Electronic Passport Control Systems

Baroness Wheatcroft Excerpts
Wednesday 7th June 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Wheatcroft Portrait Baroness Wheatcroft (CB)
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My Lords, can the Minister tell the House how he intends to control British borders in the case of people coming from Northern Ireland via the Republic?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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As a consequence of our long-standing treaty agreements with the Republic of Ireland, the common travel area means that one can travel seamlessly from the Republic into Northern Ireland and from all the other parts of the common travel area, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. It is obviously part of that agreement that the external parts of the common travel area operate border security of their own. That seems to have worked very effectively for the last century.

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

Baroness Wheatcroft Excerpts
Tuesday 23rd May 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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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.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I think I am happy to agree with everything that has been said in this debate. I agree with the way the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, opened her speech by saying that my noble friend Lady Ritchie asked a lot of pertinent questions and proposed some interesting solutions and that the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, from a different perspective, also asked pertinent questions. One particularly interesting question from the noble Lord was about any reciprocal arrangements which may have been discussed with the EU regarding this set of circumstances. I look forward to the Minister’s answers to those points.

It is worth pointing out that, in the other place, a prayer was laid by colleagues, which received signatures from Members of various Northern Ireland parties on this matter—so there is considerable interest in this.

The Government have stated they have held back the economic assessment of the regulations until the fee for the ETA is confirmed. An economic assessment has been drafted, but not released. The Minister stated to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee that the assessment, if released now, would be a much less useful document without the fee information. However, although the fee is an important part of the economic impact, it does not represent all of it. The fact that the assessment has been drafted demonstrates that there is a lot of substance in it, even without that particular number, to make calculations on the economic impact itself.

The issues raised in the Motion represent wider economic concerns about the consequences of the introduction of the ETA for the tourism industry in Northern Ireland. As we have heard, 70% of all visitors arriving in Northern Ireland arrive through Dublin. I was interested in the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, about how many people make day trips from Dublin, or the surrounding area, to visit various places in Northern Ireland. I was also particularly taken by my noble friend’s suggestion of a five- to seven-day exemption, which may meet the vast bulk of those tourists’ needs. I am interested to hear the Minister’s answer to that proposal.

I understand that a series of regulations will be put in place before the ETA system is introduced, but, as it stands, there is no set date for the introduction of the ETA, no set fees for the ETA, and no impact assessment from the Government on this aspect of it. As we have heard, this puts the travel industry in Northern Ireland, and related industries, at a disadvantage. We have also heard, from my noble friend, about how important tourism is, how it is perhaps the least controversial of any activity in Northern Ireland, and that it needs to be encouraged.

I look forward to the Minister’s response to the questions raised in this brief debate. It is an important issue to raise, and I commend my noble friend Lady Ritchie for her tenacity in doing so.

Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill

Baroness Wheatcroft Excerpts
My amendment suggests that Britain should put itself at the forefront of that club of nations. We have the City of London, and a great many lawyers, bankers and other people who, pointed in the right direction, could be very useful to that effort. Competing in a world of laxer and laxer tax regimes has been a disaster for people and planet, an invitation to crime and corruption. Co-operation has to be the way forward to equip the world with the funds to tackle the looming poly-crisis of environmental destruction, human desperation and rampant inequality.
Baroness Wheatcroft Portrait Baroness Wheatcroft (CB)
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My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 103. Thanks to the comprehensive introduction from the noble Lord, Lord Oates, I can be relatively brief.

The International Criminal Court in the Hague was established in 2003. Later this month, it will take evidence from representatives of some of the victims of war crimes in Darfur. That is typical of the essential work that the International Criminal Court can do. It is no wonder that there are now calls for Putin to be indicted to this court. Few today would question the need for such an organisation, and now it seems clear that there is a need for an international anti-corruption court.

The noble Lord, Lord Oates, made the case very positively. Kleptocrats are financial war criminals, inflicting huge damage on their countries but, like the dictators who commit genocide and other war crimes, they have impunity to act as they wish in their home countries. They control the police, the prosecutors and the courts. The damage that their greed inflicts on their countries is huge, but those countries are rarely able to bring them to justice. That is why this new court is so essential.

