Lord Cashman debates involving the Home Office during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 2nd Mar 2022
Thu 3rd Feb 2022
Tue 1st Feb 2022
Mon 10th Jan 2022
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Lords Hansard - part one
Mon 10th Jan 2022
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Lords Hansard - part two
Wed 17th Nov 2021
Lord Horam Portrait Lord Horam (Con)
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My Lords, I spoke on this subject in Committee, so I will not make any more than a few brief remarks on Report. I cited the Australian example, which now has all-party support in Australia, for dealing with a particular form of offshoring.

The problem of dealing with cross-channel migration is undoubtedly very difficult, but it is not impossible; we have had some success in dealing with the problem of people coming across in lorries, which is one of the reasons they are now coming by sea. But the reason I cannot go along with my noble friend Lady Stroud is that if you are dealing with a very difficult, protracted and visible problem like this, you need to consider all the options available. Some of them will turn out, on closer analysis, to be impractical. It will turn out that you simply do not want to do some of them because of the reasons raised by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham and the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, about some of the ramifications. Some of them may simply be politically impossible to do, but it is an obligation on the Government to explore every avenue to resolve this very difficult problem.

Also, this is clearly an international problem. It is not only Britain that is dealing with this issue; it is Greece, Italy, France, Spain and so on. One thing I am sure noble Lords have said in the past is that, when looking at this, we should not simply confine ourselves to what we think is right. We should look abroad to see how other countries have tackled it. Some countries have had some success, some have had less success, but it would be foolish to ignore what is happening abroad and what methods they are trying.

For all those reasons, it is just common sense to keep the wording of the Bill as it is at the moment to give the Government the opportunity to explore a number of different avenues, some of which, I agree, may not turn out to be very sensible, and some of which may be more productive. To stop this now and to exclude some aspects because there are unanswered questions at this stage, when the Government are clearly in negotiations on this—they are half way or quarter way through the process; I do not know—would be foolish in the interests of looking at the whole picture.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, often makes the point that this aspect of asylum seekers and refugees coming across the channel is only a small part of a much larger picture of migration; I think he used the figure that asylum seekers make up 6% of those coming over. But we have to get back to the bigger picture of what is happening on migration. By the way, I include Ukraine in that. Obviously, we all hope that no Ukrainian has to find a way across the channel via a smuggler. We hope that this country will be generous enough to deal with all those coming here properly. As I understand it, the Prime Minister said at Question Time today that he had been in discussions with the Poles, for example, about how Britain could help the Polish Government to deal with the massive influx they have had over their borders. That is an entirely separate issue which I hope we can deal with far more generously than so far.

I think this is a distraction, if you like—a difficult and problematic distraction from a very much bigger picture, which I hope we can return to if we really can solve this. But I urge the House not to rule out any particular measure, however difficult it may be and however many questions it may pose, at this stage.

Lord Cashman Portrait Lord Cashman (Lab)
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My Lords, I will speak rather briefly; it seems to me that brevity has a very wide definition. Let me just say that outsourcing is entirely unacceptable. I would like to see the back of this clause and schedule; they should not be in a Bill dealing with asylum or refugees. As I said in Committee, this will place vulnerable people again at risk. I give the simple example of someone who might be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender ending up in a country to which they are outsourced where they could be criminalised, persecuted and under real threat. What kind of signal do we send to the rest of the world when we treat vulnerable people in this way? I support all the amendments in this group. I think that is brief enough.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, I think the noble Lord, Lord Horam, makes the mistake of thinking that this House trusts the Government. Of course, it does not—or rather, by and large, the majority in this House does not, because the Government have broken their word so many times.

I will speak briefly as well, because I am very concerned that we can vote as much as possible but I do not understand why the Government are trying to move people to other countries. This makes no sense, and it is one of the many ways that the Government are trying to avoid their obligations. Instead of trying to deport people while the Government dither about processing their claims, we should provide them with decent accommodation and work so that they can start to retrieve some of their lives. If there was ever a moment when this Government should come out against the far-right ideology within their own ranks, this is it.

