Lord Archbishop of Canterbury debates involving the Home Office during the 2019-2024 Parliament

Mon 4th Mar 2024
Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage & Report stage: Minutes of Proceedings
Mon 17th Jul 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendmentsLords Handsard
Wed 12th Jul 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments
Wed 5th Jul 2023
Wed 14th Jun 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 3
Wed 24th May 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 1

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Excerpts
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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As the noble Lord will be well aware, the treaty is directly reflective of all the Supreme Court’s concerns about the safety of Rwanda. The fact that there are refugees from a certain country does not mean that that country is of itself always and everywhere unsafe.

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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My Lords, at this stage of the debate on this group, we are looking at two distinct things. One is the question of whether Rwanda is safe. If, as the noble Lord just said, it is unquestionably safe, it seems to me that these amendments are not a problem because, at that point, the Secretary of State can easily say, “It’s safe”, and they will have evidence of that, for this and future Governments.

However, the object of this group is the rule of law, which is the main subject we are looking at. Going back to the development of international human rights law, particularly in the period after 1945, there is a difficulty in totally separating domestic and international law. The rise in international human rights law grew out of the horrors of the 1940s. In 1933, the German Government were legally and properly elected, and passed horrific laws that did terrible things, starting from within a few weeks of the election of Adolf Hitler. That continued, and most historians agree that the first two elections gave the Nazi Party a legitimate majority.

Winston Churchill’s advocacy of the European Court of Human Rights after the Second World War grew up in order to give a fallback where domestic law was not doing the right thing, by linking it to international law and ensuring that there was a stop that said, “You can do this perfectly legitimately domestically, but that doesn’t mean it’s always right and always the right thing to do”. Let us be clear: we are not in a situation remotely like that. The Government are not doing something on the scale of what we saw at that stage. But they are challenging the right of international law to constrain our actions.

The point of international law is to stop Governments going ahead with things that are wrong. The noble Lord, Lord Lilley, made two very good points, particularly in his questions. But one thing I was brought up believing and even, believe it or not, something I was told when I was trained as a clergyman—we do get trained, although that may sound surprising from time to time—was that it is a basic rule of ethics and morality that two wrongs do not make a right. So the fact that we have done the wrong thing in the past does not automatically make it right today.

Lord Tugendhat Portrait Lord Tugendhat (Con)
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My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the most reverend Primate. I begin by saying how much I agree with every word that my noble friends Lord Clarke and Lord Hailsham said about my old friend Patrick Cormack. He was a good man and will be very much missed. I cannot add to what they said, but I say this humbly and with great warmth.

At this stage of the proceedings, our task is to try to persuade the House of Commons to improve the Bill. Failing that, it is to draw attention to the implications of leaving the Bill as it is. I support this amendment, and others that will follow, because I believe that the failure to amend the Bill will have profound implications. The Government will, in fact, be behaving like the ruling party in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Normally, Nineteen Eighty-Four is invoked in relation to government behaviour, laws, events and so forth in tyrannies and dictatorships. This country is no dictatorship—it is a democracy. Nevertheless, in this Bill the Government are seeking to achieve by Act of Parliament what in Nineteen Eighty-Four the ruling party and its apparatchiks sought to achieve by torture.

Many noble Lords will remember the scene towards the end of the book in which Winston is being interrogated by O’Brien and is forced to say that Oceania is and always has been at war with Eastasia, although he knows for a fact that it was until recently at war with Eurasia. When O’Brien holds up four fingers, Winston is obliged to say that he sees five, as an act of obedience to the party. However many fingers O’Brien holds up, the answer is always the same—just as, whatever the evidence to the contrary, Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia. Likewise, with the Bill as it stands, it does not matter what the Supreme Court has said about the present or how conditions in Rwanda might evolve in future—the answer is always the same: Rwanda is a safe country. If the Bill goes on to the statute book in its present form, Rwanda will be a safe country, regardless of reality, until the statute is repealed.

Rather than going down that route, we should take our cue from what Margaret Thatcher told the House of Commons on 17 July 1984—as it happens—when a judge had held that a decision her Government had taken in connection with GCHQ was illegal. She said that

“I, rightly, cannot overturn the decision of a court, and I would not wish to do so … at the end of the judicial process Governments, of course, accept the courts’ final ruling. That is what the rule of law is all about”.—[Official Report, Commons, 17/7/1984; cols. 173-74.]

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Excerpts
Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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My Lords, in almost every tradition of global faith and humanism around the world, the dignity of the individual is at the heart of what is believed. In the Christian tradition, we are told to welcome the stranger. Jesus said:

“I was a stranger and you invited me in”.


In numerous places in the Old Testament and the New, the commands of God are to care for the alien and stranger. It has already been said, and I agree, that the way that this Bill and its cousin, which we debated in the summer, work is by obscuring the truth that all people, asylum seekers included, are of great value. We can, as a nation, do better than this Bill.

With the Bill, the Government are continuing to seek good objectives in the wrong way, leading the nation down a damaging path. It is damaging for asylum seekers in need of protection and safe and legal routes to be heard. It is damaging for this country’s reputation, which the Government contradicted even as late as last week, when the Prime Minister himself spoke eloquently on the value and importance of international law for this country. It is damaging in respect of constitutional principles and the rule of law.

Most of all, it is damaging for our nation’s unity in a time when the greatest issues of war, peace, defence and security need us to be united. We are united on, I think, almost all Benches, in agreeing that the boats must be stopped. The Government are to be congratulated that the number has come down. We also agree that the people smugglers who trade in human misery must be brought to justice, and it is good news that so many of those groups have been broken up. We need to be united on effective controls on agreed limits to immigration. The right way forward, though, is to enable the unity on ends to be translated into a unity on means. That is not happening in the way that these Bills are successively brought to the House and before the country.

The challenge of migration is, as has been said, long-term and global. So must our response be. We need a wider strategy for refugee policy—I spoke on this at boring length in the summer and will not repeat it—that involves international co-operation and equips us for the far greater migration flows, perhaps 10 times greater, in the coming decades, as a result of conflict, climate change and poverty. Instead, the Bill offers only ad hoc, one-off approaches.

Rwanda is a country that I know well. It is a wonderful country, and my complaint is not with it, nor its people. It has overcome challenges that this House cannot begin to imagine. But, wherever it does it to, the Bill continues to outsource our legal and moral responsibilities to refugees and asylum seekers—when other, far poorer, countries are already supporting multitudes more than we are now—and to cut back on our aid. At the end of 2022, 76% of refugees globally were being hosted in low- and middle-income countries—countries far poorer than our own. The UK should lead internationally, as it has in the past, not stand apart.

Others on these Benches will say more about international and domestic law, human rights and the constitutional impact. I say simply that a pick-and-choose approach to international law undermines our global standing and offends against the principle of universality that is their increasingly threatened foundation.

Finally, my colleagues and I on these Benches take our revising role seriously. When we vote, we seek to improve something. I will—sadly—not be voting with those who want to vote the Bill down today, although I found the speech by the noble Lord, Lord German, convincing and powerful. We must wait until Third Reading and we have done our revising work. We on these Benches have been criticised many times over many decades by those thinking that defence of the Government of the day should be our highest virtue and aspiration. We were accused last week of voting against the Government’s Whip. I am sorry to say we do not take the Government’s Whip. It may be worse news for this House to recognise that on the Labour Benches it is not 95% of times that there has been a vote against the Government’s Whip—that is a false statistic—but 100%. Maybe they should be criticised for that obnoxious behaviour.

We serve on these Benches as independent Members. As recently as last Thursday, we were discussing what had happened in a particular vote and saw that we had cancelled each other out—bishops often cancel each other out in every possible way. We vote because we value deeply the traditions of this country and this House, and the truth we derive from the Bible and our service to Jesus Christ—our first priority. To misquote Luther, slightly: on that we stand. We can do no other.

Illegal Migration Bill

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Excerpts
In speaking to the two Motions, I will finish where I began. As I said, the Modern Slavery Act was one of the finest achievements of the last Conservative Government—I say that as a proud Labour politician. Credit where credit is due: Theresa May, as Home Secretary, drove it through. She is appalled, frankly, by what the consequences of the Illegal Migration Bill will be to that flagship Act. We have the opportunity tonight to say that we will make sure that we will at least protect the bit that says that UK-based victims of modern slavery will have protection for a certain amount of time to seek the support that they need and to work, where possible, with the police to bring the criminal gangs to justice. Is that too much to ask? I do not think that it is.
Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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My Lords, I will speak very briefly to Motion J1. The amendment put forward under Motion J1 aims to ensure that, not only now but in the future, the Government’s policy is examined. As the Minister said, the current Government’s concentration is on international co-operation and working, although with some hesitation at times, with groups such as the UNHCR and others internationally. The amendment would ensure that that strategy—the way the Government are working—and the context in which migration is being considered are brought in front of both Houses, simply for a debate, with an analysis of the situation by the Government.

The Minister has said very clearly that he does not wish this to happen on the grounds that it is being done now, but this Bill is not about today. It will shortly be an Act, and when it is an Act it will last years—it may last many years. Who knows what will happen in elections in the future, whether they are next year, in 10 years or whenever? We cannot guarantee what kind of Government there will be at that time. That is why we have Acts of Parliament and a system of law which requires changes in the case that people wish to change the way in which this country operates.

