Debates between Lord Faulks and Lord Alton of Liverpool during the 2019 Parliament

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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I disagree with the noble Lord; the amendments are about interim measures. The Joint Select Committee on Human Rights, on which I serve, took evidence on this issue and I want to refer to that for a moment. Having heard the evidence, these were the conclusions of a committee of the sovereign British Parliament. In paragraph 105, we said:

“We recognise that there are differences of opinion over whether or not interim measures ought to be binding on the United Kingdom. However, as a matter of international law, they are binding. Failing to comply with interim measures directed at the UK would amount to a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights”.

On Clause 5, we said that the Bill

“contemplates a Minister choosing not to comply with an interim measure and thus violating the UK’s international human rights obligations. It also prevents the domestic courts taking into account what may be a relevant factor for any decision whether or not an individual should be removed to Rwanda. This is not consistent with a commitment to complying with the UK’s obligations under the ECHR”.

That was the committee’s considered, majority view; it is not a view that has been responded to by the Government. Here I ask the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart, or the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe of Epsom, when they come to reply, to go back to the Committee stage of this Bill, where they gave an assurance that, before we went any further, Parliament would be told the response to the findings of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. As recently as Monday, I was told when I intervened on this point that there would be a response for today; I would like to know when it is going to be forthcoming.

It brings our Parliament into disrepute when we set up Joint Committees and say we will consider issues of this kind in great detail, and when reports have been made available to the Government, but no response has been forthcoming before detailed consideration of that legislation. Here we are, at the Report stage of a Bill that has gone all the way through the House of Commons, has almost completed its passage in your Lordships’ House, and we still have no proper response. When the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, defended, as he did earlier, the integrity and the nature of our Select Committee, I was with him, and not just because, like him, I have particular admiration for the chairs of Select Committees. The honourable Joanna Cherry is no exception in this respect. She is an admirable chair of that committee; she is not a partisan—ask members of the Scottish National Party and they will tell you that she is a very independent-minded lady who has considerable experience as a KC in the law, so chairs are not to be dismissed. These committees of your Lordships’ House should be taken far more seriously. Not to do so is a discourtesy to Parliament and to the kind of arguments that my noble and learned friend has put forward, and it is why, even if these amendments are not voted on today, the principles that underline them should be supported.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I promise I will be brief. First, there appears to be agreement that there was not total agreement on the position of international law. Noble Lords will remember the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hoffman, referring to the article in Policy Exchange. This is not the time to repeat the arguments, one way or another.

It was also agreed that the procedure adopted by the European Court of Human Rights was sub-optimal and there is room for improvement. Improvement may come along the line in due course; we wait to see, and there are some hopeful signs. However, the current position is that it is not a satisfactory procedure.

We then come down to the power. It is important to stress that the Minister has a power, not a duty, which he or she can exercise to ignore the ruling. The Minister does not have to ignore the ruling, and no doubt they will look carefully at the reasons given. Amendment 37 suggests that the Minister will consult the Attorney-General, who I am glad to see sitting in her place beneath the Throne today. I imagine that in a normal course of events, a Minister taking a decision of that gravity would consult the Attorney-General. However, the fact that there is a slender basis for the jurisdiction, that the interim procedure is unsatisfactory, and that there is a power, seem to me to hedge around this provision with appropriate safeguards.