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I fear that Clauses 31 and 32 make a mockery of such claims.
Lord Cashman Portrait Lord Cashman (Lab)
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My Lords, I shall be brief and summarise the position I took in Committee. I support all the amendments in this group, particularly those relating to Clauses 31 and 32. I do so because the amendments will protect the most vulnerable, including women and girls who have been subjected to gender-based violence and abuse and the long-term harm those cause. They will also protect other vulnerable groups with protected characteristics, and recognise the immense and deep trauma such individuals have suffered but often deny because of a deep sense of shame. The amendments also restore the principle of a civilised and humane approach to asylum and ensure that we conform with the UN refugee convention and our international legal obligations. Finally, I have been deeply moved by the letters and some postcards I have received, particularly from women and other vulnerable groups, who express that they have much to fear from the clauses and the effects that they will have on their lives.

Lord Etherton Portrait Lord Etherton (CB)
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I have two amendments in this group, but they are quite distinct from what has been debated so far and distinct from each other. One is concerned with Clause 32(5) and the other concerns Clause 36(1). Because the amendment to Clause 32(5) is a manuscript amendment tabled only today, if I may, I shall start with that to Clause 36(1), because your Lordships will be familiar with the background to that.

Clause 36(1) seeks to define, for the purposes of the convention, the meaning of coming “directly” to the United Kingdom from a country of persecution. The same definition was relevant to Clause 11, because that cross-refers to the provisions of Clause 36, so we have in Clause 36 as a matter of proposed domestic legislation and as a matter of interpretation of Article 31 of the convention the same definition of arriving “directly”. Your Lordships will recall that the issue was whether, as the Government contend, if an asylum seeker passes through an intermediate state on the way to the United Kingdom from the place of persecution—through a place considered to be somewhere they ought reasonably to have applied for refugee status—they have not come “directly”. In fact, the only way they could come directly, if they are surrounded by other countries—Ukraine is a good example—would be to fly.

The House rejected that definition, because it accepted the amendment to remove Clause 11. It expressly rejected that definition of arriving “directly”. Amendment 46 simply takes out the corresponding provision in Clause 36(1), which was incorporated in Clause 11 but would otherwise simply remain at large but, so far as I can see, would have no relevance whatever to anything else in the Bill. If I am wrong on that and there is some purpose in retaining Clause 36(1), although that interpretation of arriving “directly” was rejected by the House when it approved the removal of Clause 11, the House would want to know what it is being retained for: why it is being retained and in relation to what other provisions in the Bill. My amendment would remove Clause 36(1) from the Bill.

Lord Etherton Portrait Lord Etherton (CB)
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My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 61 in my name. Unlike the previous amendments that have been discussed so eloquently, this is not based on specificities in relation to the nature of the accommodation and particular people; it is a compendious description of the standard of accommodation that should be provided to a refugee, in the light of and against the background of the unsatisfactory accommodation provided to date, which, as I said, has been so eloquently elaborated upon by previous speakers.

The compendious description is in three parts, which are as follows. The accommodation

“must be provided in the United Kingdom”,

which ties in with Clause 28—I will deal with that more fully under that heading. It

“must be consistent with the European Convention on Human Rights”—

there can be no objection to that, for obvious reasons. It must also

“be such as is appropriate for the safety and welfare of that refugee having particular regard to any protected characteristic asserted by the refugee, within the meaning of Chapter 1 of Part 2 of the Equality Act 2010, which is innate or immutable.”

I will say a little bit about that last particular part of this compendious description of the appropriate accommodation that should be provided. An asylum seeker who has “innate or immutable” protected characteristics may have particular vulnerabilities—we have heard quite a bit about that—which need to be taken into account in determining what would be appropriate while their particular claim is being assessed, and even if it has been rejected. In the case of LGBTQI+ and single women refugees, for example, it has been clearly established that they may well encounter bullying, sexual harassment and physical violence from other refugees coming from the same or similar countries, such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Uganda, Nigeria, Iran, Iraq and Syria—or, indeed, in the case of LGBTQI+ refugees, any of the more than 70 countries where sex between two people of the same sex is illegal. There have been comprehensive analyses and accounts of this type of abuse in detention centres, and one can find them in Stonewall’s 2016 report No Safe Refuge: Experiences of LGBT Asylum Seekers in Detention, Stephen Shaw’s 2016 report to the Home Office on his Review into the Welfare in Detention of Vulnerable Persons and the 2020 recommendations of the University of Sussex’s School of Law, Politics and Sociology on people seeking asylum in the UK on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

In relation to the suggestion in the Bill that there could be offshore centres, I will describe in more detail criticisms of the state of accommodation and examples of the sort of violent and oppressive treatment that I have described—particularly the appalling events that have taken place in some of the Australian offshore centres in Papua New Guinea.

