Baroness Suttie debates involving the Home Office during the 2019 Parliament

Arrests and Prison Capacity

Baroness Suttie Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd May 2024

(1 month ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Sharpe of Epsom) (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord very much indeed for those remarks. They are very kind, and I am very grateful for them.

Obviously, public safety is the Government’s priority. We fully expect the police to arrest anyone who has committed a serious crime and poses a risk to the public. Police chiefs have been very clear today that officers will arrest anyone they need to in order to keep the public safe. The NPCC has suggested that, to its knowledge from daily engagement with forces, no arrests have been delayed because of the impact of Operation Early Dawn.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for his acknowledgement that contingency planning is obviously a necessity. Frankly, any serious organisation should prepare for contingencies all the time. There were some strange remarks relating to that in the House of Commons. I think it is odd that was perhaps highlighted as a thing.

I acknowledge the comments about prison capacity, but we have made significant progress with regards to building capacity, which I am happy to talk about.

Baroness Suttie Portrait Baroness Suttie (LD)
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My Lords, on behalf of these Benches, I echo the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby. Although I do not normally shadow this portfolio, I recognise the Minister’s hard work.

Groups such as the Howard League have repeatedly said that sentences of 12 months or less are associated with higher reoffending rates. Given that our prisons are dangerously close to capacity, despite what the Minister has said, what steps are the Government are taking to reduce short-term sentences, which would have the dual benefit of decreasing prison populations and lowering recidivism rates?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness very much for her remarks, which I very much appreciate. Obviously, much of the debate around sentencing involved a Bill that we may or may not see—we probably will not—so I will talk a bit about what we have done on prison building. We have delivered the largest prison-building programme since the Victorian era, with 10,000 of the 20,000 additional places to be delivered by the end of 2025. We have already delivered about 5,900 of the 20,000 places. Last October, a series of measures was announced that will help to ease the pressure further. I mentioned the Sentencing Bill and we will also further the 20,000 portfolio. In October last year, we announced an investment of £30 million to acquire the land we need to build more prison places, and we are intent on delivering an additional 460 RDCs across the estate. There is a considerable amount of work going on. I accept of course that there are short-term capacity problems, but that is the point of having contingency planning.

Baroness Suttie Portrait Baroness Suttie (LD)
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My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hay of Ballyore. I am delighted that, after his many years of persistent campaigning, it is finally beginning to pay off. It is a pleasure to support this short Bill from these Benches.

I am glad that the Government appear to have shifted their position on this matter somewhat, towards one of common sense. I welcome that they have encouraged a wider interpretation than in the original Bill, tabled by Gavin Robinson MP in the House of Commons; and that the Bill was amended in Committee so that it will now apply to all Irish citizens, wherever they live in the UK, should they wish to benefit from it. As the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, said, when we last debated this matter during a debate in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hay, in October 2022, there was a somewhat dismissive attitude to it. I repeat that I am very glad that that attitude appears now to be shifting.

As I referred to in that debate, I am someone who has benefited from the generosity of the Irish passport provisions. My father was born in Enniskillen in County Fermanagh so, three years, ago I applied for an Irish passport, for which I am increasingly grateful. It is right that we recognise our special relationship, shared history and common bonds with our Irish friends and neighbours. So many people in the UK have Irish roots and ancestry—including the Minister, Tom Tugendhat MP, who dealt with this Bill at Third Reading in the other place.

It is also welcome that some of the unnecessary—and frankly insulting, as the noble Lord, Lord Hay, said—previous obstacles to acquiring UK passports and UK citizenship will now be dropped as a result of the Bill, once it goes through all stages. There are a few remaining questions, which have already been raised by other noble Lords, not least on fees and costs. I would therefore be very grateful if the Minister can give an indication of when the orders on fees for processing applications will be published, and what processes will be used for consultation.

In conclusion, I am pleased that this constructive Bill has so far received cross-party support. I hope that very soon, the noble Lord, Lord Hay of Ballyore, who has served his country so long as an MLA, Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and now as a Member of your Lordships’ House, will finally be able to have a UK passport and citizenship.

