect to see the government repeating the phrase ' nothing to see here'.

Tuesday: We've got a bill today about prisoners not disclosing the location of victims having this taken into account when in front of the parole board. It's been quite high profile for a while. It will affect very, very few cases, but victims' families support the measure.

Wednesday: PMQs and then, well, nothing much.

Thursday: Nothing much.

Friday: MPs will be in their constituencies

House of Lords:


There is very little of interest in the House of Lords next week.

Poor members of the House of Lords.
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