1 Lord Henley debates involving the Scotland Office

Thu 10th Feb 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage: Part 1

Nationality and Borders Bill

Lord Henley Excerpts
Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 153 and 155 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. Before I do so, I fully associate myself with the powerful words of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. The only correction I will make to the noble Lord is that the Modern Slavery Act originated in the coalition Government, and we had a Liberal Democrat Minister in the Home Office in the person of my noble friend Lady Featherstone, who was here earlier.

Group 1 covers amendments and proposed deletions to very objectionable clauses, as we have heard. Clause 57 shifts the onus from the state to the potential victim to identify themselves and possess the relevant expertise to know what information is relevant to a slavery and human-trafficking determination. There is no provision for the specified date for supplying the information to be reasonable, or for whether and how an extension could be granted. Can the Minister say whether there will be guidance on these matters? As the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked, will notices be served on all asylum applicants or only on some? There would be potential for these notices to be discriminatory, in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, if they were served only on certain categories of people. What criteria will be used if only certain people will get these notices?

There is no clarity or guidance as to what might be considered good reasons for why information has arrived late. Vulnerable or traumatised victims might take time opening up; they might well be unfamiliar with the legal process, or they might not realise that a particular detail was relevant until later. There at least needs to be guidance on what constitutes good reasons to improve legal clarity and certainty, otherwise Amendment 154 from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, needs to be accepted.

On Clause 58, the Court of Appeal in a 2008 case said that the word “potentially” should be included if the decision-making authority were required to assess late supply of information as damaging to credibility. Hence, Amendment 153, inspired by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, changes “must take account” to “may take account” as potentially damaging to credibility. Amendment 155 would amend Clause 58 so that it does not apply to child victims or victims of sexual exploitation, similar to Amendments 151D and 152 from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker.

The bottom line is that Clauses 57 and 58 should not be in this Bill and, as has been said, Part 5 as a whole should not be in this Bill. They are arguably in breach of both the European Convention on Human Rights and the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

I think that my noble friend Lord Paddick will refer to the worries of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner—we are all very conscious of this matter. Indeed, Dame Sara Thornton has a comment article in the Times today, to which I shall refer in a later group. She has been very active, not least in briefing the JCHR and outlining her extreme worries, and we have heard from the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. The whole of the sector believes that this tightening up, to the disadvantage of vulnerable and traumatised victims of human trafficking and slavery, is wholly inappropriate.

Lord Henley Portrait Lord Henley (Con)
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My Lords, I have not yet spoken on this Bill—I missed the Second Reading for reasons beyond my control—but, like the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, and the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, I am a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which issued a number of reports on the Bill. I want to refer to the 11th report, covering Part 5, where we unanimously, as a committee, came forward with a number of recommendations. I hope that the Committee will bear with me—bearing in mind the strictures of the Chief Whip a day or two ago—if I make a brief intervention on this to support those amendments in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, and the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. The noble Baroness was speaking to Amendments 153 and 155, but all of us are also, to some extent, in support of all the other amendments, and take note of everything that the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, said.

I offer my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for his very kind words about all the work my right honourable friend Theresa May has done on modern slavery over the years. I served briefly in the Home Office, as I have served briefly in a great many departments, before I was moved on—as happens so often. I know from when I served with my right honourable friend just how seriously she took this issue—she treated it as important even before she became Home Secretary. She was a member of the shadow Cabinet in the run-up to the 2001 election and then continued with this work beyond. She will be grateful for everything the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has said. If I do not pass it on to her, I am sure she will read Hansard.