Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Brown Study

There is a 10-page briefing dated 24 September 1996 prepared for a meeting between the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and the Australian Select Committee on Child Migrants on 1 October 1996 when John Major was Prime Minister,

It’s a pretty appalling document, as it totally repudiates all responsibility for the forced immigration of children to Australia and Canada.

"It is important to resist the temptation to apply modern standards and values when considering a policy that dates back more than a century. The government does not, therefore, consider itself in any way responsible for the proportionately small number of cases in which the scheme failed to live up to its objective."

"The schemes were sanctioned by parliament under successive governments, none of which dealt directly with individual cases. The government does not, therefore, consider itself in any way responsible for the proportionately small number of cases in which the scheme failed to live up to its objective. Furthermore, as regards any former child migrants visiting the UK to contact their families, the normal social security rules will apply to them."

Fortunately much of that changed when Gordon Brown became Prime Minister. He was Prime Minister from 2007 to 2010 and under his leadership, the first steps were taken to address the terrible wrongs that had been done to children.

Giving evidence to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, Brown said the mass transportation of 130,000 British children overseas between the 1940s and 70s amounted to “government-enforced trafficking”.

Here is part of his submission to the Inquiry,

Forced child migrant schemes were 'government-induced trafficking'

It came to me as an issue in 2007 to 2010. There had been a Health Committee Inquiry in 1998 and a report had been done, but it was only in these years, these later years, that I came to be told of the scale of the problem -- 130,000 child migrants -- the huge violation of human rights, and we were dealing here with the loss of identity, the loss of family, the loss of a sense of belonging; something equivalent, you might say, to a modern form of government-induced trafficking. We knew then it had gone on for many decades unchecked and had continued until the 1970s. But all of this was not known to me, as Chancellor or as Prime Minister, until it was brought to my attention in detail after I became Prime Minister.

I think we have got to divide this into two separate issues. The first was just what I mentioned: the urgent desire to secure an apology and some form of family, you know -- people coming together as families again, family restitution, if you like, for the remaining persons who had been child migrants who had never been in touch with their family, who didn't know, in some cases, what family existed, and this was the pressing issue.

It is only after 2010 that I have become aware -- and I wrote to the inquiry about this -- of both the existence of a high level of abuse, that this happened in a number of countries, that it happened in some cases in Britain before the children left the country, in some cases it appears it happened during the time that they were in transit to the new country, and this opened a completely new dimension to this whole issue that we were not aware of -- perhaps should have been, but were as serious, and perhaps more serious, about the individuals concerned is not dealt with in the apology.

In my view, it leads to the question of whether the duty of care that the government or successive governments should have had in relation to these children was properly transacted; whether, of course, in the countries to which they went the authorities should be held responsible; and it does for me raise the issue of compensation.

In 2010, the issue was restoring family links. That was the central thing before large numbers of people who were very old eventually died: they wanted to be reunited with their families. The money was made available so they could be reunited with their families.

The issue at that time was not compensation; the issue was reuniting families. The issue now, I am afraid, because of the evidence we now have, and I hope that you will be able to draw more of it together to get some more dimensions of the scale of the problem, the issue is whether the duty of care that the United Kingdom Government did have a responsibility for people who had been born in Britain that we had sent abroad as a country, whether that duty of care was carried out, and, if not -- which I believe it to be the case, and you are dealing particularly with people who were not aware of -- before 2010, and it is a different order of problem.

The focus was on the families being reunited. The injury was the violation of the human rights of these children who had been denied a proper identity, denied a family life, denied a sense of belonging. These terrible violations of human rights. That was the focus. That is why the issue was a family restoration fund, and perhaps not other things that you might think might have been discussed at the time, like individual compensation. The issue was, how quickly could we get the families to be reunited, given all the difficulties of the information being found and then the journeys being conducted, and then the cost of doing so, some people having to come with carers, for example.

So giving compensation at that time was not as relevant as making available all the costs for a family to be reunited with travel, carers sometimes, other expenses involved for people to meet together. So that is what the issue was.

So the apology of 2010, I want you to be clear, dealt with only half of the story. I personally added a reference when I spoke to the migrants in 2010, February, to what I said were stories that I had been given of sexual abuse, but I had no evidence of any standing that I could go on, but I did add it because I was worried that this may be something that should have been dealt with at a later stage.

But it is only since 2010 that someone like me has become aware of both the scale, the geographical scope and the long lastingness of this problem of abuse, undetected, unchecked, unreported on.

Now, you, as an inquiry, must look at why people like me were never told, why departments in government may have had some information but it wasn't transmitted, but you are dealing with a completely different order of problem that the apology does not cover in 2010, which I believe you have now got to look at, and it raises for me issues about the duty of care.

The first issue about people being transmitted to other countries -- transported against their will and without their proper knowledge of what was happening is dealt with in the apology, but the second issue that is those who were abused, and what compensation should be provided, and I hope that you will bring a government minister to this inquiry to answer why, now that evidence has been made available after 2010, the government has not changed its position on this issue, because I believe it should and they should be offered compensation and a scheme should be drawn up to make that possible.

