59 Lord Deben debates involving the Home Office

Tue 16th Apr 2024
Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill
Lords Chamber

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

Report stage & Report stage: Minutes of Proceedings
Tue 13th Feb 2024
Mon 10th Jul 2023
Wed 14th Jun 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 3
Mon 12th Jun 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Lords Handsard Part 1
Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, once again I am very grateful to all noble Lords for their contributions to this debate. To restate for the record, the Government’s priority is obviously to stop the boats. Although we have made progress, more needs to be done. We need a strong deterrent; we need to operationalise this partnership with Rwanda. Only by applying this policy to everyone without myriad exceptions will the deterrent work. We are not diminishing our responsibilities to provide support to those who are vulnerable, and we have ensured that the necessary support will be provided in Rwanda. We are sending the clearest signal that we control our borders, not the criminals who charge migrants exorbitant amounts to come here via illegal routes on unsafe small boats.

I will endeavour to deal with all the points that have been raised. I turn first to the points of the noble Baroness, Lady Lister. I restate for the record that as part of the process, upon arrival individuals will be treated as an adult only where two immigration officers assess that their physical appearance and demeanour very strongly suggest that they are significantly over 18 —I emphasise “significantly”. This is a deliberately high threshold, and the principle of the benefit of the doubt means that where there is doubt, an individual will be treated as a child, pending further observation by a local authority, which will usually be in the form of a Merton-compliant age assessment.

I turn to Amendment 3E from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. As he correctly pointed out, Clause 9 clearly sets out that the Bill’s provisions come into force when the treaty enters into force. The treaty enters into force when the parties have completed their internal procedures. Furthermore, the Government maintain periodical and ad hoc reviews of countries’ situations, including Rwanda’s, and that will not change.

One of the things we have discussed in previous debates on this subject is that there will be a real-time enhanced monitoring phase by the monitoring committee. The enhanced phase will ensure that the monitoring and reporting takes place in real time, so that the monitoring committee can rapidly identify, address and respond to any shortcomings, and of course identify any areas of improvement or urgently escalate issues that may place a relocated individual at risk of real harm. This enhanced phase is dealt with in paragraphs 106 to 112 of the policy statement, and I say to my noble friend Lord Hailsham that, of course, if the facts change, this means that the Government would not be obligated to remove individuals under the terms of the treaty. That may very well prompt the parliamentary occasion to which he referred. I am afraid I cannot say quite what form such an occasion may take; if I have anything to do with it, it will definitely include alcohol.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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Will my noble friend give way on that point? My first problem with the Bill is that I am asked to say that something is safe when it is clearly not safe, and the Government have said that it is not. What I am really asked to say is that after all this has happened it will be safe, but the Government do not seem to explain to me exactly what will happen before we get to that.

I have another problem: how can I possibly vote that it will always be safe? I am not very keen on lawyers, but surely it is a very simple matter of saying that if the monitoring committee recommends to the Secretary of State that Rwanda is no longer safe, the Secretary of State can in fact change the situation as regards Rwanda. It seems very simple to me. If I had been the Minister, the first question I would have asked my civil servants is, “What happens if the situation changes?”, and my civil servants would not have left that room until they had given me an answer. How did he allow his civil servants to leave the room?

Police: Joe Anderson

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Monday 15th April 2024

(3 months ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I hear what the noble Lord has to say on the subject, but I cannot comment on an ongoing investigation. The noble Lord is, in effect, inviting me to comment on the complexity of the investigation and various other operational aspects of it, in order to make a judgment as to whether it is delayed, denied or whatever. I cannot do that.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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My Lords, I remind the House of my business connections in Liverpool, but I must ask the Minister to come back to the general question of the longevity of this investigation. We have just had a Member of the other House who was under suspicion for two and a half years, unable to do his job, and then no case was held against him. I am sorry, but this is unacceptable. We really cannot have a justice system that punishes people, guilty or not guilty, without them knowing what the case is, what the charge is, or why it has been held up for so long. The police really do have to come to some conclusion rapidly.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, as I say, that may very well be the case in the majority of investigations. I cannot comment on the specifics of this one, not least because I do not know the specifics of this one. It would be completely inappropriate for me to do so. However, I will agree that, obviously, in general, investigations should be as speedy as possible.

