Councillor Jenni Murray and Councillor Andy Thurston explain their personal motivations behind recent Windrush Motion

13 Nov 2023
An image of Jenni Murray's father

During the full council meeting on 18 October, St Albans City and District Council unanimously passed a Liberal Democrat resolution calling for the Windrush Compensation Scheme to be simplified.

Liberal Democrat councillor Jenni Murray, who drafted the resolution with fellow Lib Dem councillor Andy Thurston, has explained her personal motivations for raising the motion.

“In 1960 my father Cyril Roper travelled by ship to England after leaving Nevis, the Caribbean island of his birth. Aged 20, he was full of enthusiasm and looked forward to embracing this opportunity and settling into his new surroundings.

“But upon arrival, he was faced with hostility and racism. When trying to rent a room, for example, he was confronted with signs on doors or in windows saying, 'No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs'.

“On moving to St Albans, my dad started working at the Belpar Rubber Company factory. He met and married our mum Pearl and they decided to purchase a house. When they finally found a house they liked, the whole road submitted a petition to the agent asking him not to sell the house to a ‘black’ family. The only residents who did not sign were Irish and Italian.

“As children we faced the same hostility and racism, which we were taught to ‘ignore and rise above’. This was not always easy. We have always had to ‘prove our worth’ in our schools, workplace and community. Sadly, this is often still the case today.

“Many of the migrants who arrived in England were British subjects coming from Commonwealth countries on British passports.

“The Home Office only later placed the burden of proof on individuals to prove that their residency pre-dated 1973, asking for at least one official document from every year they’d lived in the UK.

“My mum and many of her family and friends, who were all born British subjects, were then charged by the government to become citizens. How can this be, when you were British from birth? Many fellow migrants didn’t have the relevant paperwork to prove their British citizenship.

 “The government has now introduced the Windrush Compensation Scheme, designed to compensate individuals who have suffered a loss in connection with being unable to demonstrate their lawful status in the UK.

“My dad was one of the Windrush migrants who should have claimed through this scheme. Unfortunately, due to the intricacies of the 44-page document and the absence of help available, he was unable to complete the form before he passed away. This has been particularly difficult for me and my siblings.

“I am so proud of my parents, grandparents, family and friends, who embarked on this journey to their mother country. Sadly, the mother country did not embrace, nurture, or care for them.

“I hope that as a result of my motion, families across St Albans will receive the legal support they need to apply to the Windrush Compensation Scheme. I also hope that the application form will be simplified.

“I appreciate this motion being passed by my fellow councillors on St Albans district council, which was a truly emotional moment.

“Thank you.”

Andy Thurston, who seconded the motion, explained his own history in connection to the motion.

‘’I was born in the Caribbean Island of Trinidad; my father was English, and my mother was Irish.  They met when my father was a medical student and my mother a nurse, having come over from Ireland to train at the beginning of the war. My father was working for Shell as a company doctor when I was born, but returned to England when I was only 6 months old to set up in general practice in Southend-on-Sea.

‘’Fast forward to 2019, and a few years after retiring from a rewarding and enjoyable career as a surgeon in the NHS, I was absolutely horrified to read the stories of some of those who had come over from the Caribbean about the same time as I had, at the request of the government at the time.

‘’A Guardian journalist had uncovered several stories of hardship brought on by the hostile environment that the Home Office was inflicting on anyone whose paperwork was not absolutely perfect. A particular story that made my jaw drop was about a man who was being asked to pay £54,000 for the treatment of his prostate cancer, even though he had paid taxes throughout his working life. 

‘’I had been treating this disease every day for the greater part of my career without question and without fee; the inequity of it was staggering; and it was far from a one-off case.

‘’Throughout my career, I worked with many people of all colours and creeds, both as colleagues and patients, and feel that treating people as equals is basic humanity. This is why I was delighted to be asked to support this motion.’’