The Panama papers and Pandora papers provided appalling glimpses into the scale of the corruption in which senior officials in many jurisdictions have been involved. The proceeds are scattered around the world. The international anti-corruption court would provide a mechanism for prosecuting those individuals and retrieving those funds.

The United Nations has demonstrated its ineffectiveness in this area. The General Assembly adopted the UN Convention against Corruption in 2003. Getting on for 200 countries have signed it but, sadly, those signatories include most of the worst offenders on Transparency International’s corruption index. Too many countries treat the convention with contempt because their leaders and senior officials preside over corruption-rife regimes. That is why we need this court, and why I put my name to this amendment. It could be set up relatively quickly and could be hugely effective. Its very existence would deter corruption. If the Government want to fight corruption, why would they not support this project?

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, of course, I echo the concern that has been expressed in the speeches so far about international corruption on an enormous scale.

In our debates, we have very much focused on what happens here in the United Kingdom. In our attack on the Government, it is worth bearing in mind that, in 2016, this Government hosted an international corruption summit; it was hosted by the then Prime Minister David Cameron, so many Prime Ministers ago. It was partly as a result of that that we had the then Criminal Finances Bill and there was an impetus—a very slow one, sadly—to set up a register of overseas entities. It was felt that, at least in this country, we should do all we could not to allow our properties and companies to be infected by corruption. Indeed, this Bill seeks to improve what has already been achieved although, in many ways, it has not gone far enough.

I respectfully submit that what is contained in this amendment is pretty aspirational stuff. There is nothing wrong with being aspirational. The International Criminal Court—I have been to conferences there—has had some success, but it must be remembered that Russia is not a party to the ICC and nor is the United States. It is one thing to say that it is relatively easy to set up a court, but you must have the proper means to enforce it and you have to invest huge sums of money in infrastructure. There has to be a degree of realism about this. Surely we should sort out matters at home as best we can first of all; that in itself will contribute to reducing international corruption. Putting on the statute book an obligation to set up an international court of this sort, which is what this amendment suggests, is premature at this stage, although one can do nothing but applaud the sentiments that lie behind it.

Manston Update

Baroness Wheatcroft Excerpts
Tuesday 29th November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Baroness Wheatcroft Portrait Baroness Wheatcroft (CB)
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My Lords, Napier barracks in Kent is still being used to house asylum seekers, despite an inspector’s report that said it was not fit for that purpose. Last year, an epidemic of Covid took hold there because of the unsatisfactory accommodation, with up to 24 people in dormitories. Can the Minister assure us that nobody went directly from Manston to Napier; that everybody at Napier is being screened for a disease which he says does not always exhibit symptoms; and that the conditions there are now suitable for people to be held?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Taking that question in reverse order, yes, the conditions are now suitable for those held there. I do not have the answer as to whether people were transferred directly from Manston to Napier barracks: I can make inquiries about that and write to the noble Baroness. As for her final point, on the provision of healthcare at Napier barracks, similarly, those operating that accommodation facility will provide healthcare and signpost healthcare facilities to those who are resident there.

Asylum Seekers: Accommodation and Safeguarding

Baroness Wheatcroft Excerpts
Wednesday 9th November 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Clearly, I agree with the noble Baroness that sensationalist language should be avoided. I am afraid that, at this stage, I cannot comment further on the firebomb attack, which is obviously still the subject of investigation by the police.

Baroness Wheatcroft Portrait Baroness Wheatcroft (CB)
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My Lords, the Minister referred to the hotels and the special situation that unaccompanied minors are being kept in. But the fact is that they are being kept in these hotels with security guards outside for many months, with very little support. A report last month made it clear that they get no education, informal or formal, while they are in those hotels. Is the Minister satisfied with that?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The noble Baroness’s question was predicated on the fact that nobody in the hotels was allowed to leave but that is not the case. Forgive me if I misunderstood her question. As I say, significant steps are clearly taken to afford facilities for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. I undertake to write to the noble Baroness to inform her about the education opportunities. I am afraid I do not have that information immediately to hand.

