Debates between Lord Deben and Lord Sharpe of Epsom during the 2019-2024 Parliament

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
Tue 13th Dec 2022
Thu 27th Jan 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage & Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage: Part 1

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Debate between Lord Deben and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
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

Debate between Lord Deben and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Monday 15th April 2024

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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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.

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Debate between Lord Deben and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, in his comments. The issues we should be concerned about are the ones that we have just been talking about. They are the real issues—the ones that really matter. We can all make party-political and cross-party references to the amount of money, and I must say that this is not the way I would spend £1.9 million on an individual. I am not known for total support for the Government on everything, but I do not think we really need to go into this. We know a great deal about it. The Government will not improve or lessen the effect of this Bill by telling us these figures. This is something I am perfectly prepared not to support, because I do not think it is important enough, and I do not want this House to be led astray from the key issues.

Throughout this debate, I have said that the thing I am interested in, because of my concern around climate change, is that I want us to clearly support international law. We have no hope of saving the planet, let alone anything else, unless we support international law. Therefore, if this is put to a vote, I shall support the Government, because this is an unnecessary addition, and I want the Government to concentrate on the key issue—that they are undermining our international reputation in a way that is unacceptable, damaging and dangerous. The fact that the Government are also spending a lot of money which does not look as if it will be useful is so much more minor than that, but I will support it.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for introducing these amendments in such fine style. I thank him for acknowledging the Home Secretary’s remarks, but I am sure he would acknowledge that I, my noble and learned friend, and my noble friends on the Front Bench agree with him about respecting the constitutional importance of your Lordships’ House. In answer to the question about the responses to those reports, they are imminent—I promise to fire up the much-vaunted carrier pigeon on that one.

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Debate between Lord Deben and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
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?

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Debate between Lord Deben and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I will go into the detail that I have on what happens when someone arrives illegally and claims to be a victim of modern slavery, both under the Illegal Migration Act and pre-IMA. First responders will be expected to refer individuals into the national referral mechanism where there are indicators of modern slavery, whether IMA or pre-IMA.

Under the IMA, when somebody has arrived in the UK illegally and is therefore subject to the Section 2 duty to make removal arrangements, and has received a positive modern slavery reasonable grounds decision from the competent authorities in the NRM, they will be disqualified from the protections that typically flow from a positive RG decision unless the exceptions in Section 22 of the IMA apply.

Under pre-IMA, when someone has arrived in the UK illegally and they have received a positive modern slavery reasonable grounds decision in the NRM, they are eligible for the protections and support of the recovery period. However, if a public order disqualification, as set out in Section 63 of NABA, is made for an individual, that eligibility for support will not apply and they may be eligible for removal.

The other point is that, as I have said before from the Dispatch Box, the treaty specifically provides that we share information with Rwanda and that extra measures will be provided with regards to the specific vulnerabilities of the types that we are discussing. I hope that goes some way to clarify the picture. I appreciate that it is quite complex to keep up with, and I will write a letter.

Amendments 23 and 47 overlap with later amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord German, will be content if I deal with the substance of that amendment when we reach that debate. In summary, Article 3 of the UK-Rwanda treaty makes specific reference to unaccompanied children not being included in the treaty and that the UK Government will not seek to relocate unaccompanied children under the age of 18 to Rwanda.

Amendment 85 looks to put a block on commencement and seeks to ensure that there are detailed assessments of the impact of the Bill on victims of modern slavery and human trafficking. The independent monitoring committee, established on 2 September 2022 under the terms of the initial MoU, has subsequently been enhanced by the treaty between the UK and Rwanda to ensure that the obligations under the treaty are adhered to in practice. The treaty already makes clear that the agreed monitoring mechanisms must be in place by the time the partnership is operationalised.

As noble Lords also know, the new Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner started her role on 11 December 2023. The Government will work collaboratively with the commissioner to ensure that modern slavery is effectively tackled in the UK, and will work with international partners to promote best practice.

As set out in the earlier debate, the Government’s assessment in the published policy statement, drawing on wider evidence documents, is that Rwanda is a safe country with respect for the rule of law. The treaty that the UK has agreed with Rwanda makes express provision for the treatment of relocated individuals, demonstrating the commitment of both parties to upholding fundamental human rights and freedoms without discrimination and in line with both our domestic and our international obligations.

Rwanda is a country that cares deeply about refugees, and I thank my noble friend Lord Bellingham for his perspective on this. That is demonstrated by its work with the UNHCR to temporarily accommodate some of the most vulnerable populations who have faced trauma, detention and violence. We are confident that those relocated under our partnership would be safe, as per the assurances negotiated in our legally binding treaty.