Lord Carlile of Berriew Portrait Lord Carlile of Berriew (CB)
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My Lords, I follow the noble Lord with much respect for his contributions to your Lordships’ House. The proposition made by my noble and learned friend Lord Hope, which I support strongly, is that these amendments seek to give effect to

“the proposition that Parliament cannot judge Rwanda to be a safe country until the Rwanda Treaty has been, and continues to be, fully implemented”.

What do the Government say? The Government say that Rwanda is a safe country because the Rwanda treaty has been achieved and, shortly, will be fully implemented. What are they afraid of in these amendments, for they simply seek to provide insurance for the proposition made by the Government about Rwanda?

To answer that question, I invite the Minister to remind himself once again of the report dated 17 January this year from the International Agreements Committee, which was discussed at some length in previous debates in your Lordships’ House. I draw his attention particularly to paragraph 45, which sets out nine

“further legal and practical steps”—

that is the term of art used—which are “required under the treaty” and which will make, in the opinion of that committee, Rwanda a safe country that operates the treaty in the way which is intended by its words.

Can the Minister, who has been challenged to this effect before, tell us quite specifically how many of those nine requirements in that paragraph have now been implemented, which they are and, in relation to the ones that have not yet been implemented, when will they be implemented? If the Government’s optimism is such that, as the noble Lord, Lord Murray, said in an earlier intervention, it is enough to go into the Rwandan Parliament and see that the treaty has been ratified—not the requirements in the committee’s report—for that to be a way of regarding the Bill as justified, what is the intellectual basis for that conclusion? I see none: unless these requirements can be demonstrably implemented in full, Rwanda is not a safe country. The insurance policy proposed by my noble and learned friend is exactly what is needed, unless we are told of full implementation.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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My Lords, I rise because of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson. He suggested that those of us who have worries about the Bill are in some way wanting to stop anything of this kind. I want to make it clear that I do not have a theological or philosophic objection to the concept that you might have a system to deal with these problems which involved some other country. My problem is fundamentally this: I hope that, in all the years as a Minister and as a Member of Parliament, I never told a public lie—and I am being asked here to tell a lie.

The Government have told us that Rwanda is not a safe place at the moment but is going to be one. Indeed, the Minister himself explained that to us. However, they are asking us to say it is a safe place now. At the same time, the Government are pointing to the Supreme Court and saying it is perfectly reasonable to disagree with it, because the information which we now have makes a decision now different in kind from the one that the court made, because it did not have that information. Evidently, it was perfectly right for the Supreme Court to say that it was not a safe place then, but now we are in a different position. However, the Government have not provided us with any of the evidence which makes that different position tenable.

All the Government have done is said: “We have signed an agreement. That agreement is going through, and we are in the course of ensuring that that agreement is carried through in Rwanda”. I do not much mind how we do this, but what I want to be able to do is to vote to say that Rwanda would be a safe place if all these things are carried through. I want to make sure that there is a mechanism for checking that.

I also want to make sure that, if things should change, we could deal with that—after all, Governments change. Africa has been known to have very significant changes. Indeed, the present Government of Rwanda are a very hopeful change from what they had before. We need to have a mechanism whereby, should the situation alter, we would be able to deal with it. Normally, the courts would be able to deal with it, but the Government have specifically excluded the courts. Therefore, we need to have something of this kind in the Bill. The mover of this amendment is absolutely right in saying that the amendments can all be carried through without holding up the passage of the Bill.

I want to ask my noble friend very directly: given that this is not going to hold anything up; given that he is going to allow himself to tell the truth, instead of not telling the truth and, given that he can allow me to tell the truth, why does he not just allow us to do it? Many of the other issues are of high political and legal concern. This is a terribly simple, basic fact. Will you allow us to say that Rwanda is a safe place, when you can provide the information to allow us to tell the truth? For goodness’ sake, let us tell the truth.

Baroness Meyer Portrait Baroness Meyer (Con)
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My Lords, I am standing to tell the truth. As a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, I was also in Rwanda very recently. We had a packed programme. Everyone we met told us that Rwanda is a safe country. This included women’s rights and the LGBT organisation, which told us that that is how they felt. We were also told that Rwanda has the largest LGBT community in Africa. Many people from that community flee neighbouring countries to go to Rwanda because they feel safe.

Critics also tend to overlook the fact that Rwanda has one of the lowest levels of corruption in Africa and that it is committed to the rule of law. It has more women participating in the labour market than in any country in Africa. The Supreme Court's decision, mainly based on the UNHCR report, failed to take any of those factors into account. The UNHCR representative we met admitted that Rwanda was at the forefront of improving its legal system and Rwanda was a safe country as such, but not safe enough to accept relocated individuals from the UK, as the current system was not capable or experienced enough to deal with them.