Illegal Migration Act: Northern Ireland

Baroness Suttie Excerpts
Wednesday 15th May 2024

(1 month, 1 week ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Sharpe of Epsom) (Con)
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My Lords, I start by expressing the Government’s disappointment at this judgment. We continue to believe that the policy is lawful, that our approach is compatible with international law and, specifically, that the Illegal Migration Act proposals are compatible with Article 2 of the Windsor Framework. The Government will take all steps to defend their position, including through an appeal. We have consistently made clear that the provisions in the Belfast/Good Friday agreement referred to in the Windsor Framework were developed specifically against the background of Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances. They do not concern, and should not be brought into, the complex debate on illegal migration.

Baroness Suttie Portrait Baroness Suttie (LD)
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My Lords, does the Minister still acknowledge that the European Convention on Human Rights is an essential part of the Good Friday/ Belfast agreement? In that context, will he reconfirm the Government’s commitment to upholding the rights of all people residing in Northern Ireland?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I have made it very clear—but I will say it again—that all the provisions in the Belfast/Good Friday agreement referred to in the Windsor Framework were developed specifically against the background of Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances. They do not concern, and should not be brought into, the complex debate on illegal migration.

Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 (Port Examination Code of Practice) Regulations 2023

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Monday 4th December 2023

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Suttie Portrait Baroness Suttie (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanation of these regulations. As he explained, they are consequential on the National Security Act and do not create new powers or make substantial changes to the primary legislation.

Clearly, there is cross-party consensus on the need to protect the public and to ensure national security, including border security. As a general comment, however, a balance should always be struck to ensure that measures are proportionate and that civil liberties are respected.

I will concentrate my very brief remarks on the draft Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 (Port Examination Code of Practice) Regulations, which, through requiring a counterterrorism police officer of at least the rank of superintendent to authorise the retention of confidential business material, bring the process in line with existing terrorism legislation. In his concluding remarks, can the Minister expand on how the Government intend to ensure this will not add undue burdens to the system?

I thank the Minister for the letter he sent to noble Lords last week outlining the consultation that took place on these regulations. It is to be welcomed that the Government took on board the comments from Police Scotland on the videorecording code. However, regarding Northern Ireland and the very particular set of circumstances and international commitments regarding the border there, can the Minister confirm that, in the continued absence of a Northern Ireland Executive, consultations took place with the PSNI?

I was struck by the fairly small number of responses received to the consultation. I believe only five responses were received; perhaps the Minister could confirm that. I note that the consultation period was during the peak summer holiday period from 20 July to 31 August, which is perhaps, in part, an explanation for this. Can the Minister say if there was any particular reason why the consultation period was so relatively short?

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for outlining the SIs and for the statement he made. As he said, we have three statutory instruments before us: two relate to the National Security Act 2023, and one relates to the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019. We fully support these instruments and the consequences they will have on the threats posed by hostile activities and for the national security of our country. I join the Minister in thanking our intelligence services and those who work so hard to keep us safe.

Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

Baroness Suttie Excerpts
Wednesday 29th November 2023

(6 months, 4 weeks ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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As I said earlier, I fully understand the strength of feeling in both this House and the other place, as does the Home Secretary. I am well aware that 67 cross-party parliamentarians wrote to the Prime Minister requesting proscription in early November. The Home Secretary is due to respond to that.

Baroness Suttie Portrait Baroness Suttie (LD)
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My Lords, one of the very worst features of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard is its persecution of young women. Can the Minister explain why the Government still have not put in place a safe and legal route for persecuted Iranian women to seek asylum in the UK?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, this subject comes up frequently. As noble Lords will be aware, we work with all the relevant UN agencies to ensure safe and legal routes for people such as that.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for having run a trailer for the question that I asked at a very helpful meeting that was arranged with the Children’s Commissioner.