In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, Clause 7(2) of the Bill says:

“In this Act, references to a person do not include a person who is a national of the Republic of Rwanda or who has obtained a passport or other document of identity in the Republic of Rwanda”.


All relocated individuals, including potential and confirmed victims of modern slavery, will receive appropriate protections and assistance according to their needs, including referral to specialist services, as appropriate, to protect their welfare.

Morality was mentioned by a number of speakers. I would like to put on the record a slightly different perspective on morality. I think it is immoral not to try to stop vulnerable people being exposed to dangerous and involuntary channel crossings. It is immoral to facilitate the activity of criminal gangs, most of whom, by definition, are also human traffickers. It is our moral imperative to stop these modern-day slavers and smash these criminal gangs that are exploiting people and putting others’ lives at risk. If any victims are identified, as I have repeatedly said, there are safeguards within the treaty to make provision for their vulnerabilities.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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On that point, those of us who raised the question about morality agree with all the Minister said about it but, at this moment, we are clearly uncertain about whether people who have been trafficked are able to get support in this country, from a system that was laid down by a Conservative Prime Minister, before there is any question of them being exported to Rwanda. If the Minister can show that to us in the letter, which I hope he copies to me and to others, we will be prepared to accept that we are being moral, at least in that category. At the moment, it looks to us as if we are not dealing with the issue of people who could not be deterred from coming here because they are being brought here compulsorily.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for that and will of course make sure that he is copied in to the letter. I heard very clearly what he said, and I speak on behalf of my noble and learned friend. Clearly, we would not wish to argue for a lack of morality in the safeguards that we are putting in place for vulnerable people.

Protest Measures

Debate between Lord Deben and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Tuesday 13th February 2024

(5 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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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

Debate between Lord Deben and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Wednesday 17th January 2024

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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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.

Chinese Police Stations in the UK

Debate between Lord Deben and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Thursday 20th April 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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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.

Police and Crime Commissioners

Debate between Lord Deben and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Monday 20th March 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I think I have partially answered that. I am delighted to say that Cleveland is starting to make serious progress on the engagement front. I have also answered a number of questions from the noble Baroness about police authorities before. For reference, they consisted of 17 members, nine of whom were elected, drawn from a local authority and reflecting its political make-up. The remaining eight were called independent members and were appointed from the local community for fixed terms. The implication in this House was that they were in some ways more democratic than the police and crime panels and police and crime commissioners. I do not think that is the case.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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Does my noble friend accept that, despite his answers, there is considerable unhappiness about this whole story? I understand how difficult it is for him but, frankly, it will no longer wash that an individual who has behaved in a wholly unsatisfactory way, as far as one can see, is just not taken to task. Will he agree to look at this again and find an answer for those of us who have been pressing for many years to try to get one?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I completely accept the noble Lord’s unhappiness—and possibly share it, because I have to answer this question on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the Government have no powers to intervene, as he will be aware, in the misconduct process. There are reasons why it has been held up, but I cannot say them.

Public Order Bill

Debate between Lord Deben and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I agree with the noble Baroness that I do not agree with the proposition she just outlined from senior police officers. Having said that, I have not read those particular comments and cannot comment on the specifics. I go back to what I was saying earlier: it is not lawful to detain journalists simply there monitoring protests; it is against the law. The police made mistakes in these cases. As I said earlier, we agree it was completely wrong.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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Before my noble friend sits down, the fact is that what he says is true, but something has happened and therefore we have to react to it. For the Government to say that it is not necessary to do this does not mean that they need not to do it, if noble Lords see what I mean. It does not help for the Government to say that it is all okay because it was illegal. It happened and we know that it has happened on several occasions. It is also true that there appears to be among sections of the police a feeling that journalists make things worse rather than do their job. In those circumstances it is no skin off the Government’s nose just to say, “Right, we will put this in and that will make people feel happier and it will make us able to say to foreigners, ‘Look, we actually got this in the law. Not generally, but particularly, because it happened. Why don’t you do the same thing?’”

I do not understand this Government not taking easy steps that do not harm anybody. Just do it and do not constantly say, “Oh well, it’s all right.” It is not and we should do it.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I have to say to my noble friend: I hope I was not giving the impression that I was saying that it was all right, because it was not. I have acknowledged that it was wrong and the police made mistakes in this particular case. But, to go back to the point I made in response to the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, we do not legislate for instances where it was clearly a false arrest and therefore unlawful.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Lord Deben and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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When the court has said that this is illegal, why do the Government not accept what the court has said? Or are the Government setting themselves up against the court and deciding that it is not illegal? If it is illegal, it should be changed at once.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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Again, with respect to the noble Lord, we are awaiting the further judgment.