I need to point out that this was before the new agreement, in which a lot of the concerns of the Supreme Court have been addressed. She also pointed out that refugees from the UK came from different backgrounds to refugees from neighbouring countries. That comment was in direct contradiction to all the positive attitudes we witnessed. Everyone who we met expressed genuine readiness to accept and welcome the refugees coming from the United Kingdom.

The UNHCR representative’s conclusion, which I found most revealing, was that the UK should accept all immigrants arriving to its shores, rather than sending them off to Rwanda. But it is unrealistic to say that the UK has a responsibility to accept all asylum seekers, particularly if they come to our shores for economic reasons and line the pockets of traffickers. We are one of the most generous countries when it comes to refugees, but we have a responsibility towards our citizens, which includes securing our borders to ensure that no one takes advantage of our system.

Most of the people we met in Rwanda were surprised, if not deeply hurt, by the negative attention their country has received from both Houses and the media. I have to say that I was embarrassed. I felt that we are criticising a country that has had a terrible genocide and, in the past 30 years, has done so much to improve everything. It is so willing to accept new migrants. I was embarrassed. To be honest, Kigali is a beautiful city—I fell in love with it. It is clean, tidy and well organised. It has a young population full of optimism, looking forward to its future. I would not mind living there. I recommend that noble Lords who criticise Rwanda should go there, check for themselves and decide what they think, rather than making observations on hearsay and possibly—

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Sharpe of Epsom) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. The partnership between the UK and Rwanda is rooted in a shared commitment to develop new ways of managing flows of irregular migration by promoting durable solutions, thereby breaking the existing incentives that result in people embarking on perilous journeys to the UK. We saw again only last week how perilous those journeys are, as my noble friend Lord Hodgson noted. The UK and Rwanda share a vision on the need for the global community to provide better international protection for asylum seekers and refugees, emphasising the importance of effective and functioning systems and safeguards that provide protection to those in most need.

Noble Lords will know that Rwanda has a long history of supporting and integrating asylum seekers and refugees in the region, for example through its work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to host the emergency transit mechanism. It has also been internationally recognised for its general safety and stability, strong governance, low corruption and gender equality. My noble friend Lord Hodgson noted this, and my noble friend Lady Meyer gave her very welcome perspective on her recent visit. I say gently to the noble Lord, Lord German, that I heard a great deal in her comments about structures and systems.

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, has explained, these amendments seek to allow Parliament to deem Rwanda to be safe only so long as the arrangements provided for in the Rwanda treaty have been fully implemented and are being adhered to in practice. The UK Government and the Government of Rwanda have agreed and begun to implement assurances and commitments to strengthen Rwanda’s asylum system. In advance of agreeing the treaty, we worked with the Government of Rwanda to respond to the findings of the courts by evidencing Rwanda’s existing asylum procedures and practice in standard operating procedures relating to and reflecting the current refugee status determination and appeals process.

Amendment 7 imposes a duty on the Secretary of State to obtain a statement from the independent monitoring committee confirming that the objectives specified in Article 2 of the treaty have been secured. This is unnecessary; the Government will ratify the treaty in the UK only once we agree with Rwanda that all necessary implementation is in place for both countries to comply with the obligations under the treaty. We have assurances from the Government of Rwanda that the implementation of all measures in the treaty will be expedited, and we continue to work with the Rwandans on this. The legislation required for Rwanda to ratify the treaty passed the lower house of the Rwandan Parliament on 28 February and it will now go to the upper house, as my noble friend Lord Murray noted in the debate on the previous group. Once ratified, the treaty will become law in Rwanda. It follows that the Government of Rwanda would then be required to give effect to the terms of the treaty in accordance with its domestic law as well as international law.

The Bill’s provisions come into force when the treaty enters into force. The treaty enters into force when the parties have completed their internal procedures. These amendments therefore confuse the process for implementing the treaty with what is required for the Bill’s provisions to come into force. The Bill builds on the treaty between the UK and the Government of Rwanda signed on 5 December 2023. It reflects the strength of the Government of Rwanda’s protections and commitments given in the treaty to people transferred to Rwanda in accordance with the treaty. Alongside the evidence of changes in Rwanda since summer 2022, published this January, the treaty will enable Parliament to conclude that Rwanda is safe and the Bill provides Parliament with the opportunity to do so. I say to my noble friend Lord Deben that that is the truth.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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I accept everything the Minister says, but it is all about what will happen in future. He is asking me to accept that what will happen in future has happened now. That is the only argument. He would not ask me to do that in any other circumstances. Can he explain why I have to do it now?

