21 Baroness Williams of Trafford debates involving the Ministry of Justice

Tue 21st May 2024
Tue 8th Feb 2022
Thu 3rd Feb 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage: Part 2
Tue 25th Jan 2022
Wed 15th Dec 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Lords Hansard - part two & Report stage: Part 2

Victims and Prisoners Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
None Portrait Noble Lords
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No!

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, there is a reason my noble friend has said that. It is in case the debate finishes early.

To be helpful to the House, I will outline the procedure. Given that we are combining two Statements into one today, the length of the Statement repeat has been extended to one hour. That does not take away from what my noble friend has just said. My noble friend Lord Howe will repeat both Statements before 20 minutes of questions from the Opposition Front Benches. The Minister will then respond to 40 minutes of Back-Bench questions. My noble friend Lord Harlech said what he did just in case the debate runs a little short.

Consideration on Report adjourned until not before 8.15 pm.

Employment of People with Criminal Convictions

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Monday 26th February 2024

(3 months, 4 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, it is the turn of the Green Benches. If everyone is quick, we can then hear from my noble friend Lord Polak.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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I will be quick. I will just say that I will miss Lord Cormack very much.

There is a section of prisoners—the IPP prisoners, who are imprisoned for public protection—who are constantly being called back to prison, and their mental health is very much under threat; they are a very vulnerable population. Are prisons looking to rehabilitate those prisoners in particular, by preparing them for work?

Prisons: Education

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Thursday 23rd March 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, it is the turn of the noble Baroness, Lady Fox.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, in my experience with broader education projects such as Debating Matters Beyond Bars, I have found that private sector prisons can be more flexible and less bureaucratic than some state-run prisons. Does the Minister agree that we should focus less on who provides prison education and that education should be given far more priority? Does he also agree that prison education should not be limited to literacy, as it often is, but should be far more imaginative?

Prisoners: Imprisonment for Public Protection

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Wednesday 1st March 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, it is the turn of the Labour Benches.

Lord Morris of Aberavon Portrait Lord Morris of Aberavon (Lab)
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My Lords, to simplify the situation and make it abundantly clear: are the numbers rising or lowering in each category?

Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Saturday 10th September 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Portrait Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab)
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My Lords, I guess I am about two-thirds of the way between the most reverend Primate’s granddaughter and the right reverend Prelate’s mother, but I too wept. It was such a moment to hear that our wonderful Queen had died. The right reverend Prelate mentioned peace and reconciliation. Our country and our world are in great need of those now, and I have no doubt that they will be firmly on the agenda of our new King.

I am proud to join in this celebration of the life of Her Majesty the Queen—an inspirational life, a life truly well lived and a life for which we are grateful. She was a remarkable woman, and the tributes made in your Lordships’ House both yesterday and today have also been remarkable. The tributes we have seen in the media have been quite exceptional, and I hope that continues with our new King.

It is impossible to say anything new, but repetition does not detract from the fact that Queen Elizabeth was an extraordinary woman whose dedication to our country and its people was second to none. Hers was a life of service and steadfastness, leadership and love, dignity and integrity—a reassuring constant in a turbulent world. It is difficult to comprehend the breadth of the economic, social, political and technological changes that took place during the second Elizabethan age. She was the continuity Queen who embodied our nation. Hers was a life to be celebrated throughout the world.

I was in Mumbai when news of the Queen’s death was announced. So many people came up to me late that evening and the following morning to give their condolences on the loss for our country and to express their sadness and respect. I did not know these people but clearly, I look like a Brit and therefore was somebody who should be concerned, as I was.

I was privileged to be Lord President of the Council, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms, and in those tasks I met the Queen quite often. I was certainly not the first woman captain, but it seemed to give the Queen pleasure to introduce a female captain—although together we lamented the fact that the women captains did not have the gorgeous uniforms of the men. We talked about that quite often.

Much has been said about the Queen’s sense of humour. Once, when I was lunching at Windsor Castle with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, there was a conversation about the intrusion of mobile phones. We lamented the fact that people did not turn them off at mealtimes. Suddenly there was a loud ring beneath the table. Yes, it came from my handbag. I was mortified; they thought it was hilarious.

Last year my college, Somerville, was privileged to receive a wonderful visit from the King, the then Prince of Wales. Delving into our history in preparation for the visit, I learned that the Queen visited Somerville in 1968, when we were a women’s college. We have a glorious photo of the beautiful young Queen and the heads of all five women’s colleges. Happily for me, all the heads had studied at Somerville. I have no doubt that that point was proudly made to the Queen. On that visit the Queen signed a birthday book given to the college by Ruskin. It was also signed by her grandmother, Queen Mary, and latterly by her son, King Charles.

In our fragile world, we are embarking on a new era. The Queen will be greatly missed, but I know that the King, supported by the Queen Consort and his family, will also give extraordinary service to the country and the Commonwealth as we meet the great challenges of our time. Through all the work the King has done as the Prince of Wales, he is more aware of those challenges than many in our world.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, following the contribution from the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, I remind the House courteously that several things need to happen over the next few days, one of which is the preparation for the events leading up to the funeral and another is the necessity for noble Lords to take their oaths. With that courtesy that I know the House would like to see, I remind noble Lords to consider the length of time that they might speak in order to let everybody come in today.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, I hope that I will not make the Chief Whip cross. I want to share four reflections on Her late Majesty.

First, what a trouper—I hope that is not too irreverent a description of Her late Majesty’s work ethic. The column by journalist Janice Turner in today’s Times on the almost coincident death of the Queen and her own mother highlights the fortitude and stoicism as well as frugality and recycling reflex of that generation. I strongly recognise that in my own late mother, who died in 2015. The fact is that the Queen’s enduring values and habits are now coming back into fashion.

Secondly, what a sport. We had long known, of course, about how the young Princess Elizabeth joined the VE night crowds on the streets of London. Perhaps it is only in recent years, though, that we have appreciated how this evidenced a high-spirited sense of fun. On the unforgettable sketch of the James Bond Olympic parachute—before she turned around, I said to my late husband, “It can’t possibly be her, can it?” It was. This year, the Paddington Bear marmalade sandwich sketch has given us all great memories at which to grin through our tears. It shows that duty and a sense of humour are not mutually exclusive.

My third reflection is that you did not need to be a royalist to mourn the Queen. I have to admit that I hesitated 25 years ago when I was introduced in this House over whether to affirm or to swear allegiance. I chose the latter, out of respect for her and for tradition, but I did have to think about it. So, while I expected to feel sad and grateful for her service when she died, I was caught totally unawares by my own spontaneous tears. I think they were a reaction to the loss of stability and continuity that she represented as well as sheer appreciation of her as a person.

I never had the privilege of meeting Her Majesty, but my rather republican-leaning late husband met her at least twice in his capacity as a council leader—as well as now Queen Consort Camilla, in the course of charitable work. Whenever I suggested that I might try for tickets for a Buckingham Palace garden party he was rather cool but, when he got the chance to go, to represent the health trust he then chaired, I was dispatched immediately to buy a hat. Such was the personal power of Her Majesty.

My last point is to note the astonishing wave of international and European support and appreciation, not just from Presidents and Prime Ministers but from a football stadium in Italy and a town band in Nice. She was, as others have said, a great diplomat. Noting, of course, what a great friend she was to France and her excellent French, President Macron said:

“To you, she was your Queen. To us, she was The Queen.”

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Baroness Wilcox of Newport Portrait Baroness Wilcox of Newport (Lab)
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During her long reign, Her late Majesty demonstrated hard work, tireless commitment, loyalty, dignity and respect for duty and became the longest-serving monarch in British history. The changes that she saw over that time are quite astounding. In my part of the United Kingdom—Wales—the heavy industry that I grew up with in the mining areas has given way to financial and other services. Indeed, the United Kingdom itself is very different. Power is dispersed to other Parliaments in the four nations of the UK. Movement to and from the Commonwealth, the European Union and beyond has fashioned a more diverse and multicultural people in our society. Throughout her long life, the late Queen was an example of the importance of public duty. She clearly valued community, public service and loyalty to others.

I echo the comments of the First Minister of Wales, who said yesterday:

“It is with great sadness that”


people in Wales mourn

“the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II”

and

“her long and exceptional life, as our longest reigning monarch”.

Perhaps the most significant and long-lasting connection between Wales and the late Queen grew out of her empathy following the Aberfan disaster, as noted by my noble friends. That Friday in October 1966, as a young schoolgirl in Pontygwaith Primary School in the Rhondda, I stood in the playground after lunchtime and, along with my friends and under the instruction of our headmaster Mr Lewis, I closed my eyes, put my hands together and prayed for the children of Aberfan. I had never heard of the place before that day, as it was several valleys to the west, but I have never forgotten it since. The late Queen continued to make visits to the village over the decades and, indeed, visited it more than any other member of the Royal Family.

The first time I saw her in person was at Buckingham Palace in the summer of 2009. I was struck by her luminescence; she simply shone. The next time I saw her in person was in your Lordships’ House in December 2019 when attending my first State Opening, and the moment of seeing her again in person was extraordinary, especially as I was now one of her trusty and beloved servants, a phrase and understanding that will live with me for the rest of my life.

Yesterday was the day His Majesty conferred the title of Prince of Wales—Tywysog Cymru—on his eldest son. God bless the Prince of Wales. Yesterday evening, I joined the Bishop of Monmouth and the leader of Newport City Council at the city’s St Woolos’ Cathedral to take part in a service of thanksgiving for the life of our late Queen. It was a moment of extreme poignancy to sing for the first time in public—and we are good singers in Wales—“God save the King”, and I am glad that it took place in my home city and the place from where I proudly take my title. Tomorrow, I shall join the leader of the council and others to take part in the official proclamation ceremony at Newport Civic Centre and will then return to London on Monday to hear the King’s Address to both Houses of Parliament.

On the death of his father, Wales’s finest poet, Dylan Thomas, wrote:

“Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

God bless you, ma’am, and may you rest in peace. Er côf annwyl. God save the King.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I have just had a word with the Opposition Chief Whip. There is a combination of feeling in this House, I think, that people want to have their say but also want others to keep their remarks succinct. There are people who have to get trains home this evening and, as I said earlier, preparations must get under way for the events and funeral upcoming. We have not put time limits on tributes, but in order for us not to have to do that I respectfully request that noble Lords keep their comments succinct.

