Lord Green of Deddington debates involving the Ministry of Justice during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 8th Nov 2023
Mon 3rd Jul 2023
Tue 8th Feb 2022
Thu 3rd Feb 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage: Part 2
Tue 18th May 2021

King’s Speech

Lord Green of Deddington Excerpts
Wednesday 8th November 2023

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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My Lords, I take this opportunity to send my condolences to Igor Judge’s family. We were undergraduates together at Cambridge 60 years ago, and I shall of course be writing.

This has been a wide-ranging debate with some quite remarkable contributions from all sides. For my part, I intend to confine my remarks to a single topic: sadly, it is one that this House is rather reluctant to address, namely the sheer scale of current net migration and its very serious implications for the future of our country. The present Government have deliberately permitted immigration to increase despite all their promises to the contrary. They meanwhile seek to divert public discussion to cross-channel asylum seekers, a problem which they know also infuriates the public.

But the fact is that legal immigration is about eight or 10 times the scale of illegal immigration and now carries many serious risks for the future tranquillity of our society. All population growth now arises from immigration, which since 1995 has accounted for nearly two-thirds of additional households. Indeed, last year’s unprecedented net inflow of just over 600,000 has resulted in huge pressure on housing and many other fields. The consequences continue to fall particularly on the younger generation, yet the connection with immigration is practically never mentioned.

Looking ahead, if we assume that births continue at the rather low present rate, and even if overall net migration is reduced to, say, 450,000 a year—very high by historical standards—the population of the UK would increase in the next 25 years or so by about 11 million, to 78 million. On reasonable expectations, that would be the equivalent of building nearly 10 cities the size of our second largest city, Birmingham. That is absolutely massive in all respects: housing, roads, transport, the whole lot. Indeed, if this rate of immigration is allowed to continue, 50 years from now the white British could well become a minority in their own country. Indeed, unless migration, the chief determinant, falls considerably, something of this kind will be inevitable. In younger generations, that new situation would arrive sooner, and white British children would become a minority in UK state schools in 20 years or so.

As Prime Minister, David Cameron saw some of the dangers ahead. In 2010, he said:

“We cannot continue to permit vast numbers of people to come to the UK and tell them that they do not need to integrate … and maintain certain values and ideas that are at odds with British values”.


He was exactly right. Only last month, the commissioner for countering extremism said the following:

“Allowing people to maintain parallel lives in our communities, without being part of our communities, has produced and will continue to produce … people committed to … undermining our values. The hatred that we have witnessed in recent days … is not only a cause for alarm among the Jewish community. It must be a wake-up call for … all decent people”.


Surely the first step must be to reduce substantially the scale of immigration to the UK. Nothing else will persuade the public that migration is being brought under control, that the very serious pressure on housing and on so many other areas will be reduced, and that they will not find themselves living in an unfamiliar country.

Illegal Migration Bill

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Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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My Lords, my noble friend Lady Ludford, who is unable to be here today, has her name to these amendments so I am speaking on her behalf, as it were, and on behalf of these Benches.

I make the general point that interim relief is an intrinsic and sensible part of our law. Injunctions are generally to prevent something happening, to maintain the status quo until there can be thorough consideration of a case. It is that way round because the person who wants to prevent that something happening is at risk of an action which would have a major effect on him—the other way round does not work in the same way. In this case, the action—removal from the UK —would effectively be the end of the story for the claimant and, if not that, it would at least make pursuit of claim from outside the UK very difficult indeed. That is quite different from the depiction we heard last week of a witness on a video link from another room or another building with all the normal support and access to his representatives.

This afternoon, I received an email from the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law—I stress “Bingham” and “rule of law”; noble Lords will note that title—with quite a long summary of a report on this subject which I understand is to be published tomorrow. It concludes that although improvements could be made to the process in the European Court of Human Rights, they do not affect the court’s jurisdiction to indicate binding interim measures. It makes the point that, when states signed up to the European convention, they expressly accepted that:

“In the event of dispute as to whether the Court has jurisdiction, the Court shall decide”.


So as not to detain your Lordships from making another trip to increase your steps through the Lobbies this evening, I will not read the whole of the summary. However, I make the point that the UK Government have proactively promoted the binding force of interim measures, advocating that other states, such as Russia, treat them as binding and comply with them. Given the provenance of that advice, I take it—and I hope your Lordships take it—very seriously.

Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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My Lords, I hope that the Minister when he speaks in a moment will explain what this is intended to deal with. It is only specific to these circumstances; is it that a certain number of lawyers are making a certain amount of money and he thinks that that is not helpful to the policy that the Government intend to put forward?