Protest Measures

Lord Deben Excerpts
Tuesday 13th February 2024

(5 months ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I am afraid that this is the first I have heard of this, so I cannot comment further, but I will of course look into it. These changes are compatible with the ECHR and do not prevent individuals exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Many of the offences affected, including public nuisance, which involve serious harm to or obstruction of the public’s rights, are highly likely to fall outside of the protections of ECHR rights or within the state’s margin of appreciation. On the rights of environmental protesters, I do not think we should elevate any particular set of protesters’ rights above any other.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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Will my noble friend the Minister congratulate my noble friend Lord Hailsham on his ability to climb one of those large animals in Trafalgar Square? At the same time, does he accept that what my noble friend said is a salutary reminder? We are becoming too concerned about restriction and not concerned enough about freedom. I am very concerned that the normal habits of proper protest—particularly at a time when parliamentary democracy is under very considerable pressure—are being undermined by the constant provision of yet more new things that the police want in order to control. I would like to see a real understanding of the importance of protest. I very much agreed with the most reverend Primate when he said that he could not quite see why people who were not doing anything illegal should be told to remove their face coverings. For the Iranians and the Chinese, face coverings are essential if there is to be protest.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I am very happy to join in the congratulations to my noble friend Lord Hailsham on his lion-climbing expertise, but I am afraid that I disagree with my noble friend when it comes to climbing war memorials as a normal part of protest. What is normal about climbing a war memorial?

Sir Edward Heath: Operation Conifer

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Wednesday 17th January 2024

(6 months ago)

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Lord Hunt of Wirral Portrait Lord Hunt of Wirral (Con)
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My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register, in particular as a past chair of the Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation. I join the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, in congratulating my noble friend Lord Lexden, not just on securing this debate but, as the noble Lord said, on his sheer doggedness in pursuing justice and on the eloquent and comprehensive nature of his opening speech. So grotesque, galling and manifestly unjust is this situation, however, that there is plenty of fertile ground remaining to be tilled by the rest of us.

I have considerable sympathy for the Minister, who has inherited this awkward and seemingly intractable problem from a series of predecessors. One of the most important responsibilities of any Minister is the necessity, on occasion, of questioning, or even rejecting, the cautionary advice of officials—the predictable advice to stonewall, to dead-bat, to kick the can down the road. Such advice will, no doubt, be supported by dark hints that any willingness to do anything, to take a decision, actively to address an injustice, would set a dangerous precedent or even worse. I respectfully remind my noble friend that this is precisely the point at which political judgment must come into play; the current leader of the Liberal Democrats is learning that to his cost. I ask the Minister to please spare himself and his successors the indignity of being called back here again and again to defend the indefensible.

The idea that Operation Conifer was anything other than an expensive, chaotic and misguided fishing expedition is, frankly, absurd. From the moment that investigating officer appeared outside Ted Heath’s former home in Salisbury, its true nature was plain to see. My noble friend Lord Lexden quoted the exact words and the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, has just done so again: the policeman referred to every person being a victim, upending the historic presumption of innocence. Even the two Operation Hydrant reviews of Conifer—classic examples of police rather complacently marking their own homework—listed almost 50 shortcomings in the conduct of the investigation.

Like my noble friend Lord Waldegrave of North Hill, I was interviewed by someone who described themselves as one of the investigating officers. I had the same experience as others: namely, an interview that felt completely futile, because I was concerned only with truth—Ted Heath’s true nature—and was unwilling to fan the flames of the fantasies of others. I dare say there are others here who had a similar experience.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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My wife was secretary to Ted Heath at this time and I was vice-chairman of the party, responsible for youth. If anything of this kind had happened in any way, it is quite inconceivable that we would not have known about it. She knew every step of his life during this period. She was interviewed in exactly the same incompetent way, which has been addressed. Frankly, if the Government cannot bring themselves to deal with this matter in an open way, they should be ashamed of themselves.

Lord Hunt of Wirral Portrait Lord Hunt of Wirral (Con)
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I am very grateful to my noble friend.