Duke of Wellington Portrait The Duke of Wellington (CB)
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My Lords, I must apologise for not being able to be here yesterday—

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I do not want to be disrespectful; we have managed to maintain a good circulation of representation throughout these last couple of days. I think that it is, informally, the turn of the Conservative Benches.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Lord Etherton Portrait Lord Etherton (CB)
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My Lords, I add my name to that of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in giving notice of my intention to exclude Clause 28 and Schedule 3 from the Bill. To move an asylum seeker to a detention or reception centre offshore while their claim is being assessed is wrong in principle, oppressive in practice, contrary to the 1951 convention and lacking sufficient safeguards under the Bill. Many speakers referred to Australia’s policy of offshore processing, as an example both of how awful it can be and, by one speaker, of a successful operation to deter unlawful immigration. It is worth putting a little flesh on the Australian experience.

In 2013, Amnesty International published a report, This Is Breaking People, highlighting a range of serious human rights concerns at the Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, immigration detention centre. In an update, Amnesty International reported that, in two days in February 2014,

“violence at the detention centre led to the death of … a 23-year-old Iranian man, and injuries to more than 62 asylum seekers (some reports suggest up to 147 were injured).”

It said in the report:

“There are credible claims that the asylum seekers … were attacked by private security guards, local police and possibly other contractors working at the centre. The response by security guards and local police to protests by asylum seekers was brutal and excessive.”


Amnesty’s report raised a number of concerns about living conditions, including overcrowding, cramped sleeping arrangements, exposure to the elements, as well as a lack of sufficient drinking water, sanitation, food and clothing. The update said:

“Since the violence on … February 2014, Papua New Guinean nationals no longer enter the compounds for catering or cleaning … Asylum seekers are delivered meals in take-away packs for self-distribution and also bear sole responsibility for cleaning the ablution blocks.”


At the time of Amnesty’s site visit in March 2014,

“ablution blocks in all compounds were dilapidated, dirty, mouldy, and”

some latrines were

“broken and without running water.”

Amnesty International expressed concern about the issue, saying:

“Australian and Papua New Guinean authorities are deliberately denying asylum seekers’ right to access lawyers and human rights organizations.”


In an article published by the Australian Institute of International Affairs in February 2017, it was said:

“LGBT asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable … and face significant disadvantages and dangers. In detention they experience discrimination, harassment and violence from other detainees and from members of staff. The detention environment has serious long-term effects on their mental and physical well-being.”


From time to time, Ghana and Rwanda have been floated in the media as places to which asylum seekers in the UK might be transferred, although Ghana has officially denied any such possibility. The appropriateness or inappropriateness of such locations for LGBTIQ asylum seekers is manifest. In Ghana, same-sex sexual acts carry a potential sentence of up to 25 years. There is a current proposal to raise the minimum sentence to 10 years and to require conversion therapy. LGBTIQ people face homophobia, physical violence and psychological abuse.

In Rwanda, same-sex sexual relations are not unlawful, but there are no anti-discrimination laws relating to sexual orientation or gender identity, including in relation to housing, employment and access to government services, such as healthcare. A 2021 report on Rwanda by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada cites sources disclosing discrimination and stigma facing LGBTIQ people in religious and civil society, the media and business, harassment by the police and the use of indecency and vagrancy offences against transgender and gender-diverse people. The experience in the offshore detention centres I referred to in Australia and the position in Ghana and Rwanda show the inappropriateness of holding asylum seekers in offshore detention or reception centres.

In particular, the following are not answered in the Bill, the Explanatory Notes or any other guidance from the Government. First, how will asylum seekers have access to legal advisers with knowledge of the law and practice relating to UK asylum claims, assuming that they are being processed under UK law, which is complex and difficult? Secondly, legal aid and advice is available to refugees in the UK, but there is nothing to suggest that it will be available to refugees in offshore holding centres. Thirdly, and as has previously been pointed out, if conditions in the proposed offshore centre are so bad as to cause physical or mental harm to refugees, whether through physical conditions in the centre or—in the case of single women or LGBTIQ members, for example—because of discrimination, harassment, bullying and violence from staff or other asylum seekers, will they be able to have recourse or bring proceedings in the UK, or will they be restricted to such remedies as might be available in the foreign country?

Until these fundamental questions are answered and set out expressly in the legislation, there should be no question whatever of exporting refugees to offshore holding centres. To do so would be inconsistent with the spirit and the letter of the refugee convention and the UK’s own history of welcome to genuine asylum seekers over the centuries.

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 have spoken to this group of amendments, and I thank my noble friend Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate for tabling his Amendments 100, 101 and 102.

On the back of my noble friend’s point, it might be helpful to clarify the definitions of “asylum seeker”, “refugee” and “economic migrant.” An asylum seeker is a person, either in transit or awaiting a decision, seeking the protection of a state under the terms of the refugee convention. A refugee is a person who meets the definition of “refugee” in Article 1 of the refugee convention—they do not have to be recognised by a state to be a refugee—and so it follows that a “person with refugee status” is a person who meets the requirements under the UK Immigration Rules to be granted refugee status.

The term “economic migrant” is inexact. It may, of course, refer to a person who is using or looking to use economic routes, such as FBIS, to enter a state. However, there will be people who meet the definition of Article 1 of the refugee convention but are looking to enter the UK and choosing it over other countries purely for economic reasons. One of the objectives of the New Plan for Immigration is to ensure that the most vulnerable can be protected, which in turn means that those attempting to enter the UK for economic reasons should use the appropriate routes.

Changes within Clause 28 via Schedule 3 are one in a suite of critical measures designed to break the business model of people smugglers and are the first step in disincentivising unwanted behaviours—for example, by dissuading those who are considering risking their lives by making dangerous and unnecessary journeys to the UK in order to claim asylum. By working to establish overseas asylum processing, we are sending a clear message to those who are risking their lives and funding criminal gangs both here and abroad or abusing the asylum system elsewhere that this behaviour is not worth it. We must make it easier to ensure that such people are simply not allowed to remain in the UK.

It also might assist noble Lords—and indeed my noble friend Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate—to know that for nearly 20 years, it has been possible under UK law to remove individuals from the UK while their asylum claim is pending if a certificate is issued under Schedule 3 to the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004, so this is not a new concept. What this measure does is amend our existing legal framework to make it easier to remove such individuals. I do not know which noble Lord asked this, but Schedule 3 also defines the term “safe third country”.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I thank both the right reverend Prelate and the noble Baroness for those points. Generally, in the asylum system in the UK, when someone is about to turn 18, their status changes.

The right reverend Prelate is absolutely right; I did not answer questions about all children in all situations. On the previous day in Committee, I went at length through the routes by which children and families can come to the UK—there are several routes, and I think I cited four.

My noble friend Lady Stroud asked about victims of modern slavery and human trafficking. We will only ever act in line with our commitments under our international legal obligations, including those which pertain to potential victims of modern slavery.

Lord Bishop of Durham Portrait The Lord Bishop of Durham
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The Minister has made me even more disturbed. She has not said—and neither has anyone in the other place—that families and children will not be offshored.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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As I have just said, I will not go any further than my honourable friend did in the House of Common, save to say that people who—

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I understand that the Minister may be unable to respond immediately to the extremely valid question the right reverend Prelate has asked. Presumably, however, the Government as a whole know the answer to his question. Why does the Minister not agree to write to us and tell us what those answers are?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I have said I will write, but to be more explicit than my honourable friend was in the Commons might risk exploitation on routes taken by children. Therefore, this is as far as I will go today. I will lay out the various safe and legal routes through which children can come to this country and reiterate what my honourable friend said in the House of Commons.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett Portrait Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab)
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I am very sorry but the noble Baroness is not answering the right reverend Prelate’s question. It is not about safe and legal routes but about who will and will not be offshored, which is an awful term. She seems to be saying that children who are accompanied, who are in families, could well be offshored. Is that correct? The Minister in the Commons refused to answer the question and avoided it; I am afraid that is what the Minister is doing here.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I am not trying to avoid it; I am saying that that is about as far as I can go. However, I will try to outline any further detail that I can in writing to noble Lords. Noble Lords will know—

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I will not take the intervention just yet. I do not generally make misleading comments standing at the Dispatch Box. I will further write.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
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I am most grateful and apologise. Can my noble friend say whether she expects that, by the time we reach Report, she will be able to answer that question? Can she also say whether there are any countries with which we are close to agreement and, if so, what countries those are?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I cannot say what countries we are in discussion with, other than confirming to my noble friend Lady Stroud that we are having some very positive discussions with France. On the other question, I cannot acquiesce to going further at this point, because I do not want in any way to make comments that might put children in danger. As I have just said to the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, I will write in as much detail as I can following Committee.

Baroness Stroud Portrait Baroness Stroud (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for giving way. I think I heard that her concern is that saying that children with families would be exempted from being offshored could lead to a fuelling of the trafficking of children to ensure that those families who wanted to travel to the UK would be accepted here. Is that what my noble friend is saying? Some clarity on that would be really helpful, as well as some distinctions in that policy, which obviously she wants to mitigate, and the policy around families who are obviously families—who have proof of it—coming here. Would the Government split them up, let them remain here or be offshored?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I agree with the noble Baroness that we need to strike that balance between abuse of the system and providing refuge to those genuinely in need, but she will also know that we have several family reunion routes, which I went through the other day in Committee. With all that, and the commitment to write to the right reverend Prelate—

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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I am sorry to intervene just when the noble Baroness thought she had finished. She said that there is already a power to remove asylum seekers while their claim is being considered. Is she referring to when the Secretary of State issues a certificate to say that a claim has no merit and someone can therefore be deported before their appeal is heard? In that case, that is a limited number of people and a very different system from the one proposed here. Can she tell the Committee how many people have been issued with such a certificate and been deported during their application process in that way, compared with the numbers the Government anticipate will be affected by this new proposal?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Lord talks about deportation; we generally refer to deportation in the context of criminals. No, it is not under those provisions.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett Portrait Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab)
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My Lords, I am sorry, but a whole range of noble Lords asked a question, in different ways, about what happens to the asylum seekers if they are granted refugee status in the country to which they have been offshored. Are they allowed back into this country or are they just left there? If they are left there, they have, in effect, been deported.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I do not have the answers before me, so I will write on the questions that I have not answered, if that is okay with the noble Baroness.

Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate Portrait Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend for her responses and all noble Lords for their very important contributions on a really significant part of the Bill. I stand by what I said in my remarks, and I think that others will do so too, despite assurances that we may have received. I would be very grateful if the Government would perhaps be prepared to discuss this matter further between now and Report. On that basis, without further ado, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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Of course that is right. That is why there was such a row about the cut in the aid programme. It is why we all believe that of course we have to try to prevent war, famine and all those things. Not to do that would be ridiculous. The sources of many of our problems are war, famine and disease, and all of those things, so of course we have to prevent them.

However, it is also important in the debate we have in this country about asylum and refugees—not immigration—to stand up to the view that “We take the lot”. The idea that it is this country that has to deal with the situation, no other decent country in the world does it, we are the country that has to take them all and we are the weak link in it all is just not true, however unpopular it is to say so. Sometimes the way that you change public opinion is by arguing with it.

People will say, as no doubt the Minister will, “We won the election and therefore this is what the public think”, but on asylum and refugees there is an argument for saying, “Of course we don’t want open borders but there is a need for us to act in a way that is compassionate and consistent with the values that we have always had”. Sometimes that costs you, as I know, but that does not mean you should not do it. Public opinion can therefore be changed, and the subject is debated. Indeed, policy and opinion can change in this Chamber, which is the point of it. In the interests of time, I will stop there.

Amendment 114 is exceptionally important because of the need for international action. To apply it to our own situation here, we will not deal with the migrant crossing problem in the channel without co-operation from France and the rest of Europe.

I want to talk about the importance of Amendment 113, and I take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Green, on this. It is not an open invite to everybody to pile their children—I paraphrase, but if I get it wrong then no doubt the noble Lord will correct me—into the EEA because that means they can all then come to the UK. The amendment clearly lays out that it is about people who already have a family member present in the United Kingdom. It is about family reunion and trying to ensure that unaccompanied children in the EEA who have a family member in the UK get the opportunity to be reunited with them.

I will finish with this point, which I know the Minister will agree with. The problem we have is that sometimes Ministers have to speak to Governments, to the computer and to the Civil Service and say, “This bit of the Bill is wrong. It does not work.” Both Ministers have done it before on other Bills in other places where the Bills were wrong. On this issue of family reunion, the Government have got it wrong; they are not right. Nobody thinks that children who are unaccompanied in other parts of the EEA, for example, should not be able to reunite with their families in a way that is consistent with the values of this country, and it beggars belief that the Government would stand against that. It is not about an open door; it says quite specifically who should deal with it. I think if that were explained to the people of this country, and debated and argued with them, they would support it, because they are compassionate and decent, and in the end the compassionate and decent side will win. I think the Ministers are compassionate and decent, so let us have a Bill—in this aspect of it—that reflects that.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken to this group of amendments. I hope in what I am about to say that there will be at least some acknowledgment of the compassion and decency that we have shown as a country in the last few years—actually, the last few decades. It is such a hallmark of us as a nation. I also pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. Believe it or not, we like each other very much—we just disagree on quite a lot. But we have worked together in a civilised and friendly manner over the last few years, and long may that continue.

On the point about decency and compassion, Amendment 112 aims to expand the scope of the refugee family reunion policy. Under that policy, we have granted visas to over 39,000 people since 2015, over half of them being children, as the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, pointed out. So, to answer the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, we have looked into our hearts. We already have several routes for refugees to bring family members to join them in the UK, and it is important to carefully consider the impact of further amending our policy.

Family unity is a key priority, but noble Lords will know that we have a range of aims further to this, including ensuring that we have reasonable control over immigration and that public services such as schools and hospitals—and I think that it was the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, who talked about the infrastructure of this country—are not placed under unreasonable pressure. However, I recognise that in some cases there will be exceptional and compassionate circumstances which warrant a grant of leave. To answer the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, the guidance on exceptional circumstances will be published in due course. That is why our policy ensures that there is always discretion to grant visas outside the Immigration Rules, which may cater for the sorts of cases that do not immediately fall within our legal framework.

In terms of allowing child refugees to sponsor family members under this proposed clause, noble Lords will at least grant that I have been consistent in opposing that sort of policy, because of its negative consequences. It is highly likely that this would create further incentives for more children to be encouraged—or even, sadly, forced—to leave their family and risk extremely dangerous journeys to the UK in order to sponsor relatives. Such an approach would open children up to a huge exploitation risk, which completely contradicts the hard work and commitment of the Home Office in protecting children from modern slavery and exploitation. We refuse to play into the hands of criminal gangs, and we cannot extend this policy to allow child refugees to sponsor family members into the UK.

Beyond this, many of the conditions set out in this new clause are already included in our current family reunion policy and are taken into consideration when decisions are made inside or outside the rules. All noble Lords in Committee should have a copy of the various routes. Our prime consideration in all cases is the best interest of the child in question—and so it should be. As the number of visas we have granted under this policy reflects, we are committed to maintaining family unity for refugees. Caseworkers are encouraged to use discretion in considering whether entry may be granted in family reunion cases. By setting out conditions in primary legislation, we would lose the individuality of consideration, and the discretion of caseworkers would be void. I can assure the Committee that all relevant elements of each case are thoroughly considered on their merits under this policy, and there is no need to set it out in statute.

I turn to Amendment 113, on family reunion for unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors. I cannot support this proposed new clause. It tries to recreate the EU’s Dublin regulation in UK law with respect to unaccompanied children who have claimed asylum in an EEA state but have family members in the UK. When the UK sought to raise these matters with the EU, our proposals had very clear safeguards for children. This proposed new clause has none. It creates entitlements to come to the UK to claim asylum if the minor has specified relatives but it fails to consider the individual needs of the child. It does not consider whether the UK relative can actually take care of the child or whether the child would be better placed with a relative, potentially an even closer relative, in another safe EEA state.

The other point about this proposal is that it does not work unilaterally. I am sure the noble Lord will concur with that. It requires co-operation from EEA states. It is not possible to legislate through this Bill to take children out of other countries’ care and support mechanisms or their asylum systems. That requires agreement between states, which might not be possible and is certainly unlikely in the timescale of six months set out in the clause.

I see that the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, is about to stand up. Might I finish this point about the EU before he does? As he knows, we sought to negotiate with the EU on UASC family reunion and continue to talk to it on this important issue. However, at this point I cannot comment further.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. I hate to go over the past, but the whole point of having the Dublin III treaty in the 2017 Act—which was taken out in the 2019 Act, as I said—is that it has to be based on reciprocity. That was a sensible way forward; it is why we wanted to go down that path. That was the path blocked by the Government in the 2019 Act.

Lord Hylton Portrait Lord Hylton (CB)
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The noble Baroness has twice in my hearing given the figure of 39,000 humanitarian visas for family reunion. Between Second Reading and Committee, I asked a Written Question on how many of those had been taken up, because I foresaw that force majeure, poverty or some other reason would prevent many of them actually being used. I got one of those answers saying, “We really cannot find or give you any figures.” Can the noble Baroness be a little more helpful on the real results of those visas?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Going back to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, first, I did not disagree with his point about reciprocity but I made it clear at the time that we were of course leaving the European Union. I have consistently said, and repeat now, that we will try to negotiate with the EU on UASC family reunion, whether that is across the EU or bilaterally with states. I cannot go any further on the negotiations, but we continue to try to do that. I hope that answers his question.

On family reunion visas, we can grant them, but the noble Lord asked about tracking whether people use them or not. I assume people apply for the visas because they need them and want to reunite with family in the UK, and whether they use them or not—I have just received an answer: all 39,000 have been taken up, so I hope that satisfies the noble Lord. I was just wondering how we could track whether someone had used a visa or not, which might be quite difficult.

I move to Amendment 114, on returns. Once again, we have a number of safe and legal routes to the UK that did not require a negotiating mandate. Our resettlement schemes have provided safe and legal routes for tens of thousands of people to start new lives in the UK. In particular, the mandate resettlement scheme recognises refugees who have a close family member in the UK who is willing to accommodate them. This is a global scheme and there is no annual quota. These routes work alongside the UK Government’s commitment to increasing co-operation internationally, and we continue to seek to negotiate on returns with EU member states, as I have just said to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, our Amendment 119E, seeks to put a global resettlement scheme on a statutory footing. In that sense, it is very similar to the new Dubs scheme, if I can call it that, for unaccompanied children. I also speak to Amendment 116, which was tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate.

The Government’s stated intention through this Bill is to prevent people risking their lives taking dangerous journeys to the UK, but instead of talking about differential treatment, inadmissible claims, pushbacks, offshoring, reinterpreting the convention and other measures, we should be talking about safe and legal routes. If a person fleeing conflict, torture and persecution has a safe route by which to get here, they will take it. If they do not, they will take other, dangerous routes. Suggesting that other measures have or may have any deterrent effect is frankly not an answer when there is no international evidence, and the Home Office has recognised that asylum seekers often have no choice in how they travel and face exploitation by organised crime groups. If the Government want people to travel here by safe, alternative routes and break the business model of the people smugglers, their efforts need to be focused on providing those routes, which the three amendments I refer to do.

I will concentrate the rest of my remarks, which will be brief, on resettlement schemes. The argument for the Dubs scheme has been made before and was made very powerfully again tonight by my noble friend Lord Dubs. Initially, the Dubs scheme, passed into law by a Conservative Government, was envisaged to take 3,000 unaccompanied children who had fled unimaginable horrors and were travelling or in refugee camps on their own. It has been said tonight that, in reality, the scheme was capped at 480 children, and fewer children were actually resettled before the scheme was closed down. Where is the Government’s commitment to taking unaccompanied children who are in desperate need of safety? Does the Minister accept that, without this route, some children will have turned, and will continue to turn, to people smugglers instead?

Our earlier Amendment 114, Amendment 116 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate, and my Amendment 119E all deal with a global resettlement scheme. Amendment 119E seeks to put the UK resettlement scheme on a statutory footing and would require the Secretary of State to report annually to Parliament on the operation of the scheme and the number of people resettled under it. For now, it does not include a target, unlike Amendment 116. As the Opposition, we have raised concerns that the 5,000 people due to be resettled under the Afghan resettlement scheme may not be enough of a commitment in response to that crisis.

So there are questions about how a target would be designed, but the aim is the same as Amendment 116. It is, first, to create an active global resettlement scheme that can respond flexibly and at speed to needs, as they emerge; and, secondly, to ensure some kind of mechanism to hold the Government to account. This is to ensure the scheme is actually resettling people at the rates and numbers expected and is not simply announced in a press release then left to lie dormant or underperform.

