Debates between Lord Faulks and Lord Howard of Lympne during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 19th Feb 2024

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Howard of Lympne
Lord Howard of Lympne Portrait Lord Howard of Lympne (Con)
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My Lords, I am sorry to detain your Lordships at this late hour. I shall try to be very brief. This amendment, particularly proposed new subsection (6), is remarkably similar to an amendment put forward earlier in Committee by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, which I characterised as outsourcing decision-making to the UNHCR. I had a little spat with the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, about that and the right reverend Prelate, who spoke in favour of the amendment, denied that it was outsourcing. Very graciously, the noble Baroness intervened to say that that was the effect of her amendment and that she would consider making it, in her words, less rich when she brought it forward on Report.

This amendment falls into exactly the same trap. In proposed new subsection (6), on the renewal of the Act after two years, the decision is again outsourced to the UNHCR. I will not go through all the reasons I gave in my earlier speech as to why that is entirely inappropriate but, for those same reasons, this amendment is also completely inappropriate.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I will briefly comment on the relationship between Rwanda and the United Kingdom contained in the treaty. A lot has been said about the treaty being inadequate and how it depends on what happens in future. The noble and learned Lord took a certain amount of flak during earlier debates in Committee when he was asked what the treaty is doing if Rwanda is safe. He suggested that it might make it safer. The rather scornful response to this observation was somewhat unfair. The treaty contains a number of obligations and is entirely typical of treaties in that respect. These obligations use the word “shall” and are directed to future activity.

The general principle of international law is that a treaty is binding on the parties and must be performed in good faith. That principle is embodied in the maxim “pacta sunt servanda”. We take that very seriously. If a party breaks the terms of a treaty, provided there has been a fundamental change of circumstances, as the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties makes clear, the treaty in effect comes to an end. The noble Lord, Lord Clarke of Nottingham, spoke of the possibility of a coup and seemed to suggest, as the proposer of this amendment did, that because Parliament had determined that Rwanda was safe, we would be stuck with that determination.

I respectfully disagree. The treaty bears close reading. I will not refer to it at this stage of proceedings, but Clause 8(1) makes its nature clear, Articles 14, 15 and 16 concern the arrangements for monitoring and Article 22 provides a dispute mechanism. Further, the treaty will end on 13 April 2027 in any event. These seem to me to be sufficient safeguards built into the treaty, but if there is a coup or a fundamental change of circumstances, or any Government think that Rwanda is unsafe, the treaty can be brought to an end, at least until a subsequent agreement has been reached. To suggest that Parliament must somehow not be satisfied that there are obligations in international law seems to me unreal.