Archbishop of Canterbury responds to Home Office Windrush Lessons Report

On 19th March 2020 the Home Secretary made a statement on the publication of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review. The statement was repeated in the House of Lords and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Revd Justin Welby, responded:

The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, the publication of this Statement is very welcome indeed. The heartfelt nature of the apology was notable.​

I have a couple of questions about the recommendations to put to the noble Baroness. First, one of the historic failures of the Church of England—in many ways as bad as the hostile environment—was the terrible reception that we gave the Windrush generation, the vast majority of whom were Anglicans, when they came here. They were often turned away from Church of England churches, or were given a very weak welcome or no welcome at all. As a result, they went off and formed their own churches, which have flourished much better than ours. We would be so much stronger had we behaved correctly. I have apologised for that, and I continue to do so and see the wickedness of our actions.

However, the recommendations, particularly recommendations 7 and 8, talk about reconciliation and understanding the nature of the groups being dealt with by the Home Office. Will it consider bringing in, talking with and using the services of the black-majority church leaders, often Pentecostal church leaders, who have been gracious, wise and strong in upholding their communities? They have much to teach us.

The same point is to be made on recommendation 6, which talks about the history and the need to understand colonial history. Many of these people will now be in their 80s and 90s; capturing the live voice of those with long experiences in this country and who have contributed so much is now time limited.

Recommendations 14 and 17, on the values statement and the ethical standards, come straight back to the need for culture change in the Home Office. I am only too aware of how hard that is in any institution. In the values statement and in the way in which the ethical standards are set out, will there be metrics and clear, tangible tests rather than mere expressions of good intent so that it can be reflected on?

Finally, I ask that the emphasis on a people-centred approach continue. As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said so clearly and well, there is a profound need to avoid repetition through having a people-centred system.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I thank the most reverend Primate for those points. He has educated me this afternoon because I did not realise that the Church of England gave the Windrush generation such an awful reception. It feels a bit like a confessional at the moment, but it is reflected in the report that we all need to look to ourselves to see where we have gone wrong. The report is not a blame game but a narrative over almost 70 years of where everyone failed these people. The Home Secretary has not replied to the recommendations yet—one would not expect her to—but I will certainly take those points on the recommendations ​back. Reconciliation can bring out some wonderful things; in learning about people’s history, you understand people so much better. I will take those points back, and the Secretary of State will respond in full before the Summer Recess.


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