24 Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale debates involving the Home Office

Wed 27th Jan 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 25th Jan 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee stage
Tue 5th Jan 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading
Wed 22nd Jul 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading

Iraqi Interpreters

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Thursday 14th October 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, we have communication lines for people to access. Clearly, Afghanistan is a far more difficult environment than Iraq at this time, but, yes, we reach out to people.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, it has been reported in the past 24 hours that Afghan special intelligence unit officers who were trained, funded and supervised by United Kingdom officials in Afghanistan have been abandoned following the end of the airlift at the beginning of September. Will the Government look into this as a matter of urgency and ensure that these people, who are in significant danger in Afghanistan today, have the opportunity to come either to the United Kingdom or to another safe place as soon as possible?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Lord is talking about Afghan citizens. Clearly, Afghanistan is an incredibly difficult environment at this point in time, but, as I have reiterated in previous answers, we are doing all we can to help those people who need our ongoing assistance.

EU Borders: Refugees from Afghanistan

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Thursday 9th September 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

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Asked by
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the European Union about refugees from Afghanistan who may have a right to settle in the United Kingdom being processed through EU borders.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper and, in doing so, draw attention to my entry in the Lords register.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, the UK has committed to resettle up to 20,000 at-risk individuals through the Afghanistan citizens’ resettlement scheme, in addition to relocating those who supported our Armed Forces or the UK Government in Afghanistan through the Afghan relocations and assistance policy, or ARAP. We continue to work with EU partners to co-ordinate our response to Afghanistan and support those most at risk.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful for that response but it does not really answer the Question. We all know that, over recent years, significant numbers of potential Afghani refugees have come through Europe to relocate either in other European countries or, if they felt that they had a connection to here, here in the United Kingdom. I would be very concerned if there was any suggestion at all that the Government’s more difficult relationship with the European Union might inhibit safe passage for those who have a right to come to the United Kingdom to move perhaps from the eastern European border to here in order to be processed suitably. Will the Government guarantee that there will be discussion with the European Union to ensure that not only are there processes in place in Pakistan and in neighbouring countries but, where potential Afghani refugees have come to the European Union in order then to move to the United Kingdom, there will be a system in place to allow them due consideration?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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One thing I can assure the noble Lord of is that today the Home Secretary is meeting EU Commissioner Johansson and that migration, including the provision of safe and legal routes, is also being discussed today at the G7. An EU resettlement forum, also attended by the US and Canada, is also due to take place on 27 September. Finally, let me say to the noble Lord that anyone who makes a journey to Europe should claim asylum in the first safe country that they reach.

Immigration: Skilled Migrants from Commonwealth Countries

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Monday 19th April 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Absolutely—we have humanitarian routes, which are used. The noble Lord talked about BNOs, and he is absolutely right: the people of Hong Kong are coming here legally—we have granted them leave to remain under the BNO route. Far from being inhumane, this country has a proud record of giving refuge to people who need it.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, on that point, there has been and continues to be a particular problem of young people and teenagers, who have spent a considerable number of years in this country, sometimes—through no fault of their own but because of the bureaucracy of the system, the decision-making and so on—finding themselves threatened with a return to the country of their parents’ or their birth, despite having spent a number of years in this country, attending school here and experiencing the growing-up process here. Is that really a humane reaction, and is there a better way that the Government could handle these cases?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I totally get the point that the noble Lord is making about some of the humanitarian considerations that we should give to people who grew up in this country, but this is a very different issue. The cases we are talking about this afternoon are of people who falsified their earnings, claiming back tax on them in some instances, as I have said. It is absolutely right that we are not only tolerant and welcoming but that we stamp out fraud where we see it—and these cases were of fraudulently declared earnings.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 27th January 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 View all Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 124-III Third marshalled list for Committee - (27 Jan 2021)
Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Garden of Frognal) (LD)
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The noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, has withdrawn so I now call the noble Lord, Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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I do not intend to repeat any of the comments made by my noble friend Lord Hunt in his very powerful and fascinating introduction. I hope that he has, at the very least, sparked off a debate that will continue. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say in response. I do not think that it would be fair to describe either that introduction or the actual content of the amendments as cavalier, as the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, did. I absolutely sympathise with being cautious in the use of data and careful with civil liberties. But if we read the amendments proposed by my noble friend Lord Hunt and others, to describe them as cavalier is a bit of an exaggeration. I hope that the Minister will respond positively on the issue. We will see where the debate goes next.