It seems to me that the problem with the Bill is that it has not started at the right place. Where it needed to start was on a matter such as this—to have a level of national consensus and agreement on what the aim of our migration and immigration policy will be in the long term. We know what our aims are for other matters. For instance, the NHS is care that is free at the point of delivery to all who need it; it is not a political matter—at least not at the moment. That is something that holds us together, and then we argue about how it is done—fair enough.

The Bill, and the failure to pursue this amendment, seems to me to have four very simple failures. I will not repeat what the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said so eloquently just now. First, it does not give space and time for the Houses of Parliament—for politics—to generate a consensus on what we do about a problem that the Foreign Secretary himself said last week is one that is global, geopolitical and generational. We have to make time to discuss such threats. We put time aside for threats such as climate change. Much of the migration will be generated by climate change and, in being so generated, it will move literally hundreds of millions of people across borders.

We cannot put into the Bill that we should set time aside once a year in both Houses to look at that context and discuss it and try to generate a consensus across our nation, where so many communities, including in my own diocese, which I serve, are divided, depressed and anxious—reasonably, because so much is said to them that does not have a common, united vision for this nation. That is a failure of reconciliation; it is a failure of vision to leave the structures of migration better than they used to be—because heaven alone knows it is more than 25 years since we could last look back and see an immigration policy that was really working. It is not a party-political thing.

Secondly, the rejection of this amendment—and much of the Bill, as we have heard earlier this evening—diminishes parliamentary accountability. It does not say that the Government must come to the House of Commons and the House of Lords and give reasons for what they say. It does not say that a Minister of whichever party must stand up and face people such as the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. I apologise for embarrassing him, I am sure, but I would venture to suggest that he is probably the most respected man in this House. His own experience of being an unaccompanied irregular migrant is without parallel, but his approach was casually dismissed. That is not how we should listen to the wisdom of so many years and so much experience.

Accountability is diminished. Parliament exists to hold the Executive to account—not just this Executive but future ones. It diminishes our leadership. I shall not repeat what the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said, but he was right in everything he said about the Modern Slavery Act, as was the former Prime Minister today and as she has spoken over the past weeks, publicly and privately. It also diminishes our flexibility. This Bill pins everything down; it does not give grace periods or enable Parliament and the Government to say that the situation had changed dramatically. Who would have said four years ago that we would have 45,000 people coming across the channel in boats? Of course, we must stop that—I agree entirely with the Minister. Of course, we must stop it, but I fail to see how this legislation does that, and I have not heard anything to convince me.

But that is the view of the other place and I agree that, in the end, on most things, except the most essential, this House must give way to the other place. Therefore, I shall not be seeking to divide the House on this Motion.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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I speak for these Benches, first, on modern slavery and trafficking. The Government characterise victims as fraudulent and frivolous—those are both words that have been used in debate—but you do not get into the national referral mechanism unless you are referred by Home Office-accredited first responders. They are not frivolous and they are not fraudulent.

We are left trying to salvage something from the wreckage that the Government are making of our tackling of slavery and trafficking. The Minister in the Commons today said they would not remove anyone to a country where they are endangered. But we cannot know that traffickers will not be operating in the country to which people are removed. The chances must be very high that they will operate in Rwanda, or wherever, and we will be opening up new markets for the traffickers instead of tackling them as criminals.

Illegal Migration Bill

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Excerpts
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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My Lords, before I speak to my own amendment, I would like to say that we very much support the most reverend Primate’s Motion Y1. Contrary to what the Minister has said, it gives us a great and important opportunity to discuss these global issues, which matter so much. Some of you will have listened to Nick Robinson on the “Today” programme—he is brilliant, of course—who highlighted some of the issues that have emerged in various areas of the world. The most reverend Primate gives us the opportunity to do that, and we very much support his Motion.

I do not intend, given the hour, to speak for long to my Motion. In the whole discussion we have had on the Bill, my proposed amendment is the only one that deals with criminal gangs. This is one of the most important ways to tackle the problem of illegal migration. Contrary to what the Minister has just told us, it is part and parcel of what Parliament should be doing—legislating in the face of what the Government themselves have described as a national emergency. The full power of the state is required to tackle this issue. It is only right that Parliament put forward amendments and Motions and ask itself and the agencies that work for the state whether enough is being done. That is what my Motion seeks to do.

To be honest, I could not believe it when the Minister said that there was no compelling reason to do this. In the last few months, I have not heard anything different from the Government about the crisis unfolding across the channel, with hundreds of people—a record number just a few days ago—coming across the channel every day. Frankly, there is every compelling reason to do something to tackle the criminal gangs who are exploiting some of the most vulnerable.

One alternative we have to the Government’s proposal concerns the international nature of the crisis, which the most reverend Primate will no doubt refer to. In my Motion I refer to the need for not only action by the National Crime Agency but international co-operation of law enforcement and police forces across Europe and beyond if we are to tackle this problem. I hope that your Lordships will feel able to accept my Motion, because there is a continuing need to ask the Government whether we are doing enough to tackle and break up the criminal gangs and to get to the really big figures who organise this business on a massive scale and exploit the weakness and vulnerability of people across the continent and beyond. Just by demanding that the Government answer that, we can get some of the answers we deserve. I look forward to the Minister’s reply, and I beg to move.

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bellamy, and to the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for what he said. Like him, I will be brief.

Immigration and asylum, as the long series of debates on this Bill has shown, is an extraordinarily divisive issue. Speaking as someone who has been deeply embedded in east Kent for more than a decade now, I know from experience the extent to which communities are divided and individuals are torn between their desire to do what they know is right and care for those arriving, and their apprehension about the impact on local communities. One understands both those feelings very well.

When this amendment was tabled in its previous form last week, it produced considerable reconciliation and unity across the House. It was agreed that this is a massive, international issue on a generational basis and that tackling it needs profound thinking on a long-term basis. Legislation and strategy must be fitted to the problem, not the problem to the legislation. That is not how it works. For some things we do not debate strategy or have strategy on the face of a Bill, but it is impossible to imagine that we can solve a problem of this kind by taking short-term view after short-term view. It is essential that the solutions, as we go forward, bring together the whole of politics, all sides of both Houses, and unite our country instead of using this as a wedge issue to divide things.

This is a moment of reconciliation and an opportunity for profound long-term thought. This happens with climate change, on which there is legislation about 2050, never mind 10 years’ time; it happens with defence, where documents are produced that look at our proposals out to 2030; it happens with spending plans, where we have three-year committed views on spending because we know that you cannot do it in 12-month sections.

Secondly, this provides accountability. I could not agree more that a legislature is not operational, but it is the place in which the operational Executive is held to account, never mind which party it is. That will be as inconvenient to any other party in government as it is to the current party and there will be moments, if another party is in government, when it will not like it. That is the nature of our constitution. This provides for accountability; Ministers and Secretaries of State must come to both Houses and allow their view of the world to be tested, challenged, informed and improved.

Thirdly, it enables flexibility. The strategy shifts and changes as circumstances shift and change. Most of your Lordships will know Keynes’s remark:

“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?”


Of course we will need to change our mind as time goes on—if the boats are stopped, if new threats emerge to do with migration and if there are new issues.

The 10-year strategy will enable the whole country, united, to understand where we are going, what the sacrifices are and how they will be mitigated. This is not a party-political issue but one in which we must work together: if we work separately, we will fall separately. Finally, it puts us back into leadership globally. Without leadership, we cannot lead as this country should do and as we have so often shown we can. This is an international issue. We have enormous clout. It does not involve only the UNHCR, who I think are among the most extraordinary people I meet, but so many other groups. We need to see how that leadership is being exercised.

If this Motion passes this evening or if I have eloquently persuaded the Minister to stand up and say that he has changed his mind—I am not that hopeful—there are, of course, other ways of doing it. Before we come back for the next bit of ping-pong, I would be very happy and open to talk about alternative, but solid and dependable, ways of achieving the same ends for our country: reconciliation over this issue, accountability for this and future governments, flexibility in strategy, and leadership in the world. There may be other ways, and I am very open to those. I beg to move.

Lord Blunkett Portrait Lord Blunkett (Lab)
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My Lords, as someone who rarely goes to bed after 11 pm, I will be incredibly brief. I will comment on both propositions and give my support to my noble friend Lord Coaker and to the most reverent Primate.

We reached an agreement with the French 21 years ago that tackled organised criminality, not its victims. For a time, it was successful. The business model changed, and we must change with it. The National Crime Agency, working with its counterparts in France, could do a similar job, with the Government negotiating with the Government of France. We could pay for a licensing scheme in France that would make it a criminal offence for anyone to purchase, transport or sell a boat without a licence. Our agencies and theirs could then work together to tackle the organised criminal fraternity, who are bringing such misery.

In support of the most reverend Primate, if we ever needed a long-term strategy of 10 years rather than 10 months, one geared not to a general election but to solving a problem, and to dealing with it internationally, on a long-term basis, we need it now. That is why this House should support both propositions.

