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Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
The "Windrush Generation Scandal":
Background to the Windrush Generation Scandal
Arbitrary decision to launch strikes on Syria:
The Debate over the Royal Prerogative
The fight for an anti-war government:
Protests and Demonstrations against the Bombing of Syria
The Fight to Break the Government's Pay Cap in the NHS
Necessity for a Society that Defends the Rights of All Human Beings
The Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting has been entirely overshadowed this week by what has been termed the "Windrush Generation Scandal". It has demonstrated to the world the attitude of successive British governments to citizens who migrated to Britain from some Commonwealth countries, often as children, over forty-five years ago. Prime Minister Theresa May and the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, have both been forced to apologise in Parliament. Theresa May was also forced to apologise reluctantly to visiting heads of government from the Caribbean, whom she had previously refused to meet. The current scandal is a direct consequence of the 2014 Immigration Act, but also of other equally racist legislation that has been enacted, before and since, over the last fifty years and more. It highlights, once again, that it is the British state that is the main source of racism in society. It also highlights the contempt which successive governments have displayed towards the countries of the Commonwealth and their former citizens.
In recent years the Home Office, acting under the powers of the 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts, has demanded that some British citizens, mainly of Caribbean origin, prove their rights to British citizenship, even if they have been living and working in Britain for decades. The 2014 Act was introduced by the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, who claimed that its aim was to create a "really hostile environment" for "illegal immigrants", by requiring immigration checks to be carried out by landlords, health and education workers and state officials. As was pointed out by democratic people at the time, it was clearly designed and would clearly operate in an openly discriminatory and racist manner. The 2016 Immigration strengthened and extended many of the draconian provisions of the 2014 Act. The 2014 Immigration Act emerged from a racist campaign whipped up by all the main political parties, which alleged that so-called illegal migrants constituted a major problem confronting society. The coalition government even despatched vehicles with billboards throughout London demanding that such migrants leave the country and "go home" at the earliest opportunity.
The current scandal has highlighted the fact that some of those who have lived and worked in Britain for many decades but were born in Commonwealth counties have been denied medical treatment, been refused employment or lost jobs, housing and benefits, while some have even been detained and threatened with deportation.
It has also revealed that rather than the Home Office keeping immigration records to determine when people entered the country, these disembarkation records were deliberately destroyed several years ago prior to the 2014 Immigration Act, which places the onus on individuals to prove their citizenship status. The destruction of such records by the state made this much more difficult in numerous cases and added to the discriminatory treatment meted out. Whistle-blowers within the Home Office have pointed out that the ramifications of destroying such records were perfectly well understood at the time. The major political parties are now blaming each other for authorising this destruction. The consequence has been that even when individuals provided tax returns and national insurance payments over decades this evidence was deemed insufficient by the Home Office, which demanded the impossible - four separate pieces of evidence for each year an individual claimed residence in Britain. Such demands have also required those labelled "illegal immigrants" and "over-stayers" to seek costly legal assistance, led to distress and anxiety and in at least one case is thought to have led to premature death.
The present scandal shows that just as the British government treats the Commonwealth as a means of perpetuating economic and political domination over former colonies, as well as other counties, it is also attempting to treat some citizens as if they are still colonial subjects. Indeed, even colonial subjects had the right to live and work in Britain, something successive governments have attempted to deny to those of Commonwealth origin who have lived in Britain for decades.
The present scandal has also coincided with the promotion of the 50th anniversary of the so-called "Rivers of Blood" speech given by the infamous racist Enoch Powell. It has led some to conclude that his policies and those of neo-Nazi organisations have now been implemented by a British government. But it must be pointed out that racism and a reactionary anti-people approach have been essential characteristics of successive governments to immigration during the entire post-1945 period. These governments have refused to accept that migrants are human beings, treat them as human beings and guarantee their rights.
The scandal has already led to protests by the heads of Caribbean countries and many politicians, whilst over 160,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the government to cease its discriminatory treatment, change the burden of proof and provide compensation and "justice for tens of thousands of individuals who have worked hard, paid their taxes and raised children and grandchildren and who see Britain as their home". Demands for compensation have also now been made by David Lammy MP and Andrew Holness, the Prime Minister of Jamaica.