Several obvious witnesses were not contacted at all, including our former colleague and friend in this House, Lord MacGregor, who ran Ted Heath’s private office in the 1960s, and my noble friend Lord Sherbourne, who held the same position a decade later. Diaries held in the Bodleian Library, which would have disproven several of the allegations, were seemingly not properly consulted, if at all. Another of the many extraordinary aspects of Conifer was the chief constable’s decision, seemingly taken unilaterally, that he would relieve the police and crime commissioner of his responsibility for overseeing the investigation. Instead, he appointed a so-called independent panel. Did he act within his powers when he did that? Surely not. This was a case not of marking his own homework but perhaps of hand-picking his own examinations board.

Ministers tell us that the question of an independent inquiry into Conifer is a matter for the local PCC, not for them. Successive PCCs for Swindon and Wiltshire have said that they would support such an inquiry but do not have the money to pay for it. Thus the buck is passed, passed again and passed back once more, seemingly without end.

The Government found the substantial amount required to fund this disgraceful and futile fishing expedition, run by a now discredited chief constable, yet seemingly they cannot find the money to right that injustice or to help prevent this kind of terrible farrago of costly nonsense ever happening again. Where is the accountability in all this?

Several noble Lords have raised before the question of what happened to the logs painstakingly kept by the officers in the police post at Arundells throughout the time Sir Edward Heath lived there. They would certainly not have suited the narrative of the witch hunt, but where are they? It is said that they were destroyed during the course of Operation Conifer.

I end by saying to the Minister that if he wishes to earn and retain the confidence of the House, on occasion he must sense its mood and respond positively to it. An injustice has been done, and it must now be rectified.

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I will also come to that.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Lexden for securing this debate, as I said earlier, and to other noble Lords for their contributions. As regards the question that was asked of me by my noble friend Lord Lexden, which has just been reiterated by my noble friend Lord Cormack and asked also by the noble Lords, Lord Hunt and Lord Coaker, I absolutely will take this back to the current Home Secretary and make sure that he is aware of this debate and the strength of feeling, and indeed all the preceding debates we have had on this subject.

Of course, I am genuinely sorry to have to disappoint the House, but I hope that I have provided some clarity and reassurance around the current position. I stress that this is unlikely to alter without a material change to the situation, but I commit quite happily to take this back to the Home Secretary.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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Will my noble friend also say to the Home Secretary that we will go on demanding this inquiry until we get it and that it would be much easier to give way now?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I am happy to provide my noble friend with that reassurance.

As regards whether I regret that Sir Edward’s memory and legacy have been in some way tarnished, of course I do. I think it is incredibly regrettable, and it is incredibly regrettable that the deranged fantasist was encouraged in the way that he was. However, he is paying the price.

As I have set out, Operation Conifer has been subject to external scrutiny, whether your Lordships agree with that scrutiny or not, and it is the Government’s assessment that there are not currently any grounds for further intervention.

Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD)
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My Lords, I wish to echo some of the words of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. I, for one—like, I am sure, many noble Lords—do not have any pleasure in this Bill receiving its Third Reading because it lacks kindness, compassion and humanity. It is also not going to be effective, regardless of the rhetoric from the Dispatch Box.

For many of us who have been on this Bill, the way the Home Office has acted towards this Chamber has been with complete discourteousness. We had a late impact assessment, a late child impact assessment and they tried to keep us here for long hours to do our job, which is to scrutinise effectively.

I say very gently to the Minister, even though he has been very robust in his defence of the Bill, that it is not the job of this House to come up with a whole new Bill; it is our job to come up with amendments which make a Bill more effective. I believe the amendments we have passed make the Bill more effective, more compassionate and kinder in how we treat some of the most vulnerable people who seek asylum on these shores. I say very gently to the Minister, as he takes this back and it goes to the other place and as he speaks to the Home Secretary: think about the amendments, which are trying to make the Bill more effective; and make sure that the Home Office comes back, hopefully, with a Bill from the other place with a bit more compassion, kindness and effectiveness, and a lot less rhetoric.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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My Lords, I rise to ask the Minister to make a correction. He said that there were divisions between the two sides of the House, but surely what has been true about this Bill is that large numbers of people on this side of the House have been very unhappy about it, have voted against it or have not voted with the Government. It is very important that the Minister takes back to the Home Office the fact that this Bill is not supported by the House as a whole, even by those of us who recognise the great need to have strong immigration control.