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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My Lords, we support my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti in her defence of the rule of law and interim relief in cases involving the alleged expulsion of people to unsafe places. The Government were happy to support the court’s decision not to grant such relief in the current Rwanda cases, but now they want to take away this jurisdiction, forcing more applicants to Strasbourg pending a final UK judicial determination. If the Government are right that Strasbourg interim measures are not binding, Clause 54 is unnecessary. If the European Court of Human Rights is correct that they are binding, our amended Clause 1 should be enough to safeguard international law. With respect to those comments, I urge my noble friend if she is so minded to test the opinion of the House on her Amendment 152, which we would support rather than Amendment 153.

Nationality and Borders Bill

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Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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My Lords, can we have a little less talk about the far right? Some 70% of the population think that the present Government’s policy on asylum is a failure.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
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My Lords, I do not want to get into the question of whether the Bill is going too far or not far enough, and whether our policy is good, bad or indifferent, on this group of amendments. If I may say so, those are Second Reading-type questions. I was simply responding to the point put by the noble Baroness.

To return to the point on Turkey, whether its acts are in accordance with the refugee convention is really a separate issue. I do not mean to diminish or demean this, but what we are talking about here are not acts, so to speak. We are talking about the fundamental question of whether it is proper—because the charge put against me is that it is not—for this Parliament to set out its interpretation, the UK’s interpretation, of the international obligations we have under the refugee convention.

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Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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The idea of people being able to arrive here without going through a third country has been debated before in the course of this Bill—I cannot remember whether it was last week or another time. When we queried how people could get here, the Minister explained that they could come by aeroplane. That might be possible for some, but it is not possible for everyone who might need to be here in Britain rather than somewhere in Germany or France. Perhaps the Minister could give us a better explanation about how people get here, if there are not enough safe routes or aeroplanes.

To me, this is a naked attempt to stop refugees. I do not understand why the Government cannot see this as well. We are taking advantage of our geography and saying, “We’re too far away, you can’t come”. This is ridiculous. As I have pointed out before, we have a moral duty to many of these people. We have disrupted their politics, their climate and their lives—therefore, we owe them. It is not as simple as saying that they want to join their mates.

This Bill should be setting out safe routes and establishing ways to get people to the UK safely and legally. At the moment, we do not have that because the Government are pulling up the drawbridge.

Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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My Lords, in a word, I see these issues from a policy point of view, not just a legal one. The fact is that our asylum system is in chaos, and very visibly so. Large numbers of claimants are turning up on our beaches. The Government are seeking to tighten the asylum system. That does not seem to be unreasonable, and I very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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I will very briefly address something that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, said about people arriving here directly by aeroplane. As we will see when we get on to the group substituting “arrives in” for “enters”, even if someone came directly by aeroplane, they would not be legally arriving in the United Kingdom. This clause is central to many of the provisions contained in the rest of the Bill. I am extremely grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, for his important, detailed and necessary exposition of his reasoning. Despite how long it took, it was absolutely essential.

Clause 36 seeks to redefine and undermine Article 31 of the refugee convention in UK law as a basis for penalties and prosecutions. As we discussed in previous groups, there is an accepted and settled interpretation of Article 31. As Amendments 106 and 107 seek to establish, passing through another country in order to get to the UK is not failing to enter the UK directly or without delay. This should, therefore, not allow the UK to impose penalties or treat asylum seekers less favourably as a result.

Amendment 108 highlights the particular difficulties some asylum seekers could face on account of their protected characteristics. Again, however, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti: there should be no reinterpretation of Article 31, no group 1 and group 2 refugees, and no four-year imprisonment because people had no choice but to travel through other countries to get to the UK, whether the UK considers those third countries safe or not.

Clause 36 is the sand upon which this Bill is built, and it needs to be washed away.

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I believe fundamentally that international co-operation on these issues is right, and that is why I am very keen on Amendment 114. But, above all, I argue that we must have a more generous humanitarian approach, particularly to child refugees seeking family reunion.
Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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My Lords, I think that it is perhaps time for a different view from this side of the Committee. I will briefly deal with Amendments 112 and 113.

Amendment 112 refers to “Refugee family reunion”. It is a wide-ranging amendment, and I suggest that it is unnecessary and not very wise. We already have provisions for the family members of refugees to come here. As others have mentioned, these allow partners and children under 18 of those granted refugee status or humanitarian protection to join them here, provided that they formed part of the family unit before they left their own country. That seems a reasonable basis for this provision. Of course, the family members do not receive refugee status themselves, so their leave will expire at the same time as that of the sponsor. But individuals on such visas are allowed to work, study and have recourse to public funds, which also seems entirely reasonable.

Indeed—I will save the Minister a task—we have granted visas to more than 60,000 family members of refugees since 2010. Since 2015, over half of those were to children. This is already a very substantial move in that direction. But widening the criteria still further would, of itself, massively increase those numbers and add still further to the pull factors drawing people to the English Channel, a route that has very little support among the public.