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Moved by
Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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At end insert “, and do propose Amendments 107B and 107C in lieu—

107B: After Clause 60, insert the following new Clause—
“Ten-year strategy on refugees and human trafficking
(1) The Secretary of State must prepare a ten-year strategy for tackling refugee crises affecting migration by irregular routes, or the movement of refugees, to the United Kingdom through collaboration with signatories to the Refugee Convention or any other international agreement on the rights of refugees.
(2) The strategy must include an evaluation of the factors driving migration by irregular routes and the movement of refugees to the United Kingdom.
(3) The strategy must also include provisions for tackling human trafficking to the United Kingdom and an evaluation of the factors driving demand.
(4) The Secretary of State must make and lay before Parliament a statement of policies for implementing the strategy.
(5) The first statement must be made within twelve months of the passing of this Act; and a subsequent statement must be made within twelve months of the making of the previous statement.
(6) A Minister of the Crown must, within three months of a statement under this section being laid before Parliament, move a motion in each House for the statement to be debated.
(7) “Ten-year strategy” means a strategy for the period of ten years beginning with the day on which preparation of the strategy is completed.
(8) “The Refugee Convention” means the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees done at Geneva on 28th July 1951 and its Protocol.”
107C: Clause 66, page 65, line 36, at end insert—
“(ba) section (Ten-year strategy on refugees and human trafficking);””
Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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My Lords, despite the gracious and kind words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bellamy, for which I am most grateful, I would like to test the opinion of the House. I beg to move.

Illegal Migration Bill

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Excerpts
Lord Lilley Portrait Lord Lilley (Con)
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I support the idea of safe and legal routes, which are already in the Bill, but there is no way that they will stop the boats. I have several questions for those proposing these amendments. Would they give safe and legal routes to people already in safe neighbouring countries in Europe, such as France? If not, it will do little or nothing to stop the boats coming from France. If we do not give them safe routes, they will continue to come as they do at present. If we decide to give safe and legal routes to people already in safe countries in Europe, I suggest that that should not be our priority. Our priority should be helping the young lady in Tehran and the people coming directly from persecution, or from immediately neighbouring countries, rather than from already safe countries.

My next question is: will the UK bear the costs of assessment, accommodation and litigation, through all the appeal stages we allow here, to those applying overseas? If so, those costs can be huge. I again suggest that that money would be better used helping people languishing in refugee camps in the Middle East, where we can help many times more people for the same amount of money than if we bring them to this country.

My third question is: will there be a cap on the safe and legal routes? There is a cap in the Government’s Bill, but there certainly is not in the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Kerr. If there is a cap, anyone applying above the number of the cap is not prevented from coming by small boat across the channel. So it is a deliberately misleading fallacy to suggest that safe and legal routes will stop the passage across the channel if there is a cap.

I will also address the bishops’ letter in the Times and the most reverend Primate’s promises in previous debates that he was going to bring forward practical measures to solve the problem, while accepting that we could not take unlimited numbers of people. In fact, in that letter and in the amendments that he has put forward, he has not come forward with a policy; he has come forward with a policy to have a policy. It is not—

Lord Lilley Portrait Lord Lilley (Con)
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May I just continue and then perhaps the most reverend Primate can ask three questions in one go?

It is a policy to have a policy. It is not even a policy for him to have a policy; it is a policy for the Government to have a policy. It is a policy that the Government’s policy must be agreed by other Governments overseas. I give way to the most reverend Primate.

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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I hardly know where to begin.

Lord Lilley Portrait Lord Lilley (Con)
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By giving us a policy.

None Portrait Noble Lords
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Oh!

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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If the noble Lord would wait for a second, I would be able to respond. If he were to look at the debate on Friday 9 December, which I led, he will find that a policy is set out there very clearly. One has also been set out very clearly in an article in the Times a few weeks ago, which has been repeated on numerous occasions by other Members of these Benches.

Lord Lilley Portrait Lord Lilley (Con)
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I have reread the debate on 9 December and he does not give a policy in it. I ask him to reread it himself, come back to the House and tell us what that policy is. Because it is not there; it is a non-policy. His policy for other people to have policies is not a policy.

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Moved by
168A: After Clause 61, insert the following new Clause—
“Ten-year strategy on refugees and human trafficking(1) The Secretary of State must prepare a ten-year strategy for tackling refugee crises affecting migration by irregular routes, or the movement of refugees, to the United Kingdom through collaboration with signatories to the Refugee Convention or any other international agreement on the rights of refugees. (2) The strategy must also include provisions for tackling human trafficking to the United Kingdom.(3) The Secretary of State must make and lay before Parliament a statement of policies for implementing the strategy.(4) The first statement must be made within twelve months of the passing of this Act; and a subsequent statement must be made within twelve months of the making of the previous statement.(5) A Minister of the Crown must, within 28 sitting days of a statement under this section being laid before Parliament, move a motion in each House for the approval of the statement.(6) “Ten-year strategy” means a strategy for the period of ten years beginning with the day on which preparation of the strategy is completed.(7) “The Refugee Convention” means the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees done at Geneva on 28th July 1951 and its Protocol.(8) A “sitting day”, in relation to each House of Parliament, means a day on which that House begins to sit.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to have a ten-year strategy for collaborating internationally to tackle refugee crises affecting migration by irregular routes, or the movement of refugees, to the United Kingdom and for tackling human trafficking to the United Kingdom.
Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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My Lords, I rise to move Amendment 168A, tabled in my name. I shall also speak to Amendment 168C, which is consequential to it. I am very grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth and Lord Blunkett, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, for co-signing it. This amendment is a combination of the two amendments that I put forward in Committee. It requires the Secretary of State to produce a 10-year strategy for tackling the global refugee crisis and human trafficking in collaboration with international partners. As I explained the rationale behind this in detail in Committee, I will be very brief.

In aid of this amendment I want to quote the Foreign Secretary, who spoke to an Italian newspaper a couple of days ago. He said that

“there needs to be an international response to this because it is an inherently international issue”.

We also need a long-term vision and strategy that reaches beyond short-term electoral cycles and allows this issue to be taken out of an entirely political agenda. The 1951 refugee convention is a fundamental basis for the care and protection of refugees. The convention should be built upon and added to, in collaboration with other signatories and international partners for the particular context that we face today, to ensure that we share responsibility fairly and work together effectively across borders.

In Committee, the Minister questioned the suitability of a 10-year strategy and suggested it would risk tying the hands of future Governments, but we have long-term strategies in other areas of policy, and quite rightly too: defence and security, climate change and many others. No strategy is set in stone; this amendment neither binds future Governments, which we cannot do, nor even specifies what exactly should go into a strategy for refugees and human trafficking. It simply requires that the Government, and future Governments, have one—a strategy—to consider actions in these areas right across the piece, joining up government in every area. The fact that we are here debating a second migration Bill in as many years suggests that this might well be useful.

There is much wisdom in this House which will be more usefully applied to a strategy than it is often given the chance to speak to. For example, the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, is one of the great experts on migration, whether one always agrees with him or not. We need a calmer and properly structured look at the whole areas of migration.

The UK has led in the past, historically, and does so now. I want to stress that this amendment does not wreck or damage the Bill, or set intentions for the Government to follow. I remind the Minister of the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Deben, in Committee, where he said he thought I was helping the Government by proposing such an amendment. It is indeed intended to be helpful, to improve the Bill by mitigating some of the concerns about a lack of a global and long-term perspective on the issues, and to offer something which this House and the other place could debate carefully and thoughtfully, whatever our differing views about the rest of the Bill. On the previous set of amendments, the noble Lord, Lord Swire, talked about the need to be able to debate in an open and honest way; that is the intention of this amendment.

Therefore, I hope that the Government and all noble Lords can see that this amendment is a positive and constructive suggestion, whatever I or others may feel about the Bill in general. I urge the Government to develop a strategy that is ambitious, collaborative, worthy of our history and up to the scale of the enormous challenges we face. I beg to move.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (Con)
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the most reverend Primate and to support his amendment, the essence of which is constructive and positive.

Over the course of the discussions and debates on this Bill, opinions have been very passionate. Understandably, given that there are so many key issues to look at, the debate has been fractious on occasion. However, this amendment stresses the need for a long-term strategy. Rather than having individual states acting in isolation, which we are in danger of doing, surely, we can come together and say, “Yes, we do need a strategy and to look at this in a multilateral way”. This is a problem that I think we all accept will get more serious in the light of climate change, food security issues, warfare and great population movements.

This issue was last looked at in any meaningful way in 1951, and from very much a European perspective. Many states have not been signatories to that convention, but whatever one feels about it, it certainly met the needs of the time. The problems are very different now. These population movements are now much more a global issue, and we need a long-term strategy.

As the most reverend Primate said, in Committee the Government’s answer seemed substantially to be that a strategy would bind future Governments—a strange thing for them to be saying in the run-up to an election. However, it is much more important than that. As the most reverend Primate said, we have strategies on all sorts of things. It is important to build some common ground so that this does not become a party-political football. As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, we are in a very strong position to take an international lead on this—something that the Government would surely want to do.

I suspect that the Government’s stance may have shifted somewhat—from “We don’t want a strategy because it binds the hands of future Governments”, to “this Bill deals with a short-term issue”. This is not a short-term issue but very much a long-term one, and it will get more serious. We need an approach that is not ad hoc, not a stop-gap and not short term. It must be long term and look at these issues much more in the round, and it must do so internationally.

