172 Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb debates involving the Home Office

Peaceful Protests

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Excerpts
Thursday 25th April 2024

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Grand Committee
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Asked by
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the Practical toolkit for law enforcement officials to promote and protect human rights in the context of peaceful protests, published on 7 March by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and how they intend to ensure that the United Kingdom aligns with United Nations standards on the use of surveillance technology at protests.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, what a select little bunch of Peers we are. Clearly, we all know our stuff on this.

A few years ago, I introduced what I think was the first ever debate on facial recognition here in Parliament. At that time, I recognised it as part of a wider package of changes that were on the route to dismantling parliamentary democracy here in the UK, because, when you combine facial recognition and other technologies with the draconian laws passed in the police Act, the Public Order Act and by ministerial decree, a full-scale clampdown on any form of effective protest is now possible. We are a very short step away from what happens in Russia on a regular basis as the authorities here attempt to stifle protests.

If you add to that the plans for the Government to spy on pensioners’ bank accounts, to promote their own digital currency and to link an array of biometrics to a digital ID card, we enter a very different world where the state can switch on and off your access to the basics of life. We have already given the Home Secretary the power to banish anyone with a dual passport from this country, with no right of appeal in this country, and laws that allow the police to stop named individuals attending a demonstration are in place. Is the UK state going to set up the technological infrastructure that will allow for the internal banishment of people with views the Government do not like, with the denial of privileges that we currently see as rights?

We are entering this new era of a Big Brother state at speed, and democracy will be the victim of the inevitable crash. The UK police charged with combating extremism now have similar powers to the Russian police combating extremism. I was once called a “domestic extremist” by the Met Police; it watched me for 10 years because I was clearly a threat to democracy—and it lied about it as well. The differences are dependent on which police officer interprets the law; the vigour of groups, such as Big Brother Watch, which seek to defend our rights; and the spirited independence of those lefty lawyers whom the Government complain about so often.

In Russia, more than 2,000 protesters against the war in Ukraine have been arrested or detained using facial recognition technology; they include people visited at home and questioned after a peaceful protest. This has also become standard practice by the Met Police, which trawls through video footage to identify people it wants to arrest. Most importantly, facial recognition is now used in Russia to detain those on their way to a protest after being spotted by the metro camera system. This mirrors the new laws in this country allowing the authorities to ban protesters ahead of demonstrations by issuing control orders or the new serious disruption prevention orders. The Met Police also has access to much of Transport for London’s camera network, yet the only political party to have ever pressured for constraints and safeguards to be put in place is the Green Party.

These deployments of facial recognition have turned our city streets into mass-scale police line-ups, with hundreds of thousands of innocent people subjected to biometric identity checks. Yet, eight years after UK police first rolled out this invasive technology, there has been no democratic consent to live facial recognition and biometric surveillance in Britain. No legislation to approve or ban the use of live facial recognition technology in the UK has been passed or even seriously proposed. Instead, the police operate in a grey area, enabled by a democratic deficit to use rights-invading technology with minimal oversight.

That is why we need to apply the UN standards as a minimum. Those standards make it clear that such technology should not be used to identify people participating in peaceful protest and that protests should not be used as surveillance opportunities. The UN model protocol prohibits the use of facial recognition to identify those participating in peaceful protests. These are standards designed for the likes of Russia, Zimbabwe and Uganda, but we actually cannot meet them here in the UK.

For example, Cheshire Constabulary has stated that it intends to use facial recognition technology to monitor, track and profile individuals. There are no safeguards in place to protect individuals’ rights and the right to protest. This is hardly surprising. How many times, in recent years, have we heard senior politicians and Home Secretaries saying that they believe in the right to protest—“Ah, but not for those particular protesters or protests”?

We need a charter of democratic freedoms that enshrines the right to protest and to assemble. We must never have another situation like the Sarah Everard vigil, when senior officers at New Scotland Yard decided on a clampdown against people who were coming together to remember a woman murdered by a man nicknamed the “rapist” by his colleagues in the Met, while they allowed him to remain in their ranks.

Our authoritarian Government are proposing the abolition of the existing scant oversight of facial recognition and other forms of advanced surveillance through its Data Protection and Digital Information Bill. You cannot use a system designed to protect consumer privacy to protect you from state intrusion. My big concern is that we contest each of these new laws and technologies in isolation, rather than seeing the big picture of what this Government are out to achieve. The ban on strikes, the granting of legal immunity to undercover officers who spy on campaigners, and voter suppression are all part of a rapid slide into an authoritarian country.