There is a very strong case for not widening these refugee routes. In the real world, we simply do not have the necessary infrastructure, service capacity, housing or school places. Many refugees are being put into the poorest parts of the UK. In this context, the Home Secretary said to a House of Lords committee on 27 October last year:

“We simply do not have the infrastructure or the accommodation.”


A Member of the other House said of his area:

“The impact on housing pressure at local level could cause further tensions if there is resentment about refugees receiving housing assistance at a time of acute … housing shortage.”—[Official Report, Commons, 27/4/21; col. 40WH.]


In setting our arrangements for refuges and their families, we must surely give due consideration to their impact on our own vulnerable communities.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I just put this to him: if children are coming to join family members here, the norm would be that the family member has accommodation to provide for them, so the argument about housing does not apply to that group of people.

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Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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I shall go on to Amendment 113, which deals with unaccompanied minors. The main effect of this amendment would be to put a considerable number of children in serious danger. As drafted, it applies only to children already in the EEA, but it would obviously be a major incentive for families now outside the EEA to pack their children off to Europe in the expectation that they could go on to the UK. The amendment is also widely drawn to include nieces, nephews, grandchildren, siblings, spouses—all from families that are very large in any case.

We have seen how opening this route would encourage minors to make dangerous journeys. In 2016, when there was talk of the UK taking significant numbers of children, the numbers of unaccompanied children literally doubled overnight. That is according to evidence given to the relevant parliamentary committee by the Home Office director responsible in December 2021. We have to consider the wider consequences of this, to which may be added the difficulties already facing the authorities in correctly assessing the age of those claiming to be children. We have discussed this before in Committee and we know that, in the last available year, 1,100 persons claiming to be children were found to be adults. This amendment is dangerous and unwise, and should not be accepted.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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My Lords, I have been encouraged to say a word—it was only going to be a word, but it will be a few more now—in support of my noble friend Lady Ludford. I am pleased that she has taken on this cause. I am not seeking to analyse every one of these amendments, but they are about protection in every sense of the word, which is what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham was saying. I applaud the Government for enabling the reuniting of some families, but I am thinking about those who have not been reunited, where there are problems.

I had a similar experience to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, in a meeting with Brandon Lewis and a battalion of officials, when I remember being told that the rules are quite adequate—but they are discretionary.

We have been asked by the noble Lord, Lord Green, to think about the real world. The real world is not just in the UK. One of the aspects of children being alone in the UK is the cost to local authorities, which can be very substantial when children are here by themselves. One needs to include a number of factors when balancing the question of costs.

I would like to echo whoever it was who pointed to the importance of siblings being able be together. A child or young person—frankly, anybody coping with the experience of being a refugee—needs the support of family. A sibling can be such a support to a child; I have heard siblings speak of this. These amendments have my support.

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Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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I entirely agree about the appalling conditions in these refugee camps and the huge number of refugees that are being dealt with. The question that I and others ask is: how can we best use the resources that we can give to the people who really need it? How much more effective would it be to get aid, food and medical attention into these terrible camps, rather than spending huge sums of money on children here who cost the same as a term at Eton?

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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Of course that is right. That is why there was such a row about the cut in the aid programme. It is why we all believe that of course we have to try to prevent war, famine and all those things. Not to do that would be ridiculous. The sources of many of our problems are war, famine and disease, and all of those things, so of course we have to prevent them.

However, it is also important in the debate we have in this country about asylum and refugees—not immigration—to stand up to the view that “We take the lot”. The idea that it is this country that has to deal with the situation, no other decent country in the world does it, we are the country that has to take them all and we are the weak link in it all is just not true, however unpopular it is to say so. Sometimes the way that you change public opinion is by arguing with it.

People will say, as no doubt the Minister will, “We won the election and therefore this is what the public think”, but on asylum and refugees there is an argument for saying, “Of course we don’t want open borders but there is a need for us to act in a way that is compassionate and consistent with the values that we have always had”. Sometimes that costs you, as I know, but that does not mean you should not do it. Public opinion can therefore be changed, and the subject is debated. Indeed, policy and opinion can change in this Chamber, which is the point of it. In the interests of time, I will stop there.

Amendment 114 is exceptionally important because of the need for international action. To apply it to our own situation here, we will not deal with the migrant crossing problem in the channel without co-operation from France and the rest of Europe.

I want to talk about the importance of Amendment 113, and I take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Green, on this. It is not an open invite to everybody to pile their children—I paraphrase, but if I get it wrong then no doubt the noble Lord will correct me—into the EEA because that means they can all then come to the UK. The amendment clearly lays out that it is about people who already have a family member present in the United Kingdom. It is about family reunion and trying to ensure that unaccompanied children in the EEA who have a family member in the UK get the opportunity to be reunited with them.