Given that there have been so many defeats, I hope that the Government are thinking positively about accommodating in the Bill the strength of views expressed in this House, and that developing a long-term strategy makes sense and is something we can all get behind. I urge them to do so, or to tell us what their strategy is. If they do have a strategy, it would be good to hear it. In the absence of that commitment and explanation, the conclusion will be that the cupboard is bare.

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We are already working at home and abroad, including through this Bill, to address the challenges posed by migration, irregular routes and human trafficking and, like my noble friends Lady Lawlor and Lady Stowell, I remain to be persuaded that now is the time to divert resources from that work to prepare, consult on and promulgate a strategy of the kind proposed in this amendment. We will, of course, keep the case for such a strategy under review, but for now I hope the most reverend Primate will be content to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister and to all Members of this House who have contributed to this debate. I agreed with virtually every word the Minister said. Had I not been convinced of the need for this amendment to be on the face of the Bill beforehand, he has absolutely convinced me by how he set out the different ways in which government needs to work; I just did not agree with his conclusion.

“We will keep it under review”, is what I spent years saying to our children: “I will think about it”. They knew exactly what that meant. When it came to the vote on getting a television after 10 years without—we had an annual family vote—through threats against our middle son, his elder sister swung his swing vote in favour of a television; they knew I would never say yes on my own. With that experience of terror and corruption in the Welby family, and with some regret, I must ask if we may test the opinion of the House.

Illegal Migration Bill

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Excerpts
Moved by
139C: After Clause 60, insert the following new Clause—
“Ten-year strategy on human trafficking(1) The Secretary of State must prepare a ten-year strategy for tackling human trafficking to the UK through collaboration with signatories to the European Convention against Trafficking or any other international agreement on human trafficking.(2) The Secretary of State must make and lay before Parliament a statement of policies for implementing the strategy.(3) The first statement must be made within twelve months of the passing of this Act; and a subsequent statement must be made within twelve months of the making of the previous statement.(4) A Minister of the Crown must, within 28 sitting days of the statement being laid before Parliament, table a motion for resolution in each House of Parliament in relation to the statement.(5) “Ten-year strategy” means a strategy for the period of ten years beginning with the day on which preparation of the strategy is completed.(6) “The European Convention against Trafficking” means the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings done at Warsaw on 16th May 2005.(7) A “sitting day”, in relation to each House of Parliament, means a day on which that House begins to sit.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to have a ten-year strategy for collaborating internationally to tackle human trafficking into the UK.
Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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My Lords, I introduce Amendment 139C, tabled in my name, and Amendment 144A, which is consequential to it. I thank the noble Lords, Lord Blunkett, Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, for co-signing it.

The amendment requires the Secretary of State to prepare a 10-year strategy for tackling human trafficking, in collaboration with international partners on this issue. A statement of policies for implementing the strategy must be presented to Parliament within a year of the Bill becoming law and every following year. Each time that a statement is made, an opportunity must be given for both Houses to debate and vote on it via a Motion for resolution.

The amendment, and my second amendment, relating to a 10-year strategy for an international refugee policy, are far from wrecking or negative amendments but seek to improve the Bill, as is our duty and right in this House. As I said at Second Reading, we need a Bill to reform migration and we need to stop the boats, but this Bill does not contain within it a sense of the long- term and global nature of the challenges that we face. To deal with global challenges, we need to engage in international collaboration towards global solutions.

The trade in people is one such global challenge. In 2022, in the UK, there were 16,938 potential victims of modern slavery referred to the Home Office via the NRM—a 33% increase compared to the preceding year and the highest annual number since the NRM began in 2009. The real number of victims in the UK may be much higher. Walk Free’s global slavery index believes that there could be more than 100,000 victims living in slavery in the UK. However, that same index found that, globally, 50 million people were living in modern slavery in the world on any given day in 2021 —a 10 million increase since the 2018 index.

Not all forms of slavery counted in this number will involve people trafficking, but a significant number will have been trafficked at some point in their story of exploitation. In the UK, we are often dealing with the very end of what is a global supply chain. If we want truly to have an impact on the root of the problem, we need to follow the supply chain of trafficking back to its source and target the traffickers there and at every step along the way to people eventually arriving here. A cross-border trade requires cross-border solutions. We have long agreed that when it comes to drugs.

The Anglican Communion has a helpful perspective here, as it is present in 165 countries around the world. There are Anglicans and other people of faith present in both source and destination countries for migration and trafficking. Since 2014, the Anglican Alliance has been working on these issues in partnership with the Salvation Army, Caritas Internationalis and the Clewer Initiative, among others, convening global and regional consultations, developing toolkits to equip churches, and establishing regional and interregional communities of practice. The global reach and connectedness of the Anglican Communion allows us to connect up work that is going on upstream and downstream in the supply chain, to help to ensure that migration happens safely and to prevent trafficking and other forms of exploitation.

The Clewer Initiative, the Church of England’s national work to combat modern slavery, has also been working since 2020 with the World Council of Churches to challenge issues of modern slavery. One part of the focus is to facilitate networking between churches and partners in countries of origin and those in countries of arrival to enable collaboration and broader strategy. Ending human trafficking was mentioned explicitly in the targets of the UN sustainable development goals 5, 8 and 16, to be achieved by 2030. However, progress has been slow, and as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has highlighted, national responses, particularly in developing states, appear to be deteriorating. Detection rates fell by 11% in 2020 and convictions fell by 27%, which it says illustrates

“a worldwide slowdown in the criminal justice response to trafficking”.

I am sure that all in this Committee agree that our target should be the total eradication of this evil, and that part of the 10-year strategy being proposed here should be plans for collaboration with international partners to set up an international anti-trafficking force, funded by Governments and mandated with the authority to target and arrest human traffickers wherever they might be found. That would be taking action upstream, focusing on the traffickers rather than their victims—an incidental effect of this Bill—and getting us closer to addressing the root of the issue. We did something similar with 17th-century piracy and 19th-century slave-trading, where we led the world. This is an equally serious crime, and we must go after perpetrators with speed and accuracy and the full force of international law.

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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No, I certainly did not say that the Government do not believe in strategy.

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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My Lords, it is as likely that the Government did not believe in strategy as to find that a bishop did not believe in God.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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It is an optional extra.

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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Without wishing to channel “Yes, Prime Minister”.

I am very grateful, in addition to those who so kindly co-signed the amendment, to noble Lords who contributed to this debate: the noble Lords, Lord Hannay, Lord German, Lord Paddick and Lord Coaker. The noble Lord, Lord Deben, really worried me, because every time he said something, I found it was in my speech on the next group. That is going to make the speech shorter, which is a great advantage, but it does slightly worry me as to whether he has a hitherto unsuspected hacking habit.

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Moved by
139D: After Clause 60, insert the following new Clause—
“Ten-year strategy on refugees(1) The Secretary of State must prepare a ten-year strategy for tackling refugee crises driving people to enter the UK as refugees through collaboration with signatories to the Refugee Convention or any other international agreement on the rights of refugees.(2) The Secretary of State must make and lay before Parliament a statement of policies for implementing the strategy.(3) The first statement must be made within twelve months of the passing of this Act; and a subsequent statement for the strategy must be made within twelve months of the making of the previous statement. (4) A Minister of the Crown must, within 28 sitting days of the statement being laid before Parliament, table a motion for resolution in each House of Parliament in relation to the statement.(5) “Ten-year strategy” means a strategy for the period of ten years beginning with the day on which preparation of the strategy is completed.(6) “The Refugee Convention” means the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees done at Geneva on 28th July 1951 and its Protocol.(7) A “sitting day”, in relation to each House of Parliament, means a day on which that House begins to sit.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to have a ten-year strategy for collaborating internationally to tackle refugee crises driving people to enter the UK as refugees.
Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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My Lords, I hope this section may be a bit shorter. As the noble Lord, Lord Deben, already knows, because he just said it, I am rising to introduce Amendment 139D tabled in my name and Amendment 144B, which is consequential to it. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, and the noble Lords, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth and Lord Blunkett, for co-signing it. I have had letters of apology from the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, and the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, who are not able to be here for very good and sufficient reasons.

I particularly appreciate when we come to this that the Government are taking action—I am not suggesting for a moment that they are not. The Chişinău statement made in Moldova recently by the Prime Minister was striking, as were the recent raids by the National Crime Agency in tackling criminals involved in this area.

This amendment mandates the Secretary of State to produce a 10-year strategy for tackling the global refugee crisis—I do say “crisis”—working in collaboration with signatories to the 1951 refugee convention and others. As with human trafficking, a statement of policies for implementing the strategy must be presented to Parliament within a year of the Bill becoming law and every following year. Of course, a subsequent Government can change that. Each time a statement is made, an opportunity must be given for both Houses to debate and vote on it via a Motion for resolution.

As with my previous amendment, Amendment 139C, this amendment is intended to require the Government to consider the long-term global nature of the refugee crisis, only a very small part of which—a minute, almost unmeasurably small part of which—are we seeing on our shores in Dover, in the Canterbury diocese which I serve and where we work extremely hard with those who are arriving. This Bill currently focuses solely on our domestic situation; the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, spoke very eloquently on that in the last group. It proposes action that not only is unlikely to achieve its aim domestically but also undermines the principles of the global refugee system, which the UK was influential in setting up in the first place. The call for a 10-year strategy for international collaboration on the refugee crisis is an attempt to address this by requiring the Government to look beyond our shores and into the longer term, and to lead internationally, as this country should and as it did in 1951.