Lord Cashman Portrait Lord Cashman (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise briefly to speak to these amendments and congratulate my noble friend Lady Lister of Burtersett on so eloquently moving the amendment. I also congratulate the other speakers who have spoken in favour.

I particularly welcome Amendment 61 of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, because, as he said, he introduces into it elements—human rights and the regard to the special provisions within the Equality Act —of which we should be proud and on which we should lead internationally. I give my wholehearted support to that because, as noble Lords have heard me say before—I make no apologies for saying it again and again—in each of these situations, I imagine what I would want as an asylum seeker or refugee. I must imagine myself in that situation. Some who read our newspapers would believe that it is a picnic and a party; it is certainly not at the moment in the United Kingdom. I believe that the signal that we are sending out with the Bill and with these amendments is that asylum seekers and those seeking refuge are not welcome.

To reiterate the points made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, I remember that, when I was a Member of the European Parliament many years ago, I was approached by a person whose partner was a gay man from Belarus who was seeking asylum here. His asylum process was going through and, suddenly, in the very early hours of the morning, he was arrested and detained at a detention centre. Let us make no bones about it: Clause 12(9) introduces detention centres—they are called “accommodation” centres, but asylum seekers are detained and cannot leave them at will. This is why the minimum conditions that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham outlined are a basic and bare necessity to which we should adhere. This young gay man was placed in a detention centre for a number of weeks and had to sleep in shared accommodation; we managed to get him out because his partner could afford a rather brilliant lawyer to plead the case. While he was there, he contemplated suicide on an hourly basis. This young man is now in a senior job in the United Kingdom, paying his taxes, his dues and his national insurance and abiding by the same rules and laws as everyone else. But he still lives with that scar every single day, and I do not want any other person to experience that.

Placing vulnerable people back into these situations, as outlined by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, only increases stress and the damage to mental health. If LGBTQI people are put back into the communities from which they have fled, they face further oppression within places that should be safe, and it makes it much more difficult for them to prove their LGBTQI status to others.

Someone once said to me, “Oh, being trans is just a feeling, isn’t it?” Well, I cannot prove to anyone that I am a gay man; it is a feeling and one that I have when I look at another human being—although not every single man, interestingly enough. Therefore, we have to deal with these particular issues, not only of LGBTQI people but all of these vulnerable asylum seekers.

I will finish with this. In roughly 1600, Shakespeare co-wrote a play; it was the only play that he co-wrote and it is “Sir Thomas More”. Sir Thomas More is called to London because the citizens of London are rebelling—they had probably read the tabloids of the day—because “the strangers” had made their way from Calais via Dover to London. In a parenthesis to a speech, Thomas More comes out, and with one hand silences the crowd. In that silence, a voice shouts, “Remove them!” Thomas More replies: “You bid that they be removed, the stranger, with their children upon their back, their families at their side, their belongings at their feet. Imagine you are the stranger, with your children upon your back, your family at your side, your belongings at your feet. Imagine you are the stranger and bid that they be removed and show your mountanish inhumanity.” It is a great privilege and pleasure to support these amendments.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, I support all the amendments in this group and I ask the Minister to address in her response a couple of issues, particularly in relation to Amendments 57 and 61, about restricting the placing of vulnerable people in accommodation centres—military barracks. When a similar amendment to Amendment 57 was tabled in Committee in the other place, the Home Office Minister, Tom Pursglove, said it was

“unnecessary because there are no plans to place those with children in accommodation centres”.—[Official Report, Commons, Nationality and Borders Bill Committee, 21/10/21; col. 295.]

If the Home Office has no such plans, which is a welcome commitment, why will it not accept a statutory shield against placing at least children in those centres?

Wider than that, I am grateful to the British Red Cross, which has reminded us that there is a Home Office policy document, of which the latest update was in May 2021, called Allocation of Accommodation Policy. It has a section on “Asylum seekers considered unsuitable for Napier”, which starts with the statement:

“Women and dependent children are not suitable to be accommodated at Napier”,


before listing further cases, including potential survivors of modern slavery, people with a disability and those with complex health needs. The tablers of Amendment 57, which I support, say the list should be longer and should include those under Amendment 61. If the Home Office has these policy commitments, it is my contention that it ought to accept the amendments restricting the types of people who would be sent to these accommodation centres. I would be very pleased to hear the Minister agree and therefore accept at least Amendments 57 and 61.