We call on all democratic people to affirm the necessity for a modern definition of citizenship and to demand an end to racist immigration and asylum laws. This is part and parcel of the struggle to create a society that guarantees the rights of all by virtue of being human.
The Windrush Generation Scandal is named after the ship MV (Motor Vessel) Empire Windrush, also referred to as HMT (Hired Military Transport) Empire Windrush, which brought some 500 migrants to Britain from the Caribbean in June 1948.
Windrush has become a symbol of subsequent large-scale migration from the Caribbean to Britain which mainly took place in the 1950s and 1960s, often with the support of British governments and major employers.
When economic conditions changed, and in order to attack the right of all, governments introduced a series of racist immigration acts, the first of which came into force in 1962. These restricted and then prevented further large-scale migration from Commonwealth countries. Those who arrived in Britain in the period from 1948-1971 from the Caribbean are often misleadingly referred to as the Windrush generation.
The 1971 Immigration Act granted migrants from all Commonwealth countries who entered Britain before 1973 indefinite leave to remain, although no official documents were issued recognising this right. Previously, under the 1948 British Nationality Act a new status "Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies" had been created for all those born or naturalised in Britain, or its colonies. This meant that when this Act became effective in 1949 those born in Britain's colonies also had the right to live and work in Britain. These rights were restricted and denied by the 1962 Act, while the 1971 and subsequent immigration Acts introduced the racist notion of so-called patriality. As a consequence, even those with indefinite leave to remain were not necessarily recognised as full citizens. This "second-class citizenship" was confirmed by subsequent openly racist legislation such as the 1981 Nationality Act, which even denied citizen rights to some people born in Britain if they could not demonstrate "patriality", or pay a fee to buy their right to full citizenship.
In Brixton, south London, an open public space was renamed Windrush Square in 1998 to mark the 50th anniversary of the arrival on June 21, 1948, of the immigrants from the Caribbean who had disembarked at Tilbury Dock. They first found temporary accommodation, if that is the word, of deep war-time air-raid shelters beneath Clapham Common, before many found work and settled in nearby Brixton.
In the early hours of Saturday April 14, Britain joined forces with the missile attack on Syria and its capital Damascus led by the US and backed by France.
The Prime Minister's use of the Royal Prerogative to launch the attack put an end to the 15-year old convention on seeking parliamentary approval for military action. Cross-party calls to recall parliament from its Easter recess, including from sections of her own party, were ignored. A number of senior Conservative MPs joined Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, SNP leader in Westminster Ian Blackford and Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable in calling for a parliamentary vote.
Instead, Theresa May convened a special cabinet meeting, what was essentially a war cabinet, on Thursday. Later the following Monday, in proposing that parliament debate its role in the decision, Jeremy Corbyn labelled the attack "premeditated"; certainly by Thursday, talk of launching the action without parliamentary approval had become open. At the same time, to support forces based at Akrotiri in Cyprus and elsewhere in the region, a submarine was on its way armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles.
In a press conference on Saturday morning, May said she took the decision "because I judge this action to be in Britain's national interest. We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised - within Syria, on the streets of the UK, or anywhere else in our world. We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion there is none."
The stress has been on presenting the strikes as precise and highly-limited, with the specific aim of responding to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government against its own people on April 7. Yet her own words contain an implicit reference to Russia.
The emphasis on her own judgement as leader and the assertion of "no alternative" form the justification for exercising arbitrary powers. In the preceding week, Jeremy Corbyn had demanded proof, and stated that not only should May seek parliamentary backing but that no action should take place without a UN investigation. May for her part had simply said that "all the indications are that the Syrian regime was responsible".
It is therefore significant that, despite the Syrian government's denial of the allegations and its request for an inspection by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the attack was launched the day before this inspection was set to begin.