I hope that the next Government aim to restore the freedoms that we have lost and replace the safeguards that have been dismantled. I look forward to hearing from the noble Lord the shadow Minister on that. I will be pressurising the next Government to make that happen and for our freedoms to keep pace with the technologies used by the state to restrict them. Will the Government accept these UN standards?

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Excerpts
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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My Lords, I start by saying straightaway to the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, since he asked me what we would do, if—and I emphasise “if”—we win the next election: we will repeal the Bill. We have been quite clear about that, but that is not what we are debating this evening. We are debating the Bill that we have before us and, in particular, the two Motions A1 and B1.

I think it is important that we dispel some of the myths around the debate that has taken place today, started by the Prime Minister this morning in his press conference. He seemed to imply that the debate in this Chamber is between those who want to stop the boats and those who do not, whereas I have made the case continually, as every Member across this Chamber has done, that we all agree that we need to stop the boats; the dispute in this place is about exactly the right way to go about that and to do that. That is the important distinction that lies between us.

We believe that the Bill as it stands is inconsistent with the principles and traditions of our country and, as such, that is why we oppose it and the various arguments that have been made. Never have I stood at this Dispatch Box and at any time said to the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart, the Government Chief Whip or the Leader of the House that we will block the Bill. That has never been the policy of His Majesty’s Opposition, and never been something we have said from this Dispatch Box; indeed, we voted against a Motion that was put before us some weeks ago to do that. But we have also said that we would stand up for the proper position of this House. The proper role of this Chamber is to argue, to debate, to revise, to suggest amendments and to put forward that case. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, I hope he is in a position, in a few months’ time, where he is stood here doing exactly the same as I am, and being as a frustrating and challenging as I am trying to be to him, because that is the proper role of the House of Lords. Therefore, it is important that we do that.

I cannot remember which noble Lord said this, but if the Government were as worried about the delay as they say they are, why on earth did they not sort all this out before Easter? All their own side were whipped to be here on a Monday after we debated on the Wednesday, only to have a further email go out to say they would no longer be required. That is how much of an emergency the legislation was. The Government could have cleared this before Easter, and yet they did not, presumably because the Prime Minister could not guarantee that everything was in order for the Bill to work. Let us not talk about the House of Lords delaying the legislation; let us look at the Government’s timetabling of their own business and their inability to get that right. Even today, the Government in a press conference to the lobby, as I understand it, could not give any detail of the numbers that they expect to be subject to the provisions of this treaty—the numbers of flights they expect or, indeed, the exact date when it will take place.

This has never been an argument about the integrity of this Chamber. I do not believe that there is a single Member of this Parliament, in the other place or this Chamber, or any of the journalists who report our proceedings, who does not have proper integrity. I would not have gone on the radio, as a Government Minister did this morning, and accused this House of bordering on racism in the way in which it debated the Rwanda treaty. That is a shocking and appalling comment to make. I do not believe that that is what the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, thinks, and I do not think that anyone in here has been bordering on racism in anything that they have said. I have heard detailed arguments and positions espoused by many, but nobody in here—or in the other place, or anybody who reports on these proceedings—has been anywhere near racist or racism. There is a legitimate difference of view, but we should not resort to those sorts of things being said.

I object also to what the Prime Minister did this morning, when he suggested that those of us who opposed the Rwanda Bill before us lacked compassion—that somehow there was anybody who was not opposed to the drownings or some of the appalling things that we see. Of course, we are all opposed to that—there is not a single individual in this Chamber, in the press or in the other place who does not abhor some of that which takes place. But that is the context in which we have been debating this issue.

We are quite right to turn to around and say that we should look at what the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, is saying, and what my noble friend Lord Browne is saying. But it is not just about Labour Peers. Again, the Prime Minister and other people have gone on saying, “Labour is blocking this—Labour Peers are blocking this”. We do not have a majority in here to block anything; we have to have the support of Cross-Benchers, Tory Peers abstaining or disappearing, as well as the Liberal Democrats voting with us and everybody else.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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Sorry, I missed out the noble Baroness, Lady Jones. It is like being at a wedding—you know that you are going to miss somebody out. You go through all the aunts and uncles and all the other relatives and you see the glower of Aunt Mabel from the back—not that that is you, Lady Jones! But seriously, that includes the Greens, of course. It is about all of us who believe that the Bill is wrong standing together. That is why it is important.