On the global crisis, some figures have come but they were for the middle of 2022: I happen to have the ones for the end of 2022 and they are worse. At the end of 2022, there were 108.4 million people displaced; 35.3 million were refugees; 62.5 million were internally displaced; and 5.4 million were seeking asylum. As I said at Second Reading, conflict and climate change mean that these numbers are predicted widely to increase as much as tenfold in the next 25 years. The number arriving in small boats in the UK—45,755 in 2022—is tiny when set in such a horrifying context. Other countries, as the noble Lord, Lord Deben, said, are taking far more refugees. Turkey alone was hosting nearly 3.6 million at the end of 2022. It is greatly to be admired, as are Rwanda, Uganda, the DRC and South Sudan, itself after 10 years of civil war having received almost three-quarters of a million people since the war broke out in Khartoum a few weeks ago.

Many other European countries also are taking more, including France and Germany. It is not a competition, but the UK ranked 18th in Europe for our intake of asylum applications per head of the population in the year ending September 2021. Most crucially, 76% of refugees are being hosted in low and middle-income countries—countries infinitely poorer than our own—and 70% in countries neighbouring their home countries. It is neither morally right nor strategically sensible to fail to engage with the global context or to leave other countries to deal with the crisis alone. Doing so damages our reputation as a nation, but it also risks unbearable pressures being placed on other countries and the possibility of state collapse and an ever-growing avalanche of further numbers of refugees across the world, adding to the problems we face.

The 1951 convention is a fundamental bedrock for the care and protection of refugees. To be very clear, this amendment is not proposing that the convention be scrapped or rewritten, where there might be a risk of it being watered down and protections removed. Instead, I am suggesting that the convention should be built upon and added to for the very different context we face today from 1951.

One area where work is needed is clarity on protection for certain types of refugee, such as those fleeing due to climate change or gender-based violence, who are not currently covered, or consistently covered, by the convention and would find themselves in great trouble under this Bill. Another is clarity on the allocation of state responsibility for refugees, including the safe third country principle, and the support for countries dealing with far greater numbers of refugees. Professor Alexander Betts, Enver Solomon and others have proposed a possible approach for this in the form of a state-led solidarity pact, an intergovernmental coalition of donor and host countries which clarifies respective state responsibilities and is supported by what they call the global refugee fund, administered to support host countries affected by large refugee movements.

Although the European Union’s agreement on migration, announced just in the last day or two, is a major step forward, it does not go as far as this. It does however give an example of numerous countries working out how to share their burden, and when the burden is so huge, that must be the way we go.

There have been many suggested policies and alternatives presented in this area and I am not going to waste your Lordships’ time by going into detail on them. This amendment does not specify exactly what should be pursued; it simply mandates the Government to engage seriously with other countries about the options through existing groups such as the Global Refugee Forum—whose meetings I understand the Foreign Office attends but not the Home Office, though I am happy to be corrected by the Minister. Given that refugees under this Bill come under the Home Office, that would seem to be something that might be changed. The amendment further mandates the Government to report back to Parliament annually on action and progress.

Again, if the Minister replies, as I anticipate, by saying that the Government already have longer-term strategies and that this Bill and amendment are not the place for them, I ask him to explain clearly the one place and one plan where we can find them. What guarantees are there that the Government are working and will continue to work with international partners? The amendment seeks to ensure that this Government and future Governments have to consider this rather than focus solely on the domestic context.

I regret that to date there has been little agreement in this Committee between Ministers and those on these Benches or, in fact, any other Benches—and, of course, the previous amendment was supported by every Bench, including the Conservative Benches. I wish to make it entirely clear that we are always willing to work in close partnership, as we have done with the Government on community sponsorship, on receiving Ukrainian citizens fleeing that terrible war and many other projects, including interfaith projects.

If the Government as part of their strategy wish to work in partnership with faith groups and NGOs to identify and support refugees anywhere in the world where we have a presence, we would be delighted to work with them—we normally have excellent sources of information on such things. We want the UK again to be a moral leader on the world stage. We are more than capable of it. A global crisis requires global solutions, and we need to develop them now. If all other counties adopted the approach the UK Government are taking with this Bill, the whole international refugee system would collapse. That is not in our interests—regardless of morality, purely pragmatically—nor any other country’s, never mind those in need of protection.

I urge the Government to take an opportunity for the UK to lead again in the care for and protection of refugees as we have in the past, to set their sights on effective, equitable long-term solutions to this crisis, working with international partners. In this amendment we seek, as were quite rightly challenged to do by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, to put forward a practical solution with practical ways of dealing with this and practical outcomes. If the Government have other ways of achieving the same ends which give security for the plans, I am very happy, as are my colleagues, to meet the Minister and discuss how that can be done. In the meantime, I beg to move.

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While I have sympathy for the underlying issues that this amendment seeks to explore, I am again not persuaded that it would be appropriate to legislate for a 10-year strategy as proposed here. Of course, we need to take a long-term view of these, but we need also to tackle the here and now, and the challenges we face this year, not in years to come. Combating the tens of thousands seeking to enter the country through the dangerous and illegal channel crossings is properly the focus of the Bill. Having had the opportunity to air these issues, I invite the most reverend Primate to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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My Lords, I am very grateful to those who have contributed, as well as the co-signatories to the amendment, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, and the noble Lord, Lord German, in encouraging us to look beyond ourselves. I accept willingly—well, reluctantly—the apology from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for going to Oxford.

I was very worried about what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham was about to say; if you had sat with him over the last 10 years in the House of Bishops, you would be worried too. But it is well known that, on these Benches, we do not use whips—I leave the imagination of noble Lords to run riot. In fact, over the past 10 years, I have noticed that, when it comes to Report, as often as not these Benches cancel themselves out by voting in different directions. So when the Minister is doing his calculations, he may find that encouraging.

Turning to what the Minister said, I am again disappointed but not surprised. But I genuinely think that it is unwise—I am not saying that it is bad, just unwise. Surely the role of Parliament is to contribute to the Government’s thinking and to call them to account, and to do that not by having to burrow into the highways and byways of policy and commitment but to be able, as we do on defence and other areas where strategies are published, to have the opportunity to look at the whole at once and take a global view. Not being able to do that is, I think, not of advantage to the way this country is governed or to what the Government do or, particularly, to the way that this House operates.

I am happy to be corrected but I think the Minister slightly misunderstood the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, in suggesting that he said that Britain could not take a lead and it had to be the UN. I think it was more or less the opposite. One of the great privileges of the last few years has been to have a growing relationship with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, with whom we work extensively in Mozambique, the DRC and other places, through our local bishops and clergy. One of the things he would say again and again is that for the UN to work it needs leadership, not from within but from members of the P5. Their leadership makes an enormous difference. This country provided the first Secretary-General as one of the key founders of the United Nations. Of course we should do it through the United Nations—no one could doubt that—but what is there in us that we should lose confidence in our ability to lead the world? We have done it for hundreds of years, morally and brilliantly at times. Let us regain our confidence and not hide back and hope that someone else creeps forward on to the front line to deal with this issue. I appeal to the Minister: let there be less fear and more faith in this country. It deserves it.

Finally, there is one other way of dealing with this—the boats must be stopped—which is by increasing the speed of returns and getting the current system working effectively and efficiently. We can make an enormous difference, and not be putting people on barges. I was in Weymouth, in Salisbury diocese, over the weekend, meeting 130 community leaders. There is going to be a barge in Weymouth Harbour; it is being fitted out at the moment and will be there in the next few days, I believe. The mayors and the MPs were there— everyone was there—and I asked how much consultation there had been from the Government. The answer was none whatever—none, zero, zilch. That is an example of the consequences of lack of strategy. Strategy sends a group of people down from the Home Office, a task force, to work with local people. As the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said, we are a kind, hospitable and gentle nation who would receive people happily.

I am aware of the time—it is almost 10.40 pm. I feel that there are probably two minutes more of words that I need to say.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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I thought the most reverend Primate the Archbishop would welcome my support for what he said about our country regaining its confidence. To reassure the Minister, I was talking about the international bodies, and the United Nations in particular, but with Britain playing a leadership role in those organisations to bring about the change that we would all want to see across the world. I am grateful to the most reverend Primate for allowing me to reinforce the point he made on my behalf; it is an exceedingly important one.

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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I am grateful to the noble Lord. This is an international problem, and it requires an international strategy. Britain has the capacity to deliver it and lead on it. We must stop the boats. We require an international approach to do that.

We must control our borders. That cannot be done simply by cutting off people who arrive; it must be done by cutting them off far further back. To cut them off simply when they arrive is like what happens in the parts of the Diocese of Canterbury which are prone to flooding: thinking that by putting up sandbags at the front door, you can stop the water coming in round the back.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett Portrait Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab)
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The point was made earlier in relation to the previous amendment about our international obligations: we cannot expect international collaboration and to provide the kind of leadership that is being talked about if we do not meet our international obligations. One criticism of the Bill is that it does not do so, and that it undermines our international obligations.

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and the noble Baroness have made the same point with great eloquence. It is obviously essential.

I have a final quote. I am going to quote the Bible —I am sorry about that but it is sort of my job. It comes from the Old Testament, where one of the prophets asks: “What are we called to do?” We are called to love mercy, to act justly and to walk humbly with our God. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 139D withdrawn.

