375 Lord Paddick debates involving the Home Office

Peaceful Protests

Lord Paddick Excerpts
Thursday 25th April 2024

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I remind noble Lords that I am now a non-affiliated Member of this House and that I served for 30 years as a police officer specialising in public order policing. I also declare an interest as a paid non-executive adviser to the Metropolitan Police Service, and I am grateful to the Met for providing me with a briefing, and to Big Brother Watch, as I have managed to acquire its briefing.

I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, for the opportunity to debate the practical toolkit for law enforcement officials to promote and protect human rights in the context of peaceful protests, although I fear that this debate may be a little premature, as components one and three of the toolkit are yet to be published. However, we have component two, “A principle-based guidance for the human-rights compliant use of digital technologies in the context of peaceful protests”.

Looking at this document from a practical UK policing perspective, I found it somewhat confusing—and I am looking at this from a physical assembly or demonstration perspective, rather than an online one, which is included in the UN document. As Big Brother Watch points out, and as the noble Lord, Lord Strasburger, just said, the guidance states that biometric surveillance should not be used

“before, during or after protests”

and

“facial recognition technologies … must not be utilised to identify or track individuals peacefully participating in a protest”.

Big Brother Watch goes on to say that:

“The use of this technology at protests represents a significant threat to the rights of freedom of expression and association, as the chilling effect will mean members of the public are less willing to engage their right to protest, as they fear loss of anonymity and reprisals both now and in the future”.


If, and only if, facial recognition is deployed to capture the images of peaceful protestors and identify them, would the fear of loss of anonymity be a reasonable one—and if, and only if, those protestors were to engage in unlawful activity, would there be a reasonable fear of reprisals, at least here in the United Kingdom? The fact is that live facial recognition as deployed by police forces in the United Kingdom does not capture and retain images but simply compares those images with a limited and specific database of individuals, which changes depending on the deployment.

For example, my understanding is that the images of those convicted of stalking-type offences in relation to members of the Royal Family may be used at events such as the Coronation, but away from sites of lawful protest. Biometric facial images are captured and compared with the event-specific database images, and if there is no match, the image is immediately and irreversibly deleted. At events such as the Coronation, where assembly was lawful, and mindful of the potential chilling effect, the Metropolitan Police confirmed in a public statement that facial recognition

“is not used to identify people who are linked to, or have been convicted of, being involved in protest activity”.

It was used to protect peaceful gatherings, not where people had peacefully gathered, by identifying individuals who present a danger in crowds, such as registered sex offenders.

If live facial recognition was used against some universal database, as are, I believe, commercially available to law enforcement organisations outside the UK—a global compilation of millions of images taken from open sources, such as Facebook and Instagram, whereby the police could identify most people at a peaceful protest—the concerns of Big Brother Watch and the UN special rapporteur would have some justification. My understanding is that this is prohibited in the United Kingdom.

Big Brother Watch says:

“Despite international warnings that the use of facial recognition in the context of protest poses a grave threat to human rights, police forces in the UK are already using the technology to monitor and identify protestors”.


However, my understanding is that police forces are not using live facial recognition technology to monitor and identify peaceful protesters but to monitor and identify those who may present a threat to peaceful protest. The example that Big Brother Watch gave of its use at Silverstone, for example, was in connection with an unlawful protest, where the lives of both the protestors and those trying to prevent them could have been put at risk; it was not deployed at a peaceful assembly.

I agree with Big Brother Watch in its assertion that there is insufficient primary legislation specifically overseeing the use of facial recognition, meaning that the police can, to some extent, write their own rules about how it is deployed. However, they are bound by data protection law and the Human Rights Act, which restrict their activities to what is necessary and proportionate to achieve their lawful objectives. In the case of peaceful protest, that is to ensure that the protest remains peaceful. Being able to identify, isolate and restrict the activities of known troublemakers is surely preferable to placing unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on the activities of the peaceful majority. Properly deployed, controlled and audited, the use of live facial recognition can enable, rather than have a chilling effect on, the right to free assembly and protest. I for one would be more likely to engage in a protest if I believed that the police were taking necessary and proportionate action to identify, isolate and prevent the attendance of those known to be intent on criminal activity.

