Debates between Lord Green of Deddington and Lord Russell of Liverpool during the 2019-2024 Parliament

Mon 28th Feb 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

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

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Lord Green of Deddington and Lord Russell of Liverpool
Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait Lord Russell of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I was not intending to speak in this debate but, rather like the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, I was prompted to by some of the interventions from behind the Front Bench, so as a non-politician I will speak briefly about the political context used to justify some of this rather egregious legislation.

I have the privilege of being the only non-political member of the UK delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe is nothing to do with the EU. It is the foremost human rights organisation in our continent, with 47 countries until Friday, when we ejected Russia, so we are now down to 46.

Although I am independent, and I am not a politician, to function there you have to be part of a political grouping, so I sit with what happens to be the political grouping of the Government of the United Kingdom of today: the Conservative Party. The political grouping it is in is called the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance. The group that we—all the Conservative MPs and Peers and I—sit in when we are in Strasbourg contains some of the political parties that the noble Lord, Lord Horam, referred to by name, saying we did not want to go that way.

In Strasbourg, the Conservative Party sits with the AfD, the laughingly named Sweden Democrats, who are effectively neo-fascists, and, from my wife’s native Italy, the Fratelli d’Italia, who are the direct descents of Mussolini, and the Lega Nord, led by the wonderful Mr Salvini, usually seen on the beach. These are not good bedfellows. Some of the comments that I hear from politicians, particularly from another place but also from some members of the Cabinet, are remarkably similar to some of the views I hear in the meeting room in Strasbourg when some of these individuals are speaking—views which most of us would find pretty horrendous but one steels oneself to listen to because, I suspect, they are probably reflecting pretty accurately the views of the people who voted them into office.

I will briefly refer to being in office. My great-grandfather, who was Prime Minister three times, said, “You are not elected into power; you are elected into office. You are elected into office as much to represent those who didn’t vote for you, or who didn’t vote at all, as those who did vote for you”. What we are hearing is a sort of “I’m all right, Jack” view of the world.

My wife’s native country of Italy is a contiguous country, in the way referred to by my noble friend Lord Kerr. Italy’s citizens did not want or vote for a large migration from north Africa to come. They may not like it, but they have accepted it; they really do not have any choice. Part of the reason that they are having a lot of problems and they are quite cross with countries such as ours is that we have completely and utterly refused, as have most other EU countries, to share the burden equally. The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and I have been to Jordan, another contiguous country. We went to Zaatari, the largest refugee camp for Syrians, in northern Jordan, where some 80,000 men, women and many children are huddled in reasonable conditions, thanks to the UNHCR. In Lebanon and Turkey no citizen voted for this, but that is what they have ended up with. We are a very long way from being contiguous but we are behaving in a way which, frankly, I find shameful.

The great-grandfather I referred to earlier was involved in raising the equivalent of about £34 million in 1939 after the Kristallnacht in Germany, which enabled a great many Kindertransport children to come to this country—that is what the money was used for. He would be ashamed by what is going on in this Chamber tonight.

Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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My Lords, I will just say a word in support of what the noble Lord, Lord Horam, said, about public opinion. We have to be careful here. A substantial slice of public opinion is concerned about the scale and nature of the inflow of people claiming to be refugees, and the shambles in the channel at the moment is no help. We need to bear that in mind in all our discussions. I do not think that the policy itself will work, and I do not think that the division into this or the other class of refugee will help. But let us not, for goodness’ sake, get carried away by our own righteousness and forget that there are a lot of people in this country who are not in situations as comfortable as ours who look to us to make sure that, in so far as there is an input of refugees, they are genuine.