Dysfunctioning Parliamentary Democracy
The attack on Syria overturns the convention considered to have effectively been in place since the vote held to legitimise the invasion of Iraq in 2003. A House of Commons Briefing Paper explains:
"The deployment of the Armed Forces is currently a prerogative power. Parliament has no legally established role and the Government is under no legal obligation with respect to its conduct. In 2011 the Government acknowledged that a convention had emerged whereby the House of Commons would have the opportunity to debate the deployment of military forces, prior to doing so, except in the event of an emergency. The defeat of the Government in a vote on military action in Syria in August 2013 was widely viewed as an assertion of Parliamentary sovereignty on such matters. Yet many have argued that the convention lacks clarity and remains open to interpretation and exploitation. Indeed, the recent limited air strikes against the Syrian regime's chemical weapons capabilities have been undertaken without recourse to Parliament, with the Government justifying its actions on the basis of humanitarian need. The lack of Parliamentary consultation is sure to reignite the debate about formally legislating for Parliament's role in such matters. Despite having committed to legislating on this issue in 2011, the Government dropped its proposals in April 2016."
For this reason, Jeremy Corbyn applied for an emergency debate on parliament's rights in relation to the approval of military action by British forces overseas, saying:
"The Cabinet manual, published by the Government in 2011, confirms the Government's acceptance of that convention and guarantees that the Government will 'observe that convention except when there was an emergency and such action would not be appropriate.'
"Two years ago, even while reneging on the Government's previous commitment to enshrine that convention into law, the then Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, guaranteed in this House that the Government would 'keep Parliament informed and... of course seek its approval before deploying British forces in combat roles into a conflict situation.'
"Members on all sides are therefore rightly concerned that no such approval was sought by the Government prior to the air strikes against Syrian Government installations, to which the UK was a party last Friday night, alongside the USA and France. Indeed, this House was not only denied a vote, but did not even have the opportunity to question the Government in advance on the legal and evidential basis for their participation in this action, on their new strategy in regard to Syrian intervention, or on why they acted before the conclusion of the ongoing inspection in Douma by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons."
Corbyn argued that the Prime Minister should be accountable to parliament, not to the President of the US, and that parliament must "assert its authority". In particular, he called for a new War Powers Act that would legally enshrine the convention that parliament be consulted on military action.
But the issue cuts much deeper than that. The contradiction between the executive and the legislature, and over the question of where sovereignty lies, goes to the heart of British parliamentary democracy, where it is expressed in the notion that sovereignty lies with the so-called monarch-in-parliament. "Parliamentary sovereignty" is exposed as sham, and talk of "national security" a cover for upholding the primacy of the fictional person of state. Corbyn's call for parliamentary authority is aimed at the legislature's present subordination to the executive so highlighted by May's overturning of the war convention.
In the current conditions, May's action is a declaration that: this is a government of police powers, not of laws. In other words, the police powers have come to have supremacy over statute laws not the other way round, and the operation of parliament to embody the exercise of those powers. The whole debate is framed in terms of parliamentary democracy, to attempt to reassert parliamentary sovereignty versus the attempt to marginalise it for reasons of expediency or "no alternative". But May's action is a plain statement that the old arrangements no longer operate.
The call for a War Powers Act is one to further limit the scope of the Royal Prerogative, to stay the hand of the warmongers in using these prerogative powers. However, the Royal Prerogative itself needs to be eliminated, along with the defunct arrangements of party-dominated representative democracy that have been entirely usurped by powerful private competing interests. Instead, new arrangements that allow the popular will to be reflected in government need to be brought into being, as part and parcel of what is meant by anti-war government. The police powers of the state must be replaced by the power of the decision-making of the human beings that constitute the society, and the arrangements of governance must reflect this.
 The royal prerogative, according to the 19th century constitutional theorist Albert Dicey, is that "residue of discretionary or arbitrary authority, which at any given time is legally left in the hands of the crown". It can be said that these powers are unlimited and undefined.
The Paper further explains:
"In 2011 the Coalition Government suggested that, since 2003, a convention had emerged in Parliament that before troops were committed to military operations the House of Commons should have an opportunity to debate the matter. It also proposed to observe that Convention except when there was an emergency and such action would not be appropriate.