Public Spaces Protection Orders

Baroness Wheatcroft Excerpts
Thursday 27th October 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I entirely agree with my noble friend. I would have thought that the voters would be the key factor in determining whether this is an appropriate policy. I am sure some would prefer fining for effect; some might prefer to vote otherwise.

Baroness Wheatcroft Portrait Baroness Wheatcroft (CB)
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My Lords, would the Minister accept that commission is generally paid to encourage people to sell? In the financial services sector, for instance, it has led to many instances of mis-selling. If the Minister accepts that paying commission does encourage sales—often mis-selling—does he not accept that Defra may be right in its position?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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As I said earlier, the contracts that are awarded to these companies are governed by quite stringent guidance and rules. It is a matter for local authorities and the contracting companies.

Police National Computer

Baroness Wheatcroft Excerpts
Monday 24th October 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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Unfortunately, as I said, this relates to the delay in the rollout of the new system. The new system was delayed because of unforeseen complexity. I should state for the record that statistics around the police national computer are mind-boggling in their complexity: 30 million people’s information; 68 million vehicle records; 61 million driving licence holder records; 1.34 million daily transactions; 114 million checks per annum. It has to work; therefore, there was no viable alternative.

Baroness Wheatcroft Portrait Baroness Wheatcroft (CB)
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My Lords, could the Minister tell the House whether external consultants were involved in deciding that this contract should go to Fujitsu and, if so, how much were they paid for coming to the rather defeatist conclusion that there was no alternative?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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The process was subject to all the usual Cabinet Office rules. I do not know how much external consultants were paid; I will find out.

Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme

Baroness Wheatcroft Excerpts
Wednesday 20th July 2022

(1 year, 12 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Lord makes absolutely the correct point because the transition cannot have any gaps in it. In other words, when Airwave is turned off and the new emergency services network is turned on, there must be full capability across the piece and for those wh1o are using it, so we are regularly engaged with the policing community.

Baroness Wheatcroft Portrait Baroness Wheatcroft (CB)
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My Lords, the advertisement for the new deployment director included this in the job description:

“You will … ensure that the Programme delivers its deployment requirements in a timely manner to enable users readiness to transition according to the agreed timeframes”.


The Government’s website no longer includes any timeframe for this project, so can the Minister tell us what the timeframe for the deployment director is?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The timeframe for switch-on of the new emergency services network, as I said in my initial response, is 2026. I shall be working to make sure that that timescale is met, if I am still in post.

Extradition Act 2003

Baroness Wheatcroft Excerpts
Wednesday 29th June 2022

(2 years ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Lord will of course know that 2021, last year, was far from business as usual, given the context of the pandemic, which impacted both the courts and international travel on both sides. As anticipated, the calendar year figures for 2021, which are now out, show a reduction in volumes in relation to arrests in the UK on incoming extradition warrants from the EU, surrenders from the UK to the EU, and outgoing requests made by the UK. However, if noble Lords look at the financial year figures, which run for an extra three months until March of this year, it reveals an improving picture: the total number of arrests on incoming warrants from the EU was directly comparable to the previous financial year, and surrenders on incoming warrants were, in fact, up by 30%.

Baroness Wheatcroft Portrait Baroness Wheatcroft (CB)
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My Lords, following on from earlier questions, can the Minister confirm that it is still the case that people who are claimed to be guilty of crimes committed in this country can be extradited to the United States under the unbalanced extradition law we have with them at the moment? Does the Minister feel that this is a correct way to treat UK citizens when the US Government take the line that wire fraud is involved? It is a faulty concept.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I say to the noble Baroness that we have in fact refused far more extradition cases to the US than they have to us by quite a large margin.

Town and Country Planning (Napier Barracks) Special Development Order 2021

Baroness Wheatcroft Excerpts
Thursday 7th April 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

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Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for bringing this Motion. It is regrettable that the poor Minister is here yet again—clearly, someone thinks she has not worked hard enough this term—but I thank both her and the noble Lord for making this possible. It is a source of huge regret that we are still in this place with Napier barracks and the asylum detention estate more generally, which is too large and overcrowded because we detain too many asylum seekers. If we can learn something from recent weeks and months and from the public response to the Ukraine crisis—the way people in our country have been prepared to open their hearts and homes to refugees and asylum seekers from Ukraine—we might extrapolate from that a broader policy change in relation to all refugees and asylum seekers, regardless of the conflict and the continent from which they are escaping.