I will speak to Amendment 62, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, which is particularly important. In Clause 22, which it seeks to amend, there is a perfectly reasonable list of matters to be considered by a police officer when considering a domestic abuse protection notice. Adding

“the previous criminal history of P”,

who is the person under consideration, to that list would make an incredible amount of common sense, as well as having real, practical impact on the day-to-day work of police officers. It would also be particularly reassuring for victims, who obviously might have an opinion; Clause 22 outlines anyway that their opinion should be considered. Amendment 62, on previous criminal history, is important.

I add, partly in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, that this amendment does not suggest that past accusations made against somebody would automatically override other considerations or be disclosed publicly. What it suggests is that their previous criminal history might well be relevant in the determination of such a notice. That is indisputable; we know all the background, history and data on how often people reoffend in this area. We know an awful lot about the psychology involved in domestic abuse. It would a barrier to good decision-making and active prevention if police officers were not able to take into account previous criminal history. I strongly support Amendment 62 and look forward to hearing what the Minister says about the earlier amendments.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 25th January 2021

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 View all Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 124-II(Rev) Revised second marshalled list for Committee - (25 Jan 2021)
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I am very grateful for this opportunity to speak after the Minister. I did not submit my name for the speakers’ list for this group because I could not rely on the train from Scotland getting me here on time, but I am delighted that I managed to make it in time to hear the powerful and important speech from the noble Baroness, Lady Meyer.

When I first saw this amendment at the end of last week, unaware as I was then that it would become perhaps the most controversial and debated issue of our first day in Committee, I flinched. I understand the motivations behind it and there have been powerful speeches on both sides of the debate, but I fear that the Bill’s purpose, which we celebrated earlier this month at Second Reading—to empower victims of domestic abuse to be confident enough to deal with their circumstances, and to ensure that perpetrators are properly punished—would be undermined by the amendments. These amendments could disempower victims of domestic abuse and therefore run contrary to the rest of the Bill.

On reading the amendment on Friday morning, I immediately imagined a situation where a woman is about to flee the home, even temporarily, and the man says, “But under the Domestic Abuse Act I will pursue you for alienation.” A very high proportion of women facing that situation would stay where they were out of an additional fear, on top of all the fear they already experience. I will not tell my personal story here, but I can absolutely assure noble Lords that this happens and this would happen. We should hesitate and think very carefully about this issue in advance of accepting an amendment of this sort.

I was persuaded by the powerful cases made by the noble Baronesses, Lady Brinton and Lady Helic, but particularly by the wise words of the noble Baroness, Lady Chisholm, spelling out the need to take time over this issue, to consider it carefully, and to do the right thing for the victims of domestic abuse and the children who might be affected. For that reason I think the Government have the balance right by not including alienation in the Bill, but by referring to it in the draft statutory guidance. I therefore support the Minister’s submission.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I agree with the noble Lord’s very balanced view. It is absolutely right that we do not undermine what is very good legislation by acting in haste and regretting at leisure. The case study the noble Lord outlined was in the back of my mind as well.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
2nd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 5th January 2021

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 View all Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: Consideration of Bill Amendments as at 6 July 2020 - (6 Jul 2020)
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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Many noble Lords in this excellent debate have referred to the change in culture and public debate around the issue of domestic abuse over the decades. I can vividly recall, as a young newly elected councillor in Stirling in the 1980s, the heated debate across all political groupings in the council about the funding of the first refuge in Stirling at that time. I recall the fear in the community at the prospect of “battered wives”—a phrase used earlier in the debate—living next door to families in a particular part of the town.

I am so glad that we have moved so far from that time; it has taken us a long time to get here, but we have definitely come a long way in our understanding of domestic abuse—its scale and the impact and nature of psychological abuse alongside physical abuse. Our understanding today of the impact on children in particular is much deeper and broader than it ever was then. It is not just the debate that has changed; our understanding has changed for the better.

There have been some fantastic contributions to our debate this afternoon and evening, and, in particular, I want to record the excellent contributions of the Minister and my noble friend Lord Rosser that started our debate, setting out the issues and commitments that have been made. I strongly welcome this Bill and I look forward to the debates on many issues; dozens of them seem to have been raised in the debate, and I am sure they will take up a lot of time in Committee and on Report in the weeks ahead.

Today, as the new lockdown starts, let us take a moment to reflect on the possibility that, somewhere in the UK, a brave woman who took a decision to break up a relationship that had been abusive and perhaps was particularly so during the first lockdown, is sitting with three kids and a mobile phone, facing the prospect of online home schooling for up to six months, potentially, as the Prime Minister stated earlier this evening. We should think for a moment about the immediate impact of these decisions around lockdown on the most vulnerable people in our society, and about the lack of preparation for the families and children that are affected by school closures. It breaks my heart to think about what they will go through in the weeks to come. When we pass this legislation in due course, with great cheers, we must also deal with the immediate impact of government decisions on individual families and children.