If the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, chooses to put his Motion A1 to the vote, of course we will support it and will be pleased to support it. It is a sensible amendment—it does not block the Bill; it simply says to the Government that they should let the monitoring committee that they themselves have set up talk to the Secretary of State, who can then make a Statement to Parliament saying that Rwanda is safe. That also gives the Government a get-out clause by saying that in future the Secretary of State, presumably on the advice of the monitoring committee, can say that Rwanda is not safe—whereas under the Bill at the moment, whatever happens, they are compelled to believe that it is safe. It is a perfectly sensible amendment.

I come to my noble friend Lord Browne’s amendment. It is a meaningful concession on the part of the Government, and that is a really important statement to make. Let me say to all those who are listening that when people question why it is important sometimes that the Lords stands firm and challenges the Government of the day, whatever Government that is, and why it sometimes says to the Government, “You’ve got this wrong and you need to think again”—in this case, thanks to tenacious noble Lords and the brilliance of my noble friend Lord Browne in what he has done—the reason why it is important is because sometimes the Government give way. That is what has happened. If we had not pushed this last week, this concession would not have happened. If we had given way two months ago, it would not have happened.

So far from this being about the Lords blocking anything or delaying anything, it is the Lords performing its proper constitutional function and bringing about change from the Government. That is what it is about—and it has been done in a way that actually gets the Government themselves out of a bind. We know that many on the Government’s Back Benches and Front Benches, including many in this Chamber, thought that what the Prime Minister, one presumes, was saying was wrong, and they needed the Prime Minister to change his position. So the strength of what was proposed in this Chamber by my noble friend Lord Browne forced the Prime Minister—and we presume that he supports all this—to change his mind and come forward with that concession.

The concession that the Minister read out is significant and important, and it is something that my noble friend Lord Browne can be proud of. It may not be everything that everybody would want, but sometimes in politics you have to do what you can and achieve what you can. In the face of what my noble friend was facing—an absolute refusal by the Government to make any concession at all, with the Prime Minister standing in Downing Street and saying that he would not change a single word of the Bill—that has now been proved to be false, in the sense that my noble friend Lord Browne and your Lordships have changed the mind of the Government.

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Excerpts
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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As always, I am so grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, whose father famously coined the phrase “elective dictatorship” in his Dimbleby lecture of 1976.

The fundamental problem with the Bill, unamended by the proposed new Clause 4, is that it allows the Executive to dictate the facts. It allows the Executive to defenestrate domestic courts—not international or, some would say, foreign courts but domestic courts—including in their ability to grant in extremis interim relief.

The amendment turns the conclusion for all time that Rwanda is safe into a rebuttable presumption based on credible evidence. It therefore incorporates the earlier work of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich. It also incorporates earlier amendments by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, and my noble friends Lord Dubs and Lord Cashman in including a person’s membership of a persecuted social group in the examination of whether they would be safe—not just their most particular individual circumstances but their membership of a social group, which is probably the basis for most refugee claims in the world.

As I have said, it restores that vital ability in extremis to grant interim relief. In understanding of some concerns on the Benches opposite and of the Government, a court or tribunal under this measure, as amended, would have to have heard from the Secretary of State or taken all reasonable steps so to do, and to grant such an injunction only where the delay would be

“no longer than strictly necessary for the fair and expeditious determination of the case”.

This does not prevent a policy of transportation to Rwanda, no matter how much I loathe that policy in its utility, morality and expense. It is a reasonable compromise to which the other place has given no serious respect or attention and, therefore, it has given no serious respect to your Lordships’ House.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, I want to extend—

None Portrait A noble Lord
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No.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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Yes. I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy to the Benches opposite, because I know there are many people there who are very unhappy about this Bill. It is an absolutely vile Bill, and part of that is the fact that the Tory Government are abusing not just human rights, and not just the rule of law, but democracy itself. The fact is that they have wasted this House’s time over these weeks—many hours and many days—and then taken everything out in the other place. That is an abuse of democracy. What is the point of your Lordships’ House if it can simply be ignored by the Government?

Shame on the Government. If they think the public support this Bill, they should call a general election. I think they will be unpleasantly surprised that they do not. Let us have a general election now, please.

Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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My Lords, I draw attention to my interests. I am supported by the RAMP project. I looked carefully at the House of Commons Hansard report about this first amendment, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, looking for some rationale as to why the Government would not accept it. It was a single sentence, in which the Government said:

“We have a long-standing tradition of ensuring that rights and liberties are protected domestically and of fulfilling our international obligations”.—[Official Report, Commons, 15/4/24; cols. 80-81.]


