It is a privilege to contribute to this debate and to add to all the great speeches today. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes) for securing both this debate and the Speaker’s apartments for next week’s Windrush celebrations, organised in conjunction with Jamaica National Bank and The Voice. I agree with what she said about the Black Cultural Archives and making sure that the Black Cultural Archives receives funding, and about 22 June being Windrush day for us to celebrate. I would also like to pay my respects to the survivors of Grenfell. I will be on the silent march with my right hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) after this debate.
I would like to paint a picture of an expat from Jamaica named Jeff. When he landed, he had his hat, he was pressed and dressed, as they liked to say—his clothes were very smartly pressed—and he walked with his grip, which to everybody else is a suitcase. When he landed, he was shocked by the smog that confronted him, that all the houses were so close together he thought they were factories, that there were no front or back gardens, which was very different from the green, green grass of home. And this was his motherland. As he passed the houses and the signs that read, “No blacks, no Irish, no dogs”, he made his way to a shared house in east London owned by a Jewish family who were great allies of the Windrush generation.
That expat was my father. His first job, which he got almost immediately, was working in a Matchbox factory making little toy cars. The factory no longer exists, but there might be some cars in the loft still that are worth some money. When that closed, he worked for London Underground. All that time, he also worked as a gigging musician. He used to tell me about singing in pubs where black people were not welcome or were scared to go.
My dad contributed greatly to this country, not only in the work he did but in breaking down so many societal barriers. Once he had made enough money, he rented a room and sent for my mother. She came to this country and was surprised at a number of things: that food was cooked without seasoning, that English people only bathed once a week and went to bath houses, and that children did not have school clothes, playing-out clothes and church clothes, which were an absolute must in a Jamaican household.
The contribution of the Windrush generation is vast and varied. They were proud not only of how they dressed but of how they were as a community, and they were proud of their motherland, as they called it. They did not know the Jamaican national anthem, because they came before Jamaica became independent. They only knew the British national anthem.
Can we imagine this generation of people, who came to this country to rebuild it with such pride not only in how they looked but in how they conducted themselves, now feeling, in 2018, surplus to requirements? After giving this country the best years of their lives, they have been told that they need to go back, that they are illegal or that they are no longer wanted. It is heartbreaking when I hear the stories of people who come into my surgery in tears, clutching as many bits of paper as they can find. It is heartbreaking when I receive emails from teachers saying, “I remember teaching the children of the Windrush generation. Is there anything I can do? Will the Government accept my evidence to prove that these people were here as British citizens?” And it is all the more heartbreaking because it was the Prime Minister who created the hostile environment. The Prime Minister was previously the Home Secretary and therefore shoulders full responsibility for the hostile environment.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention and I take his point that parties spoke about a hostile environment. The big difference is that the Prime Minister, as Home Secretary, not only spoke about it but created policies that ensured a number of people then became complicit in creating the hostile environment: doctors, nurses, teachers and landlords. It is unusual, rare and dangerous that somebody in authority instructs people to create a hostile environment for their own citizens. We have to be very mindful of that.
It could just be a coincidence, Mr Speaker, but my decision to sit on the Back Benches and speak in this debate today has created a flurry of activity in my office. My office received a call from the Prime Minister’s office with regard to several letters I sent to which I am still waiting for a response. As I say, that could just be a coincidence. For the record, I would like to raise in the Chamber some of the points I have raised in those letters to which I am still awaiting a response.
It is very important that we know how and when cases will be expedited, what new pathways will need to be created and whether the cost of fast-tracked naturalisation—it can cost about £2,000—will be waived. We have been assured that it will. The “Life in the UK Test” also needs to be waived. The people being victimised at the moment are ageing. They are of pensionable age and they need access to healthcare. Some of that is being denied, so we need a clear timetable for when all of this will be achieved, as well as a clear timetable for compensation.
The other issue I raised in my letters is whether the Prime Minister was warned that her decision to tighten immigration controls and have a hostile environment would harm Commonwealth citizens who were here legally. I am yet to receive a response. I need to receive that response. It is very important, and not just because I am a daughter of the Windrush generation. Martin Luther King said that if you are not opposed to a system of detrimental actions or incarcerations, you then become complicit in it. I do not want to be complicit in the actions of this Government who have created legislation that is institutionally racist.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) spoke about the injustices of slavery and the people who were enslaved. I wholeheartedly agree with everything that he said. The Labour Government will create a slavery educational trust based on the Holocaust Educational Trust—because the international slave trade was the African holocaust. We have heard lots of contributions about slavery and enslavement, and how it ended. We need more factual talk, discussion and education on the issue. A slavery educational trust will enable that to happen and quash some of the misunderstandings and misnomers.
I do not think the Prime Minister is a bad person, but I do wonder whether she really understands the emotional and generational trauma that she has created with not just her words but her actions on the hostile environment. It pains me to highlight that these policies are institutionally racist, but they are. As the Prime Minister and her Government work through the race audit that she has instructed civil servants to deliver, I hope that she will also implement section 1 of the Equality Act 2010, which talks about the socioeconomic duty of Government.
As we celebrate, thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood, the 70th anniversary of Windrush, we need not just to appreciate but to compensate. Martin Luther King said, “The time is always right to do the right thing.” I hope that the Minister will go some way towards talking about the right thing that this Government will do. I also hope that the Prime Minister will reflect on her hostile environment policies and do the right thing.