Home secretary Sajid Javid has instructed the Home Office to start making payments to victims of the Windrush scandal, after perm sec Sir Philip Rutnam sought a ministerial direction to proceed with the compensation scheme because it is not yet backed by law.
In a letter to Rutnam, Javid said the government "cannot delay" compensating members of the Windrush generation stripped of their right to work, denied access to public services and threatened with deportation under his department's “hostile environment” immigration policies, despite having the right to be in the UK.
“I judge this action to be in the best interests of both the government and affected members of the Windrush generation,” Javid said.
In a statement to parliament yesterday, Javid added that legislation to give direct financial authority for compensation scheme payments would be put before parliament "when parliamentary time allows".
"In the meantime, it is lawful for the Home Office to make payments for compensation scheme claims, without specific legislative authority for this new expenditure," he said.
The compensation scheme, which launched in June, is expected to pay out £200m to victims, but Rutnam said he needed Javid's go-ahead to authorise payments.
In his letter to Javid, Rutnam said it would be lawful to fulfil Windrush compensation claims as the money has been authorised in the Home Office's main estimates – the parliamentary process for approving departmental funding – for this financial year.
But he also noted a convention that, under the terms of the 1932 Concordat with the Public Accounts Committee, parliament will also give specific legislative authority for new expenditure where payments are expected to be made over a period of more two years.
Rutnam said that under the rules defined in the Treasury’s Managing Public Money guidance, he would “advise against making payments from the Windrush Compensation Scheme until specific legislation is in place”.
“However, it is perfectly legitimate for you to bring other considerations to bear, including the sound policy objectives behind the scheme and the importance of putting right wrongs that have been done,” he added, “On that basis, you can legitimately decide that payments should be made.
“For this reason, I am seeking a formal written direction from you to implement the scheme and to make payments. I will of course follow this direction to the very best of my abilities, ensuring that the department continues to work strenuously to progress this key government priority with all due speed.”
In his response authorising the spending, Javid said that it was “an absolute priority to right the wrongs that had been experienced by the Windrush generation, which should never have happened”.
"As home secretary I am able to consider other factors, including the sound policy objectives behind the scheme and the importance of righting the wrongs suffered by the Windrush generation," he said.
"I recognise the rationale for requesting a formal direction and how it aligns with your responsibilities as the accounting officer for the Home Office given the terms of the 1932 Concordat as referred to in Managing Public Money. This letter is to confirm that I am directing you to implement the Windrush compensation scheme."