Many of those coming here at the moment—apparently about 5%—are girls. They are generally in a much poorer state than the young men and boys, and many have been sexually assaulted or raped. I ask the Minister to be quite specific about this: in the event that one of these girls is pregnant and she decides either to give up the child for adoption or to keep the child herself, or in the event that she dies in childbirth either in this country or following deportation to Rwanda, and that child is then orphaned either in this country or in Rwanda, and that child is given up for adoption in this country, what is the status of that child? Would the child be at risk of being deported at the age of 18?

And what is the status of that child’s children, given that the child will have arrived in this country in utero, with no form of permission to come here, but would have had no choice in the process, and what is the position of the adopted parents? In the event that the child is not adopted but has been in foster care up until the age of 18, what is the status of that child? Can there be any retrospection applied to the ability of that child, who will have been completely brought up here, gone through schooling and had career prospects created in this country, simply because that baby arrived in utero?

Baroness Suttie Portrait Baroness Suttie (LD)
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My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 12, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, to which I have added my name. A very similar amendment was tabled in the House of Commons by my honourable friend Stephen Farry MP. Unfortunately, the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, is unable to be present this evening, as she is in Brussels on a delegation, so she has asked me to speak to the amendment in her absence.

As the Minister knows, we had a debate along very similar lines yesterday evening on a regret Motion on the requirement for an electronic travel authorisation and the potential impact on tourism in Northern Ireland. Amendment 12 is primarily a probing amendment that would seek to exempt from Clause 2 of the Bill people crossing the border from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland. I will highlight two particular concerns about Clause 2, as it affects the land border on the island of Ireland.

The first is the enforcement of the provisions contained under Clause 2. The issue of who decides whom to check and on what basis, given that routine immigration checks across the land border on the island of Ireland do not happen, is an area of very grave concern. Maintaining the freedom to travel north-south without restrictions remains a key element of the peace process, and any changes to this could constitute a breach of the Good Friday/Belfast agreement. The Government have confirmed—and it was reconfirmed last night by the Minister—that Irish citizens will be exempt from the need to apply for an ETA when travelling to Northern Ireland. However, there remains a considerable amount of legal ambiguity for residents in the Republic of Ireland who come from a third country whose citizens currently require a visa to enter the UK and therefore Northern Ireland.

During the debate on this issue in the House of Commons, examples were raised about the impact of Clause 2 on individuals legally resident in Ireland who cross the land border from Ireland to Northern Ireland, perhaps to visit friends or to go shopping, but who have not applied for an ETA. During the debate yesterday evening on the introduction of an ETA, the Minister—the noble Lord, Lord Murray—said that,

“those who are legally resident in Ireland may instead, if required by a UK immigration official, present physical evidence that demonstrates their legal residence in Ireland”.

He added that the Home Office would publish guidance in July on what would be considered as acceptable evidence. Therefore, following his statement yesterday, will the Minister tell us what the consultation process will be in advance of publishing this guidance? Will there be an information campaign to ensure that people are aware of these requirements? He will, I hope, be aware of the sensitivities of requiring people to carry official documentation when there is supposed to be unrestricted north-south travel.

During yesterday evening’s debate, the Minister said that

“prosecutions for illegal entry offences will focus on egregious cases and not accidental errors”.—[Official Report, 23/5/23, col. 836.]

Can he say whether it is the Government’s intention to publish guidance on what is likely to be defined as an egregious case? Perhaps most importantly, what assurances can he give that random checks by UK immigration officials will not result in the creation of a border on the island of Ireland by stealth?

My second area of concern is the potential risk of racial profiling resulting from these random checks. Migrant-led organisations such as the North West Migrants Forum have been raising concerns about the impact of visa requirements on the land border on the island of Ireland. They have highlighted the disproportionate impacts on black and minority ethnic, and migrant, people. Clause 2 risks exacerbating these issues and further hardening the border on the island of Ireland for some communities. The Minister will know that, in response to these concerns, Alyson Kilpatrick, the chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, has called for all journeys into Northern Ireland originating from Ireland to be exempt from the ETA provisions in the Bill. Can the Minister say what measures will be put in place to prevent racial profiling as a result of random checks and, in particular, what steps the Home Office will take to ensure proper training of UK immigration staff in monitoring these random checks?

