Debates between Lord Deben and Lord Murray of Blidworth during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 14th Jun 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 3
Mon 30th Jan 2023
Public Order Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage: Part 1

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Deben and Lord Murray of Blidworth
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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)
- Hansard - -

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)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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)
- Hansard - -

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)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

Electronic Passport Control Systems

Debate between Lord Deben and Lord Murray of Blidworth
Wednesday 7th June 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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)
- Hansard - -

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)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My noble friend makes a valid point, and I will certainly take that back to the department.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Deben and Lord Murray of Blidworth
Wednesday 8th March 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the noble Lord will recall from his time in this department, the policy of stopping asylum is not straightforward, and that of stopping people from entering illegally and claiming asylum is not straightforward. The Labour Party failed in its time in office to answer this question, and the problem has only got worse, particularly over the past two years. It is with this legislation that we are addressing the issue that has arisen. In the absence of a policy from the Labour Party, we can do no other than to conclude that it is in favour of open borders.

As to the noble Lord’s second point in relation to international co-operation, it has been vital, alongside the creation of this new legislation, to liaise internationally both with the French and the Albanians. As the noble Lord is aware, the Prime Minister is meeting President Macron on Friday to discuss these issues.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
- Hansard - -

Does my noble friend accept that this is too serious a matter to try to turn it into party politics? Does he further accept that international law is crucially important for Britain and for the establishment of a whole range of other things? The Conservative Party is intended to be the party of law and order. I must say to him that many of us accept the seriousness of the numbers of people concerned. If you are concerned with climate change—as I am—it will increase and be worse, but we cannot do this by breaking international law.

I will go along all the way with my noble friend on the tough measures that have to be taken, but he has to accept that to propose something that is against international law will undermine all the other things that we have to do throughout the world. It does not help to say things that are, frankly, somewhat distant from the truth. I happen to think that the Labour Party has got it wrong, but it does not mean that, because it has got it wrong, it does not have a policy. On this occasion, unusually, it does.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I can reassure my noble friend that, as I have already said, the Government do not believe that they are acting contrary to international law.

Public Order Bill

Debate between Lord Deben and Lord Murray of Blidworth
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, clearly, I intend to shed some light. The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has generated a lot of heat on the purpose of “reasonable excuse”. I begin by thanking the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for tabling his amendments. These exclude protest as a reasonable excuse for the criminal offences within the Bill. We would say that this amendment is consistent with the reasoning of the Court of Appeal in the Colston case in relation to the criminal damage allegations that were at issue in that case.

These amendments implement the Constitution Committee’s recommendation that instances of “reasonable excuse” in the Bill are defined. I thank the committee for its thoughtful analysis in this regard, which has helpfully informed much of today’s debate. The amendments from the noble and learned Lord also follow from the Supreme Court’s recent judgment that a lack of reasonable excuse in criminal offences is not necessarily incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The noble Lord, Lord Faulks, has set out a compelling case for these amendments, so I will try to refrain from repeating the same points. Similarly, the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, has very cogently set out the case for these amendments, and I will not repeat the points he made.

In summary: the Government support these amendments. They are necessary to ensure that these criminal offences serve their purpose. The entire reason we are legislating is to make it clear that locking on, tunnelling, and disrupting infrastructure are illegitimate tactics of protest. Now that we are satisfied that it is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights to carve out protest as a reasonable excuse for these offences, we should do so. Parliament should make it explicitly clear that protest is not of itself a reasonable excuse for these offences. Not doing so will simply lead to protracted litigation in the courts. This much is clear from the Supreme Court’s decision in the Northern Ireland abortion clinics case.

Following from the noble and learned Lord’s amendments, the Government have tabled two more. The first similarly carves out protest from the offence of public nuisance. I take the opportunity to remind the House that the former common-law offence did not have a reasonable excuse for the offence at all. One was included in the statute on the recommendation of the Law Commission. Similarly to the offences within this Bill, and keeping in line with recent case law, we should now carve protest out of the offence.

The second amendment carves protest out of the lawful excuse for the offence of wilfully obstructing the highway. However, recognising that the offence is a low-level one, we do not carve it out in its entirety. Instead, the amendment removes protest from the reasonable excuse only where “more than” serious disruption is caused. The hope was to ensure consistency in the law; we sought to replicate the same proposed threshold of “serious disruption” in this offence. Therefore, protesters will still be able to obstruct highways to a certain degree. This, in the Government’s view, strikes the right balance between the rights of the public and the rights of protesters—an exercise that the noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst, rightly reminded the House is a fundamental part of the consideration of human rights.