Illegal Migration Bill

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Excerpts
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Portrait Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts (Con)
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My Lords, I am pleased to follow the personal and moving speech from the noble Lord, Lord Cashman. One always has to bear in mind the personal nature of many of the discussions and speeches we are hearing today.

I share one thing with the noble Lord: like him, I am not a lawyer. Therefore, to talk about the rule of law—which, in essence, is what this group of amendments is about—is to put one’s head into the legal lion’s mouth, but I am proposing to do that because I think that some important points need to be made from outside the courtroom. Before I get to the substance of my remarks, particularly on Amendment 4, I will set in context my strategic support for the Bill and the direction of travel, which I explained at Second Reading, because it will colour the background to the remarks I will make now and the remarks I hope to make in future stages of the Bill.

We are meeting on a very important afternoon. In 2021, we gave the right to remain—not the right to enter—to 504,000 people. That is equivalent to a city the size of Cardiff. Tomorrow, at 8 am, the ONS will release the figures on the right to remain for 2022. Unless the press has got it completely wrong, we will have given 700,000 people the right to remain in this country in one year. That is equivalent to a city the size of Newcastle. There must be a serious question as to whether that rate of population growth is sustainable, particularly within the confines of an already pretty crowded and small island.

I am sorry that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham is not in his place. Although we had many confrontations on the borders Bill last year, one thing we could agree on—and I suspect that there will be general agreement in Committee—is that people who are here legally, and who have legal rights to come here, need to be welcomed and given all the advantages and rights that we enjoy. The creation of two classes of citizens would surely be fatal for our country and our society. So, when we allow people to come here permanently, we take on a considerable debt requirement for investment in various aspects that make our lives suitable and happy.

The right reverend Prelate and I would also agree, I think, that, when these rights are being given, responsibilities are simultaneously imposed. If you wish to take out of our society, you must put back in —as indeed we all must. But, if the Committee accepts that we cannot, with advantage, build a Cardiff one year, a Newcastle the next year and so on into the future, we have to find ways to restrict the inflow. By the way, the unofficial figures for the first four months of this year will show higher than 700,000 if it goes on at that rate. The 67.3 million people of our settled population—18% of whom come from minority groups —deserve no less. Therefore, as I listen to noble Lords explaining how the Bill should be removed, I think they need to think about how we tackle the question of a country which has taken on 1.2 million people— 2% of its population—in the last two years.

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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I entirely accept, and everyone who has spoken so far has agreed, that we have to control migration. I do not think there is any argument about that, but does the noble Lord accept that of that 700,000 last year, or whatever the number turns out to be exactly, the Bill will cover only 45,000? The Bill is not about overall immigration.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Portrait Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts (Con)
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The most reverend Primate is exactly right: we have failed to start the conversation across the country as to what the number we can reasonably absorb is. Once we have had that conversation, the second stage of the conversation is: how does that number divide up between, as the most reverend Primate has just referred to, people who are coming here to fulfil jobs we cannot do and people who are coming here because they have money or ideas or are brilliant academics? That way, the people of this country would have some understanding of what is in store for them. I certainly accept that 40,000 people—but it may be 80,000 people—is only a fraction, a small part, of the problem that we face.

I turn, without further delay, to the rule of law. I need to begin by stating that I am an enthusiastic supporter of the rule of law, a rule of law that interprets the views of Parliament and provides the framework under which our society can operate with confidence, our freedoms are protected and our property rights are respected. Indeed, at various times since I joined your Lordships’ House, we have had debates on the importance of the rule of law which I have been pleased to participate in. At this point, Members of your Lordships’ House who are of a judicial turn of mind will no doubt be pleased by what I have been saying. I am afraid that what I am about to say is going to be rather less acceptable.

As I have explained, I am not a lawyer, but I think the rule of law is too important to be left entirely to lawyers to speak about and interpret; there are wider societal consequences. I do not wish to get involved in legal niceties and drafting. I have heard the Government’s view, expressed by my noble friend the Minister, that the UK will be in compliance. I have heard endless briefings about how the UK will not be in compliance. Let me explain from a non-lawyer’s point of view what I think the man on the Clapham omnibus thinks, which is that the rule of law is not a stand-alone, immutable entity. To be effective and accepted, it needs to be well integrated into the civil society which it seeks to protect. Specifically, in my view, to carry public confidence the rule of law needs to meet four tests: it needs to be relevant; it needs to be open to scrutiny; it needs to be applied in accordance with the original purpose of the law; and it needs the informed consent of the British people. I shall deal briefly with those points.

The first is relevance. Of the list in Amendment 4 of five conventions, two are 70 years old, one is 60 years old, one is 30 years old and only one was signed this century. The noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, proudly read them out. In 1950, in the aftermath of the appalling events of the Second World War, the challenge of refugees, in terms of numbers, scale and distance, bears no relation to the situation we face today. Of course, I accept that there are areas of read-across from 1950 to today, but to see a direct comparison in every aspect stretches public credibility.

The second is openness and scrutiny. Again, as a non-lawyer, I expect there to be open hearings, with pleadings by both sides, followed by a detailed reason for reaching a particular decision by an identified judge or judges. I am not clear that this has invariably been the situation in some of the key aspects that form the background to the Bill.

The third is applicability. I was an enthusiastic supporter of the Modern Slavery Act—which is not on the list in Amendment 4—but now I see it being misused as a means to frustrate the proper operation of our immigration system and so devalue and undermine the original purpose of the Act. I find it hard to believe that the increase in case load from an anticipated 3,500 cases per annum to the current 17,000 cases last year can all be based on genuine circumstances.

Fourthly and finally is informed consent. I return to a point I covered a bit earlier: successive Governments have never been courageous or honest enough to explain candidly to the British people the implications of these conventions. It has been easier to present the country with a series of faits accomplis and then wonder why there is a degree of public cynicism and toxicity about the process.

I hope that my noble friend the Minister will reject amendments that place excessive weight on the narrow interpretation of the rule of law. I respectfully suggest that Members of the Committee who have amendments in this group reflect on how the outcome of their decisions and discussions may serve across the country to undermine the credibility of and public confidence in a concept—the rule of law—which we can all agree lies at the heart of our society.

UK Asylum and Refugee Policy

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Excerpts
Friday 9th December 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Moved by
Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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That this House takes note of the principles behind contemporary United Kingdom asylum and refugee policy, and of the response to the challenges of forced migration.

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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My Lords, I am very grateful to the usual channels for facilitating this debate, to those among the staff of the House who have had to work extra hard to come in today, and to so many noble Lords for being present. I look forward to hearing the maiden speeches of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester, the noble Lord, Lord Sahota, and the noble Baroness, Lady Twycross, on this subject.

This will not be a sermon. As my last well-attended sermon was four and a half minutes long, that may be a disappointment to noble Lords. It is, nevertheless, underpinned by deeply held spiritual principles deriving from the words of Christ, beginning over 1,000 years ago, in terms of our policy and the application of them. The last time I delivered a sermon on this subject, it gained more than the usual attention; so much so that I see some of our newspapers this week have rebutted the arguments I am about to make before I have had a chance to deliver them—or even, for that matter, to prepare them. I am glad they have such gifts of mind-reading. “Get your rebuttal in first,” Willie John McBride, captain of the 1974 Invincibles, almost told his teammates; I think he said “retaliation”. For the avoidance of doubt, my intention today is to examine some of the moral considerations that should drive our policies in this area and then to propose some practical ways forward for the short, medium and long term.

The Church is often, and quite often rightly, criticised for talking about morality in isolation from the complexity of the real world, but when it comes to the treatment of refugees and those seeking asylum, it is the Church, here and abroad, which is doing so much of the heavy lifting of meeting and supporting, of healing and advocacy, right around the world. We look into the faces, we listen to the voices and we speak from that experience.

Two weeks ago, I visited Mozambique to inaugurate a new province in the Anglican Communion. While there, we went north to the area where ISIS is very active indeed. It is a beautiful country, with generous people recovering from civil war and now facing an atrocious extremist insurgency. I met a young woman who had fled Daesh. She had seen beheadings in her village, she herself had been raped and then she had watched them smash her three month-old baby’s head against a tree. That is one reality.

Last week in Ukraine, standing by a mass grave, I met people who, with astonishing resolve, face a winter under Russian bombardment explicitly to destroy civilian infrastructure; a winter where, next month, it will fall probably to minus 20 degrees centigrade, and they will have neither electricity nor, because of that, water or the ability to heat.

These are two images of suffering which could be replicated in more than 50 other countries around the world. We know—and I make this absolutely clear and underline it—that Britain can neither resolve these problems by ourselves; nor can or should we take everyone who flees such devastation. It is beyond our capacity. But we do need to take a lead: how we shape our policies must look into the faces and listen to the voices.

Recognition of human dignity is the first principle that must underpin our asylum policy. A hostile environment is an immoral environment. Each human being has an inherent and immeasurable worth, regardless of their status, wealth, heritage or background. The Book of Genesis tells us:

“God created mankind in his own image.”


In chapter 25 of the Gospel of St Matthew, in the parable of the sheep and goats, Jesus tells his followers, about those who are strangers:

“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me.”