If I may say so, the Minister’s comments about the drawings on the wall made me very unhappy. If it were his child in that place, he would know that his child would have been uplifted by those paintings. What about the people who did those paintings? They did it to make life a bit better for those people who find themselves in a position that we all ought to thank God that neither we nor our children are in. Until the Government understand that feeling, and recognise the unhappiness across the House, they will have missed the whole tone of what this House is about.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, this is a bad Bill. We have done our best in your Lordships’ House to improve it. However, it is quite obvious that the Government, when we talk about kindness, compassion and humanity, seem to think that these are weaknesses. I argue that they are actually strengths. It is part of our British psyche to give that sort of kindness, so the Bill does not work for anybody in Britain. It certainly will not work for the Government to stop the boats. I just wish the Government had more common sense.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Portrait Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab)
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope, and to add my name to the most reverend Primate’s amendment calling for a 10-year strategy on combating human trafficking with our international partners. As he said, the intention of the amendment is to encourage the Government to focus on the long-term, global nature of the challenges we face in relation to migration and to work collaboratively with international partners. The most reverend Primate is right to emphasise the statutory nature of what is being proposed. One hesitates to go through the list of Home Secretaries any Government may have. The need for stability in policy-making in this area and agreement with our international partners is very clear indeed.

Going back to Second Reading, a number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, were critical of those who were critical of the Bill. They said that we had not produced any coherent answer to the problem that the Bill is meant to address. But in some of the debates over the last few days, the lack of coherence in the Bill, the real unwillingness of the Government to be explicit about their intentions and the lack of an impact assessment, despite Cabinet Office guidance to the contrary, lend themselves to criticism of what seems to be a very short-term, dog-whistle approach. We really need to see an improvement.

The JCHR’s magisterial critique is, of course, outstandingly clear that the Bill will deny the vast majority of refugees access to the UK’s asylum system, despite the fact that there will be many cases for them to enter the UK by safe and legal routes. I thought that the debate earlier today around the definition of safe and legal—or, indeed, the Government’s unwillingness as yet to say what exactly they plan to do, and how they plan for people to receive assessment and, where appropriate, get protection—said it all.

We even have to await regulations, which in the end Parliament will have to accept, for a definition of “safe and legal”. As the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, said earlier, the Government could have come forward today with deliverable measures on this, but they have made no attempt to place concrete proposals for safe and legal routes. As the most reverend Primate has said, we could play a leading role. Instead, we are condemning ourselves to isolation in the international community. This is an international problem, and we have to find an international solution.

That is why the most reverend Primate’s call for a long-term approach is so important. His remarks about dealing with the supply chain at source were very telling, focusing on the traffickers rather than the victims. I hope that the Government listen on this occasion and agree to consider this. In all the unhappiness that this debate has caused because of the provisions in the Bill, surely we must at least hope that we can find a consensual way forward to deal with the real issues instead of coming down hard on these poor, innocent victims.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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My Lords, the most reverend Primate has offered the Government a very helpful amendment. It enables them to show that their present Bill, much of which I deeply resent, is not just a one-off, convenient electoral activity but part of a properly thought-out programme for dealing with the issues with which they are concerned. We have to think about it in these terms. Otherwise, we cannot think about it at all.

I commend the most reverend Primate’s use of the concept of the supply chain. I spend a lot of my time advising people on supply chains in my business life, and I cannot imagine anybody who deals with a supply chain merely dealing with the last person in the supply chain. They go right back to where it starts to discover how it hangs together and then correct it if that is what they seek to do. The most reverend Primate’s use of that phrase is extreme valuable, particularly for a Government so committed to private sector and private enterprise, where the supply chain is so vital.

It is also true that unless we think about this internationally, we are not facing the longer-term situation we will find. I remind the Committee of my chairmanship of the Climate Change Committee. The problems with which we are faced at the moment are tiny compared with the ones we are going to be faced with as climate change drives more and more people from the countries in which they live. Who will try to benefit from that? The very people who run the present scandalous, wicked systems dealing with pathetic people seeking somewhere to live. We talk about people moving to have a better life. Climate change will mean that many people will move to have a life at all, because hotter weather in a country such as Niger will make it impossible for people to live, work and farm. In those circumstances, who will try to benefit? It will be the very people who are running these rackets. We have to deal with those rackets.

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, I too am grateful to the most reverend Primate for setting out the case for these amendments, which would require the Home Secretary to produce a 10-year strategy for tackling human trafficking.