I will finish with this point, which I know the Minister will agree with. The problem we have is that sometimes Ministers have to speak to Governments, to the computer and to the Civil Service and say, “This bit of the Bill is wrong. It does not work.” Both Ministers have done it before on other Bills in other places where the Bills were wrong. On this issue of family reunion, the Government have got it wrong; they are not right. Nobody thinks that children who are unaccompanied in other parts of the EEA, for example, should not be able to reunite with their families in a way that is consistent with the values of this country, and it beggars belief that the Government would stand against that. It is not about an open door; it says quite specifically who should deal with it. I think if that were explained to the people of this country, and debated and argued with them, they would support it, because they are compassionate and decent, and in the end the compassionate and decent side will win. I think the Ministers are compassionate and decent, so let us have a Bill—in this aspect of it—that reflects that.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Lord Green of Deddington Excerpts
Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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My Lords, I am not sure whether this is helpful to the Minister or not, but the Dublin agreement was just quoted. Over the last five years, we asked France and Germany whether they would take back 2,480 cases. They took 234, which is just under 10%. Let us not imagine either that the Dublin agreement was useful or that something similar will be in future.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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We have had wide discussions about the UNHCR’s opinion on this and think that we are complying with international law. It is up to each state to interpret the refugee convention. I know that the noble Lord and most of this House do not agree but it will ultimately be for Parliament, through the passage of the Bill, to interpret what Parliament thinks of the refugee convention.

Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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My Lords, I will not move Amendment 76 and will consider the Minister’s comments on it.

Lord Etherton Portrait Lord Etherton (CB)
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My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Minister for battling so valiantly in relation to all the points that have been raised, and am extremely grateful for all the amendments that have been spoken to. What has become clear from this discussion is that there are, on any footing, immense practical difficulties in relation to Clauses 14 and 15. In effect, I think the Minister accepted that it is not going to be straightforward to repatriate people with inadmissible claims to other EU countries without any agreement. The expression “window dressing” has been used. It is going to be very difficult.

I hope I correctly interpreted the Minister in getting my crumb of comfort from Clause 14. I think she reassured me that the exceptional circumstances specified were not closed. As a statement from the Dispatch Box in Parliament, recorded in Hansard, that is quite an important point. If Clause 14 remains, it will give at least some people some succour at any event, particularly in the circumstances I mentioned: an EU country which does not prevent those who are citizens, resident or present within the country, from persecuting others belonging to a social group, or for some other reason.

I am afraid that the overwhelming sentiment—and certainly my view—was that whatever may be said by the Government about adopting existing expressions which are generally used or have been previously used, in vital respects Clause 15 is inconsistent with the convention. This is not in a complex way, but in an obvious way. I am sorry to say this, but to my mind as a lawyer it is an egregious contravention of the convention. I ask the Minister about, for example, condition 5 in new Section 80C. Not only is that not in the convention, but I do not know where it comes from. I can see it is there as a matter of policy but it is not in the Dublin regulations, so far as I can recall. As I pointed out, in any event the Dublin regulations are being revised, so there is no point in going back to them.

There are a number of difficulties. There is one point I was hoping the Minister might be able to reply to that she has not. I would be grateful if she could explain perhaps in communication with me. How does one reconcile condition 4, which is failing to make a claim in the first country—thereby rendering you having a connection and the possibility of inadmissibility—with one of the requirements under Clause 11 to satisfy Article 31, which is arriving directly, because you never get there if you are rendered inadmissible? At the moment I do not see how the two fit together. I am not suggesting it is a straightforward and easy point; it is a lawyer’s point, but an important one. It shows a muddle somewhere along the line. But, on the basis of everything that has been said, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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Baroness Lister of Burtersett Portrait Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab)
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My Lords, I support Amendment 95 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, who apologises for having had to leave early. This speech will be in two halves—although one will be rather bigger than the other. The first half is roughly what the noble Baroness would have said.

At Second Reading she spoke about the ways in which she believes this Bill places additional unacceptable barriers in the way of women refugees seeking asylum who are fleeing sexual violence and exploitation. The amendment seeks to remove one of those obstacles and to extend the benefit to other groups of asylum seekers who may be similarly disadvantaged, so that it is accepted that they have a good reason for a late claim.

As we understand it, the issue is that in the proposed legislation the authorities deciding an asylum claim or appeal are instructed to attach, as we have heard, only minimal weight to any evidence provided late by the applicant, unless there is a good reason for it being late. However, there is robust evidence to show that the trauma suffered by the victims of sexual violence or trafficking can impact on memory and the ability to recall information. The Home Office guidance itself makes this clear. The other categories she included in Amendment 95, such as victims of torture, modern slavery and trafficking, are just as likely to suffer the same effects on memory and should be protected in the same way. I strongly support what she would have said.