Care for the stranger has long been embedded in societies of Christian and Jewish roots and of other faiths right around the world. The welcome arrival in the UK of other religious faiths deepens these traditions of compassion. A compassionate asylum system is one that sees the faces of those in need and listens to their voices. A compassionate system does not mean open borders, but a disposition of generosity and a readiness to welcome those whose need is genuine and where we are able to meet that need.

It also means compassion and generosity to those communities that will receive refugees, which are often neglected and forgotten. I have seen this with my own eyes around the diocese of Canterbury in east Kent, which I serve and which perhaps bears the heaviest weight of this great crisis.

A compassionate policy is one that has confidence to reject the shrill narratives that all who come to us for help should be treated as liars, scroungers or less than fully human. Compassion is not weakness or naivety. It recognises the impact on receiving communities, which includes the need to limit numbers and maintain security and order. Compassion means ending the criminal activity of people smugglers—perhaps one of the biggest industries in the world, after drug smuggling. It must distinguish between victims seeking help and criminals who exploit them.

So much of the public and political debate on migration is driven by fear linked to change and a fear of loss of control. Some of these fears are understandable. Many people are concerned that their communities and local services risk being overwhelmed. In east Kent, local schools, businesses and hospitals have risen amazingly and magnificently to the challenge. The RNLI and Border Force have carried out their mandate of saving life at sea, despite the disgraceful politicisation of their work by some. There is real pressure on housing, schools and GP surgeries, to which they respond superbly. By the way, refugees have not caused our housing crisis; we are around 40 years behind in our investment in housing stock. There would be a crisis anyway.

The number of asylum seekers has dropped in the past two decades. In 2021, 48,540 asylum applications were made in the UK; in 2002, there were 84,132—almost twice as many. Other countries have taken significantly more refugees. In the year ending September 2021, Germany received over 127,000 applications and France over 96,000. It is not a competition, but we need to face the fact that the UK ranked only 18th in Europe for our intake of asylum applications per head of population in that period. It cannot be repeated enough that four out of five refugees stay in their region of displacement, hosted by even poorer nations. If you spoke to Uganda and other countries in that area, they would call 45,000 a rounding error.

When we fail to challenge the harmful rhetoric that refugees are the cause of this country’s ills—that they should be treated as problems and not people, invaders to be tackled and deterred—we deny the essential value and dignity of fellow human beings. The right to seek asylum and the duty of the global community together to protect refugees has been politically degraded in this country, when it should be a positive source of pride. I am not addressing only the Government Front Bench; this has been a decades-long downward slide over successive Labour, Conservative and coalition Governments.

Noble Lords would expect me to say something about the Rwanda policy. We cannot separate the policy from the moral arguments. The Government did not do this when they announced the policy in Holy Week this year—the most sacred week of the Christian calendar—on Maundy Thursday, when in Christian belief Jesus was washing the feet of his disciples, including Judas Iscariot. The Prime Minister of the time gave a speech in which he used the word “compassion” six times and described the policy as

“the morally right thing to do”.

In my sermon on Easter Sunday, I gave a brief view on this—five lines in a three-page sermon—and shortly afterwards, every one of my colleagues on these Benches issued a statement concluding that this was an “immoral policy” that “shames Britain”. It is very rare on these Benches that we are united on almost anything. I congratulate the Prime Minister on managing to unite the Bishops’ Benches. What a miracle. It is a good reason for the other 53% of the population to click the census to say that they are Christian.

The Government have said that the Rwanda policy aims to deter people from arriving in the UK through

“illegal, dangerous and unnecessary methods”.

There is little or no evidence that this deterrence or the hostile environment works; the Government’s own impact assessment confirms that. The complaint I make is not about Rwanda, a country that I know well and in which there is much that I admire. A compassionate policy is one that recognises that we have a share of global responsibility; outsourcing our share creates more opportunities for people smugglers to operate in and around Rwanda. It is not a solution; it is a mistake, and it will be a failure.

Furthermore, the desire for orderly migration to discourage people from “skipping the queue” is absurd if there is no legal queue. This is a point that the Home Secretary and her officials recently conceded at the Home Affairs Select Committee in the Commons. There is no “safe” or “regular” route for an Iranian Christian or a gay man or woman from Eritrea to come to the UK to claim asylum, yet both would be highly likely to have a valid claim if they got here. Unless you are coming from Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria or Hong Kong—and that, by the way, is not asylum but financial visas—or are eligible for the restrictive family reunion criteria, there is no regular route that you can use. It was reported this month that not one person has been accepted and evacuated from Afghanistan under the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme. The Minister has very kindly written to me to correct that report, which was in the newspapers last Sunday; I hope in his response that he will clarify that correction for the whole House.

When migrants arrive here, our system is grossly wasteful—in both human and financial terms. Control has become cruelty. Staggering inefficiencies by successive Governments trap people in limbo—at incredible expense to the taxpayer—in the system for years, unable to build a life or to contribute to our society. I recently came across someone who had been in the asylum system for 14 years—14 years, my Lords. Evidence from the Home Affairs Select Committee shows that, of all the people who arrived in the UK by boat and claimed asylum in 2021, only 4% of claims had been processed by the Home Office by October 2022. This does not treat people with dignity or compassion, nor is it control. As well as the overcrowded and disease-ridden conditions exposed recently—which the Government are now addressing—camps and hotel accommodation keep migrants separate from the rest of the community. That segregation feeds concerns about lack of control. It fails to treat asylum seekers and refugees as neighbours who are to be loved, or citizens in waiting. We miss out on the gifts they bring and want to contribute. I met someone yesterday who is now a citizen. He is incredibly proud of his citizenship and is contributing enormously to our society by working with people in prison to help them go straight when they come out.

Solidarity with others is built by contact and building relationships. Instead, we feed the politics of suspicion and division. There are real alternatives to this. We have seen in the Ukraine scheme that asylum seekers and refugees can live within existing communities. Such communities should receive prompt and adequate government support. It does cost money, but it is cheaper than exporting our responsibilities and much cheaper if the system is compassionate, clear, efficient, accurate and effective. We are clear that the UK cannot take everyone, but it can make its decisions through a system which balances effective, accurate and clear control with compassion and dignity—a system based in our history and proper moral responsibilities. We used to talk of no recourse to public funds. A system of segregation risks creating a policy of no recourse to public compassion. We should take heart from the magnificent public response to refugees of recent years. In this country, there are still profound reserves of kindness and good will to draw on.

What can we do in the short, medium and long term which is underpinned by these principles? In the short term, we can combat smugglers and prevent small boats from crossing the channel. To minimise irregular arrivals, we need to provide safe and legal ways for people to get here and receive assessment and, where appropriate, protection. Approaches for this can include expanding the family reunification models, community sponsorship, and humanitarian visas and corridors from a far greater number of countries. We cannot continue with the tenfold increase, between 2010 and 2020, in the number of people waiting more than a year for an initial decision. The average processing time for an asylum case is currently around 15 months—it should be a maximum of six. In Germany in 2021, the average asylum procedure took 6.6 months despite a far higher refugee and asylum-seeker population. Nearly one-third of those who have been waiting more than six months are made up of nationals from 10 countries that have a successful application rate of between 75% and 99%. It is ridiculous and disgraceful that people fleeing Afghanistan and Syria have to wait so long when their applications will almost certainly be granted.

It is right that safe countries are currently determined by statutory instrument; Parliament is then able to democratically scrutinise those decisions, altering them, where needed, on the views and needs of the population. We need a triaging system to cut back which distinguishes quickly between people, based on the likelihood that they will be granted asylum; it would speed up decision-making, and allow those who almost certainly would not be granted asylum to be removed almost immediately. That is not so far from our current policy but, in practice, it is not happening. The Home Office could do that. Removing people whose claims are unsuccessful can happen in a dignified way. There has been real success with voluntary removals in the past when the Government collaborated with civil society. Returns have been on a downward trajectory, however, for a number of years. Removals will be swift, just and fair only if the system is clear, accurate and not overwhelmed. In the meantime, I propose we should also make one major change: asylum seekers should not be just allowed to work but expected to work, except in limited circumstances where it would clearly be inappropriate. This combines and matches the right to fair and dignified protection with a responsibility to their new society and the common good.

I have four seconds left. In the medium term, we suggest that people smuggling, like piracy, should become an international crime and that the UK should take the lead in the struggle against people smuggling by forming an international body to track it down and attack it everywhere. It is what we did in the 17th century against piracy and in the 19th century against slave trading. Surely this is as serious.

Finally, in the longer term, we need to update the 1951 refugee convention, which is hugely valuable in maintaining the importance of protection for all refugees but must be made fit for the new challenges that we face. A recent report by the Legatum Institute lays out some areas of ambiguity, including the role of the safe third-country principle, the responsibility to report other countries that are hosting many refugees, guidance on return and readmission and the eligibility of people fleeing new drivers of displacement, such as climate migrants. This problem is going to get worse. Britain showed global leadership in 1951, and we can do so again. We need more ambition in our policies. Time is not a luxury. Climate change and conflict risk driving migration for future generations at a rate we cannot imagine today—perhaps tenfold more.