"While the convention was broadly welcomed, there was some initial debate as to whether such a parliamentary convention could be said to exist. Between the Iraq vote in 2003 and the Government's observations in March 2011 there had been no Government-tabled debate, or vote, on any deployment of the Armed Forces, including the commitment of significant numbers of British forces to Helmand province in Afghanistan in 2006. Even the deployment of forces in Libya, which happened in concert with the Government's acknowledgement of the convention in March 2011, was not the subject of a prior parliamentary debate and vote, which led Professor Gavin Phillipson at Durham University to argue that Libya was 'not a fully satisfactory precedent' for parliamentary approval.
"In a May 2011 report the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee called 'for greater clarity on Parliament's role in decisions to commit British forces to armed conflict abroad' and recommended that the Government work toward formalisation of the process, initially through the adoption of a parliamentary resolution, but with a view to the introduction of legislation in the longer term."
"The Syria vote in 2013 was, and continues to be, viewed by many as a turning point in the debate on parliamentary approval. Commentators have argued that the defeat of the Government laid to rest doubts over the convention's existence and made the deployment of the Armed Forces without parliamentary approval, from a political perspective, virtually impossible in the future."
From Orkney to Newcastle to the Isle of Wight: Actions against the May pro-war government
The Stop the War Coalition reports:
"The response to the strikes by Trump, Macron and May on Syria has been remarkable, with protests, vigils, lobbies and rallies across the country and a social media storm against the attack. We have received information about emergency protests which took place in over 40 towns and cities all across the country, including in Aberdeen, Aberystwyth, Bangor, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Bristol, Cardiff, Chester, Doncaster, Edinburgh, Exeter, Hull, Isle of Wight, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Milton Keynes, Minehead, Manchester, Norwich, Newcastle, Nottingham, Orkney, Plymouth, Sheffield, Southampton, Swansea and Wolverhampton.
"Hundreds of people attended Saturday's protest in Liverpool, at which a number of speakers, including Dan Carden MP, Merseyside Stop the War convenor Geraldine O'Connell as well as writer Alan Gibbons, spoke against the attack. Hundreds marched against the war through the centre of Liverpool."
Other actions that are reported: a vigil for Syria on April 21 in Warrington; a Manchester protest April 16 at Piccadilly Gardens; a public meeting on April 17 at the Central Hall in Oldham Street. Sizeable protests also took place in Birmingham and in neighbouring Wolverhampton, where a new Stop the War group is now being formed. Close to a thousand people came to the Bristol protests. In Leeds, two protests were organised, one on Friday and one on Monday. Scores of people also came out to protest outside The Forum in Norwich.
"Vigils and protests happened across Wales as well, from Aberystwyth in the South through Cardiff to Bangor in North Wales. In Scotland, protests, vigils and other anti-war activities took place in Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen, and even on Orkney.
"In London, around 500 people attended an emergency protest on Friday at Downing Street. A letter opposing intervention and signed by numerous trade unionists, MPs, celebrities and academics was then also handed-in to Downing Street. On Monday, a couple thousand people rallied in Parliament Square to hear anti-war speeches and express their concern at the recent actions of the British government."
On April 17, over 200 people attended a Newcastle Stop the War Coalition protest at the Monument, Newcastle to condemn Trump, May and Macron's bombing of Syria and call for no more bombings. The protest was chaired by Tony Dowling and speakers were Conor McArdle - Unison, Ann Schofield - Newcastle city councillor, Jamie Driscoll - Northern Regional Organiser, Momentum, Mollie Brown - North East People's Assembly Against Austerity, Pam Wortley - Sunderland Stop the War and Roger Nettleship - convener, Newcastle Stop the War. Finally Ron Brown - a singer-songwriter sang for the protest, "Newcastle Stand Up To Trump."
Speaking at the event Newcastle Stop the War said that: "we say today to Trump, May and Macron as we said to Bush and Blair this is 'Not in our Name'. That's why we need to build our Stop the War committees here in Newcastle and the North East with the necessity to fight for an anti-war government in Britain."