Announcing the UK resettlement scheme, which was launched after the closure of the Syrian scheme, the then Home Secretary confirmed that

“the UK plans to resettle in the region of 5,000 of the world’s most vulnerable refugees in the first year of the new scheme”.

Since that announcement, as I understand it, the scheme has settled less than a fifth of that number each year, with an annual average of 770 people. How do the Government expect the other 4,230 of the world’s most vulnerable refugees each year to travel here? Do they expect them to go elsewhere or not go at all?

If we share the aim of ensuring people who are fleeing the worst can do so safely—and I am sure everyone in this House does—we need to work together to provide a reliable, active, responsive route to do so. Currently, the Bill is silent on this and, in answer to questions from the Commons, the Government gave no details about their plans. I hope the Minister is able to give more detail tonight.

The Government should, in this Bill or alongside it, commit to an expanded proactive resettlement route. The mechanism for doing that is provided in both Amendments 116 and 119E.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank everyone who has taken part in what has been quite a full debate. Amendment 115 seeks to introduce a safe route for unaccompanied children from countries in Europe to come to the UK. We all want to stop dangerous journeys in small boats and avoid a repeat of the distressing events of 24 November last year in the channel, where 27 people tragically lost their lives. We all know that children were impacted by that event, and I am sure that every noble Lord in this Committee is concerned about vulnerable children.

I think we can also agree that European countries are safe countries. Together, EU countries operate the Common European Asylum System, which is a framework of rules and procedures based on the full and inclusive application of the refugee convention. Its aim is to ensure the fair and humane treatment of applicants for international protection. There is no need for an unaccompanied child in a European state who needs protection to make a perilous onward journey to the UK, because that protection is already available to them.

I therefore argue that these proposed clauses would put vulnerable children in more danger by encouraging them to make dangerous journeys from outside Europe into Europe to seek to benefit from the scheme. They would create a new pull factor, motivating people to again entrust themselves to smugglers. While they might avoid the danger of a small boat, we know that journeys over land—for example, in the back of lorries—can be equally perilous. We cannot and must not do anything that supports the trafficker’s model. I am resolute on that. I know that is not what the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, intends, but it is the reality of this proposed new clause.

The UK does its fair share for unaccompanied children. According to the latest published statistics, there were 4,070 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children being cared for in England. In 2019, the UK had the most asylum applications from unaccompanied children of all EU+ countries and had the second highest in 2020. The Government met their one-off commitment to transfer 480 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children —we did meet that commitment—from Europe to the UK under Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016, which is referred to as the Dubs scheme. This is essentially that scheme again in all but name.

The clause also fails to take into account the reality for unaccompanied children entering the UK domestic system right now. I am very grateful to the many local authorities who have been able to provide support on a voluntary basis to the national transfer scheme, introduced to enable the transfer of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from one local authority to another, which aims to deliver a fairer distribution of unaccompanied children across the UK. Due to the extremely high intake of unaccompanied children over recent months, particularly as a result of small boat crossings on the south coast, and pressures of entry on local authorities, the national transfer scheme has been unable to keep up with demand. The unprecedented demand resulted in the exceptional decision to accommodate new arrivals of unaccompanied children in hotels to ensure that their immediate safeguarding and welfare needs could be met, pending their transfer to longer-term care placements. It is not ideal and it is not in the interests of those children who are currently waiting in hotels for local authority placements to agree to this clause. We need to prioritise finding long-term placements for those children already in the UK and ensure that we have a sustainable transfer scheme to deliver long-term solutions.

I must pick up the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, on one point. He talked about 1,500 places being pledged. He will know that, over the years, I have constantly challenged local authorities to come forward to the Home Office if they have places, and those numbers have not been forthcoming. Unfortunately, places pledged to a charity do not necessarily translate into places. His comments do not reflect our experience on the ground, given that we are using hotels for some newly arrived UASCs while urgently seeking care placements. The Government have mandated the national transfer scheme to ensure that we prioritise care placements for those unaccompanied asylum-seeking children who are in the UK.

Turning to Amendment 116, I understand the desire that Members of this Committee have to establish a minimum number of resettled refugees each year. Our current schemes are non-legislative, operating outside of the Immigration Rules and on a discretionary basis. Operating in this way has seen us resettle over 26,000 vulnerable people since 2015.

It is important that we take into account our capacity in the UK to support people, so that we can continue to resettle people safely and provide appropriate access to healthcare, education, housing, et cetera, without adding to the significant pressure that those services are already under. This amendment seeks to bring in a statutory minimum of 10,000 refugees each year within one month of Royal Assent. We already have over 12,000 refugees and people at risk who we are in the process of resettling permanently and integrating into society.

I turn now to Amendments 118 to 119B. I assure the Committee of my support for the humanitarian intentions behind these proposals and sympathise with the many people across the world who currently face danger and persecution. For resettlement, the UK works according to the humanitarian principles of impartiality and neutrality, which means that we do not take into consideration the ethno-religious origin of people requiring citizenship, as we resettle solely on the basis of need. That is not to in any way decry what the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has said, but we settle on the basis of need, as identified by the UNHCR.

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Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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I am very grateful to the Minister for responding to some of the points that I made earlier, but would she accept two things—first, that this is not about people who are vulnerable but about people who are subjected to genocide, and we have legal commitments in international law under the 1948 convention on the crime of genocide? I would be most appreciative if she could take that back to her officials so that we can look at it further. Secondly, I asked her specifically whether she could identify, under the existing arrangements, whether we had taken a single Yazidi or Assyrian from northern Iraq as a consequence of them not being able to enter through the existing routes. I would appreciate it if she could write to me on that.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I will probably refer to my colleagues in the FCDO for further information on that, but I shall certainly take those points back.

It is important at this stage to take into account our capacity in the UK to support people, as I have said, so that we can continue to resettle people safely and provide that appropriate access to healthcare, et cetera. Sorry, I have just gone back on my speech; I was talking to the noble Lord about the VPRS and the whole issue of genocide. I shall provide further information on all that—but I would add that we cannot support these amendments, which would create an uncapped route, whereby anyone anywhere could make an application to enter the UK for the purposes of making an asylum claim. The UN estimates there to be around 82.4 million displaced persons worldwide. Under these proposals, UK caseworkers, who already have a stretched workload, would be bound to undertake an in-depth examination of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of individuals’ circumstances to assess the likelihood of their protection claim being granted, as well as seeking to understand factors, including the individual’s mental and physical health, their ties to the UK, and the dangers that they face. This suggestion is totally unworkable.

I remind my noble friend that the number of people we are able to support through safe and legal routes depends on a big variety of factors, including local authorities’ capacity for supporting refugees. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, acknowledged that, and acknowledged the extreme stress that they are under. An unlimited, uncontrolled scheme such as that which my noble friend proposes would overwhelm our already very strained asylum system, as well as our justice system, and put significant pressures on to our local authorities.

Finally, Amendment 119E seeks to bring the UK resettlement scheme into statute and produce a report on refugees resettled through the scheme annually. In a non-legislative way, we have already done resettlement schemes operating outside of the Immigration Rules and on a discretionary basis, providing the flexibility to respond to changing international events. As demonstrated through the VPRS, we have stuck to and exceeded our commitment, and we will continue to build on the success of previous schemes; the numbers resettled annually will depend on a variety of factors. I hope, with that, that the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, will feel happy to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Bishop of Durham Portrait The Lord Bishop of Durham
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At Second Reading, we were encouraged to come forward with proposals for new routes and so on. We have done so. It is not good enough for the Government to say that we need more safe and legal routes, and then knock down every idea that we present and not present alternatives themselves. Will the Minister undertake to give us some examples on Report of safe and legal routes that the Government will support? She knows what we will do otherwise.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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What I encouraged noble Lords to come up with at Second Reading were solutions, not new routes. I have consistently said, and written to noble Lords on this, that we have a number of very good safe and legal routes.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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Before the Minister sits down—to use the convention, although I am glad she is resting for a moment—she talked about this group being about uncapped routes and visas, but many, if not most, of these amendments are probing, as she will appreciate. She will also appreciate, because of her experience in the department, that visas do not have to be uncapped. For example, my noble friend Lady Kennedy’s amendment about emergency visas for human rights defenders is probing that the Secretary of State must do something in the rules about human rights defenders; it is not saying that every human rights defender in trouble around the world must be allowed in as if it is a new human rights defenders convention—my noble friend is just probing and asking the Government whether we can do something in the rules or in some kind of statutory form. The Minister has this massive brief, and I sympathise with her. On the police Bill, she has taken special measures for front-line emergency workers to get extra protection—

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Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all Members who have contributed to the debate and to the Minister for her stamina in continuing and continuing. I am sure she will go on until the early hours with great strength.

I will comment very briefly, as is my right. First, we had a very unusual thing happen tonight—

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I am sorry to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, but I should respond to the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, because I think he is about to wind up. We have generally done specific schemes for specific purposes and in responding to specific crises. We have the VPRS, the VCRS, the UK resettlement scheme and the ARAP scheme, and we will be doing the ACRS. They have all been non-statutory and I was trying to explain that we will be continuing in that vein for specific purposes, so that we can accommodate the most vulnerable. I hope that partly answers her question.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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I had already begun saying my thanks and praising the Minister for her stamina. I will comment very briefly that something amazing has happened this evening. Amendment 116, in the name of four Conversative Members of the Committee, is much more radical than anything produced by the Cross-Benchers, the Lib Dems, the Greens, the Labour Party or the Bishops’ Bench. It is amazing and I wonder what is happening to the Conservative Party here. I welcome Amendment 116.

I will comment very briefly on my Amendment 115. It very clearly says, “in consultation with local authorities”. There is no number set and no obligation, other than to consult with local authorities and set the number accordingly. Of course, I welcome the national transfer scheme. It should not be instead of the principles in Amendment 115, but it is very important that not all the pressure is on Kent and Croydon.

Lastly, the Minister mentioned the large number coming in lorries across the channel, but the figures will show—I am sorry that I do not have the full figures here—that, in recent years, the number coming in the back of lorries has been higher, but they have been replaced by the ones coming on boats. The total numbers are actually fewer, even though the ones in boats are more obvious.