However, as the arguments from this perspective are very similar to those I made in support of Amendment 40 on Tuesday, I will focus on children, a group we have not talked much about so far, although I was very pleased that my noble friend Lord Coaker did so in introducing this group. It is the strong view of children’s organisations such as the Children’s Society—I am grateful for its help—that the Bill completely fails to protect children, a group in particular need of it. Despite recognition of this added need for protection, this Bill’s harsh reforms apply to children just as they do to adults, unless the Minister can tell me that I am wrong—I hope he can. This is not right; it is a serious failure of the Government’s duty to protect children.

We need only look at Clauses 25 and 17 to see the disproportionate impact many of these provisions will have on children and young people. Amendment 95 seeks to ensure that children are recognised as having a good reason for not providing evidence by the deadline and that any evidence they provide late is given due weight. We know from organisations on the ground that asylum-seeking children who have been forced to flee, who may have witnessed violence and the destruction of their homes or schools, or even death, and who may have endured traumatic journeys, might not be able to share all the details of their ordeal in the first instance to provide evidence to support their case. The particular difficulties children might face in providing prompt evidence are recognised by the JCHR.

The Government know this. Their only quality impact assessment, to which my noble friend referred, sets out how these clauses will have a disproportionate impact on vulnerable persons, including children. The Home Office’s Childrens Asylum Claims Casework Guidance makes it clear:

“Decision makers must take account of what it is reasonable to expect a child to know”—


or relay—

“in their given set of circumstances”.

It is inappropriate for authorities to question the credibility of a child’s claim if they omit information, bearing in mind the child’s age, maturity and other reasons that may have led to those omissions. Requiring time-limited evidence and penalising children when they are unable to meet the deadlines goes against the Government’s own assessments and guidance and does nothing to protect children or, as we have heard, their best interests.

As one young person supported by the Children’s Society, which has long supported asylum-seeking children and young people, reminds us:

“This is not a joyful moment in our lives. We have to talk through the worst parts of our past. It is very traumatic.”


Children and young people need time and a sense of safety before they can begin to disclose their experience. They also need good, child-appropriate legal representation, which we know they often do not get, unfortunately. All too often, asylum-seeking children receive poor initial legal advice, which can lead to ill-prepared claims and to them not feeling comfortable about setting out their information. Due to legal aid funding cuts, quality legal advice is not readily available.

Another young asylum seeker supported by the Children’s Society described his experience:

“My solicitor did nothing, it was horrible. They didn’t even prepare a witness statement for my interview. I had to do everything myself. I had my social worker but she didn’t know how to help me with my asylum case. The interviewer told me she had no information and I had to tell her everything.”


The Children’s Society sees many asylum-seeking children who have to provide evidence at later stages of their claim, not because of any weakness in the claim but because of the trauma they have endured or the consequences of non-existent or poor legal representation. No doubt the Minister will assure us that these concerns will be addressed in guidance and on a case-by-case basis, yet, as was highlighted in the recent report, An Inspection of Asylum Casework, guidance is often neither followed nor implemented by Home Office caseworkers. Home Office staff themselves stressed that they

“did not have time to consider each case on its own merits, contrary to the guidance they receive.”

So the aim of Amendment 95 is not to tie the hands of decision-makers or legislate for every situation in which a person might provide late evidence. Rather, it is to ensure that the most vulnerable are protected in the Bill, because we cannot leave their safety and well-being to chance. That is consistent with this highlighted observation from the JCHR:

“It is crucial that decision-makers recognise the many legitimate reasons why asylum seekers may struggle to provide evidence in support of their claims within tight deadlines.”


If Clause 25 stands part—I have to say that I will support the proposal that will be put by my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti that it should not—this amendment represents the minimum necessary to protect children, women, women fleeing gender-based violence and others in the most vulnerable circumstances.

I want to return briefly to what the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, said. Given the Home Office guidance, we cannot see any logical or humane reason why the Government would not accept this amendment and establish on the face of the Bill that, in these circumstances, for these victims, any late evidence should always be accepted as being late for a good reason, and their application or appeal should not in any way be disadvantaged because of it.

Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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My Lords, I will speak briefly to Amendment 85 on the destruction of documents. I am a sponsor of this amendment, together with the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, who is unfortunately unwell and in isolation.