Big Brother Watch quite rightly questions who is on the databases that the police use, and against which live facial recognition compares captured images. There is a legitimate need for the police to be audited in some way to ensure that their actions are lawful, necessary and proportionate. Arguably, primary or secondary legislation is needed to ensure that the police are deploying live facial recognition in a human-rights compliant way.

However, in my opinion—based on 30 years as a police officer, 10 years as a Liberal Democrat Peer, with eight years as their Front Bench spokesperson on home affairs, and now being back in the paid employ of the Met—live facial recognition in the vicinity of protests, assemblies and elsewhere has the potential to make policing even more proportionate, better targeted and less interventionist. As with so much technology, it is not, as it seems to be portrayed by some, bad in itself—but it has the potential, without proper regulation, to be used in a non-human-rights compliant way. While that is contrary to what the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, suggested, perhaps the way in which the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis has recently resisted calls from politicians to ban peaceful protests might give her some hope for the future.

Police Recruitment: Reform

Lord Paddick Excerpts
Tuesday 5th March 2024

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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We do. Obviously we have to maintain the operational independence of the police—I do not think there is any question or dispute about that—so leadership of the police has to remain localised to that extent. However, noble Lords will be aware that we have invested in the College of Policing’s National Centre for Police Leadership, which has already set out standards at every level. There is no dispute that the leadership of the police needs to up its game.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register. What plans does the Home Office have to take some responsibility here and mandate the psychological assessment of potential police recruits, looking particularly for any propensity to inappropriately exert power over others?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, as I understand it, part of the online process for recruitment involves an element of psychometric testing. I do not know precisely what that testing involves, but I will find out and come back. The online assessment process is very complicated—otherwise, I would give more detail.

Shamima Begum

Lord Paddick Excerpts
Tuesday 27th February 2024

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My noble friend raises some interesting points. As I said earlier, the Secretary of State can deprive someone of British citizenship only where he considers that it is conducive to the public good to do so. That includes consideration of the need to protect all UK citizens, both in the UK and abroad. Once again, I will not comment on the specifics of this case.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, is the Rwanda scheme, which plans to export legitimate refugees, a natural extension of this scheme, which makes those accused of terrorism someone else’s problem by depriving them of their British citizenship?

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, the movement of large numbers of people seeking asylum is in danger of overwhelming the international asylum system, as the Government’s policy statement on this Bill suggests, and this requires a different response. There appear to me to be two alternatives: work collaboratively with all countries affected, with a global response to a global problem; or take this Government’s approach, working in the United Kingdom’s sole interests, or, arguably, in the interests of party politics. As the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury said in this House on 12 July last year,

“this is a massive, international issue on a generational basis and that tackling it needs profound thinking on a long-term basis ... It is essential that the solutions, as we go forward, bring together the whole of politics, all sides of both Houses, and unite our country instead of using this as a wedge issue to divide things”.—[Official Report, 12/7/23; col. 1872.]

The most reverend Primate reiterated that this afternoon.

The Government quote figures from last year, when boat arrivals into mainland Europe apparently increased by 80% while boat arrivals into the UK fell by about one-third, according to the Minister in his opening remarks, as if this were some kind of victory. I am sure that for domestic party-political purposes it might look that way, but I doubt our European neighbours see it in the same light: “I’m all right, Jack” does not translate well in continental Europe.

The Government insist that the Rwanda scheme is only one part of their plan to “Stop the boats”, co-operation with our European neighbours arguably being a far more important part of the plan. What will our European neighbours think if, as the Prime Minster seems intent on doing, the United Kingdom ignores so-called pyjama injunctions issued by a so-called foreign court? Of course, what the Government are referring to are Rule 39 indications issued by the European Court of Human Rights, an international court of which the UK is a member. As the noble Lord, Lord German, said, last Thursday the President of the ECHR said:

“Where states have in the past failed to comply with rule 39 indications, judges have found that the states have violated their obligations under Article 34 of the convention”.