I again thank Members of the Committee for the part they played in this debate, and I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
So, in answering the questions around this amendment and the inclusion of the territorial seas of the UK, and the specifics of me saying “What does that actually mean?”, perhaps the Minister at some point, if she cannot answer now, may wish to write to us, and include all Members in this—maybe a general all-Peers letter, given its importance and the controversy around it—and say categorically what actually is the Government’s policy with respect to pushbacks. Is the Ministry of Defence right or is the Home Office right, or will it have to be adjudicated by the Prime Minister?
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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I thank noble Lords for speaking to these amendments. In terms of territorial waters, yes, I understand it to be 12 nautical miles at low tide. In terms of pushbacks, of course I agree with my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and we are developing a range of tools to tackle the illegal and very dangerous crossings in the channel.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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I absolutely understand why the Minister has said what she has with respect to the Home Secretary. Nobody, including me, expects the Minister to get up and say that she disagrees with the Home Secretary—for obvious reasons. But that is not the point. The point is: what is the Government’s policy? The Ministry of Defence is saying one thing—including the Minister who speaks for defence matters from the Dispatch Box—and the Home Secretary is saying something completely different. It is not good enough.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I agree with the noble Lord and I will clarify the point on this issue. He knows that I will clarify that for him.

Amendment 67, if we can get on to that, seeks to weaken the message that this Bill strives to send. People should not risk their lives using unseaworthy vessels—I do not think anyone would think that they should—to reach our shores when they have already reached safety in a country such as France. It puts their lives at risk, and those of Border Force and rescue services. Events in recent months have all too starkly demonstrated the devastating human cost of undertaking these journeys. This provision is just one of a host of measures which aim to deter illegal entry to the UK. It is right that we prioritise protection for the most vulnerable people rather than for those who could have claimed asylum elsewhere.

Parliament has already had an opportunity to scrutinise these measures when they were placed in the Immigration Rules in December 2020. It has been a long-standing practice in place for many years to only accept claims for asylum in person at the individual’s first available opportunity on arrival in the UK. These provisions simply seek to place these long-standing requirements on a stronger statuary footing.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for his intervention. From memory—and I have to say, no pun intended, that I am finding it difficult to keep my head above water with this Bill—we come on to pushback in a later group. Maybe the Minister might be able to say more when we get to the appropriate group on that issue.

But on this issue, there are lots of things in Immigration Rules that are not in primary legislation, and I do not understand why this particular issue is different. If it is simply to put something that has been for a long time been in Immigration Rules on a more secure statutory footing, why are we not seeing many more Immigration Rules being put on a firmer statutory footing by putting them into primary legislation? This leads me to believe ILPA—that there is some other motivation behind it related to pushbacks, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has said.

But there will be an opportunity to revisit this when we come to the groups debating pushbacks, so at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Etherton Portrait Lord Etherton (CB)
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My Lords, I support the proposal from the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, to exclude Clause 15 from the Bill, for a wide variety of reasons.

First, if a claim is deemed to be inadmissible but to satisfy the convention, that seems effectively to be saying that the person is not a refugee within the convention. That does not make sense. If they satisfy the definition of refugee within the convention, they have a claim. It can be dismissed, and then there will be a right of appeal. What cannot be said—which is effectively what is being said here—is “We’re not going to hear you at all, even though you are a refugee within the strict terms of the convention”. So I take issue with the very idea of inadmissibility with no right of recourse at all by way of an appeal.

Secondly, the terms of Section 80C to be inserted into the 2002 Act in relation to four and five seem completely contrary to both the wording and principle of the convention. My understanding of Clause 4 is that it is, in some way or other, intended to be made analogous to the Dublin III regulation.

There are a number of points to be made about that. First, we are no longer part of the EU or of the Dublin regulation. Perhaps more importantly, EU member states themselves have recognised that the Dublin regulation has failed. On 23 September 2020, the European Commission adopted what they called the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, following consultations with the European Parliament, member states and various stakeholders. The PR notice from the European Commission, which is available on the internet, states:

“The new pact recognises that no member state should shoulder a disproportionate responsibility and that all member states should contribute to solidarity on a constant basis.”


It has failed because the effect of the Dublin regulation, when strictly applied, means that certain states are overwhelmed with refugees because they are inevitably the first state on the way through to somewhere else. What is happening at the moment is that the Commission is proposing to replace the Dublin III regulation with a new regulation on asylum and migration management. So, frankly, there is no point in referring to the Dublin III regulation. It has failed in practice, and we should not be emulating it.

Furthermore, proposed Section 80C(4) is inconsistent with the terms of the convention itself. There is nothing in the convention, in Article 31 or anywhere else that makes this “connection” mean that a refugee claim would fail.

I have another point about condition 4, and I would welcome clarification from the Minister on it. The description that would render a connection with the state, and therefore the claim, inadmissible is exactly the same as the definition of arriving “directly” for the purposes of Clause 11. Clause 36 effectively amplifies Clause 11 and paragraph 1 of Article 31 of the convention. It says:

“A refugee is not to be taken to have come to the United Kingdom directly from a country where their life or freedom was threatened if, in coming from that country, they stopped in another country outside the United Kingdom, unless they can show that they could not reasonably be expected to have sought protection under the Refugee Convention in that country.”


On this particular approach, you are never going to get anywhere near Clause 11 because you will be knocked out under Clause 15—so I do not understand that contradiction. Once you fall within condition 3, which is the same as condition 4—which is the same as not arriving directly under the definition in Clause 36 —you are knocked out. So which is it—are you knocked out or do you still have some right under Clause 11, admittedly, to show that you could with good cause fall within either group 1 or even group 2? I am left confused by that.

Condition 5, on which the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and others have eloquently spoken, provides

“that, in the claimant’s particular circumstances, it would have been reasonable to expect them to have made a relevant claim to the safe third State (instead of making a claim in the United Kingdom).”

Nothing in the Dublin regulations says that, even if they were to apply—and there is certainly nothing in the convention that would make such a condition apply to exclude a claim.

So I support the suggestion that Clause 15 should be excluded because, with respect, it seems to be a muddle in a whole series of different respects—legally, practically and in principle.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank noble Lords again for speaking to this group of amendments. I appreciate the thoughtful and well-meaning intent of Amendment 68, but we cannot accept it. The definition of “persecution” is well established and must be on the basis of a refugee convention reason—namely, race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. It is reiterated in Clause 30(1)(c) that persecution can be committed by

“any non-State actor”

where the state is

“unable or unwilling to provide reasonable protection”.

Given the level of protection afforded to EU nationals, through fundamental rights and freedoms, EU countries are inherently safe, and individuals are exceptionally unlikely to be at risk of persecution. If individuals experience discrimination, they can seek protection from within their country of nationality.

That said, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, might be comforted to have it confirmed that our processes already acknowledge that it may not be appropriate to apply inadmissibility to EU national claimants in exceptional circumstances. The list of exceptional circumstances included in the provisions is not exhaustive; it looks to protect individuals in the very rare circumstances that a member state is at risk of a serious breach or where there exists a serious and persistent breach of the values under the Treaty on European Union, including equality.

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Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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Briefly, on the Minister’s previous point in response to the right reverend Prelate about refugees being able to fly here instead of making perilous crossings, will she make a commitment that the Government will not slap transit visa restrictions on jurisdictions that produce a lot of genuine refugees because of what is happening over there, and that they will not use carriers’ liability as a deterrent for people trying to escape through that safer method?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Can I write to the noble Baroness on that? I suspect that I will misspeak if I try to answer because there are several things in that question that I am thinking about. I hope that she is okay for me to write to her.

The definition of a safe third state is already set out in the clause. It ensures that, even if a country is not a signatory to the refugee convention, the principles of the convention should be met if we are to remove an individual to that country. It defines safe third countries as states where an individual will not be sent to another state where they would be at risk of persecution or a breach of their Article 3 ECHR rights. This is consistent with our obligation under the refugee convention to ensure that individuals are not subject to refoulement; I keep pronouncing it as “refowlment”, which is completely wrong. This definition has been part of our previous legislation on safe countries and is a widely recognised definition of a safe third state; it is used in EU law under the procedures directive.

I want to come to point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, that the UNHCR says that we are breaking the refugee convention. There are three groups of amendments on this in Committee—not today, but shortly, so I will not go too much into the convention. We have already touched on it. We think that everything we are doing complies with our international obligations, including the convention. The first safe country principle is the fastest route to safety and widely recognised internationally. It is a fundamental feature of the Common European Asylum System. It is self-evident that those in need of protection should claim in the first safe country and that is the fastest route to safety.

There are different ways in which an individual may be protected and not all of them require entitlements that fall under the refugee convention. To define a safe third state in the way that is suggested by these amendments ignores the fact that other forms of protection are available to individuals which ensure that these countries are safe for them to be removed to. We will only ever remove inadmissible claimants to countries that are safe. Using this definition is not a new approach. It has been part of our previous legislation on safe countries. I do not think these amendments are necessary.

On Amendment 70, the ability to remove an individual declared inadmissible to any safe country has formed a part of our inadmissibility process since the changes to the Immigration Rules in December 2020. This amendment would remove a provision that Parliament has already had the opportunity to scrutinise. The aim of these provisions is to disincentivise people from seeking to enter the UK by dangerous means facilitated by criminals. They send a clear message that those arriving via an irregular route may be eligible to be transferred to another safe country, not of their choosing, to be processed.

I do not agree with the premise of Amendments 71 to 73A and 195. Agreements by a safe third country to accept an asylum seeker may not always be via a reciprocal or formal arrangement. It is right to seek removals on a case-by-case basis where appropriate. Doing so has formed a part of our inadmissibility process since the changes to the Immigration Rules in December 2020. I do not think that these provisions are unworkable without formal agreements in place. That said, I do not disagree with the need to get formal agreements in place. Without providing that running commentary, that is what we are working on doing.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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Will the Minister confirm that to date we do not have an agreement with any country for the return of the people she is talking about?

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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There are countries that we can return people to but, as I said, I will not provide a running commentary on ongoing discussions. Of course, there are countries that we return people to, or else we would never have returned anybody in the last two years, and we have.

Lord Bishop of Durham Portrait The Lord Bishop of Durham
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If I remember rightly, we returned only five last year. It is partly to do with Covid, I fully accept that, but it is also because there simply are not the agreements in place with the countries that we want to return those people to.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I am not disagreeing with the need to have formal arrangements in place to return people. On that we are at one.