The purpose of these subsections is to indicate matters that might damage a claimant’s credibility in respect of an asylum or human rights claim. The destruction of documents is clearly one of these. Why else would this be done, except to make it much more difficult to identify the claimant and therefore much more difficult to assess their claims? Noble Lords will remember that claimants arriving by air used to cut up their passports and dispose of them in the aircraft’s toilet. That was dealt with by photocopying their documents before they boarded the aircraft. This time round, it is rather more difficult to counter, but it should certainly be regarded as relevant to an assessment of the validity of their claim.

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Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, I shall speak against Clause 25 standing part. I agree with so much of what has already been said. This is a particularly tawdry little clause in an outrageous Bill, which, as we have heard, has been slammed by UNHCR, the custodian of the refugee convention, by the JHCR, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and everybody, it seems, except noble Lords opposite.

My noble friend Lord Coaker need not apologise for not being a lawyer. It is not necessary to be a lawyer to see how tawdry Clause 25 is and how it absolutely puts process over substance.

This area of the law is not about parking regulations, or the tax owed to the Revenue or even major civil or commercial litigation between powerful opposing forces. This is the David and Goliath situation referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. When an asylum seeker presents themselves to whoever—the Border Force or the Home Office—they are putting themselves in the trust of Her Majesty’s Government in the hope that this is the right place to be.

Noble Lords have been making arguments in Committee, and those opposite have been making arguments about forum shopping, wanting better lives and all those things as if they are terrible but, in essence, the refugee convention is about desperate people escaping and having a fair crack at being believed. They may not all be telling the truth. Whether they are or not, they may not all qualify for convention protection, but there should at least be a kind and fair reception and a fair crack of the whip. That means not taking tawdry little process points such as this.

I have been a refugee lawyer, in and outside the Home Office. When I worked as a lawyer in the Home Office—I am going back now to before the new Labour Government, when my first boss was the noble Lord, Lord Howard—we did not take tawdry process points like this. That was in 1996.

In a moment, the ever-avuncular and brilliant advocate, the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, will get up and tell us not to worry, because this will come into play only when there are no good reasons. So, fear not, Women for Refugee Women, UNHCR, Amnesty International, ILPA and every other bleeding heart. The Home Secretary would call them activist human rights lawyers and they are perhaps almost as contemptible as refugees in her eyes. The noble Lord will say not to worry because, where there are good reasons, this does not come into play and there will not be an issue about evidence.

But why put this in the statute book? Immigration officers, the Secretary of State, the First-tier Tribunal, the Upper Tribunal and SIAC—these bodies are well capable of looking at evidence and credibility. It is an insult to their intelligence for them to look at whether there were or were not good reasons for late evidence. Sometimes late evidence is incredible and sometimes it is perfectly valid, because there are very good reasons—a host of good reasons, more good reasons than not—in relation to trauma.

Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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Would the noble Baroness like to say whether evidence is ever deliberately produced late in order that it is impossible to remove people for whom such a decision has been made?

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I have no doubt that that is sometimes the case, but my point is that you do not need Clause 25 to deal with that case, because the decision-makers listed here are well capable of looking at evidence whenever it is served. If the idea is that this is late, incredible or mischievous evidence, or the other concerns of the noble Lord, these decision-makers are capable of getting there by themselves. They do not need this insult to their intelligence that they must give it minimal weight. I never knew about this principle of minimal weight. It has been invented. Sometimes late evidence is good and sometimes it is bad, but this is asylum; refugees are at stake.

The noble Lord opposite always wants to talk about the numbers. He is very concerned about the numbers and I appreciate that, but this is not about numbers. It is about getting decisions right and protecting even the one claimant in a thousand who is the torture victim, who has been persecuted, who may be a child and who may have been trafficked. To turn this into a matter of a parking fine or commercial litigation, in which your case is prejudiced because you were only just advised that being gay is relevant and that you do not have to be afraid to say so, because this is Britain and Hungary, is tawdry. To make that process point, when we are talking about life or death—not big bucks or small bucks but life and death—is totally tawdry.

Clause 25 does not help. If anything, it will make life more difficult for the Home Office because, I promise you, there will be endless litigation about what good reasons are. That is why the amendments are helpful, because they are beginning to tease out what will eventually be the subjects of litigation. We do not need it. We all know that late evidence is sometimes an abuse and is sometimes incredible, but sometimes it emerges because people have only just got decent translators or lawyers, or country or other vital information, which is sometimes hard to get.

I am sorry to hear that the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, is unwell. I am sure that the Committee will join me in wishing her a swift and full recovery.

On the point about identifying documents, let us go back to the history of the refugee convention. Some of the most genuine refugees have to escape without identifying documents, and some of the least oppressed people are the ones who have fantastic documents. That is why Amendment 85 has to go. This is not the biggest problem in a terrible Bill, but Clause 25 is a tawdry little clause, unworthy of Her Majesty’s Government; let us strike it from the Bill.