You know that in Australia that is now being done and you know in Northern Ireland it has been recommended. I think you now have a duty to look at those people who were abused and what can be done. I have a duty, and others have a duty, to look at all the child migrants and to see, even in cases where there was not sexual abuse proven, even in these cases, whether the duty of care was.

I did met Kevin Barron, chair of the Health Select Committee, a couple of years before the apology, and there may have been other people there at this meeting. Again, I think we have to be clear that the emphasis was almost entirely about reuniting families and about an apology. I think I do answer in detail there what I recall of that. 

I think it should be emphasised to the inquiry that what the Child Migrants Trust was asking for, what Kevin Barron was asking for, what previous Health Select Committees were emphasising, what the Department of Health was focusing on, was both an apology and money to be provided so that families could be reunited urgently, because I think there are now only 2,000 child migrants who are said to be alive. The figure would have been higher in 2008/2009, but it was urgent that these families had the chance to be reunited and that was an expensive thing to do and money should be provided.

I think you have to remember, there were 130,000 children who had been migrated. We were dealing with this huge number of people who had never had any satisfactory redress simply for this act of removal.

That was obviously the main emphasis of what we were discussing, and whether we could reunite the families.

It is very difficult, I think, now, given what we know about both the scale and the existence of sexual abuse, to think of these conversations being almost exclusively about the migration issue. But that was what people were concerned about, and that is what people wanted redress for.

If I may say so, the issue is not what I knew, because I knew very little and was given very little information on this. As I said, myself, I added this reference in 2010. The issue is what was known within the civil service or what was known with reports that were coming from Australia and elsewhere that was not disclosed to ministers or was not thought to be important enough to be raised as a public issue, and

I think that's where your inquiry may pay some dividend in examining this. I know you had the Department of Health yesterday, but I can't help you as much on this as perhaps some of the officials who were dealing with these issues at the desk at the time.

The idea of giving a national apology came out of discussions, obviously, with the Department of Health and my discussions with Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister of Australia. The first time that I saw this, I felt we had to do something that was very different from what had previously been done. Some things come to you as papers and you look at them and say, "Well, we will deal with that. We will deal with that".

When I first realised the numbers involved and what had actually happened, this violation of human rights, which, as I say, was a government-enforced form of human trafficking, I knew immediately that we had to do something.

Then we had to look at what could be done and, therefore, there was a discussion about an apology, there was a discussion about the family restoration fund, there was a discussion about what else could be considered. But I certainly made the decision that we had to do something significant. But it was, I have got to emphasise, on the issue of forced migration.

The Australian Government were thinking of a more general apology for abuse, if I remember rightly. They had also dealt with the problem of the minorities in Australia, the Aborigines, Aboriginals, and how they had dealt badly with them in the past. So Australia wanted to move, and so did we.

Kevin Rudd and I had very good relationships. We had talked about it quite a lot at meetings we had had, about how we would go about this. Eventually, our apology came after theirs, but it was no more significant, I think, because it was us, Britain, who had been responsible for initiating this policy of sending people abroad and it was us who had continued with this policy despite the evidence that it was – it should have been changed.

I cannot emphasise enough that I do not believe that we would be sitting here today looking at this particular aspect of abuse had it not been for the work of Margaret Humphreys and the Child Migrants Trust and for the fact that Select Committees had been prepared to look at this when there were other issues that they could have looked at at the time.

So we do owe a debt of gratitude that this came to people like me who had to make a decision because of the work that they had done in making us aware of this.

I just want to emphasise this: I obviously was in touch with the Child Migrants Trust during the period before 2010 and, when I made the apology in 2010, I consulted them and in fact I feel that I probably added the words about sexual abuse having talked briefly to Margaret Humphreys. I can't remember exactly all the detail of that.

But it was the Child Migrants Trust and Margaret Humphreys who alerted me after 2010, not before, but after 2010, that there was a different dimension to this, and that's why I wrote to the chairman of the inquiry and that's why I raised the issue that I felt that this issue had not been properly dealt with, that the inquiry and the apology -- sorry, the apology was only half the story and that we had to delve into what had really happened and we had to consider what we did about what was a failure in the duty of care.

Of course the major failure is in Australia and in Canada and in other places where the abuse actually happened. But it was a failure generally of the duty of care on the part of us in sending people without knowing and following and monitoring what had happened to them, and, of course, I then found that there were cases of abuse within Britain before these children had been sent abroad, and I think you have now got detail of that, and I have read stories that have been given to me by migrants on this, and of course there was an issue about sometimes the children in transit, that there were questions to be asked and answered about that.

So my dealings with the Child Migrants Trust were almost entirely before 2010 and the department on the issue of forced migration. It is since 2010 that I and others, I believe, have been aware -- made aware of the scale of the problem that we are now discussing in this inquiry, and it is to your credit that you are looking at this in detail, but I do think you have a duty to delve into where the failures were in government, but also you have got to consider, in my view -- and I make this as a plea to you -- a scheme of redress that should be available to all those who were abused. But in my view, probably because the duty of care was not carried out properly, it should be available to all the remaining child migrants who are still alive.

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