On the basis of that sentence, they rejected the amendment that this House passed about seeking to observe national and international law. If that sentence stands on its own, and that is the only reason why we are being asked to change our minds, what dangers, exposures or difficulties do the Government believe are in the amendment—which is even more restrictive and tightly specified than the last—that stand in the way of anything they wish to do? Why can they not simply accept it?

If the concern is the ECHR, I am sure the Government will have seen that the threshold for granting interim injunctions has been considerably raised to a level described by former Justice Secretary Robert Buckland last night as

“vanishingly small—in fact, non-existent”.—[Official Report, Commons, 15/4/24; col. 99.]

So why do the Government not accept the amendment? We will certainly support it.

We will also support the other amendment. That one does the job of dealing with part of the problem that people have seen with the Bill, which is that it changes the balance in our country between our judiciary and the Executive. That balance is what we are trying to maintain, even in the very limited circumstances. This does not take away from our belief on these Benches that the Bill is entirely wrong, cruel and inhumane and will not work, which is clearly demonstrated by the numbers we have seen so far. It seems to us that the Government have no rationale, and have not given one, for refusing these amendments.

Asylum Claims

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Excerpts
Monday 25th March 2024

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I think the noble Lord has asked that question before—and last time I got myself into a bit of hot water by sort of agreeing with him, so I will not do so again.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, a Member on the Benches opposite recently said that Rwanda was safe as long as one did not oppose the Government. Is that the way that this Government are going—so we are all safe as long as we do not oppose them?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I point the noble Baroness to Scotland, where of course the Green Party is propping up the SNP Government. Are we safe there?

Asylum Seekers: Rwanda

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Excerpts
Thursday 21st March 2024

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, if Rwanda is a safe country, can we have an explanation of why we are taking Rwandan refugees here in Britain?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I have discussed that many times from the Dispatch Box. The fact is that we take refugees from many countries, some of which are safe.

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

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Lord Lipsey Portrait Lord Lipsey (Lab)
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My Lords, the phrase “the elected House must prevail” is a meme around this place. We have certainly heard it from both the Government and the Opposition, and we heard it again from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, this afternoon. Most of the time, it is completely right that we bow to the will of the House of Commons. But is it always right?

On the basis of the 25 years I have spent here, I would say that this House has three roles. There are two very obvious ones: one is amending Bills, at which we are jolly good; the other is setting up Select Committees, quite a number of which I have served on, and I would say that we are jolly good at that too. There is a third one, which very rarely comes into place, and that is this House as a backstop, challenging the Commons when it goes too far and flirts with breaking international law, usurping the role of the courts or behaving unconstitutionally in general. Does this Bill, without the amendments being put forward this afternoon, pass that threshold? I would say that it comes perilously near it.

There is also a matter of timing, which troubles me. Obviously, this was not in the Government’s election manifesto, so the Salisbury convention does not apply. How can the Government argue that they have a mandate to legislate for this policy now, forced through in the face of huge opposition in this House and elsewhere, when in six months’ time they will face the people of Britain in an election which will decide what their manifesto should be? Let them put the Rwanda Bill in their next manifesto—let them put it before the British people. The British people, who are much gentler and more sympathetic to people in the situation of those who are to be exported, will give their verdict. I may be wrong, and if the Government win the election they can bring back the Bill and it will sail through without any opposition, because it will be a manifesto pledge. To do this now, when there is more than a suspicion that it is just a device by No. 10 in a desperate attempt to pull a lost election out of the fire, cannot possibly be justified.

If the amendments are defeated today then that is the end of the story, but I hope they will not be. I dare to hope that the Commons will think again. If not, it will be for each individual Member of the House—guided, in our case, by the Whips—to decide whether or not to keep blocking the Bill.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, what a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, with whom I agree. I felt that the Minister’s opening remarks were so full of mistakes that I shall go through them tomorrow in Hansard with a red pen and pass them back to him, if that is all right, so he can see exactly where I think he went wrong.

It was expected that the other place would take out all our important amendments, but at the same time you have to say that it was not the move of a democratically minded Government but that of an authoritarian, tyrannical one. This Government are choosing tyranny over democracy in this instance. We now have the job of revising the Bill again. As the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, said, the British public are actually kinder and more concerned than this Government. The Government do not represent the public any more, and it is time they went.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I am not a fan of the Bill but I think it is time for it to pass.

