Debates between Lord Faulks and Lord Purvis of Tweed during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 19th Feb 2024
Wed 1st Mar 2023

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Purvis of Tweed
Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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I am not a lawyer and I do not wish to refer to any of the legal aspects of the amendment; there has already been enough of that in the excellent contributions from noble and learned Lords. I just want to address the point about why the United Kingdom should feel that we are particularly vulnerable to this court.

There has been reference to other countries that have had interim measures granted against them. It is of course the case that the interim measures relating to the Rwanda MEDP have a high profile. The noble Lord, Lord Faulks, seems to continue to be uncertain as to why the interim measures were given. I think he knows that, on the day that the court issued the interim measures, it also issued the statement of the decision when it notified the UK Government of the interim measures. These are public documents and they are online.

The interim measure relating to the case of NSK was put in place on the grounds that that the individual should not be removed to Rwanda until the ongoing domestic judicial review process was concluded. That is the reason the court gave for that case. I am not a lawyer and I know the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, is, but it sounds reasonable to me that while a domestic—

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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Just one moment—I will say what is reasonable and the noble Lord can say it is not. I think that, if there is an ongoing domestic judicial review process but the Government decide to deport that individual before it has concluded, there are reasonable grounds there. I will happily give way to the noble Lord.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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With respect, a statement of conclusion does not give any of the reasons for coming to that conclusion.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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It gave the decision that the ongoing domestic judicial review process should be concluded.

--- Later in debate ---
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.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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I respect the noble Lord and am listening carefully to what he is saying, and as always, he makes well-considered arguments. I have a genuine question. I agree with everything he said, but only the Executive, under the prerogative power, would be able to make the judgment to end that treaty. Parliament cannot do it. Is that correct?

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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The noble Lord is entirely correct about the prerogative, but Parliament, perhaps unusually, in considering this Bill has the opportunity to see the treaty and the obligations contained within it. Parliament should look at those obligations and see whether it is satisfied with the terms of the treaty and whether it provides sufficient safeguards. These are relevant factors for Parliament to consider but, ultimately, I accept that the noble Lord is right—it is for the Executive to decide.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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I am very grateful to the noble Lord for giving way again. In essence, that was my argument in the previous group when it came to the necessity for us to have the information for the monitoring committee and the joint committee, given the circumstances, to allow us to form that view. Ultimately, we do not have the power to bring the treaty to an end or amend it because it is a prerogative power. We are, therefore, very limited as to what we are able to do if there are changes of circumstances in Rwanda that our Government and their Government do not then wish to change within the treaty.

National Security Bill

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Purvis of Tweed
Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I declare my interest as the chairman of the Independent Press Standards Organisation. I have also added my name to Amendment 18. I have very little to add to what has already been said by those who have spoken in the debate. The noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, has given a very good summary of the ruling of Pepper v Hart, although there first has to be ambiguity for the Minister’s words to have particular effect. None the less, I entirely agree with her that we will listen with great interest, as indeed will the media in general, to what the Minister has to say, to see whether he can give the assurance that is genuinely needed.

All I will add to what noble Lords have said already is that public interest journalism is genuinely under threat. It is very expensive to undertake, and editors can easily be deterred by the possibility of a wild goose chase. It would be an additional impediment to their encouraging proper journalism if they felt that one of their journalists or their publication was in some danger of finding themselves contravening the provisions of this very important Bill, which I also support in all respects. That is why this is a very significant group of amendments. As the noble Lord, Lord Black, said, citing Roosevelt, freedom of expression is fundamental. The press and the recognised publishers reflected in this amendment represent a very significant part of that freedom, and I hope that, in the Minister’s response to this group of amendments, we will get the reassurance that is so badly needed.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, I have added my name in support of my noble friend’s amendments seeking further clarity on

“the interests of the United Kingdom”.

I remind the House of the very significant penalties that are associated with these offences. Since this is my first opportunity on Report, after speaking in Committee, I thank the Minister and his team for listening, and not just listening but acting, engaging with us on these Benches and bringing forward amendments that we believe will make the Bill fundamentally better. Ministers have been true to their word in acting, and I appreciate that. The way the Minister and his officials have conducted themselves is to be commended, and I put that on the record so that it is perfectly clear.

The area that is outstanding, however, as my noble friend indicated, is that we still retain a concern that simply referring to “interests” and relying purely on the judgment within the 1964 Chandler case is insufficiently wide. As I stated in Committee, I am in a significant minority in not being a lawyer but, from reading the judgment in Chandler, which I remind the House also related to nuclear and defence policy, the only reference the Government have given to highlight what the case law definition would be of

“the interests of the United Kingdom”

is a defence and security interest. That is the only reference to the only case the Government have referred to. Therefore, it is not a significant leap to simply state in the Bill that this legislation is linked to security and defence interests. Without that, as my noble friend indicated, there is a concern that any government policy of the day that is not associated with defence interests, but is nevertheless activity that is directed by a foreign power, could be covered within this. Therefore, we still believe that there is a case for that to be defined.

I hope the Minister will respond to that point and say whether the Government are open to having further clarification of how “interests” are going to be defined, rather than just relying on that individual case. The reason I believe that that will now be necessary is because of one of the welcome concessions by the Government, which is to have an independent reviewer. We will come to government Amendment 85 later, but there will be a reviewer of this part of the legislation. For that reviewer to do their job properly—and we have noted reviewers and former reviewers in the House today—clarity on the Government’s intent regarding these interests will be important for the reviewer to look at the proper functioning of the legislation. I hope there will not be a grey area where there needs to be clarity, as the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, indicated.

My second point is that I welcome the Government seeking to narrow the area of information known to someone who is likely to fall foul of this legislation. Journalism is incredibly important. Unlike the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, I do not have friends at the Telegraph or the Sun to message me—we on these Benches do not often receive friendly messages from those journals—but I defer to her contacts with the Sun. Of course, she raises an important point in the context of what we debated last week in Grand Committee, the situation in Iran. We know that not only, as the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, indicated, is free, fair, impartial and independent journalism under threat around the world, but journalism is under threat in this country. There are countries that are persecuting journalists for operating within this country; therefore, the strongest defences for journalism are important. We believe very strongly that my noble friend’s Amendment 79, on a public interest defence, will provide a very sound defence for journalists carrying out their activities.

I have a question for the noble Lord, Lord Black. My understanding of the way that his Amendment 18 is written is that it would also cover whistleblowers. We have made the case for there to be protection for whistleblowers but, as I read his amendment, the defence is for a person who is not necessarily a journalist, but the intent is that the action will be for

“publication of material by a recognised news publisher”.

As I read it, Amendment 18 is therefore not limited to journalists. There may be unintended consequences that we may consider positive but the Government may not. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Black, will an opportunity to respond, so I ask the Minister whether his interpretation of Amendment 18 is that it could include whistleblowers. The main result may be to protect those who have a public interest defence in operating within all these parts. We will debate this in the next group on Amendment 79. I hope that will be our opportunity to draw the ditch—if not die in it—fight our case and divide the House on ensuring that there is a defence for journalists and a proper public interest defence for those carrying out legitimate activities not to be captured by this Bill.