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Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Wolfson of Tredegar) (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, which has ranged fairly widely. I will try to cover everything in my response. I start with Amendments 77, 89, 90B and 95A, which were spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, on behalf of Lord Rosser.

We acknowledge that there may be many good reasons why an individual is not able to comply with either the requirements of an evidence notice or the requirements of a priority removal notice. We also accept that those good reasons may often be linked to the trauma that they have suffered. Where such reasons exist, they will be fully considered by decision-makers on a case-by-case basis and thereafter by the judicial system, should a claimant appeal the refusal of a human rights or protection claim.

The key point here is that every claim is unique; that is trite to say but none the less true. I therefore suggest it is correct that case-by-case scrutiny is given to all individuals. The good reasons test therefore takes into account objective factors, such as difficulties in obtaining evidence, but it would also include subjective factors, such as an individual’s particular vulnerabilities—related perhaps to their sexual orientation, as the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, mentioned; gender identity; or, indeed, mental and physical health. I suggest that the good reasons test, which I think is appropriate, means that Amendment 77 is unnecessary.

To respond specifically to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, who invited me to parse or gloss what good reasons are and are not, I respectfully say that the test is deliberately open, not circumscribed, to ensure that all relevant factors in the individual case can be considered. Specifically, I can confirm that LGBTQ+ protections will be dealt with in guidance that specifically addresses good reasons and how they may relate to LGBTQ persons and issues, because of course you can have an LGBTQ issue even if you yourself are not LGBTQ.

Further, under Amendment 77, a vulnerable individual who did not fall within the specified groups listed in the amendment may nevertheless be served with an evidence notice. If they provided late evidence, a decision would be needed on whether or not they had good reasons for that lateness; whereas at the same time an individual who happened to fall within the categories set out in the amendment would be free to raise evidence at any time. For reasons that may be entirely unconnected with the reason for their exemption, they would none the less be automatically free from any disadvantage under the system or the consequences in the legislation, based on what is essentially something of a tick-box exercise. I suggest that that would be unfair.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked how the test would apply to children. This was taken up by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, speaking also on behalf of the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins. Guidance will be published setting out how decision-makers should consider the age of the child in the exercise of their discretion. This should be obvious but let me state it from the Dispatch Box anyway: evidence provided by a child will be considered in the light of their age, degree of mental development, and maturity, currently and at all material times previously. As part of our obligations under the public sector equality duty, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said, equality impact assessments have been completed in respect of these clauses. Those assessments incorporate a consideration of the impacts on children.

We are concerned that Amendment 77 could also lead to perverse outcomes, whereby individuals who do not fall into one of the categories identified by the amendment could abuse the process by falsely claiming that they did. That would perpetuate the issues that these clauses are designed to address, to the detriment of genuine claimants, undermining their usefulness.

For similar reasons, Amendments 90B and 95A are unnecessary and would confuse the test to determine the acceptable reasons for something being raised late in response to an evidence notice or a priority removal notice. Unlike the good reasons test, which is fair and is an established principle in the assessment of credibility of an asylum or human rights claim, an unclear and, at least in practice, a rather subjective test of “fairness” risks inconsistent decision-making, which could lead to an increase in uncertainty for both decision-makers and claimants. For those reasons, I invite the noble Baroness to not move her amendments.

Amendment 89 introduces a requirement to publish guidance on good reasons within 30 days of the Bill receiving Royal Assent. This is an arbitrary deadline which is not necessary to include in the Bill. I have already said that good reasons will be set out in published guidance for decision-makers. This will be made available when the measures come into force. The amendment does not assist those in genuine need of protection and would in fact limit the discretion of decision-makers and undermine the effectiveness of the priority removal notices. For those reasons, I invite the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, to not move those various amendments.

I turn to Amendments 84, 90 and 96. In accordance with the public sector equality duty, protected characteristics must be considered by decision-makers when they are considering good reasons for lateness following service of an evidence notice or a priority removal notice. However, it is not intended that the good reasons are limited to the characteristics listed in Chapter 1 of the Equality Act 2010. For example, mental health issues or past trauma do not amount to a disability under the Act, but they will also be considered. These may be as important, perhaps even more important, than a protected characteristic in determining whether or not someone has a good reason for lateness. Therefore, the amendment is not only unnecessary but could have the unwanted effect of leading decision-makers to believe that they should be prioritising a narrower range of factors than those already intended within the Bill itself. I invite that amendment to be not moved.

I turn to Amendment 85, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, and my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe. Again, I associate myself with the remarks of other noble Lords: we wish her well. Clause 18 adds two new behaviours to the existing credibility provisions in Section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004. It introduces the principles that providing late evidence without good reason or not acting in good faith should be damaging to the claimant’s credibility. Where there are good reasons for providing late evidence, that will not impact on their credibility.