On March 16, people gathered in St Thomas Square, Newport, Isle of Wight, with a banner explicitly demanding, "Don't Bomb Syria!". Speeches were made, slogans such as "Not in our name" were shouted and placards held. A number of speeches denounced the government of Theresa May. A unanimous vote was taken to endorse the proposal immediately to form a local Stop the War committee. The first meeting will take place at Quay Arts next Wednesday at 7.30pm.
The Stop the War Coalition is calling for a "Not in out name - stop the rush to war" day of action this Saturday 21 April and are asking all our groups and supporters to set up and join activities against further bombing and foreign intervention: town centre protests and speakouts, die-ins, rallies, teach-ins, street petitioning, etc.
For future events organised by the local committees of the Stop the War Coalition, see:
Downing Street ----------------------------Wolverhampton
Norwich ----------------------------King's Lynn
The trade unions and staff associations that have members in the NHS are now consulting them up until the end of June on a three-year pay offer backdated to April 1. The offer also includes changes to the national NHS pay, terms and conditions, Agenda for Change (AfC), which has been under negotiation for some time. This offer if accepted will determine the pay, terms and conditions of those directly employed in the NHS over the next three years and beyond.
This announcement came after a long battle from health unions and staff associations in a "pay up" campaign, most notably the overturning of a "no strike" clause of the Royal College of Nursing by their 52,000 members in May 2017. This was linked to the overall campaign by trade unions and the TUC to "scrap the cap" for all workers which had been imposed by the Coalition government in 2010. In November 2017, the Chancellor of the Exchequer confirmed that he intended to end the 1% annual cap on AfC. However, in making his announcement to end the imposed pay cap, both the Chancellor and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt also announced that additional funding could only be made available to the NHS for a multi-year pay deal provided that "boosts productivity", and addressed recruitment and retention.
The NHS Staff Council comprising of NHS employers and representatives of the 14 trade unions and staff associations, after months of negotiation, have agreed to consult their members on a Framework Agreement on the proposed reform of AfC but also linked to a three-year pay proposal. One of the trade unions, the GMB, has already come out against the agreement, especially as it applies to the ambulance service, whilst others are recommending it to members, although most say that their members will decide in consultative ballots. For example, Unison, which is the largest health union, has endorsed the recommendation of the Framework Agreement and pay offer at its Health Conference Brighton this week whilst saying all of its members will have an individual consultative ballot which will decide the matter.
However, at Unison's health conference there was considerable opposition in the vote on an agreement that links changes in the AfC to the pay offer. In particular, although the change to the terms and conditions will uplift lower paid members above the living wage and lessen the number of increments for new staff to access higher pay, it also links the change in terms and conditions to a pay offer in which around 50% of staff that are now at the top of their increments will receive less over the three years than projected inflation rates. The estimated forecast for inflation is around 9% for the same three years. These staff will certainly not make up the estimated upwards of 14% they have lost over the period of the pay cap due to inflation over the last eight years.
Yet it is the collective nature of health workers in a national health service that, even with such a complicated proposal which benefits some more than others, the main consideration at the forefront is how to remain united at a time when the government is running down the Health Service as it attempts to attack national pay and conditions and wreck and dismantle the NHS in favour of giving full rein to the neo-liberal agenda in health care.
Whilst the AfC framework proposal has breached the government's 1% pay cap, the government says that it will only invest £4.2 billion to pay for the "cost" of the offer if this proposal is accepted. If it is not accepted, then NHS employers and unions will have no guarantee that a new offer would be funded. In other words, it is the government that is forcing the issue of linking the framework agreement on AfC to the pay increase.
So firstly, looking at the offer as it presently stands from the point of view of the health workers and the trade unions that they are organised in, it can be seen that even if the offer is accepted this can only be temporary. For example, a spokesperson for Unite the union pointed out: "Unite welcomes many aspects of this deal, on which we will be consulting our membership over the next couple of months. However, we regard this as the start, not the end, of the journey for true pay justice for NHS staff, which we will campaign for with vigour in the coming months and years."