Despite the definition proposed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, now not standing part of the Bill, there is still a need to clarify the circumstances in which obstructing a highway is not a legitimate exercise of one’s Article 10 and 11 rights. I would expect the precise wording to be settled as the matter is debated further by Parliament, and in such a manner as to ensure consistency and clarity for protesters, the police and the courts.

On the question from the noble Lord, Lord Deben, on the impact of such an amendment on a march such as that against the Iraq war, which we saw under the Blair Administration: under Section 3 of the Human Rights Act, this measure will still have to be read compatibly with the ECHR—a point the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, made. Therefore, the point at which arrest and prosecution would be a proportionate interference with people’s Article 10 and 11 rights depends on the circumstances of each protest.

My noble friend Lord Sandhurst has tabled a similar amendment to those of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and the Government.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
- Hansard - -

I do not think I understand what my noble friend is saying. Is he saying that a march against the Iraq war would be acceptable? After all, it was about current issues. Very few issues were more current at the time. How would people know in advance that it would be acceptable? That is quite important, too.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The reasonable excuse defence arises only once there has been a decision by the police to prosecute. The fact of the march itself is something that the authorities would have to judge, and they would have to do so in accordance with their obligations to act lawfully and in pursuance of their obligations under the Human Rights Act, including those under the provisions of that Act.

I return to the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst, which seeks to remove protest from the reasonable and lawful excuses of all criminal offences. While I appreciate the elegance of addressing the protest as a reasonable excuse question in one fell swoop and agree with the sentiment behind it—and find interesting the research in the Policy Exchange paper—I cannot support the amendment. Some offences, such as minor obstruction of the highway or the most minor of damage, such as that caused by water-soluble paints or dyes, can be a legitimate exercise of Article 10 and 11 rights.

The burden of proof was debated at length in Committee. The government position remains that the burden of proof should rest on the defendant. They are aware of all the facts pertinent to their case. As I made clear in Committee, it is not a novel concept for the burden of proof to rest on the individual.

I turn to the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. These take issue with the reasonable excuse defence and seek to shift the burden of proving such a defence for the criminal offences from the defendant to the prosecution, making it a key element of the offence. Amendment 35, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, also adds

“support for … a trade dispute”

to the protected activities of acts

“wholly or mainly in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute”

under Clause 7. The government position remains that the burden of proof should rest on the defendant. While I understand the sentiment, Amendment 35 is not necessary as we assess that support for a trade dispute would already be captured under the defence.

I also want to address one of the criticisms that was made in Committee, which I believe has inspired some of the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. As I made clear in Committee, the reasonable excuse defence resting on the individual does not, and would not, mean that those suspected of committing the offences would be arrested and charged without consideration of whether or not they had a reasonable excuse for their actions. With regard to the arrests, Code G of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 states that the use of the power of arrest requires the belief that an individual is committing, has committed or is about to commit an offence, and that the arrest is necessary.

With regard to charging decisions, the Crown Prosecution Service has to consider whether there is a realistic prospect of conviction at trial, and whether the suspect has a reasonable excuse will factor clearly in that decision-making process. This obligation on Crown prosecutors is set out in the Crown Prosecution Service’s Code for Crown Prosecutors in paragraphs 4.6 and 4.7. Any reasonable excuse defence that a suspect may have will be considered as part of these processes.

Finally, I have considered the proposal in the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, to include support for a trade dispute as a reasonable excuse. I do not believe that it is necessary, as an act in support of a trade dispute is, in essence, in furtherance of one and therefore already in scope of the defence. As with the last group, I encourage all noble Lords to support the amendments from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and the Government and to reject the others.

Asylum Seekers: Accommodation and Safeguarding

Debate between Lord Deben and Lord Murray of Blidworth
Wednesday 9th November 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The height of the numbers at Manston was on 30 October. The Government acted as rapidly as they could from that date to reduce the numbers held. They reflected the conditions and the numbers crossing, which therefore led to an increase in the numbers held for processing at Manston. Clearly, the Government’s intention is to return Manston wholly to a processing facility not performing any accommodation function.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, does my noble friend accept that however difficult this all is, these are people? Many are people in considerable difficulties. Therefore, for them to have to wait the length of time they are now waiting is, frankly, unacceptable. Also, does he agree that the language used should be the language of compassion, not of attack? Will he undertake to say to the Home Secretary that we want to hear voices showing that she understands that these are people and we ought to care about them?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I entirely agree with my noble friend. The principal mission for the Home Office in respect of these people is to treat all who come to our country with care and compassion, to seek to understand why they have come and then to treat their asylum claims accordingly. I could not agree more with my noble friend.