The concept that certain conduct should be damaging to credibility is not new. Decision-makers must consider egregious conduct by the claimant, and it is then open to the Home Office decision-maker or the court to decide the extent to which credibility should subsequently be damaged. The good-faith requirement is intended to address behaviours such as those mentioned in the amendment, as well as any other behaviours that a deciding authority thinks are not in good faith. Therefore, there is no need, I would suggest, to single out, as this amendment does, particular behaviours to highlight them specifically.

Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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My Lords, is the Minister saying that in practice—I hope he is—if someone has quite clearly destroyed their documents, that will be taken into account when considering their claim?

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delivered within it. That is obviously the whole tenor of these amendments; they are about fairness and justice. That is the only way to get real speed, not by these renewed gimmicks. I beg to move.
Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness is right to say this is the detained fast track brought back again, in effect. I simply say that this is a very good idea. Leaving aside the detail, if experienced officials can see that a case is really very unlikely to be a genuine one, there should be a fast track and the person should be detained. The details can be sorted, but it is the right way to go. It is what we need to do, given the enormous wave of applications we are now receiving.

Lord Etherton Portrait Lord Etherton (CB)
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I speak in support of the amendment in my name in relation to Clause 26, Amendment 98. It is that

“The Secretary of State may not give … certification if the appellant claims to have a protected characteristic … which is innate or immutable, and that the characteristic is relevant to the appeal.”


Cases in which the appellant is an asylum seeker who has an innate and immutable protected characteristic that is relevant to the appeal are not appropriate for the very short timescale set out in Clause 26(3). I think the noble Lord the Minister himself acknowledged, and the noble Baroness the Minister accepted earlier, that many of these cases raise difficult issues and that guidance that we wait to see will be issued to provide assistance. The paradigm case again is that of the LGBTQ+ asylum seeker. Establishing whether or not they are in fact LGBTQ, the adequacy of the evidence in support on that issue—whether or not there is a genuine fear of persecution because of that characteristic, whether what they have done in relation to pursuing their claim has been reasonable, even if it was not always in compliance with the required time limits—makes their appeal inappropriate for an accelerated appeal.

Once again I say, as others have said, that this conclusion is reinforced by the significant proportion of successful appeals that have been brought by LGB refugees. That is something we simply cannot ignore. Nearly 40% of appeals taken in the period from 2015 to 2018 succeeded.

Queen’s Speech

Lord Green of Deddington Excerpts
Tuesday 18th May 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I shall focus not on asylum but on immigration. I declare a non-financial interest as president of Migration Watch UK.

Noble Lords may have seen a recent article in the Times by the noble Lord, Lord Hague. He referred to extraordinary events in France, where two groups of retired military officers have declared that their country is disintegrating—yes, disintegrating. A subsequent opinion poll found that nearly three-quarters of the French public agreed. The main theme of the article by the noble Lord, Lord Hague—with which I entirely agree—was the vital importance of a shared national identity. His view is that its promotion in the UK has become a matter of urgency.

I have three important points to add. First, this will not be possible unless and until immigration is sharply reduced. For the time being, the public believe the Government’s claims that they are taking measures for this purpose. For reasons I have set out elsewhere, the Government will fail in this matter.

Secondly, recent work has shown that high migration, combined with the higher birth rates in some immigrant communities—and a generally younger age structure—are driving major changes across the UK. We now find that about a third of all children born in England and Wales have at least one foreign-born parent. In both primary and secondary state schools in England, around one-third of all pupils are from an ethnic minority background. In the population of Great Britain, the share of ethnic minorities, including other Europeans, has nearly doubled to 21% in just 20 years. In more recent years, more the 90% of our population increase has been due to immigration.

Thirdly, there can be no doubt that the whole nature of our society is changing very rapidly and at an accelerating pace. Meanwhile, the public are instinctively aware of this and are, albeit privately, very concerned. A recent YouGov tracking poll found that nearly 60% say that immigration has been too high during the past decade. That is about 30 million adults.

That is enough about numbers. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, will be a valuable addition to this House. She put it very well in her report of December 2016:

“It is not racist to say that the pace of change from immigration in recent years has been too much for some communities.”


People are understandably uncomfortable when the character and make-up of a town change out of all recognition in five or 10 years.

In calling for a sharp and sustained reduction in net migration, I am conscious that I shall be strongly opposed by those who profit from immigration, whether politically or economically. My answer is clear: these are vital issues for the future of our country. Having been appointed to your Lordships’ House for my work in this area, I think it no less than my duty to speak for those who have entirely valid concerns which our political system is simply not addressing.