I refer noble Lords to the very recent annual global Amnesty International Report, which your Lordships will know covers the entire world and cites profound human rights concerns from Amnesty. In the section on the United Kingdom, the accommodation of asylum seekers in former military accommodation is cited as “inhumane conditions”. That is what Amnesty International says about the United Kingdom. That must be a source of embarrassment and shame, not just to those of us in your Lordships’ House but to most people in the United Kingdom, were it brought to their attention.

I just hope that, in her reply, the Minister might look to future planning. We are where we are for the moment with Napier barracks, and this is highly regrettable given the High Court judgment and all the reports which the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, pointed out. Can the Minister give us a glimmer of hope for a vision of what asylum accommodation might look like in the months and years ahead? Is there some inspiration to be drawn from this Ukraine response?

I visited Yarl’s Wood detention centre a few years ago, which is supposedly nothing as bad as Napier barracks, and I found that to be a wholly traumatic visit. It took about a year to be granted permission, even as a Member of your Lordships’ House, to attend Yarl’s Wood detention centre, with the former shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott MP. What I saw there, in the treatment of these human beings in both the medical facility and the general accommodation, has not left me. I really think that we can do better nearly a quarter of the way into the 21st century. I look forward to hearing from the Minister.

Baroness Wheatcroft Portrait Baroness Wheatcroft (CB)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for raising this issue again and, as others have, I pay tribute to the Minister for the hard work she has done throughout this Session and hope that she has a very good Recess.

I speak on this issue because I regularly drive past Napier barracks and, even though there have been improvements—which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham acknowledged—it is still an extraordinarily sorry sight. For anyone to be incarcerated there for more than a few days must be deeply depressing. Clearly, 12 to 14 people in a dormitory is better than the 26 who were originally there, but it is by no means perfect. The sooner we can get people out of Napier barracks, the better.

I have one specific question for the Minister about the people who are not at Napier barracks but are housed at nearby hotels: the youngsters and adolescent boys. At the height of the summer, those youngsters were in the hotel with windows closed and guards outside ensuring that no one came or left the premises. Can the Minister assure us that innocent children are no longer housed in accommodation such as that hotel with no means of getting fresh air, and that this will never be allowed to happen again in this country?

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, I spend my life in a state of barely supressed fury at the things which this Government do, particularly in their treatment of vulnerable people—whether they are poor, disabled or whatever. When it comes to asylum seekers and refugees, the Government surpass themselves in their cruelty and inhumanity, and I simply do not understand how anyone can accept that.

The High Court judgement was nearly a year ago— 3 June last year—so I ask the Minister: are we sure that, in Napier barracks, the reported intimidation and mistreatment does not happen anymore? Are the conditions still unsanitary and crowded, and are the standards and operational systems still unlawful? These are people who are traumatised. Where I live, we have been discussing what would happen if we got stormed by Russian tanks and, quite honestly, most of us feel that we would just up and run with whatever we could carry—and this is the condition which many of these people are in. Sometimes they have almost nothing; they are traumatised, possibly injured and damaged in all sorts of ways, psychologically and physically, yet we treat them like this. I do not know how it is acceptable; I really regret that we will pass that Nationality and Borders Bill and that we are just going to carry on treating them badly.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who spoke in this debate and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, who brought it forward. I just thought I would clarify that I do not think the right honourable Diane Abbott visited Napier under the previous Home Secretary—I am being told that it was not Napier.

A number of noble Lords have referred to Napier as a detention centre but it is not a detention centre—I will go into further detail on that. It is being used as contingency asylum accommodation, which enables the Home Office to continue to meet its statutory obligation to accommodate and support destitute asylum seekers. As noble Lords will be aware, the accommodation at Napier was set up in response to the enormous pressures that were placed on our asylum accommodation by the Covid pandemic. The pressure to accommodate individuals continues to grow, and it has been exacerbated by the rise in the number of dangerous and illegal small boat crossings of the channel.