I can confirm, of course, that the Government are absolutely committed to taking a long-term approach to this issue. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord German, we certainly appreciate that this is a massive global problem. Work on modern slavery and human trafficking is based on three strategic pillars: prevention, enforcement, and identification and support. I can assure the most reverend Primate that this Government are working tirelessly with our international and domestic partners to tackle human trafficking. If I may, I will take just a moment to share some of that work with noble Lords.

The UK’s international efforts to fight modern slavery and human trafficking are supported by our overseas programmes, including through the Home Office’s Modern Slavery Fund—over £37 million has been committed to the fund between 2016 and March 2023. Projects across Europe, Africa and Asia seek to identify and protect victims from re-trafficking, strengthen national responses and criminal investigations and reduce vulnerability to exploitation. A snapshot of previous successes includes direct support to over 2,500 victims of trafficking and targeted outreach work to prevent modern slavery with over 180,000 vulnerable people.

Further, the Government have continued to strengthen our international co-operation. For example, we have issued a joint communiqué with Albania and signed a joint action plan with Romania, both of which reinforce our commitment to working collaboratively to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking, in both the short and long term. We continue to engage with the international community on a global scale by working with multilateral fora such as the G7, the G20, the Commonwealth and the UN. Article 32 of ECAT requires parties to co-operate in tackling human trafficking and we take that obligation very seriously.

The Government collaborate with law enforcement and criminal justice agencies, including the police, the National Crime Agency, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, the Crown Prosecution Service and His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to ensure that policy and legislation are incorporated into operational policy and practice, to target and disrupt crimes and bring perpetrators to justice. In addition, the Home Office has continued to invest in policing to improve the national response to modern slavery and human trafficking by providing £17.8 million since 2016 to support the work of the Modern Slavery and Organised Immigration Crime unit, about which we heard in the previous group.

I also add that the United Kingdom is the first country in the world to require businesses to report on the steps that they have taken to tackle modern slavery in their operations and supply chains. This has driven a change in business culture, spotlighting modern slavery risks on boardroom agendas and in the international human rights community.

Strategies have their place; I do not want to downplay the impact that they can have in the right circumstances to help focus attention on a particular issue and drive change. But they are not a silver bullet. A strategy in and of itself will not enhance the collective response to a particular challenge. It is a moot point whether a 10-year strategy is too long a horizon in this area. The most reverend Primate pointed out that policies can change with changes of government—and, indeed, one Government cannot bind their successor. There is also always a risk that resources are consumed preparing strategies and monitoring their implementation rather than getting on with the vital core task at hand.

The Government remain committed to strengthening our response, both domestically and internationally, to combat modern slavery and human trafficking, and we are considering the next steps on our strategic approach. The immediate focus of this Bill, however, is stopping the boats. If we do not tackle and substantially reduce the current scale of illegal entry into the UK, our resources will continue to be sapped by the sheer numbers crossing the channel, necessarily impacting on our capacity to address the strategic challenges that the most reverend Primate has clearly articulated.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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My noble friend has very helpfully gone through a whole series of things that the Government are doing and will do. Why is he opposed to that forming a strategy? Any business would do it that way. No one would have merely a series of things which one can put out in that way. Why can he not accept that a strategy that you are implementing would be much better than a series of individual things which defend where you are?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I am afraid that I have already—in the last few moments—outlined why it would be inappropriate for it to be in the Bill. The reasons are that, clearly, one can have strategies without them being in primary legislation and, secondly, it would not be right to fix a strategy for 10 years in length for the reasons I have given, not least because one Government cannot bind their successor. Indeed, as my noble friend Lord Deben made some wider and insightful points in his earlier address about the drivers of refugee crises, such as the impact of climate change, those topics take us into the next group. I am sure there will be other remarks we can address at that point. I noted that my noble friend said that he takes the Church’s Whip; that might explain a lot.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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As my noble friend has mentioned that, I said I would take the Church’s Whip because I happen to believe that moral issues overcome any other issues. The Churches are united in saying that we have to be more sensible about this Bill. I am a Catholic; I take the Church’s Whip on this because it is a moral issue and we should stand up for moral duties.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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With respect to my noble friend, I would say that the Government’s position is the moral position, but that is possibly an argument for a different type of debate, so I will revert to the topic of the proposed amendment from the most reverend Primate.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I assure the noble Baroness that this Government certainly do think strategically, but there is no reason for such a strategy to be required by reason of a statutory amendment. I appreciate that the most reverend Primate has laid this amendment, and I do not think that he realistically expects such an amendment to be accepted by the Government. What is clear is that—

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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For the reasons I have already given; shouting “why” from a sedentary position does not assist.