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Lord Cashman Portrait Lord Cashman (Lab)
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It was also particularly in relation to LGBTQI people placed in those situations.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Yes, I totally concur with the noble Lord’s point.

I turn to the judgment on Napier, mentioned by the noble Baronesses, Lady Lister and Lady Neuberger, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham and the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. The judgment on Napier was reached on the basis of the conditions on site prior to the significant improvement works we carried out and the measures we put in place as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The court did not make any findings that the accommodation centres were unsuitable for providing support to asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute. Indeed, the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 specifically provides for this type of accommodation. The Napier site provides full-board facilities with meals and other essential items provided, as well as access to essential local services such as healthcare. I have been through the improvements that have been put in place. I am most grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham for reporting back on his visit there last week. He did not have me wandering around after him showing him the best bits; he was free to go in, report and make suggestions to me on the back of that visit.

I hope I have given a fulsome response to the Committee, for the reasons that I have outlined, about the need to ensure that we can support asylum seekers appropriately but also encourage—

Baroness Neuberger Portrait Baroness Neuberger (CB)
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My Lords, I rise to support the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Lister of Burtersett, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Cashman. I would have said almost everything the noble Baroness has said, so I will just add a few other points.

One is that we have to recognise the nature of asylum seekers arriving in the country and the evidence presented by Doctors of the World and others. Asylum seekers often arrive suffering from considerable ill health. It is important we realise that, because that makes them the sort of people who ought to be included in the list provided in the amendment. According to Doctors of the World’s experience of running a clinic, 70% of patients with an outstanding asylum claim have at least one chronic medical condition, 30% have a psychological condition, almost a quarter present with an acute condition, and over 40% report their health as being “bad” or “very bad”. These are therefore people whom one might class as vulnerable, and this is the issue we are probing. Like my noble friend Lord Kerr, I am a bit worried about lipstick on pigs. Nevertheless, I think we will need to tease this out a little more, and we know the health conditions of asylum seekers are considerably worse than those of the general population.

I also want to pick up on what the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said about the piece in the Times, which I also saw, and I want to reflect on some personal experience. We run a very small charity in memory of my parents. My mother was an asylum seeker, a refugee from Nazi Germany, and in my parents’ name we run this small charity to provide opportunities for education for asylum seekers who are not entitled to get student finance. I have therefore interviewed, over the last 20 years, quite a large number of asylum seekers, the majority of whom have been young men.

Without exception, they report being traumatised. They do not come as dangerous would-be criminals; they have seen their parents be killed before their eyes, have been forced into armies of appalling dictatorships, have been involved in civil wars and have been persecuted because they are bisexual—whatever it may be. None of them come and apply for a scholarship in the first period after they arrive in this country. We probably do not see them until a year, 18 months or two years in, and only then are they beginning to be able to talk about their experiences. Therefore, because they are clearly vulnerable, would they be classed as people who could be regarded as making an application “without delay”?

The Home Office’s guidance on gender-based violence and women who have suffered that kind of issue being treated favourably, if you like, and being allowed to wait until they are able to speak out is moderately generous—perhaps I would not go that far but would just say “possibly” generous, but whatever. I want to know whether we can extend that principle to those who have been traumatised in all sorts of other ways and have major mental health issues, often brought on by the trauma of what they have experienced.

Would the Minister be willing to entertain the prospect of those who are vulnerable for a whole variety of reasons being treated in the same way, if you like, as the Home Office guidance? We cannot see it within the Bill, but it would be wonderful if that were the case.

Lord Cashman Portrait Lord Cashman (Lab)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, who has added her name to the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady Lister of Burtersett.

The earlier debate on the clause was illuminating and displayed this House at its very best. The speeches and interventions on all sides sought to give a voice to those who are often not heard—the voiceless, the vulnerable and the persecuted. I will not rehearse the arguments that were put before your Lordships during the debate on the previous group but I echo this: it is our duty to stand in the shoes of others and imagine. I revisit that often when dealing with subjects such as those that we are dealing with today, but never more so than when we are dealing with those who seek refuge and asylum.