Finally, can the Minister clarify whether non-visa nationals entering Northern Ireland and the UK from the Republic of Ireland without an ETA will impact the validity of deemed leave, as set out under Article 4 of the Immigration (Control of Entry through Republic of Ireland) Order 1972? If he does not know the answer to that one immediately, I will be happy to receive a letter if it could be placed in the Library.

Baroness Butler-Sloss Portrait Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB)
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My Lords, I ought to apologise to the Committee. I failed to say that I was unable to speak at Second Reading; I listened to a great deal of it, but I had a commitment that I could not avoid. I also should have announced earlier that I am co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery and a vice-chairman of the Human Trafficking Foundation.

I totally support Amendment 6. The retrospective effect is shocking but it has been dealt with by other people, so I will move to two other amendments that I am very anxious to say something about.

There is a mantra about the best interests of children. It has, rightly, been followed throughout the United Kingdom for many years. It originates in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as has already been referred to. It is also incorporated in the Children Act 1989, in which I was very much involved. Consequently, the clauses in the Bill—not just the one with which we are dealing, Clause 2—are utterly shocking in their derogation from the best rights of the child.

It is truly worrying that this is happening. Clause 2 specifically includes, of course, children and the ability to remove them. Part of Clause 2 includes the possibility of children not being included, but it leaves it to the Secretary of State as to when to exercise that discretion. I am extremely concerned about this. It is not only in Clause 2; it arises in other clauses which I will speak about later, so I will not refer to them now.

The other two proposals that I am concerned about are dealt with in Amendments 9 and 11. I very much support Amendment 9, for the obvious reasons of its connection with children. Indeed, what has been proposed by the noble Baronesses, Lady Hamwee and Lady Bakewell, about Clause 2, at page 3 on line 39, is replicated later in an amendment that I have put down.

I am also very concerned about Amendment 11. If one just thinks with a bit of reality about the Bill, one really important thing which is utterly underused is the prosecution of the perpetrators—not the people smugglers but the trafficking smugglers who are bringing in people for wicked purposes. If you are going to require a person who has been abused or exploited by a trafficker to go to Rwanda, and to give evidence from Rwanda, who on earth in their senses will be bothered to give evidence to help a prosecution in England if they are stuck in Rwanda? It is just not feasible.

Immigration (Electronic Travel Authorisations) (Consequential Amendment) Regulations 2023

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Tuesday 23rd May 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Lord Murphy of Torfaen Portrait Lord Murphy of Torfaen (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise very briefly to support my noble friend Lady Ritchie and, indeed, everything that the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, has just said. This is a classic example of where Brexit completely hits the Good Friday agreement because the agreement was negotiated on the basis in strand 2 of having north-south bodies on the island of Ireland. The most obvious and the least controversial of those bodies was, of course, tourism. People come to Ireland to go to north and to south and there were never any barriers. Now, of course, if you are one of the 70% of tourists who come to visit north and south—mainly from America but elsewhere too—you are now saddled with this bureaucratic business of having to apply for a sort of semi-visa to go across the border. That goes completely against the sense of what the border meant when the Good Friday agreement was negotiated a quarter of a century ago. There was a hard border, of course, then, but the idea was that within the European Union that would become more and more vague—the border almost disappears.

Now, of course, because of what has happened with Brexit, we have the difficulty with the border in the Irish Sea, but we also have this difficulty of the land border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. As my noble friend said, it is over 300 miles of border. That cannot conceivably be policed in the traditional way. I too would be grateful if the Minister could tell the House how this system will be policed. It seems virtually impossible for that to happen. They say it can be done electronically, but, frankly, that is pie in the sky. If the idea is to stop terrorists, drug dealers, gangs or criminals, I do not think that this will do anything to stop those people at all. There are other ways in which that can be dealt with. What the regulations will do is seriously impact the tourist industry, north and south. Hundreds of thousands of people travel that border for the purposes of tourism only. Millions of pounds go into the Northern Ireland economy as a consequence of Tourism Ireland—this north-south body that was created 25 years ago.

