The latest revelation that Windrush scandal victims are being forced to sign gagging orders in exchange for less delayed compensation payments is truly shocking. But it is not surprising.
It fits entirely with this government’s whole approach to the scandal. There is only one purpose to the gagging orders, which is to cover up the government’s own appalling mistreatment of the Windrush victims. It is manipulative of vulnerable people who have already been harshly mistreated. It is devious and cowardly.
On 16 July 2018, during a response to a Home Office oral question on the Windrush compensation scheme, the home secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “No one will be asked to sign any kind of non-disclosure agreement or anything like that”.
He was very clear in his use of language, but the so-called “confidentiality clauses” Windrush victims are being asked to sign, described in a letter to the Home Affairs Select Committee, sound very much “like”, if not the same as a non-disclosure agreement.
The British public will not be hoodwinked by semantics. There is a reason parliament, like a court, places such importance on telling the truth. Differences of opinion are just that, however strongly held.
But if government ministers mislead, there is no possibility of the legislature holding the executive to account. And, lest we forget, the Tories have already lost one Home Secretary because of this scandal.
The Windrush victims have already suffered enough. People, our own citizens, have been illegally deported or held in detention. Some have been refused re-entry into this country after going abroad.
Others may have been bullied into “voluntary removal” under threat of deportation. People lost jobs and homes, and had bank accounts and driver’s licences denied or frozen. Lives have been destroyed and families split apart.
The previous home secretary Amber Rudd claims her denial of the existence of deportation targets was simply an error. Given the Home Office’s fixation with deportations under her tenure, this is simply not credible.
This was a home secretary who had written to the prime minister boasting about the greater number of deportations she was making. Officials were given bonuses for the number of deportations.