I want to respond to the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, who asked if it is always right that the elected House must prevail. The truth is that the elected House must prevail and that yes, that is always right. We are an unelected House. We have a job to do, but at some point it has to be the elected House that decides in a democratic society.

I want to comment on the remarks made about compassion. I too disapproved of Members of the other place who tried to suggest that anyone arguing against the Bill lacked compassion. That is a ridiculous accusation and does not hold. However, I also make the point that the inference in reply—that anyone who is trying to push the Bill at this point lacks compassion—is equally low politically. It is irritating to have a situation where people start to try to compete with each other in the kindness stakes. The big political issue is that this country has lost control of its border and the asylum system is not fit for purpose. This Bill—not one that I support—is trying to tackle that. No one is doing it because they are lacking in compassion.

There are double standards here. I have heard that anyone who supports this Bill must be verging not just on the right but on the far right, does not care about anyone crossing in the boats and is actually a racist. I have heard that said by people active in political life. I ask that, for the remainder of the discussion that we have, we take each other seriously enough not just to dole out insults but to say that, if we are genuinely committed to tackling the problem of border control, this is the Bill that is on the table now and has been accepted by the House of Commons a second time, and, even if we disagree with it, we have to go along with it.

As for the people who have argued that this was not in the manifesto, the suggestion that there is no public concern about control of the borders has no finger on the pulse of any public. However, it is true that there will be elections shortly. It seems to me that people who feel strongly that this is the worst piece of legislation ever passed will stand on that in their manifesto and will commit, here and now, to overturning the Bill once it goes through. Then we will see where the votes lie and, if the Opposition become the Government, whether they stick with that and tear up the Bill. Fair dos if they do.

West Midlands Combined Authority (Transfer of Police and Crime Commissioner Functions) Order 2024

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Excerpts
Wednesday 13th March 2024

(3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD)
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My Lords, the arguments about local democracy being completely ignored have been very professionally made by previous speakers. I follow the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, in her assessment. What is the point of consultation if the Government ignore it?

The Government’s argument, in their response to the local consultation, was that

“mayors who exercise PCC functions have wider levers”

to join up delivery in tackling crime and securing public safety. If that were the case, West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester would have lower levels of crime than the West Midlands and those areas without combined mayors and PCCs, but if you look at the figures, it is exactly the opposite. Last year, the average crime rate per 1,000 population in England and Wales was 93.6 crimes per 1,000 population; Greater Manchester’s was 129.7 per 1,000 population, and West Yorkshire’s was even higher at 138.8; the West Midlands was below both of them. Therefore, the Government’s response, that having these roles combined makes places safer with less crime, is shot by the Government’s own statistics. What metrics are the Government using to say that these combined roles create less crime and make people safer?

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Bach, despite not liking regret amendments, which are a legislative equivalent of saying “tut-tut”. What is the point? I also do not like the police and crime commissioner system. It is not as well overseen as the previous system of local police committees and was yet another government mistake. However, I will vote for the regret amendment.

The Green Party was opposed to police and crime commissioners because we feel that police forces should be supervised and accountable to elected local government. It is more immediate and more responsive with councillors.

However, it could be said of most police and crime commissioners at the moment that, although it is an elected position, as far as politics is concerned, they are semi-skimmed—they are rather thin milk. They are independent—often former police officers, even a priest—and they have used their expertise to serve their communities. Transferring those powers to an elected mayor, especially over such a large, combined pair of authorities will turn these functions into the hands of one single full-fat politician. That is simply too much power in one pair of hands. The move towards directly elected mayors and these mega-authorities is already combining too many powers into one executive who is subject to very little scrutiny. That is one of the really big problems with this.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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My Lords, mine is a different point. I am not sympathetic to the point that the noble Lord, Lord Howard, has just made. On Report, I raised the question of representations by the Government of Jersey and our Government’s failure to consult before including a provision in the Bill. I do not know whether this also represents the view of Guernsey and the Isle of Man, but the Government of Jersey said that they were not happy about it. I asked the Minister if he could clarify the position at Third Reading. Can he do so?