Also, it could only be temporary as the fight is also continuing when government and NHS England are encouraging Trusts to transfer particularly non-clinical staff into private wholly owned subsidiary companies with new terms and conditions to get around and undercut their own national pay that they have presently negotiated with the trade unions in AfC! Thousands of health workers including clinical staff who have been transferred to these companies will not receive the AfC Framework agreement changes. The fight is on against staff being transferred to these NHS Trust private companies and to bring staff back into NHS pay, terms and conditions.
Secondly, in taking forward this fight, the whole working class and people must not allow the government to present NHS staff as a "cost and burden" to the tax payer. Everyone can see that this framework deal still vastly undervalues the labour of all that work in the NHS on behalf of society. But what is not understood, through this disinformation, is the fact that health staff like all workers are not a "cost and a burden" to the socialised economy but are part of creating value in the socialised economy by curing people when sick and injured and keeping healthy the human resources of society and all those who live and work in it. For example, this new value is consumed by big corporations in keeping their workforces healthy, but is expropriated by them and not passed onto government as a claim that can then be used to fund the NHS. On the contrary these corporations expect the state and individual taxpayer to pay for it, or people to pay and fend for themselves.
Thirdly, in taking forward this fight health workers must reject the government's claim that the pay terms and conditions of health workers need to be changed to "boost productivity". This has nothing to do with the innovations in treatment that have the potential to improve health care systems and increasing the number of patients, and types of conditions treated. This is instead, in the hands of the government, a code word for their agenda to continue to cut the NHS workforce further and save any "investment" they are making in addressing the pay cap, rather than addressing it properly and with a serious plan for recruitment and retention of staff in the NHS to meet the needs of health care services for all. As one commentator said on the Framework agreement and recruitment: "The thinking is to persuade those with their career ahead of them to stay, but it doesn't send a great message to those with the most experience."
Trust employers are increasingly treating sickness absence as a disciplinary matter regardless of health issues and the new AfC agreement says it will bar those in a disciplinary process receiving their pay increments. Add to this the well-documented serious problem of overwork and staff stress and "presentee-ism" illnesses caused by these policies in the NHS which is causing staff to burn out and leave at ever increasing rates. Last year more than half of the 33,000 nurses who left the service were under 40 years old. In fact, this shortage of nurses and clinical staff is cynically being manipulated by government and NHS England to justify the closure of vital services at District hospitals deepening the crisis of access of patients to health care further at their local hospital and the closure of more and more much needed hospital beds.
The determination from health workers has meant that pay cap has been broken. Nevertheless, the fight remains in the future and this is connected with safeguarding the future of the NHS, of which fighting for decent remuneration for health workers must be a part. It is a step forward that health workers have broken the pay cap. Let us now together fight to safeguard the future of health services for our society.
 Those on the top two increments of their band will only receive a a 6.5 % rise over three years plus a 1.3% rise as a non consolidated lump sum in April 2019. The 6.5% is made up of 3 per cent in 2018/19, 1.7 per cent in 2019/20 and 1.67 per cent in 2020/21. The prediction for inflation over these 3 year is around 9% with nothing in the agreement that can revisit this if this figure goes higher.
If the right to healthcare is to be guaranteed in society, then decision-making has to pass to the people who need these services, which includes the people who staff the NHS. Decisions over authorising resources and their allocation, where the money goes and what part of the budget is obtained for investment and staff pay and conditions cannot be left as they are. And where they are presently is at the behest of the neo-liberal agenda of the private cartels and corporations, which is increasingly who the Department of Health and NHS England represent.
The situation is further revealing how the rights of health workers cannot be separated from the right of all to health care. The right to healthcare for all and the rights of health care staff are one. Besides the trade unions and staff associations, there are campaigns in existence across the country around most hospitals under attack in which the working class movement, and particularly health staff, needs to take the lead.
The way forward is for health staff to organise with their own independent political stands and activities within their workplaces, within their communities and within society as a whole. The necessity is to disempower those who are trying to marginalise people and disunite them. Although victories are not always won, or are partial, the fight goes on to become the decision makers in society and for a health service that meets the needs of all, including the staff who work in it.
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