I am particularly grateful for the number of briefings that I have received, in particular for an online briefing that I managed to attend with others, including the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, who referred to this earlier. I thank Stonewall, Rainbow Migration, Safe Passage and others who have expressed their concern about the negative consequences for LGBTQI asylum seekers.

This probing amendment is extremely important. I am concerned, as are others, that the “without delay” criterion would affect large numbers of traumatised people, including, as my noble friend Lady Lister said, survivors of gender-based abuse and people who have fled persecution based on their sexual orientation and who are unable to claim promptly, as well as other vulnerable groups and the individuals who make up those groups. At the moment, the Bill does not provide any exceptions to the “without delay” conditions. Therefore, this amendment, to which I am proud to have added my name, seeks to ascertain whether and to what extent certain vulnerable groups would be affected by the “without delay” condition. Indeed, the Minister probably feels that she has already referred to this to some extent in her earlier contribution.

The amendment seeks to protect refugees with specific histories or characteristics from the adverse effects of Clause 11. The amendment rightly highlights personal characteristics that are relevant to why many refugees are not able to comply with the implicit demand underpinning Clause 11 and Clause 36, to which it is connected. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, who made the case earlier for the inclusion of protected characteristics in relation to those cited in the Equality Act.

Any male who wishes to transition is free to do so. In a tolerant society I would expect our approach to be, “Wear what you want, change your names and pronouns as you like and, of course, express your gender identity”. However, none of this changes someone’s sex, and people should not have expectations of the same rights as women. If any trans prisoners are mistreated in the male estate, prison authorities should punish perpetrators and protect the victims, of course. But we need to untangle this humane response from the often-bullying demand that we deny biological reality or that the rights of transgender women can be used to sideline women’s rights to single-sex provision—an important and hard-fought-for right which I as a woman am not prepared to sell out just for political expediency or because it is unpopular. If necessary, special provision should be made for transgender prisoners, of course, and maybe the details, as people have described them, are not what one would want. However, an attempt at resolving this in a humane way is why this amendment is so important. It is a practical and pragmatic solution for transgender prisoners who feel unsafe on the male estate, but it does not force women to give up their rights, or compromise women and same-sex provision on the women’s estate.
Lord Cashman Portrait Lord Cashman (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I rise to speak against this amendment. We should remind ourselves that when we talk about trans women and trans men, we are talking about men and women who have faced very difficult choices about their identity and whom they believe themselves to be. Once they face that choice and make the decision, the transition is a very lengthy process and, again, it is not undertaken lightly because, as we have heard, so often it leads to gender reassignment.

I occasionally go on Twitter. I have read the tweets and received messages from people who, in relation to what we are discussing tonight, have said that if they thought that they were going to prison as a trans woman or a trans man, they would rather commit suicide than face what they believe would be inhumane treatment within the United Kingdom Prison Service. We have to deal with these fears. We are being asked to deal with fears on both sides of this argument, and I want us to deal with both equally. The balancing of rights always poses for us the greatest problem, but I believe that the Ministry of Justice, in its policy on assessing trans prisoners, has got it absolutely right.

It is late and we have other important work to do, so I will begin to wind up. But I wish to associate myself wholeheartedly with the comments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. I could go through the policy section by section stating why I believe it is right. I am not going to do that, but if your Lordships wished to return to it, I would do so.

I will finish with these reflections. This amendment, even though it has been placed in good faith and, as the mover said, with good intention, deeply concerns me because it perpetrates the stereotype of trans women and trans men as sexual predators—as a threat to other women, and trans men as a threat to the wider society. It also, as was said in debate on the previous amendment, creates further inequalities; it does not reduce them.

Baroness Meyer Portrait Baroness Meyer (Con)
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My Lords, I support this amendment, and the first thing I want to say is that we are talking only about men who have not transitioned to women, which is quite different.

Although we have come a long way since the 2007 Corston report to improve conditions for women in prisons, we are now failing them. Indeed, something has recently gone badly wrong. Women prisoners have a right to the security of a single-sex space. By definition, women are deprived of this security if men are admitted to their prison, including trans women prisoners of male sex, whether or not they have the benefit of a GRC. By the same token, a women’s prison is no place for vulnerable at-risk males. Prison policy must provide for the protection of everybody, and this amendment makes that clear.