If the Government decide that, like Russia, they no longer wish to be bound by international law, because, like Russia, they do not agree with the decisions of judges of the ECHR, then they should ask Parliament to remove the United Kingdom from the European Court of Human Rights. Two days on from Holocaust Memorial Day, perhaps we should remember why the UK was instrumental in establishing such a court and consider the impact such a withdrawal would have on the willingness of our European neighbours to co-operate with us on this issue.

What other steps might ease the flow of asylum seekers? A representative of the International Organization for Migration told the Radio 4 “Today” programme this morning that what drives people to migrate is that they feel they have no options in their home country, with climate change overtaking conflict as the biggest driver. If the Government were serious about doing whatever it takes to stop the boats, why have they pushed back the deadlines for selling new petrol and diesel cars and the phasing out of gas boilers? Why have they announced plans to issue hundreds of new oil and gas licences, and given the go-ahead for a new coal mine that will produce an estimated 400,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year? Why have they reduced overseas aid from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national income, while spending almost 30% of that budget in 2022 on housing asylum seekers in the UK, rather than spending it overseas? I am not saying that these are not legitimate political decisions, but they are not consistent with the claim that the Government are doing everything they can to stop the boats.

Doing everything the Government can to stop the boats should include doing whatever they can to encourage co-operation with our European neighbours and to improve conditions in asylum seekers’ home countries. They should not ignore or withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights; they should reinstate their previous commitments to combat climate change and their commitment to 0.7% on overseas aid—what one might call a strategic approach. As the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and the most reverend Primate have said, this Bill is not the answer.

Windrush Generation

Lord Paddick Excerpts
Tuesday 28th November 2023

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I am afraid I do not have the details on the specific recommendations and the progress, but I will endeavour to find them, and I will write to the right reverend Prelate.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I think it is the turn of the non-affiliated Bench.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, the Minister said that the majority of the recommendations from the lessons learned review had been implemented. Why was the Windrush working group disbanded before all the recommendations had been implemented?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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The noble Lord will be aware that the former Home Secretary decided not to proceed with three lesson learned review recommendations —hence my use of the word “majority”. I will not say any more on that subject, because I think it is subject to legal proceedings.

Illegal Immigration

Lord Paddick Excerpts
Monday 20th November 2023

(7 months, 4 weeks ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My noble friend makes a good point. I will absolutely take that back. We have been capacity building in Rwanda—the noble Lord just referred to it—and I know that a lot of that work is ongoing.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, press reports at the weekend stated that, between 2020 and 2022, 100% of asylum claims by people from Afghanistan and Syria were rejected by the Rwandan authorities while almost 100% of asylum claims by people from Afghanistan and Syria were accepted by the UK authorities. How can the Government maintain that Rwanda has been treating asylum seekers fairly in the light of these statistics?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, it does not matter whether the Government assert that we have been treating them fairly; the fact is that the Supreme Court has ruled otherwise. As I said, we are capacity building; we are working with the Rwandans. We are working on a new treaty. I am sure that the noble Lord’s concerns will be addressed in the fullness of time.

Policing of Marches and Demonstrations

Lord Paddick Excerpts
Monday 13th November 2023

(8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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The right reverend Prelate makes an extremely good point. I commend his activities and those of his colleagues and other faith leaders in trying to find civilised solutions to this problem. I am afraid I do not know what His Majesty’s Government are doing to try to encourage the sort of interactions he mentioned, but it deserves to be mentioned, on proportionality, that the organisers of the pro-Palestinian marches have a responsibility. Peter Tatchell, whom many in the House will know, was blocked from marching with the pro-Palestinians for carrying a sign that said:

“End Israel’s occupation! End Hamas’s sexist, homophobic, anti-human rights dictatorship!”


That is pretty disgraceful. Everybody needs to exercise proportionality in this.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I declare an interest as set out in the register. Anti-Semitism is unacceptable in any setting, but does the Minister agree that arresting people in the middle of a mass protest can result in serious disorder and injury to police officers, as can the police attempting to prevent people who are determined to protest from doing so, as we saw with the right-wing demonstrators on Saturday?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, on this I am very happy to defer to the noble Lord’s extensive experience of policing protests of this type. It is self-evident that if you wade into a crowd, there is a chance that you will inflame tensions. The police are operationally independent and I will not judge what they did, but their approach makes some sense to me in that context.