I do not see the necessity for this. I am glad the Government dropped the idea of citizens who legally live in the Republic of Ireland having to have one of these authorisations to go across the border and work either side. That has gone. It was bonkers. However, this scheme will still be very difficult for the tourist industry in Northern Ireland. Indeed, it goes against the spirit of what we negotiated a quarter of a century ago.

Baroness Suttie Portrait Baroness Suttie (LD)
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My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, for her regret Motion, which has allowed a very interesting debate on a very important matter. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, for his very relevant questions from the other perspective, which I hope the Minister will be able to give full answers to.

I pretty much agreed with everything the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, and the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, said so I will keep my remarks very brief. I commend the noble Baroness for the very clear and detailed way in which she introduced the problems facing the Northern Ireland tourist industry as a result of these measures. Unfortunately, I believe this is an example of unjoined-up government. The Home Office made these measures without giving due consideration to the very particular circumstances of the island of Ireland and without perhaps fully understanding the consequences on tourism—a sector which, as others have said, is of huge economic importance across the island of Ireland. For my own curiosity, can the Minister say what consultations the Home Office had with the Northern Ireland Office, the Northern Ireland tourist sector or, indeed, the Irish embassy in advance of drawing up these proposals?

The Minister will no doubt say that these proposals will be very light touch and should not cause any kind of bureaucratic obstacle, but it is still very unclear, as the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, said, how they can be enforced in reality when there are—thank goodness—no proposals to introduce checks on the north-south border. Perhaps he can provide an explanation on this point and say how enforcement will actually take place. Can he also say how, in enforcing these measures, the Government will be able to determine whether people travelled knowingly, or indeed unknowingly, into Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland?

One of the other concerns about these measures, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, said, is that they might deter the spontaneous traveller. This is not just a hypothetical point. A great many tourists who fly into Dublin from the United States or Australia, for example, will spontaneously decide to go to Northern Ireland to visit friends and family. Given that, as others have again said, approximately two-thirds of international visitors to Northern Ireland arrive via Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, does the Minister not accept that these measures are likely to act as a deterrent, given the additional bureaucracy, delay and cost?

Will the Minister undertake to meet representatives from the Northern Ireland tourist sector or, better still, as the noble Baroness suggested, travel to Northern Ireland to meet representatives of Tourism Ireland, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, said, operates on an all-Ireland basis, and see for himself the realities and the potential impact of this scheme, as well as the complexities involved? To repeat the request made by the noble Baroness, even at this late stage in the process, can he commit to giving clear exemptions on criminal sanctions for non-visa nationals crossing the land border?

Finally, will the Government agree to publish the impact assessment of these measures on the Northern Ireland tourism industry, including an analysis of the possible deterrence effect that the introduction of the ETA might cause?

Baroness Wheatcroft Portrait Baroness Wheatcroft (CB)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, for reintroducing this issue to the Chamber. I declare an interest as chairman of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions. I hear from members how concerned they are about the effect that this could have on their industry, when it is just recovering from Covid.

As we have heard, 70% of tourism to Northern Ireland comes from the Republic of Ireland. Can the Minister tell us, not just the details of the impact assessment but whether he is aware of how many of the visitors to Northern Ireland from the Republic simply make day trips and how he feels those trips might affected by the introduction of the ETA? Can he also tell the House what the cost of the ETA will be, and what it will cost to operate? Has that been taken account of? I have been brief, but I would like answers to my questions.

Machetes: Consultation

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Wednesday 19th April 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

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Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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My Lords, yet another Statement on what the Government propose to do on knife crime—a crime which, as we speak, is devastating lives and ripping families apart. Since 2015, knife crime has risen across the country by 70%, according to the Office for National Statistics, with the whole country affected. It is just four years since the Offensive Weapons Act but here we go again: 173 youths have been fatally stabbed since 2016. The statistics that the Government always use—namely, those of the Office for National Statistics—tell us that last year, the number of people killed with a knife was the highest in 76 years. How does that fit with the Government telling us what it seemed they did in the other place: that there is no real problem and it is all good news?

