David Lammy address to parliament

I am here, because you were there.

We are here, because you were there.

My ancestors were British subjects. But they were not British subjects because they came to Britain. They were British subjects because Britain came to them, took them across the Atlantic, colonised them, sold them into slavery, profited from their labour and made them British subjects. That is why I am here. That is why the Windrush generation are here.

I quote Martin Luther King who himself quoted St Augustine when he said that an unjust law is no law at all. So I say to the Minister: warm words mean nothing. Guarantee these rights and enshrine them in law.

And 230 years after the Abolitionist movement wore their medallions, I stand here as a Caribbean, Black, British citizen and I ask the Minister on behalf of thousands of Windrush citizens:

Am I Not a Man and a Brother?

My speech from the debate on the Windrush petition today:

I am proud to stand here on behalf of the 178,000 people who signed this petition.

I am proud to stand here on behalf of the 492 British citizens who arrived on HMT Empire Windrush from Jamaica 70 years ago.

I am proud to stand here on behalf of the 172,000 British citizens who arrived on these shores between the passage of the 1948 Nationality Act and the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act, including my own father who arrived from Guyana in 1956.

But it is a very dark episode in our nation’s history that this petition was even required.

It is a very dark day indeed that we are here in Parliament having to stand up for the rights for people who have always given so much to this country and expected so little in return.

We need to remember our history. In Britain when we talk about slavery we tend to just talk about its abolition.

The Windrush story does not begin in 1948. The Windrush story begins in the 17th century, when British slave traders stole 12 millions Africans from their homes, took them to the Caribbean, sold them into slavery to work on plantations.

The wealth of this country was built on the backs of the Windrush generation’s ancestors.

We are here, because you were there.

My ancestors were British subjects. But they were not British subjects because they came to Britain. They were British subjects because Britain came to them, took them across the Atlantic, colonised them, sold them into slavery, profited from their labour and made them British subjects. That is why I am here. That is why the Windrush generation are here.

There is no British history without the history of the Empire.

As Stuart Hall put it: “I am the sugar at the bottom of the English cup of tea”.

And then 70 years ago as Britain lay in ruins after the Second World War the call went out to the colonies from the Mother Country. Britain asked the Windrush generation to come and rebuild the country. Work in our National Health Service. Work on the buses and the trains and as cleaners and security guards. So once again, labour was used.

They faced down the No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish signs. They did the jobs nobody else would do. They got spat on in the street. Assaulted by the Teddy Boys, the skinheads, the National Front. Spat at in the street. Lived 5 to a room in Rachmanite squalor. They were called and they served but my God did they suffer for the privilege of coming to Britain.

And yet my God they triumphed too. Sir Trevor McDonald. Frank Bruno. Sir Lenny Henry. Jessica-Ennis Hill. National treasures.

Knights of the realm. Heavyweight champions of the world and Olympic champions wrapped in the British flag. Sons and daughters of the Windrush generation, as British as they come.

And after all of this the Government wants to send us back across the ocean. They want to make life “hostile” for the Windrush children. They strip them of their rights, they deny them healthcare, they kick them out of jobs, they make them homeless, they stop their benefits.

And they are imprisoned in their own country. Centuries after their ancestors were

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