I am very grateful to the most reverend Primate for raising this issue. It is very important that the Committee has had a chance to step back and discuss these strategic issues in the way that it has. I am very grateful to him for affording us this opportunity to debate this issue but, having done so, I hope he will be content to withdraw his amendment. Of course, we will shortly consider the wider context of the refugee question.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, as was mentioned, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, is not able to be here today, but I join in the tributes paid by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, about his excellent work on the Bill. He very much regrets that he is not able to be here.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has slipped out, but I felt the challenge “follow that”. I fully subscribe to the fantastic riposte that he gave to the Minister. I am afraid I will speak quite a few times today; that is how the cookie has crumbled for the parts of the Bill that I have got involved in—all my prizes are coming at once. I am afraid I do not apologise for that. In response to my noble friend Lord Newby last week, the Chief Whip complained about alleged repetition, including from these Benches. I may not be alone in having heard Dr Hannah White of the Institute for Government on the “Westminster Hour” on the radio last night. She said that, in the other place, the Bill had two days in Committee of the whole House—that is not an ideal process. She said that, normally, you would have expected two weeks in Committee in the past, under the normal processes—

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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I hear the noble Lord, Lord Deben, who knows those processes. They would take evidence and scrutinise line by line, rather like how we are doing now. The Bill did not get that scrutiny in the other place, so it falls to us. Indeed, Dr White said—I hope I do not paraphrase her wrongly—that the Commons are getting used to kicking the scrutiny down to our Chamber. It seems that the Government are trying to squeeze scrutiny out of us and to bully us into not raising issues here. It comes to something when we poor, aged people—perhaps I had better not go on—are the ones who have to stay until 4.15 in the morning because the Government are trying to bully us out of raising essential issues. These included arbitrary detention powers last week—nothing could be more historic in terms of the dangers of executive overreach. So we have to go on a bit, I am afraid.

Electronic Passport Control Systems

Lord Deben Excerpts
Wednesday 7th June 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The noble Lord asks a fair question. However, as he probably knows, it has never been government practice, for reasons of law enforcement, to comment on operational issues relating to border security and immigration controls. This includes offering commentary on the performance of border systems and e-passport gates specifically. The e-gates process passengers arriving in the UK, and provide a secure border check on approved travel documents, and refer passengers to an officer if required. The current e-gate estate was upgraded in 2021. Incidents impacting the availability of e-gates are proactively managed, and lessons are learned. They have certainly been learned from this most recent incident.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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My Lords, does my noble friend accept that more people would accept waiting rather better if everyone was polite? I have to say that border officials are very polite, but why is it that no notices say “please”? Could we please have notices that are polite instead of peremptory?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My noble friend makes a valid point, and I will certainly take that back to the department.

Chinese Police Stations in the UK

Lord Deben Excerpts
Thursday 20th April 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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The noble Lord raises a couple of very good points. Obviously, any attempt to coerce, intimidate or illegally repatriate any individual will not be tolerated; it does not matter where they are from. The Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill and the National Security Bill both contain provisions to ensure that universities have the tools they need to deal with interference and threats to academic freedom. The noble Lord is quite right to draw the House’s attention to the Defending Democracy Taskforce, which my right honourable friend the Security Minister introduced in the other House in November last year. He has been asked for updates; I have not seen him since those were asked for, but I will make sure that the representations from this House, as well as the other place, are understood. I can also commit that higher education falls within the remit and scope of the Defending Democracy Taskforce, so there will be more to be said on that matter. Noble Lords will also appreciate that there are a number of other areas, including, as I said, the National Security Bill, where we will tighten up our ability to respond to some of these issues.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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Does my noble friend accept that in a democracy, it is very important that Ministers and Members of Parliament are available to the public as a whole, and it would be a great sadness if this kind of allegation, proven or unproven, becomes a way to ensure that people are unable to reach to the heart of government, as they ought? I hope the Government will continue to state that those who are malefactors should of course be prosecuted with great urgency; but it is very important that those who merely wish to get people in government to understand what is happening in the world—frankly, it is not always obvious that the Government know that—should have access.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I agree with my noble friend. As I said earlier, it is very difficult for any prominent politician of any party, within or outside government, to know precisely who is appearing in a selfie with them. We should be very cognisant of that fact. I also agree that if subsequent bad behaviour, illegal behaviour, is discovered, whatever it may be, the full force of the law should be brought to bear.