In its brilliant feature today on knife crime, the Daily Mirror points out many of the problems and their scale. Can the Minister explain why this Statement proposes yet another consultation on banning zombie knives? This is the fifth such pledge about banning them. In 2016, a ban was pledged. What happened? It was followed in 2017 by the next Home Secretary pledging another ban. What happened? In 2018, the next Home Secretary pledged another ban on zombie knives. What happened? In 2021, the then Home Secretary pledged such a ban. What happened? Here we are again: the Government pledge action and have another consultation, so will we get action this time? Can the Minister confirm that we will, on the fifth occasion of pledging a ban on zombie knives, actually get one?

Can the Minister explain why we need a consultation to tell us that a sword of 49 centimetres in length, rather than 50 centimetres, should be banned? Why is a 16-inch “First Blood” Rambo knife not already banned? Why can a 40-inch samurai sword be bought? People are appalled that this type of weapon is available, notwithstanding everything the Government continue to say. The consultation talks about banning fantasy knives but what about swords that fall short of the 50-centimetre length?

Has the Minister seen what you can actually buy online? I went online today, just to check. With a couple of clicks saying that you are over 18, on many such websites—and no actual age verification—all sorts of swords and knives are available. How on earth can that carry on? With no proper regulation, dangerous weapons are openly sold on the internet to people of all ages. What is going to be done about it?

The serious violence strategy was launched in 2018 but has never been updated. When can we expect that? Does the Minister regret that only now are we seeing police officer numbers returning to their 2010 levels, after the catastrophic mistake that was made to cut thousands of them and take them off our streets? Can the Minister say anything about prevention and what measures the Government are introducing to support local authorities, police, communities and other groups, including churches and other faith organisations, to tackle this shocking problem?

Knife crime is a very real problem and further urgent action is required. There are loopholes in the current law which must be closed—and now. Zombie knives and machetes are currently the weapons most frequently used in knife attacks. They can be sold online if they do not feature words or images suggesting violence. They are illegal to carry in public but not to keep privately. Online purchasing is easy, even illegally for under-18s. It has got to stop, and stop now. It is not more consultation that is needed but action—action now to keep our streets safe and bring the level of knife crime down. The Government need to act not with more consultation but with action.

Baroness Suttie Portrait Baroness Suttie (LD)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for responding to this very important Statement. The measures in the consultation and the decision to ban machetes and certain types of large outdoor knives that serve no practical purpose are eminently sensible and broadly to be welcomed.

Far too many lives have been destroyed by serious knife crime violence and far too many families have been devastated as a result. However, I fear these measures alone will not be enough to reduce instances of violent knife crime. A visible police presence on our streets would make a very real difference. We also need to restore trust between the police and the communities they serve. Research from His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation finds that many who carry knives do so because they believe

“the police and authorities will not protect them and so they must protect themselves”.

Could the Minister indicate how the Home Office is attempting to restore trust between the police and their communities?

The Minister in the other place talked about the Government introducing legislation to ban machetes and zombie knives, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has just said, the Government are actually announcing a seven-week consultation on the issue and not new legislation. Why are the Government not introducing urgent legislation to ban these dangerous weapons, rather than consulting on the issue?

What proportion of knife crime offences are carried out using the types of weapons covered by the Statement? What is to stop determined criminals or domestic abuse perpetrators reaching for equally deadly alternatives that fall outside the weapons covered in this consultation? What reduction in knife crime offences do the Government expect to see as a result of banning the weapons contained in this Statement?

Again, as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, can the Government explain how they intend to crack down on the overseas websites where many of these knives are sourced? The Minister in the other place talked about coming down hard on retailers, but how do the Government intend to take enforcement action against retailers beyond their legislative reach? Can the Government explain how the proposed legislation will prevent determined criminals from purchasing such weapons online from overseas suppliers?