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Howard, said that no one else has put forward another idea. In fact, many of us have talked about finding safe and legal routes. This Government seem incredibly reluctant to do this. I do not understand why. This Bill is an absolute stinker. It is the worst of the worst. I have seen terrible Bills come through this House, but this is by far the worst. It is a shame on all of us that we have had to sit through hours and days of debate.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, has made a plea on behalf of Members in another place. Will they have available to them the Government’s response to the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights which I asked for in Committee, on Report and again today? The Minister will recall that, last week, he said it was imminent. I hope he will be able to tell us that it is now available in the Printed Paper Office and that it will be made available to honourable Members down the Corridor.

I have a great deal of respect for the Minister and like him enormously. All of us agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howard, that there is an issue that has to be addressed. Some 114 million people are displaced in the world today. When will His Majesty’s Government bring together people from all sides of the House and the political divide to look at what can be done to tackle this problem at its root cause? Unless we do that, we can pass as many Bills as we like in this and in the other place but, frankly, in the end, it will make very little difference.

Former Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration: Reports

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Excerpts
Wednesday 6th March 2024

(3 months, 1 week ago)

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Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, the Government got confused and in a bit of a mess about assessing the age of many people coming into the country. Further to the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, how can the Government be sure that the number of primary school-age children is accurate, according to their judgment?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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As the noble Baroness will be aware, there are a number of different views on this. Age assessments go both ways. I was reading of a case earlier where a number of children requested that one of their number who had been imposed on them be looked into because the said person was significantly older than he appeared to be, and that was found to be the case. It works both ways.

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Excerpts
I suggest to your Lordships that, in resolving to decide this issue for itself, the Supreme Court was trespassing on the province of the Executive. If there is any breach of the principle of separation of powers in this matter, it is not the Government who are guilty but the Supreme Court. All the Government are doing in the Bill is to reassert their responsibility, as traditionally understood by the principle of the separation of powers, for executive decision-making. There is a reason why it is the Government and not the courts who have that responsibility: because it is the Government and not the courts who are accountable. The courts are accountable to no one—they pride themselves on that—but accountability is at the heart of democracy. That is why the Government are fully entitled to bring forward the Bill and why much of the criticism directed at them for doing so is, for the reasons I have given, fundamentally misconceived. That is why I oppose these amendments.
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, that is a very interesting speech but what we are being asked to do here is to vote on an opinion. The noble Lord knows that most of us do not agree with that opinion. I will speak on the Bill only once today. I am deeply offended that it was ever brought to us. It is a mess of a Bill; it is illegal and nonsensical.

We in your Lordships’ House are being asked to indulge in pointless chatter for the whole day, and for another day. It is pointless chatter because, whatever we say, the Government will not listen to us. This is partly fuelled by the Labour Front Bench, which seems to be rewriting the Salisbury convention that we do not try to stop anything in the Government’s manifesto. In fact, the Labour Front Bench is now suggesting—it has been articulated on numerous occasions—that the Lords must not interfere with any legislation or decision by the Government or the Commons because they are elected and we are not. Then what is the point of your Lordships’ House?

The point is that we have centuries, possibly millennia, of experience and knowledge. We had the opportunity to stop this foolish Bill, but the Labour Front Bench decided that we would not and whipped its members to abstain. That is an abnegation of their responsibility, and I am horrified by it. It grieves me that they might win the election and then behave in the same way. I think they are hoping that the current Government are going to respond in kind and not block any Bills, but that is a false hope.

We Greens will vote for any amendments that come up today, but, quite honestly, we are wasting our time.

Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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My Lords, I shall be extremely brief. Some important points have been made, but I want to focus on the exact drafting of Amendment 3, which is clearly central and what the vote will be about. The puzzling aspect is that new subsection (1B) makes the condition that

“the Secretary of State has considered all relevant evidence … and is satisfied that the Republic of Rwanda is a safe country for the processing of asylum and humanitarian protection claims”.

Fine, no problem, but then it goes on to say:

“before successful claimants are returned to the United Kingdom by request of the Secretary of State under Article 11(1) of the Rwanda Treaty”.

I have looked at Article 11(1), and it does not say that. It says:

“The United Kingdom may make a request for the return of a Relocated Individual”.


Paragraph 12(c) of the Explanatory Notes describes that as a response

“to the Supreme Court judgment by … Creating a mechanism for the UK to require the return of a Relocated Individual”.

Which is it? Does this provide for the Secretary of State to bring people back or, as the noble Baroness implied, is that the outcome that is the purpose of the whole thing? I think that is the case, but the language needs to be cleaned up, or perhaps the noble Baroness would confirm it so that we know what we are voting for.