We also acknowledge that it might not always be appropriate to apply inadmissibility to all claimants who have travelled via or have a connection to a safe country. The provisions as drafted already have flexibility that allows us to consider if an individual has exceptional circumstances to warrant consideration of their asylum claim through the UK asylum system. That includes consideration of the best interests of any children affected.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Portrait Lord Kerr of Kinlochard (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

How does case-by-case work? If we are not going to have agreements and the Minister says it is much better to do it case by case, how does that work? The diplomatic post in the capital in question goes in and says, “We have Mr X in an accommodation centre in Kent. We’d like to send him to you because we think he has a connection to you and we don’t want to let him have asylum here.” What happens if the country in question says, “Well, if he’s with you, he’s your problem”? Do we just put him on a plane and tell him to take his chances at the other end, or are we negotiating his terms of entry into the third country?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I think it is both. We need to assess people on a case-by-case basis and we need to have return agreements in place. It is not an either/or. I fully acknowledge the need to have return agreements in place. We could not return someone to a country that said it would not accept them; that simply would not be on. That underlines the need to have formal return agreements in place.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Does that mean that the Government accept that Clause 15 is pretty meaningless without such agreements in place? There is no argument about that, then.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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No, I do not accept that Clause 15 is meaningless. I am agreeing that we need to have return agreements in place. I do not think anyone would disagree with that point.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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If we do not have return agreements in place by the time this clause comes in, we will end up with a lot of people being here for six months while the Government try to find out if they can send them back to another country. If you have no agreements with any other countries, you know before you start that that is a further six months wasted before the Government seek to do anything meaningful. Clearly the clause is meaningless without those agreements in place.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I was going to go on to say that if no agreement is possible within a reasonable period, the individual’s asylum claim will be considered in the UK, but I am not disagreeing with the point that return agreements need to be in place. I think I have made that quite clear. Similarly, this is a global challenge, so every nation in the world has to be mindful of the fact that they will be in similar positions as the months and years go on.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Portrait Lord Kerr of Kinlochard (CB)
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No other country is in this position because other countries believe that the refugee convention means what it says. I am uneasy, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, must be right, but what makes this particularly peculiar is that we are considering inadmissibility here. Suppose there were an agreement in place. Suppose we were handling a case—the Minister says that it is best done case by case—but we have not done anything except say, “This is inadmissible.” We do not know anything about this chap. He has not had an appeal turned down and has not been categorised in group 1 or group 2; he has simply been declared inadmissible. What does the diplomatic post in the intended recipient country have to go on?

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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That is a very good point. I think we talked about this the other day, in terms of returns. We actually took far more than we returned under Dublin. At this juncture, I would say that we do not need formal agreements in place.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Portrait Lord Kerr of Kinlochard (CB)
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The noble Baroness should be careful. I quite agree that it was an interesting point, but it is a point that works for the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, not for the Minister. While there was a Dublin agreement and only 10%—I do not vouch for the figure, but the noble Lord, Lord Green, may be right—what do we expect to happen when there is no agreement? Do the Government expect a higher acceptance rate from the French and Germans when there is no agreement, when they are declaring the guy inadmissible?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I do not know if the noble Lord heard my last point, but we do not necessarily need formal return agreements in place. We can do returns without formal agreements. The point about Dublin is that the formal arrangements that were in place did not necessarily work. It is important to try both—formal and informal, diplomatic and otherwise. It works both ways and, as I said, this is a global challenge. It is not that it is not an EU problem either.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Can I just be clear? Will this then work on the basis of some ad hoc arrangements that will be determined through diplomatic channels, in which other countries take people whom we have declared inadmissible? As I understand it, the number of people we are likely to declare inadmissible will be high. Will all that be done by ad hoc arrangements? Will there not be any agreements and will these countries come forward and say, “Yes, that’s fair enough. You declared the claim inadmissible; of course we will take them back”. Is that how it is going to work?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I am saying that there are a number of ways in which we can seek to secure this—formal, informal, diplomatic and otherwise. I am not saying there is a single solution to returns. Therefore, Clause 15 still needs to be in place.

It might not always be appropriate to apply inadmissibility to all claimants who have travelled via or have a connection to a safe country. The provisions that we have drafted already have flexibility that allows us to consider whether an individual has exceptional circumstances to warrant consideration of their asylum claim through the UK asylum system. As I said, this includes best interests. We also have the family reunion provisions that I mentioned earlier so, if individuals have family members in the UK, they should apply under those provisions. The inadmissibility provisions should not be used to circumnavigate those provisions and create a back door to enter the UK by dangerous means.

Furthermore, if an individual has not been recognised as a refugee, but has been provided with a different form of protection from refoulement, that country is safe for them to be removed to. To define a “safe third State” in the way suggested by the amendments ignores the other forms of protection available to individuals, which ensure that these countries are safe for them to be removed to.

Regarding Amendments 74, 73B, 74A and 75B, the UK should not be obliged to assess the substance of an asylum application where the applicant, due to a connection to a safe third country, can reasonably be expected to seek protection in that third country, or where they have already sought protection in a safe country and have moved on before the outcome of that claim, or where a claim has already been granted or considered and refused. This is a necessary part of achieving the policy aim of deterring those unnecessary and dangerous secondary movements. We are not alone in operating this practice. These amendments ignore the other forms of protection available to individuals that ensure that these countries are safe for them to be removed to. Amendments 75, 75A, and 76 would significantly undermine the aim of these provisions. The provisions as drafted send that clear message for those who could and should have claimed asylum in another safe country to do so.

I commend the spirit of Amendment 76, which would introduce a new clause to strengthen our inadmissibility provisions and deter irregular entry to the UK, particularly where that means of entry indicates that individuals have travelled to the UK via a safe country. I agree with the premise of this amendment—that access to the UK’s asylum system should be based on need and not driven by criminal enterprise. The provisions in the Bill send that clear message. However, this proposed new clause probably goes too far, and would breach our international obligations. It could place individuals in indefinite limbo, which would be against the object and purpose of the refugee convention. The provisions as drafted ensure that individuals are not left in limbo, with their asylum claim neither considered in the UK nor another safe third country. If after a reasonable period it has not been possible to agree removal of the individual to a safe third country, as I said earlier, their asylum claim will be considered in the UK. The introduction of Clauses 14 and 15 as they stand aims to strengthen our position on inadmissibility, further disincentivise people from making dangerous journeys, and encourage them to claim asylum in the first safe country.

I will leave it at that. I hope that noble Lords will be happy not to press their amendments.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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The Minister said that two issues were widely recognised internationally. One was the definition of a safe third country and the other was on the first safe country principle—that refugees should claim asylum in the first safe country. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees asked for the definition, in the amendments, of a third safe country, so it does not agree that it is a widely recognised international definition. The UNHCR also says that it does not recognise the first safe country principle and that there is nothing in international law about it. Does the Minister accept that, even if she says that these things are widely recognised internationally, they are not recognised by the UNHCR?

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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We have had wide discussions about the UNHCR’s opinion on this and think that we are complying with international law. It is up to each state to interpret the refugee convention. I know that the noble Lord and most of this House do not agree but it will ultimately be for Parliament, through the passage of the Bill, to interpret what Parliament thinks of the refugee convention.

Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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My Lords, I will not move Amendment 76 and will consider the Minister’s comments on it.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Lord Ashton of Hyde Portrait Lord Ashton of Hyde (Con)
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My Lords, it may be helpful for me to say a few words about Third Reading amendments. In line with the procedure agreed by the House, yesterday evening the Public Bill Office advised the usual channels that Amendment 1 on the Marshalled List for Third Reading today falls outside the guidance in the Companion on Third Reading amendments. The Clerk of Legislation advised as follows:

“In my view, this amendment falls clearly outside the guidance. The issue was fully debated and decided on a vote at Report. The Minister was asked to reconsider and come back at Third Reading; he clearly and repeatedly declined (see cols 1947-50). In my view, the amendment is not addressing an uncertainty; it would reopen the issue and significantly change what the House decided.”


On the basis of that advice, the usual channels and the Convener of the Cross-Bench Peers are recommending to the House that Amendment 1, in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, should not be moved. I therefore invite the noble and learned Lord, when the time comes, not to move his amendment.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, before we move on to the amendments, I want to put on record a few remarks about the position of the Bill in relation to devolution. The great majority of the provisions in the Bill apply to England and Wales; a number also apply to Scotland and/or Northern Ireland. Throughout the preparation and passage of the Bill we have been working closely with each of the devolved Administrations and I pay tribute to officials and Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for their constructive engagement and support.

There are provisions in the Bill which engage the legislative consent process in the Scottish Parliament, Senedd Cymru and the Northern Ireland Assembly. I am pleased that the Scottish Parliament has issued legislative consent on the advice of the Scottish Government in respect of those provisions which relate to devolved matters in Scotland. Just last week, Senedd Cymru considered two legislative consent Motions and, on the recommendation of the Welsh Government, agreed to legislative consent to one of these Motions but rejected the other Motion. I am pleased to say that the LCM agreed by the Senedd gave legislative consent to all the measures in the Bill which, in the view of the UK Government, engaged the LCM process in the Senedd itself. In addition, the LCM passed by the Senedd also covered the measures in the Bill relating to the increase in the maximum penalty for assaulting an emergency worker and the extraction of information from electronic devices. In the view of the UK Government, these measures related strictly to reserved matters and therefore did not engage the LCM process or, indeed, require legislative consent.

Turning to the second Motion put forward by the Welsh Government, the Senedd declined to give its legislative consent to certain provisions in the Bill relating to criminal damage to memorials, public order and unauthorised encampments. I therefore want to put on record that, in the view of the UK Government, these measures again relate to reserved matters and therefore did not engage the LCM process, or indeed require legislative consent.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has already agreed to a legislative consent Motion in respect of certain measures in the Bill that engage the LCM process. That Motion did not, however, cover the Bill’s provisions relating to the extraction of information from electronic devices, which, in part, also engage the LCM process. I understand that the Northern Ireland Executive have now agreed to bring forward a supplementary LCM in respect of these measures, and that is due to be considered by the Assembly shortly.

Clause 3: Required life sentence for manslaughter of emergency worker

Amendment 1

Moved by
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Lord Harris of Haringey Portrait Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab)
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My Lords, I want to make the very simple point that even if the Government were not going to accept the amendment, the clause would be pretty nonsensical due to the very strange way in which it defines “national infrastructure”. It has a unique set of definitions that includes some things that would not normally be regarded as infrastructure and excludes other things that are critical to the nation and the way it operates.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, who has explained that the amendment would remove Clause 80 from the Bill. It defines “key national infrastructure” for the purposes of the Government’s proposed offence of interfering with the operation or use of key national infrastructure. Of course, I was extremely disappointed that the House voted not to add this new offence to the Bill on Report. The proposed offence would help protect the British public from the misery that certain individuals targeting our key national infrastructure have been able to cause.