I will strongly support moves to include community-based services in definitions, and, in particular, I will support amendments on threats to expose explicit images online. I also hope that, in the debates, we can learn from the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018: there are positive and negative experiences from it that I am sure we can refer to in the debates to come.

I will ask the Minister specifically to address one point in summing up this evening. We have lost the protection of the European protection orders as a result of the reclaiming of UK sovereignty in recent days, but an issue about cross-border co-operation that was often spoken of by those involved in supporting victims of domestic abuse in Scotland was that securing justice co-operation across the European Union was, at times, easier than securing it across the jurisdictions of the United Kingdom. I wonder whether there is perhaps an opportunity, in the absence of our engagement with the European protection order from now on, to look at how we can put in place UK protection orders or some other form of formal co-operation that would make it much easier for the different jurisdictions in the UK to support those who have taken the brave decision to flee for their freedom, and also to ensure that those who have decided to flee from justice can be caught and prosecuted.

Covid-19: Child Trafficking

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Tuesday 29th September 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Baroness will recall that, through the Modern Slavery Act 2015, the Government introduced the statutory defence for victims of modern slavery to protect those really vulnerable people who would previously have been unfairly prosecuted, as she said, for crimes that they were forced to commit by their exploiters—notably, as she mentioned, in cannabis cultivation.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, support for the victims of child trafficking is obviously vital, but so is the prosecution of the perpetrators responsible. What action are the Government currently taking internationally to ensure a higher level of prosecution of those responsible for child trafficking? How can we ensure that, in the words of the Foreign Secretary, the UK, as a “force for good” in the world, does more to achieve that goal?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Lord may recall the NCA swoop of a few months ago that pulled in many illicit articles and items. You cannot look at child trafficking in isolation; it is part of a package of drugs, guns, trafficking and child sexual exploitation, and it can be tackled effectively only at an international level.

Brexit: Refugee Protection and Asylum Policy (EUC Report)

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Tuesday 22nd September 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I start by noting my interest as declared in the Lords register and, of course, by praising and congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Jay, and his committee, on such a comprehensive, interesting and detailed report. There are very meaningful recommendations, many of which stand the test of time, despite the fact that we are debating this report one year after its publication.

I also thank and congratulate the many organisations in this country and elsewhere which work tirelessly every day to try to ensure that Governments stop treating children, particularly asylum and refugee children—displaced children—badly. Those in this country, such as UNICEF and the Refugee Council, and those abroad, such as UNICEF again, Save the Children, the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières, are all working tirelessly to try to ensure not just that human traffickers, racketeers, as mentioned earlier, and those involved in conflict but legitimate democratic Governments treat children better than they have in the past.

Over the years, I have visited a whole series of refugee camps and camps for the internally displaced, and I am constantly struck by two things. First, where those camps are either in the countries of origin or nearby countries—perhaps Syrians in Iraq or South Sudanese in Uganda—there is an absolute desire on the part of children to go home. They want to go back to the villages and towns and to help to rebuild them and to carry on their education, not to move to Europe or another continent to get a completely different life.

I was also struck in camps in Europe, such as the huge Cara di Mineo camp, which was the largest asylum seeker detention and organisation camp in Europe in its time, although it has now been closed by the Italian Government, by the children and young people there and the absolute horrors they have been through. It was sometimes because they had been sold by their families to human traffickers and sometimes because they themselves had been duped by human traffickers and taken on hazardous journeys. At other times, they had been caught up in movements away from conflict and violence and, along the way, had been raped, beaten, tortured, sold and sold again. They had been almost drowned and had watched others die while they survived and felt the guilt that comes from that. Those are the children and young people whom we talk about when we talk about asylum and refugee children.

That is why the UK, if the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister mean what they say about the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Government as a whole being a force for good in the world, needs to set high standards in this area and stick to them. We need to do better than we have done in the past under successive Governments not just under this Government.

First, will the Minister say what assessment the UK Government currently make of the situation for the more than 600,000 people in detention camps in Libya, with approximately 40,000 children, one-quarter of whom are unaccompanied? What assessment are we making of the way in which Europe, including ourselves, has in recent years financed the system around the Libyan coastguards, which seems simply to have encouraged human trafficking rather than discouraged it? Secondly, the recent tragedy in the Moria camp on Lesbos in Greece has already been mentioned. I understand from reports that unaccompanied children caught up in that horrific fire and therefore made homeless are being relocated. Is the UK involved in that process, and will we take our share of children who find themselves unaccompanied and homeless on the outskirts of Europe?