The Minister in the other place talked about the numbers of police officers. What is the number of community support officers currently in England and Wales compared with 2020? Police community support officers spend the majority of their time providing a visible and reassuring presence on the streets. What plans have the Government to replace the one-third of PCSOs lost since 2010?

I appreciate that this is rather a lot of questions. If it is not possible to respond to them all this evening, perhaps the Minister can write. We believe that this Statement is a step in the right direction, but the implementation and details will be absolutely key.

Republic of Ireland: British Passports

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Wednesday 26th October 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Suttie Portrait Baroness Suttie (LD)
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My Lords, I also welcome the Minister to his place and look forward to hearing his maiden speech in response to this very important debate this evening. I wish him well in his future career as a Minister.

I can be very brief and say that I fully support the case made by the noble Lord, Lord Hay of Ballyore, this evening. It seems to me quite wrong that someone who has lived in the United Kingdom for more than 50 years, and indeed has served as Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, should not be entitled to the same rights that I have in being able to apply for a United Kingdom passport.

Like other noble Lords this evening, I very much agree with the conclusions of the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee in the House of Commons on the need for a bespoke solution for people in Northern Ireland like the noble Lord, Lord Hay, who find themselves in this situation. We are not talking about very many people here; we are talking about approximately 40,000 people. I feel that it is such a small number that we need to look at it correctly, properly and in proportion.

The Government’s approach to this matter is unnecessarily inflexible and bureaucratic. I have two points on which I should like to receive clarification from the Minister in his concluding remarks. First, Ireland already enjoys special status with the United Kingdom for the common travel area and the EU settlement scheme. As I understand it, the Republic of Ireland is not considered a foreign country for the purpose of UK laws. Irish citizens in the UK are treated as if they have permanent immigration permission to remain from the date when they take up ordinary residence here. If the common travel area and the EU settlement scheme already mean that Irish citizens are treated differently in this country, why could that special status not be extended for the application process for UK passports?

My second point is simply about having generosity of spirit. As other noble Lords have mentioned this evening, there is a special relationship between these islands. We have common bonds, family connections and hundreds of years of shared history. My father was born in Enniskillen in County Fermanagh, so four years ago I was able to take advantage of that special relationship and apply for my Irish passport, for which I am very grateful. It seems somewhat inexplicable that we are not willing to demonstrate that generosity of spirit the other way around, for people born in Ireland who, like the noble Lord, Lord Hay, have lived in this country their entire working lives and would like a UK passport. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response to both points this evening.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Baroness Suttie Excerpts
Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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My Lords, I rise extremely briefly, my noble friend having done the praising the Government part, to offer Green support to the other, non-government amendments in this group. We have heard very powerful practical examples on Motion T1. On Motion M1, the argument that someone acting in good faith should not face a court case, particularly in a life or death matter, is obvious.

I will focus briefly on Motion B1 on the deprivation of citizenship. Commons amendments have tightened the conditions under which citizenship can be removed without notice and improved the judicial oversight. The noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, is seeking to do that further with this. She said she was not against the principle of deprivation orders so I must lay out, very simply and clearly, that the Green Party is totally against the deprivation of the right of citizenship; citizenship should be a right that, once granted, remains. I must declare an interest here, because I am one of over six million people who are potentially affected by this deprivation of the citizenship right because, as anyone who hears me speak will know, I hold another citizenship. Many other people feel like second-class citizens in their own country, because they are; that right can be taken away as it cannot be from other people. All I can do is apologise to all those people that we have failed to get a parliamentary consensus for this and say we are going to keep trying.

Baroness Suttie Portrait Baroness Suttie (LD)
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My Lords, I shall speak briefly in favour of Motion T1 by the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, which proposes Amendment 40B in lieu. I will be very brief because there have been so many brilliant speeches from the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, and, of course, the noble Lord, Lord Murphy. I do not understand why the Government have not shown more willingness to concede on this matter. At every stage of the Bill so far, they have failed to provide convincing evidence that introducing these proposals will be workable or enforceable in practice, especially given the particularly sensitive circumstances on the land border on the island of Ireland.