The Government fully defend the right to peaceful protest, but we stand behind the British public in protecting them from the serious disruption caused by some who think their right to protest trumps the rights of the public to go about their daily lives. That said, the fact remains that as your Lordships did not support the introduction of the new offence, we are not going to play games: what is now Clause 80 of the Bill is redundant, and, consequently, the Government will not oppose this amendment.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I had moved the amendment and wanted to put it to the vote, and I hoped that the House would be prepared to accept it. I thank the Minister for what she has said.

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Amendment 6 agreed.
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, perhaps I may just detain the House a little longer to mark the end of this Bill’s passage through your Lordships’ House. It has been a big Bill, with much scrutiny across no fewer than 11 days of Committee; and six days on Report has added to its size. During this time, we have added some important new measures to the Bill, including to further tackle violence against women and girls. Noble Lords have also made a few changes to the Bill, against the advice of the Government. It will now be for the House of Commons to consider those amendments, and we will no doubt be debating them again soon.

I reiterate the Government’s disappointment at the removal of some very important measures, the aim of which was to prevent a repeat of the scenes we saw last year, with people blocking roads, preventing those going about their daily lives from doing so and—yes—preventing essential services such as ambulances getting through to hospitals. The public demanded that the Government act to stop this serious disruption. We did so, but noble Lords on the Benches opposite decided to block these measures. That will not go unnoticed by the public.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames Portrait Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames (LD)
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My Lords, I shall be brief because we have a lot to get through. I should have preferred Amendments 140E and 104F, the sex-for-rent amendments and the facilitating amendments, to be rather more tightly drawn. I note that the points I made in Committee were taken by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. However, I have been persuaded by re-reading the speech made in Committee by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, and what she said today, with her extensive experience as director of Generation Rent—that there is a serious need for criminal legislation to stop what is a particularly nasty form of predatory behaviour. I also took the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, on the interpretation of Amendment 140E, implicitly supported by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, so we will support those amendments. We will also of course support the amendment calling for a review of the criminal law relating to exposure offences and spiking offences, for the reasons given by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and which we supported in Committee.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, explained, these amendments relate to three matters we debated in Committee: namely, whether there should be a bespoke offence to tackle so-called sex for rent and whether the police, prosecutors and courts are doing enough to tackle offences relating to spiking and exposure. If I may, I shall take each issue in turn.

Amendments 104E and 104F are intended to address the so-called sex-for-rent issue, whereby exploitative landlords, and others, require sexual relations in return for housing or accommodation. This is an abhorrent phenomenon, which takes advantage of very vulnerable people, as noble Lords have said, and it has no place in our society.

Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, there are existing offences which may be used to prosecute this practice, including the Section 52 offence of causing or inciting prostitution for gain and the Section 53 offence of controlling prostitution for gain. Both offences carry a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment. They can capture instances of sex for rent, depending on the circumstances of the individual case.

In 2019, the Crown Prosecution Service amended its guidance on prostitution and exploitation of prostitution to include specific reference to the availability of charges for offences under Sections 52 and 53, where there is evidence to support the existence of sex-for-rent arrangements. In January of last year, the CPS authorised the first charge for sex-for-rent allegations under Section 52. The individual against whom these allegations were made has pleaded guilty to two counts of inciting prostitution for gain. To better protect tenants from rogue landlords convicted of certain criminal offences, banning orders were introduced through the Housing and Planning Act 2016. A banning order prohibits named individuals engaging in letting and property management work. The Government have been clear that housing associations and local authorities should use these orders if needed. Action will be taken against landlords who exploit vulnerable people. This behaviour simply is not tolerated.

I thought I might say something about a victim having to identify as a prostitute for the Section 52 and 53 offences to be used. I must stress that anyone making a report to the police would benefit from the anonymity provisions in the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992. The Section 52 offence applies when an identified victim has been caused to engage in prostitution or incited to do so, whether the prostitution takes place or not. The Section 53 offence applies whether the victim has, on one or more occasions, provided sexual services to another person in return for financial gain.

Moving on to Amendment 104F, I definitely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, about the woolly terminology of “arranging an offence”, and the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, about “publisher”, but on the amendment itself, the forthcoming online safety Bill will require companies to put in place systems and processes to remove certain types of illegal content as soon as they become aware of it.

I move on now to spiking, the subject of Amendment 114A. This would require the Secretary of State to review

“the prevalence of, and the response of the criminal justice system to, the offence of administering a substance with intent under section 61 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003”.

I share the concerns expressed by the noble Lord about this offence, particularly the recently reported phenomenon of spiking by needles. This is understandably causing considerable anxiety among young people, especially in our university towns and cities, but there is no need to create a statutory obligation on the Government to review the operation of Section 61 as this issue is already very much on the Government’s radar. Indeed, a statutory requirement setting out a specific agenda risks hindering the Government’s ability to respond flexibly to the problem.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, talked about demonising protest—I bet she is looking forward to Monday. The noble Lord, Lord Walney, talked about exclusion zones around Parliament; there are significant powers to protect Parliament from this sort of thing.

As the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has explained, this amendment is a significantly improved version of the one considered in Committee, with numerous safeguards. Unlike the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, I am “glass half full” man: I think that the safeguards here are actually quite significant, in that it requires the consent of the leadership of any school affected or of the NHS body responsible for any vaccination centre affected and, in addition, of the local police chief. Generally speaking, the police are very averse to making political decisions and siding with one particular protest group against another, so that is a significant safeguard. It also requires the consent of the local authority leader, which is another significant safeguard. The potential for selective protection orders based on the issue being protested about—the one the noble Baroness raised in Committee—is therefore significantly reduced.

In addition, contrary to what the noble Baroness said, the statutory duty to consult the public on the order is not waived at all but can take place concurrently with the order taking effect, if the matter is urgent. It also cannot last more than 12 months; the initial grant is for six months, and it can be extended only once. If only the Government were to take such a reasonable approach to the renewal of orders in other aspect of the Bill.

In the light of recent events such as the invasion of the test and trace centre in Milton Keynes last month, we have seen the importance of such orders and the need for the police to secure intelligence and take action to prevent such interference with the vaccination effort, which does not seem to be going away any time soon. There is ample recent evidence of the need for this amendment, and we support it.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I start by joining the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, in deploring the anti-vaxxers who stood outside my right honourable friend Sajid Javid’s house. I deplore it every time they disrupt our public services such as schools and hospitals. More recently, they have taken part in some very disruptive and abusive activity. On the point about Parliament made by the noble Lord, Lord Walney, we will of course debate that on Monday.

I actually share the aims of this amendment, and I am grateful for the further opportunity to debate the policing of anti-vax protests and consider the merits of fast-track public space protection orders, or PSPOs. The amendment is very similar to one debated in Committee that sought to provide the fast-track PSPOs to protect schools from harmful protests, but it goes further, also allowing for fast-track PSPOs outside premises providing NHS vaccination services. It also removes the need for a consultation in advance of a PSPO outside these premises being implemented.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, pointed out, I set out in Committee the powers of the police to protect pupils, teachers and staff from disruptive protest activity outside schools, as well as the benefits that some of the new measures in the Bill will bring. Many of these existing or new powers apply also to disruptive protests at vaccination sites. I sympathise with the noble Lord’s intention to protect schools and vaccination sites from harmful protests, but this amendment will not help to achieve that aim. It removes the need for a consultation prior to a PSPO being put in place, instead requiring consent from the relevant school or NHS body, the chief of police, and the leader of the local authority. This is unlikely to materially speed up the process in which a PSPO can be implemented as there is currently no minimum consultation period required before a PSPO can be put in place. I struggle to understand how we can implement the PSPO and run a consultation concurrently.

It is also important to note that in making a PSPO under this amendment a local authority would still be accountable, potentially in legal proceedings, for demonstrating that the order is compliant with Articles 10 and 11 of the ECHR. Consultations can provide supporting evidence to demonstrate this compliance, meaning that a local authority could find itself subject to increased legal risks if it does not perform a consultation prior to implementing a PSPO, even if legislation states that it is not necessary. I share the unease of the noble Lord, Lord Walney, and the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, that it would, at the hands of a very few people, allow local areas to pick and choose which protests were politically acceptable.

Although I support the underlying aims of the amendment, in the sense that no one working at a school, hospital or other vaccination site should be subject to abusive or highly disruptive protests, powers are in place, which we are strengthening through the Bill, to assist the police and others to tackle such protests. We will be discussing many of them on Monday. The powers already include the ability for local authorities to make, at speed, a PSPO. Given this, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, is happy to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply and for the courteous way in which she always tries to engage with the issues. I also thank all noble Lords who joined the debate. The noble Baroness, Lady Fox, can call me naive, but I was, though the amendment and the changed amendment, trying to address some of the concerns that she raised, particularly in trying to make it clear that it was not a blanket ban but was dealing with a very specific problem that has resulted in and around some schools—

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Moved by
84: After Clause 132, insert the following new Clause—
“CHAPTER 3ASSAULTS ON THOSE PROVIDING A PUBLIC SERVICE ETCAssaults on those providing a public service etc
In the Sentencing Act 2020, after section 68 insert—
“68A Assaults on those providing a public service etc(1) This section applies where—(a) a court is considering the seriousness of an offence listed in subsection (3), and(b) the offence is not aggravated under section 67(2).(2) If the offence was committed against a person providing a public service, performing a public duty or providing services to the public, the court—(a) must treat that fact as an aggravating factor, and(b) must state in open court that the offence is so aggravated. (3) The offences referred to in subsection (1) are—(a) an offence of common assault or battery, except where section 1 of the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 applies;(b) an offence under any of the following provisions of the Offences against the Person Act 1861—(i) section 16 (threats to kill);(ii) section 18 (wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm);(iii) section 20 (malicious wounding);(iv) section 47 (assault occasioning actual bodily harm);(c) an inchoate offence in relation to any of the preceding offences.(4) In this section—(a) a reference to providing services to the public includes a reference to providing goods or facilities to the public;(b) a reference to the public includes a reference to a section of the public.(5) Nothing in this section prevents a court from treating the fact that an offence was committed against a person providing a public service, performing a public duty or providing services to the public as an aggravating factor in relation to offences not listed in subsection (3).(6) This section has effect in relation to a person who is convicted of the offence on or after the date on which section (Assaults on those providing a public service etc) of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2021 comes into force.””Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would add three new aggravating factors to the consolidated sentencing code, where the person attacked is (i) providing a public service, (ii) performing a public duty, or (iii) providing services, goods or facilities to the public or a section of the public.
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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In moving the amendment in my name, I want also to address the related amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe.