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Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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I move on to the situation once people arrive here. I understand that the number of unaccompanied children in detention in the UK has reduced dramatically over the past decade, and that is to be welcomed and the Government deserve congratulations on it. However, the way in which we treat unaccompanied children arriving on these shores says an awful lot about who we are as a country. Therefore, I would be interested to know the up-to-date figures for 2019 for unaccompanied children, not only those who arrived in the UK but how many found themselves in detention, contrary to the Government’s firm commitment to end that process. Also, more recently, clearly there has been an issue of unaccompanied children being included in the boats arriving on the south-east coast. It is vital that the local authorities in that area be able to provide the correct level of support for them. What provision have the Government made to ensure that Kent Council and others are able to provide the necessary services to support those children, many of whom will be deeply traumatised and scared and may not even have any access to the English language?

Like others, I would be keen to have an update on the negotiations on replacing the regulations and the way in which the Government will take this issue forward. If we are to have sovereignty over our own laws in the future, perhaps this is an opportunity for us to have even better laws than we have had in co-operation and agreement with the European Union. I urge the Government to think positively about setting an example here. The UK should be a shining light around the world for understanding the importance of family reunion for the safety and security of children. We should be firmly committed to meeting our international obligations, and humanity should be at the core of our approach.

Finally, I want to touch on the situation in Glasgow and Scotland over 2020. There is much debate today in Parliament and elsewhere about the potential for another lockdown and its impact on citizens throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There have been three deaths in the Glasgow area these past few months, not all directly related to lockdown but there is at least a suspicion that the conditions under which asylum seekers have been living under lockdown have contributed to in one case tensions, and in other cases the mental health problems of the individuals affected. I would be interested to know whether the Government have commissioned independent reports into the violent incident and the death at the Park Inn hotel in Glasgow and the two other deaths in Scotland this year. Will those reports be published? Have the Government received any correspondence from the Scottish Government about those incidents and will they publish that correspondence and any replies? Have any lessons been learned about how the asylum-seeker community in Glasgow in particular is managed and supported through this difficult period?

With these remarks I am happy to conclude, but I reiterate that the way in which we treat, support, house and look after child refugees and children who have become asylum seekers, especially those who are unaccompanied, in the UK and abroad will say an awful lot about us, and an awful lot about the 21st century and what kind of world we are. I hope that the UK Government will be a force for good in relation to that, as they have promised to be.

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I look forward to the debates on the Bill in Committee and at other stages and draw attention to my registered interests, not least the work I do with charities representing child refugees. I endorse the comments made by a number of noble Lords already in the debate about the need for us to show more humanity in our approach to that. Hopefully your Lordships’ House will indeed do that.

I pick up on one of the remarks made by the Minister in introducing the debate. She said that any regional approach to immigration in the UK would cause chaos and therefore should be avoided. I reflect back on 2004 when, as First Minister of Scotland, I had identified the problem of Scotland’s depopulation. One of the ways we could tackle that problem was to encourage in particular those who had come to study in Scotland to stay, but also to attract new people to Scotland to energise both our population numbers and our economy with the entrepreneurship they would bring.

I agreed a scheme with the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, when he was Home Secretary—an incredibly thoughtful and intelligent Home Secretary, who I think would win that debate he promised us at the end of his earlier contribution. He agreed a scheme that involved a fresh talent visa in Scotland. It was particular to Scotland and allowed those who had studied in Scotland to stay longer to secure work and perhaps establish a family and home in our country. The scheme was never abused. Report after report showed that it was possible to have a scheme in one part of the United Kingdom that worked for the local circumstances there. The partnership we developed at that time between the Scottish Government and the UK Government—the Home Office—was an exemplar in devolved-central government co-operation in the UK.

While debates about regional approaches to immigration are sometimes coloured by more extreme demands for devolving responsibility for immigration to one of the devolved nations—which I have never been in favour of—it is possible to have regional approaches. There are parts of the United Kingdom where a one-size-fits-all approach no longer works. This is not just in Scotland but can be in other parts of the UK too. I hope that when we come to debates on this in Committee or on Report, the Minister will be willing to listen to the opportunities that would exist if we opened the door to regional approaches, which would benefit the whole UK and not just the nations or regions affected.

Children: Refugees

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Wednesday 13th September 2017

(6 years, 9 months ago)

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Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, along with many others I met a group of young teenage boys who had survived the capsize of a boat in the Mediterranean and will live with the image—

None Portrait Noble Lords
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Order!