How then have we allowed prison policy to be captured by a concern for the protection of trans prisoners at the cost of imprisoned women’s most fundamental rights? There is no balance or fairness in that. The answer of course is that government departments have allowed themselves to be influenced, even intimidated, by noisy and modish pressure groups, whose wilful ignorance of basic science has all the features of a cult.

I have never visited or been to a prison, but as a woman I can imagine how it must be to be incarcerated and threatened. On this note, I very much support this amendment and thank my noble friends Lord Blencathra, Lord Farmer and Lord Cormack for tabling it.

Lord Cashman Portrait Lord Cashman (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to speak in support of these two amendments and to follow the Minister, who has, throughout the six years, made it seem a bit like fun, and so time flew past. Joking aside, her commitment from the very beginning has never been in question.

To put these amendments into context, for nearly 500 years this House routinely passed hateful legislation that damaged, and in many cases destroyed, the lives of gay people. Many of the measures that this House passed, century after century, are well known. The Acts of 1533 and 1855 are now infamous, but a battery of lesser-known laws ensured that gay people were systematically fettered within a vile and oppressive regime of regulation that prevented them living full lives.

Moved by
266: After Clause 170, insert the following new Clause—
“Disregards and pardons for convictions etc. of certain offences
(1) The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 is amended as follows.(2) In section 92 (power of Secretary of State to disregard convictions or cautions)—(a) in subsection (1)(b), omit “or”,(b) in subsection (1)(c), at the end insert “or”,(c) after subsection (1)(c), insert—“(d) any other offence which falls within subsection (1A),”,(d) after subsection (1), insert—“(1A) An offence falls within this subsection if the offence— (a) regulated, or was used in practice to regulate, sexual activity between persons of the same sex, and (b) either—(i) has been repealed or, in the case of an offence at common law, abolished, or(ii) has not been repealed or abolished but once covered sexual activity between persons of the same sex of a type which, or in circumstances which, would not amount to the offence on the day on which this subsection comes into force.(1B) Where an offence of the type described in subsection (1A) covers or once covered activity other than sexual activity between persons of the same sex, the offence falls within subsection (1A) only to the extent that it once covered sexual activity between persons of the same sex.(1C) In this section, “sexual activity between persons of the same sex” includes—(a) any physical or affectionate activity between persons of the same sex which is of a type which is characteristic of persons involved in an intimate personal relationship,(b) conduct intended to introduce or procure such activity.”,(e) in subsection (3)(a), before the words “the other person” insert “in respect of an offence mentioned in subsection (1)(a)-(c)”,(f) in subsection (3)(b), substitute the full stop with “, or”,(g) after subsection (3)(b), insert—“(c) in respect of an offence that falls within subsection (1A) the conduct constituting the offence, if occurring in the same circumstances, would not be an offence on the day on which this subsection comes into force.”” Member’s explanatory statement
The purpose of this new Clause is to extend the current disregard and pardon schemes in England and Wales to enable individuals who were convicted of or cautioned for offences because of engaging in same-sex sexual acts, of a kind that would be lawful today, to apply to have a conviction or caution disregarded and, if successful, be pardoned.
Lord Cashman Portrait Lord Cashman (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I speak in favour of Amendments 266 and 267 and pay tribute to the work of my noble friend Lord Lexden and Professor Paul Johnson of York in doing so. Due to the lateness of the time I want to focus exactly on what our amendments do: they are focused on the pardons and disregards scheme. In 2012 the scheme was introduced to enable those living with a caution or conviction for a now-repealed homosexual offence to have that caution or conviction disregarded. In 2017 a further scheme was introduced to provide those so cautioned or convicted, both living and dead, with a pardon. A pardon, aside from its legal status, is a strong, symbolic apology to each and every person who has been wronged.

However, the disregard and pardon schemes in England and Wales are significantly flawed because they encompass only a small fraction of the laws that, over the decades and centuries, have immiserated the lives of gay and bisexual people. For five years I have worked closely with my noble friend Lord Lexden and, as I said, with Professor Paul Johnson at the University of York.

Significant problems, as I said, remain in this disregard and pardon scheme. The amendments before your Lordships would cover, for instance, now-repealed criminal offences such as the offence of solicitation by men, which was used to entrap gay and bisexual men, sometimes for doing nothing more than chatting up another adult man. The amendments would also cover the offences in the repealed service discipline Acts, which were once used to prosecute and punish consensual same-sex relationships. Those living with cautions or convictions for these and other relevant offences would be able to apply for a disregard and, if successful, be pardoned. Those who have died will be posthumously pardoned.