Of course, we do not have the answer on these Benches, but the Church of England, together with many others, plays a leading role in dealing with the consequences of our present policy and its chronic dysfunction. We have done so for quite a while. In a chapel in Canterbury Cathedral, there is an inscription several centuries old that bears witness to the protection given to French Huguenots who fled persecution in the 17th and 18th centuries. The community needed a place to worship, and a chapel in the cathedral was offered to them by a simple exchange of one-page letters. They are still there. The French Protestant Church of Canterbury is there today, next to the plaque which heralds

“the glorious asylum which England has in all times given to foreigners flying for refuge against oppression and tyranny.”

This is our tradition, our history and our pride. Let us make it our future. I beg to move.

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Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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My Lords, keeping to my sense of compassion, I shall have compassion on the train of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and do my very best to be as brief as possible. I will write where I do not answer questions——but probably not until after Christmas. I have higher claims.

Lord Robathan Portrait Lord Robathan (Con)
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Why, what is going on?

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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Not a lot.

First, I thank noble Lords for their extraordinary contributions. I cannot refer to all of them because so many of them were so excellent. This has been a remarkable debate; I am very grateful. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sahota, the noble Baroness, Lady Twycross, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester. They all contributed remarkably from their experience and have demonstrated the reasons why they are in this House. I thank them.

Secondly, I am not going to mention 90th birthdays—oh, I just have. I was not going to mention birthdays, which come round increasingly frequently, but I must say that I sat in awe listening to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. I am sure that that is true for the entire House. His moral authority vastly exceeds that of anyone else here, going right back to the Kindertransport. It has been a privilege for me—and, I am sure, for everyone else here—to engage with him on this subject.

As the Minister rightly said, this is a very emotive and difficult subject. I am just going to throw out a few headlines. I had this issue in an earlier draft but I, or one of my advisers, took it out; I am now going to annoy them by putting it back in. I just wonder, in view of the level of difficulty of this subject and its immense importance—numerous noble Lords have emphasised this very strongly—whether it would not make more sense to have a separate department for immigration. It could focus on this issue rather than having it fall within the complexities of the Home Office, which, as we know, is one of the most difficult offices to lead.

That leads me to say that, in listening to the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Murray, I felt a great deal of sympathy. It is a new and complex system that is being looked at. It is under serious strain, as he said. However, I say to him that affirmation is not evidence. He made a number of affirmations about what would be done, what has been done and what is being done but, certainly, other noble Lords tried hard to go for evidence. In letters that are written, it is important that we look at that.

I sympathise with his legal difficulties. Anyone in the Church of England would sympathise with people’s legal difficulties. I have just had a clergy discipline measure against me dismissed, thankfully. It was for not recognising a particular claimant who said that he was the living incarnation of the Lord God—I had ignored him more than 1,000 times and therefore should be dismissed from my post. In a totally strait-laced judgment after some months, the relevant judge dismissed the claim. Regarding his comment about the most reverend Primates the Archbishop of York and the Archbishop of Canterbury disagreeing with each other, there is nothing new about that. It is different from the iron discipline of the Conservative Cabinet, but we suffer what we must—the poor most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York, in particular.

I am very nervous about venturing into economics but, with the noble Lords, Lord Horam and Lord Desai, I will dance into the minefield. My days in the oil industry were a long time ago. Maybe economics have changed since then, but it was said that the lowest-cost producer would always survive—there is such a thing as a law of supply and demand. If we have safe and legal routes, we automatically become the lowest-cost producer. That by itself will completely undermine the business model of the people smugglers. I throw that out as probably a wrong answer, but I do my best.

The Minister did not answer the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Browne, about the assessment by the Foreign Office and others of what is going on in Rwanda. He said other things about Rwanda, but did not answer that question. It would be useful if he could write with an answer to the very clear question on why the Government’s assessment is so different from that of their professional Foreign Office advisers. We need some answers on that.

I agree with noble Lords who made a very strong and clear argument that we need to talk about asylum as distinct from migration. They are very different things. Asylum happens because of what happens elsewhere; migration happens because of what we choose to happen—around students, for instance, since most places do not confuse the two in quite the same way. Whether we allow or even encourage—even possibly compel—people in appropriate positions to take employment while they are waiting for claims is a question that, again, I do not think was answered. It was put forward by a large number of noble Lords and is extremely important.

I agree very much with the noble Baronesses, Lady Berridge and Lady Ludford, that I was wrong to suggest that we need to replace the 1951 refugee convention. We need a new convention and to keep the 1951 refugee convention. The point on that is very powerful. It was an error on my part.

I return, if I may, to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Lilley. I sort of use my hotline to God, as he referred to it, but I regret to say that I appear to have been disconnected for not having paid the bill. All that I got when I pressed button 3 was a long recorded message, so I went back to the Bible. It may seem unusual but in fact, during my first speech and that of the other Members of this Bench, we all quoted only the Bible and no other form of hotline. So, who is my neighbour? We can answer the question by saying “Everyone is my neighbour, but it is not a logical consequence that everyone must come here”. The logical consequence is that we need to do all that we can to ensure that those who are suffering find their suffering reduced. That may well not include bringing them to a different country from the one in which they grew up.

My long experience of over 20 years in conflict zones, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, is that almost no one wants to be a refugee. They want to stay at home and build their country, as we do. They love the United Kingdom but not all of them want to stay here. We can see that when, thanks to the good work of the Home Office last summer, we had almost 700 Anglican Communion bishops from 162 countries coming here, with much help, and not one of them overstayed. Many of them live in war zones; most of them are never paid but live off the money they get from tilling some ground, while working under enormous personal risk, in intense poverty and much danger.

“Who is my neighbour?” is dealt with not only by asylum but by stabilisation—it is a great pity that the Government have almost abolished the stabilisation unit in the FCDO—by development, and by creating hope locally by addressing the kind of awful and heart-breaking situation spoken of by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson. That is what stops people coming.

The noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, mentioned the upcoming Nigerian election. I am not going to develop that theme but I entirely agree with her and have spoken recently to the Foreign Office about it.

I will answer the particular questions of the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, by letter if I may, because they are not all directly connected with this service—sorry, this place; I do have a lot of carol services. To pick up the question asked by him and, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Lilley—it may not have been him—about what we are doing to increase attendance at churches, we are working extremely hard. Yesterday evening, we had more than 100 people in my chapel to hear the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am very glad that there are atheists here in such profusion because it gives them a chance to hear that, and they might just be converted. You never know, but I do not think so—I am looking at the noble Lord, Lord Cashman. We will see in our post-retirement existence whether we exist or not.

Finally, in my last minute I will talk about the Policy Exchange. The Policy Exchange document is interesting and is certainly worth reading; I commend it to the House. I do not agree with it any more than I agreed with an earlier Policy Exchange document which suggested that the best way to deal with levelling up in the north—particularly the city of Liverpool, where I was living at the time—was to move the entire population of Liverpool to Cambridge. That was in 2008. That was not very popular in Liverpool; I did not consult those in Cambridge. Policy Exchange has a valuable function in provoking ideas, but not always quite as a valuable a function in solving problems.

Once again, I thank noble Lords across the whole House for a remarkable debate and a huge number of wise ideas, which I will be going through; we will no doubt consider them at great length within the Church. With that, I wish noble Lords a good weekend and thank them very much.

Motion agreed.

Windrush Lessons Learned Review

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Excerpts
Thursday 19th March 2020

(4 years, 4 months ago)

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Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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My Lords, the publication of this Statement is very welcome indeed. The heartfelt nature of the apology was notable.

I have a couple of questions about the recommendations to put to the noble Baroness. First, one of the historic failures of the Church of England—in many ways as bad as the hostile environment—was the terrible reception that we gave the Windrush generation, the vast majority of whom were Anglicans, when they came here. They were often turned away from Church of England churches, or were given a very weak welcome or no welcome at all. As a result, they went off and formed their own churches, which have flourished much better than ours. We would be so much stronger had we behaved correctly. I have apologised for that, and I continue to do so and see the wickedness of our actions.

However, the recommendations, particularly recommendations 7 and 8, talk about reconciliation and understanding the nature of the groups being dealt with by the Home Office. Will it consider bringing in, talking with and using the services of the black-majority church leaders, often Pentecostal church leaders, who have been gracious, wise and strong in upholding their communities? They have much to teach us.

The same point is to be made on recommendation 6, which talks about the history and the need to understand colonial history. Many of these people will now be in their 80s and 90s; capturing the live voice of those with long experiences in this country and who have contributed so much is now time limited.

Recommendations 14 and 17, on the values statement and the ethical standards, come straight back to the need for culture change in the Home Office. I am only too aware of how hard that is in any institution. In the values statement and in the way in which the ethical standards are set out, will there be metrics and clear, tangible tests rather than mere expressions of good intent so that it can be reflected on?

Finally, I ask that the emphasis on a people-centred approach continue. As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said so clearly and well, there is a profound need to avoid repetition through having a people-centred system.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I thank the most reverend Primate for those points. He has educated me this afternoon because I did not realise that the Church of England gave the Windrush generation such an awful reception. It feels a bit like a confessional at the moment, but it is reflected in the report that we all need to look to ourselves to see where we have gone wrong. The report is not a blame game but a narrative over almost 70 years of where everyone failed these people. The Home Secretary has not replied to the recommendations yet—one would not expect her to—but I will certainly take those points on the recommendations back. Reconciliation can bring out some wonderful things; in learning about people’s history, you understand people so much better. I will take those points back, and the Secretary of State will respond in full before the Summer Recess.