The use of Napier barracks was against that backdrop. In September 2020, the Home Office approached the MoD regarding the use of Napier barracks. The Covid pandemic, coupled with pre-existing pressures on the asylum system, meant that this significant number of people had to be accommodated at considerable speed. The use of Napier barracks was intended to be of a temporary nature, and it was expected that the MoD would retake possession of the site in September of last year. The Home Office therefore originally took occupation of it for an initial six-month period under permitted development rights for Crown land in response to the pandemic. In December 2020, those rights were extended for a further six months.

My noble friend Lady Wheatcroft asked about the use of hotels. I will go on to give further details about the barracks, but on the use of hotels, if we did not put people in them, those children would be without somewhere to stay. Such were the pressures on the system at the time, but it is by no means an ideal situation.

Baroness Wheatcroft Portrait Baroness Wheatcroft (CB)
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It is not merely a question of them being housed in hotels. It is the manner in which they are kept in hotels, and the fact that during the hottest days, when people were on the beach, which they could see from their windows, they appeared to be kept indoors with guards outside.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I probably should not have brought this aspect up. As I am going on to say, these centres are not detention centres; people are not detained in them. Therefore, it may be something to do with the pandemic, but if I am wrong in my assessment of why people might be inside, I will clarify that. I am assuming that they may have been self-isolating, when the restrictions were quite severe on absolutely everybody in this country.

Going back to the continued use of Napier, following the outcome of NB and others’ litigation in June 2021, the Home Office progressed work to ensure that the department could continue to use the barracks and avoid any potential breach of planning control given under permitted development rights. These were due to expire in September of last year. Given the urgency to ensure that there was additional capacity in the system and the statutory obligation on the Home Office to provide support to destitute asylum seekers, the only viable option was to proceed with a special development order. I should add that the tenancy agreement with the MoD confirms that the site will be handed back in March 2025—in three years’ time—to support the full decommissioning of the site.

On the conditions of the site, I note comments by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, about Napier. Maybe I just listened to what I want to hear, but the right reverend Prelate seemed to confirm that things had significantly improved; although they were not absolutely perfect, things had improved significantly at the site. As I have said, the site is used to provide temporary accommodation for around 300 otherwise destitute adult men for up to 90 days. The average length of stay is about 70 days. Service users staying at Napier are free to come and go as they please—they are not detained at Napier. The accommodation at Napier meets our statutory obligations. It is safe, warm, dry and it provides a choice of good hot meals, as well as proper laundry and cleaning facilities.

Turning to the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, a significant amount of work has been carried out to make improvements to the conditions at Napier barracks—hence, possibly, the right reverend Prelate’s comments about it. There is a prescribing nurse; dental care is provided on site, and there is access to local GP services. There is also a prayer room and a multifaith room. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham confirmed, sports and recreational activities have been re-introduced. Additional furniture, table-tennis tables and a library have been installed, and CCTV and night-time courtesy patrols have also been put in place. The Home Office has significantly improved the management and oversight at the site, with an emphasis on identifying issues early and ensuring that the accommodation is safe and well maintained. The frequency of inspections and visits has also increased.

Finally, all residents of Napier have been offered Covid-19 vaccinations. There is Covid-related signage in multiple languages, and residents have been provided with personal cleaning kits. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, who asked about isolation if Covid is detected. Given that the general regulations have changed for the wider population, I imagine that it is in line with that, but I will provide more information to him if I can.

We have engaged with community stakeholders, including charities and NGOs, in relation to the site. There are regular meetings at which matters relating to the site’s operation are discussed and issues can be raised. These meetings are attended by Home Office officials, alongside representatives of the NHS, the UK Health Security Agency, the police, Folkstone and Hythe District Council and Kent County Council. In addition, several NGOs sit on the Home Office strategic engagement group and the National Asylum Stakeholder Forum, where they can raise concerns and receive updates on the site.

We have recently welcomed the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration to Napier to conduct a follow-up inspection at the site. We look forward to the publication of his report, which may identify further ways in which we can improve the service provided there. We remain fully and firmly committed to delivering an asylum system that is fair and effective and works in the interests of both the people of this country and those in need of refuge and sanctuary.