It is important that I am absolutely clear on one point: no one who was cautioned or convicted in respect of conduct that would be an offence today would be able to attain a disregard or receive a pardon. Our amendments to the Bill contain the strongest safeguards to ensure that those who committed crimes that today remain crimes cannot take advantage of, or benefit from, the disregard and pardon scheme. Equally, the extension of the disregard scheme that we propose means that it should be decided on a case-by-case basis by the Secretary of State, who would grant a disregard only if satisfied that the conduct in question would not be an offence today.

I could speak longer and in greater detail on crimes that have been perpetrated against homosexual men and bisexual men over 500 years, but I will say nothing more. I beg to move the amendment.

Lord Lexden Portrait Lord Lexden (Con)
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My Lords, I endorse all that my noble friend Lord Cashman has just said. We have been close allies, as he mentioned, for five years, in a sustained campaign to bring far more gay people within the scope of a hugely important scheme, through which they can attain disregards and pardons for offences that have been rightly overturned by Parliament. The House will understand how earnestly we hope that the end of our campaign is at last in sight.

Our amendments include provisions originally incorporated in amendments to the Armed Forces Bill, now completing its passage through the House. The provisions in question have now been embodied in these amendments. This has been done on the advice of the two Ministers concerned—my noble friends Lady Goldie and Lady Williams—with whom most helpful conversations have been held.

I refer to the provisions that relate to the Armed Forces. More gay members of our Armed Forces need the belated release from past injustice that our proposal will provide. Many were routinely punished, sometimes with imprisonment, under the service discipline offences, for actions such as disgraceful conduct for engaging in consensual same-sex activity, even when, after 1967, this was perfectly legal for civilians. They must now have the redress that our amendments would provide. Medals have been restored to former gay service personnel. Their reputations must be fully restored, too, by the removal of the stains that they should never have borne in the first place.

It was through initiatives in this House that the disregard and pardon scheme was significantly extended, five years ago. It is immensely gratifying to know that wide support exists across the House today for the scheme’s further enlargement to bring redress to many more gay people who have suffered grave injustice, particularly former gallant members of our Armed Forces, who served our country in peace and in war.

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I know that the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, and my noble friend Lord Lexden are impatient for this work to be completed. I am very impatient—we started this five years ago—and, in a nutshell, I do not want to let this legislative opportunity pass. If the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, would be content to withdraw his amendment today, I can assure him that the Government will give sympathetic consideration to the case that he and others have made ahead of the next stage.
Lord Cashman Portrait Lord Cashman (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken and pay tribute to the Minister, my noble friend Lady Williams. Brevity is the soul of wit, but tonight we have proven that it can also deliver that which is right and just. We will await the outcome of discussions and, as one would expect, reserve the right to bring forward proposals on Report if necessary. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 266 withdrawn.

Abolished Offences

Lord Cashman Excerpts
Wednesday 9th June 2021

(1 year ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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As a Mancunian, I have every praise and admiration for Alan Turing, who was one of many LGBT people to change the world. We do not want people being persecuted—that is precisely what we do not want—but we do not want unintended consequences from the laws that we make.

Lord Cashman Portrait Lord Cashman (Non-Afl) [V]
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My Lords, it has been four and a half years and the work has been done, and we must move forward on these issues which blight the lives of women and men. Professor Paul Johnson has sent my Private Member’s Bill to the Home Office, which was not drawn in the ballot. It deals specifically and systematically with these pardons and disregards. I therefore urge the Minister, for whom I have the highest regard, to move on this issue and publish a timetable for the regulation. Otherwise, the Home Office could join the growing narrative from the Government which might be described as stoking a cultural war against the LGBT+ community, or, at best, a callous disregard for them.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord, for whom I also have the highest regard; we have worked very constructively over the years. I have his Bill in my pack and look forward to reading it. He is absolutely right to say that this is about women and men—it is equality before the law that is so important. On the timetable, I know that we are doing a review of the offence of soliciting and intend to publish the outcome during the summer. The noble Lord will also know that two Bills are coming up, and I am trying to gauge whether the timetable for those would be in line with the outcome of the review.