In truth, I do not believe that there is any great difference between noble Lords’ position and the Government’s. We all agree that it is entirely unacceptable that workers in public-facing roles should face verbal abuse and worse. That is why we have brought forward Amendment 84, to make it clear that such abuse will not be tolerated and to put in statute that the public-facing nature of the victim’s role will be an aggravating factor when it comes to sentencing.

I am grateful for the welcome the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has given to the Government’s amendment. I know, too, that it has been welcomed by many of those who have campaigned on this important issue. I think they, rightly, regard this as a very welcome and significant step forward. In the debate in Committee, I gave your Lordships a firm commitment that the Government were in the process of considering, as a matter of urgency, how best to balance the many issues raised on this topic. Amendment 84 is the result of that consideration, and I would like to explain its purpose.

The amendment places in statute the aggravating factor applied by the courts in cases of assault where an offence is committed against those providing a public service, performing a public duty or providing a service to the public. The aggravating factor is set out in the Sentencing Council’s sentencing guidelines. The provision applies to offences listed in the sentencing guidelines, which are also specified under Section 67(3) of the Sentencing Act 2020, with the addition of common assault and battery. This provides consistency with the statutory aggravating factor applied to assaults against emergency workers, as set out under Section 67 of the Sentencing Act 2020. This includes assault occasioning actual bodily harm, wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, malicious wounding and threats to kill, as well as an inchoate offence in relation to any of these offences. These are the assault offences most likely to be experienced by front-line workers. Importantly, the provision also allows the court to apply the aggravating factor to any other offence, where the court considers this factor relevant.

If the offence was committed against a person providing a public service or performing a public duty, the court will have a statutory duty to treat that fact as an aggravating factor, and must state in open court that the offence is so aggravated. This amendment will reinforce in statute the seriousness with which the courts should treat these offences. It will send a very strong signal to the public that assaults of this kind are totally unacceptable. The Government want to ensure that all those who serve the public can feel protected from abuse when working.

This legislative change recognises the very strong public and parliamentary feeling about assaults against public-facing workers. I understand the argument that retail workers are asked to enforce the statutory age restrictions and that many see this as a reason for increased protection. We have also heard concerns from the retail sector about the risk of increased abuse fuelled by the mandatory requirement to wear face masks in shops. However, I consider it is important to give the same protection to all workers who face a similar risk of assault. For retail workers, it builds on the important work already under way by the National Retail Crime Steering Group to ensure that assaults are not seen as part of a retail worker’s job. The steering group brings together the Government, retailers, unions and trade associations, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and the police-led National Business Crime Centre.

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Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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My Lords, it is a great privilege to speak in this debate. I declare an interest as a member of USDAW and the Co-operative Party—I wanted to make sure that I did not forget to do that.

I know that it is quite late in the evening, but it is worth us spending a few minutes on something that impacts on millions of people across this country, in every single area of this country, from the smallest and most impoverished communities to the wealthiest. This directly impacts on all of them.

The Minister is quite right in saying that her amendment supersedes mine, and I welcome government Amendment 84. The noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, will speak to her amendment, and we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. On my amendment, I thank my noble friend Lord Kennedy for pointing out that it is the first time in my life that my comrade has praised the Conservatives for tabling a better amendment than me. On this occasion, he is absolutely right; it is a far superior amendment to the one that I tabled. It is a great tribute to the Minister, who has listened.

We often say that Ministers should listen and need to take account of something. This Minister has actually acted on that and changed the legislation—she has talked to her civil servants. I say this as an example to other Ministers in both Houses: sometimes a Minister has to stand up and say, “This is what the public, the House and the Chamber demands, and this is what common sense says—so change the law and do what people think is right”. Millions of people across the country will see this as something that has taken years of campaigning by people such as the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, my noble friend Lord Kennedy and others. People on all sides have demanded this change.

One thing that we need to emphasise in the amendment that the noble Baroness has put before us is really important. Rightly, much of the emphasis has been on retail workers, and I want to emphasise some of the facts. We have emphasised the fact that the trade union and large retailers of all sorts have come together. But this amendment talks about assaults on those providing a public service; that is a huge expansion of the categories of worker that can be taken into account by those in court, using the aggravating factors before us. That is something that we should reflect on as a Chamber; it is a key change and a massive extension of the number of those workers who will be protected from abuse.

As we sit here in this Chamber at 9.23 pm, there will be people in the remotest part of Cornwall in a village shop, someone collecting tickets on a railway station in a different part of the country—a rural part of Northumberland, for example. There may be somebody on Walworth Road or in Manchester, who will at this time be facing the sort of abuse that we all deplore. We can say to those people that not only have we deplored and understand how horrific it is, we also recognise the responsibility that we have with the other place in legislating to do something about it.

The Minister was right to say that this sends a signal. Of course it does, and that is really important—but it also gives the magistrates and courts the power to say to people who think that they can act with impunity, whether it is in a village shop or a railway station or on a bus, “We are going to use that as an aggravating factor and you are going to receive a stiffer punishment than you otherwise would have done.” That should give people pause.

The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, was quite right in some of the points he made. However, the important thing for us now—the Minister will know this, and I think the noble Baronesses, Lady Neville-Rolfe and Lady Bennett mentioned it—is how we ensure that we make this legislation work. How do we give the confidence to somebody, who is often on their own and sometimes not in the first flush of youth, to come forward and report that crime to the police so that those people get taken to court? Often those people will be their own witness. They have to go to the police to report that crime and say, “I’ll go to court” or whatever the process will be. As we move forward with this incredibly welcome piece of legislation, we need to understand how we build that confidence among people. That was one of the things that members of various trade unions as well as USDAW have raised with me. It is about building people’s confidence so that they come forward, are their own witness and report the crime. We must get to a point when the new powers that courts have can be used, because we understand the intimidation.

The Government could do with some good publicity at the moment. I would be ringing this out across the country, not to benefit a Conservative Government but to show that the Government of our country, responding to people across the Chamber, have turned around and said, “We are changing the law and we want people to be aware of the law.” Not only do we want those who act in a criminal way to understand that there is now a punishment that courts can use to deal with them, but, as I say, we want to give confidence to people to come forward.

Many other things could be said but it is important for all of us who have come together as we have to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and to say a big thank you to her again for the changes she and her colleagues have made and the way in which she put that meeting together. This is a strengthening of the law which reflects the seriousness with which the state views these assaults. We will not tolerate it, and the law is saying to people across this country, “We’re going to act, because these people deserve better protection than they’ve had so far.”

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, in my time as a Minister I have had a to-do list in my mind, and included on it was tackling assaults on retail workers and the historic disregards. I am very pleased that in the Bill we will be able to do both, so tonight is a very good night.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for bringing back his amendment and for his obvious commitment to support business owners in areas affected by high crime rates, in particular business owners from diverse communities. In Committee my noble friend Lord Sharpe made it clear that shoplifting offences involving the theft of goods of up to £200 can and should be dealt with by the police as a criminal offence. Section 176 has no bearing on the ability of the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute a person for theft from a shop or on the court’s powers to punish offenders.

My noble friend also spoke about a survey conducted by the National Business Crime Centre to ask police forces about the reporting of retail crime. I will repeat what he said, because it is important. He stated that the survey asked

“whether forces had a policy where the monetary value of shop theft determined whether the crime was investigated. Thirty-four out of 43 forces responded … the survey found that no forces used a £200 threshold for making decisions about responding to shoplifting offences.”—[Official Report, 3/11/21; col. 1272.]

I have heard what the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, said today and I understand the concerns about the prevalence of shop theft. I understand in particular the concerns from owners of small businesses, such as small independent shops operating in areas with high crime rates. If the noble Lord is amenable, I would like to meet further with him to discuss it.

I thank the noble Lords, Lord Coaker and Lord Kennedy, for their fulsome support of the government amendment and for repeating the point that we are sending a very strong signal about how seriously we treat this issue. There is more that we are doing. As my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe said, prolific shoplifters often have a drug or alcohol dependency, and shoplifting funds this addiction. We need to have the right interventions in place, and the Government’s 10-year drugs strategy, published last week, sets out the Government’s intention to invest in substance misuse treatment, including clear referral pathways for offenders into treatment to reduce the risk of reoffending and help reduce acquisitive crime, including shop theft.

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Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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Before my noble friend sits down, perhaps she could get one final plaudit for her terrific performance in this area by agreeing that the Home Office, and indeed the other departments—the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General’s Office—will look with favour on a discussion with the retail and indeed the wider sector on the impact of these changes, say, in a year’s time. I think she rightly said that what matters is the experience of retail and other workers in the light of the new law. I fear perhaps that not much progress might be made, so if we find that we need to review this in a year’s time, I hope she will look positively at that.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I am more than happy to do that. In fact, I think it would be a very good idea to meet up, because the discussions have been positive and fruitful over the last period. So, yes, I am very happy to do that in support of my noble friend.

I welcome the support for the government amendment, as I have said. I think it makes a real, significant step forward. Let us keep it monitored, as my noble friend said.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
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I am genuinely very grateful to the Minister. I think this is a good example for all Members of the House that when you have an issue, you should just keep raising it, because this House can maybe act in ways that the other place sometimes cannot. Sometimes people get into their trenches there, but we can do it a bit differently here. Certainly, by raising issues persistently, and with the Minister listening and bringing people together, we can actually get things right. I think that is one of the great things about this House.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Lord is absolutely right. I think we will call it the “Kennedy approach”, but then we have had the “Cashman approach” as well—and they have both worked. We have the bandwidth to look at things in a different way from the other place. On that note, I commend the amendment to the House.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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Before the Minister sits down, I will just bounce off what the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, said. The Government are offering more protection to retail workers here. Does the Minister agree that this does not take responsibility off employers to make sure that they are also doing all they can to provide a safer working environment for their staff?

Amendment 84 agreed.