Family Migration (Justice and Home Affairs Committee Report)

Lord Paddick Excerpts
Wednesday 20th September 2023

(9 months, 4 weeks ago)

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, the importance of a report such as this, and dare I say the importance of a House such as ours, is to highlight the complexity of issues, the understanding of which reveals what otherwise appears counterintuitive.

Political messages have to be headlines that grab people’s attention. The rule of political press offices tends to be that if you have to explain it, it is too complicated to be used as a campaign tool. In a first past the post democratic system, the space for consideration of complexity is limited. That is why we have committees such as this, comprising such eminent Members and supported by excellent officials, and committee chairs like my noble friend Lady Hamwee, who revels in detail. Her passion for the subject has been clearly demonstrated over many years.

The narrative so often advocated by those who are against immigration is the pressure that migrants place on the National Health Service, for example. As my noble friend Lady Hamwee said, this report provides clear evidence that skilled and experienced nurses and doctors who have come here from overseas are leaving the UK because they cannot provide the personal care that any concerned family member would want to give to their ageing parents and grandparents. They are not allowed to bring their increasingly dependent relatives to the UK, even though they have the means and ability to look after them, while they themselves are providing a vital service to UK society. Indeed, the rules make it almost impossible for dependent relatives to qualify for a visa. They must be practically bedridden but able to travel, for example. It is no surprise that the number of visas issued under the adult dependant route has diminished from 1,738 in 2011 to just one in 2020 and none in 2021.

As with so much relating to immigration, there are moral and practical issues, particularly in relation to children. My noble friend Lady Ludford quoted the Prime Minister, who has said

“strong, supportive families make for more stable communities”.

But, as the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, said, it is obvious to those who do not want to wilfully ignore it that the general cost to society of a child with no family to support them—including the detrimental psychological impact on the child and the child’s ability to reach his or her potential, and the cost to local authorities of providing a whole range of services for unaccompanied child refugees—is far greater than the costs associated with those who could be looked after by relatives or even adult siblings, were they allowed to join the child in the UK.

As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham said, the committee reached the same conclusion as the Lords EU Committee in 2016 that there is no evidence that the prospect of family reunification could encourage families to send children to the UK to act as an anchor for other family members—based not least on the fact that EU states that allow family reunification show no sign of it. The report highlights the fact that some couples, such as same-sex couples, are unable to cohabit in their country of origin because of local laws or social prejudice, yet the UK Immigration Rules set previous cohabitation as a condition before a partner visa can be issued. Rigid rules, inflexibly applied, are unlikely to cope with the complexities of the real world.

The report is careful in a number of places to indicate that uncontrolled immigration is not the answer, but all the circumstances surrounding the application for a visa and the likely impact on the individual, the public purse—both central and local—and society as a whole should be taken into account. The Government have spent a lot of time and energy trying to ensure, for example, that UK citizens who can work do work; yet when it comes to people from overseas working in the UK, they place an income limit that often prevents a second parent or adult sibling coming to the UK, leaving the migrant worker having to juggle work with childcare, when almost all migrants are working in shortage occupations. There is a crisis in immigration in the UK caused by the failure of this Government. A decade or more ago, there were many more asylum applications, far fewer awaiting a decision and far more removals, yet the Home Office makes the problem worse for itself by requiring multiple visa applications.

This excellent report emphasises that all families matter, but it might also have been entitled “An Encyclopaedia of Unintended Consequences”. Like so many other issues, family migration would be better served were it not for party politics—politics by headline—as opposed to the thorough and professional way that the committee has so comprehensively covered the issue.

Lord Blunkett Portrait Lord Blunkett (Lab)
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My Lords, as someone who rarely goes to bed after 11 pm, I will be incredibly brief. I will comment on both propositions and give my support to my noble friend Lord Coaker and to the most reverent Primate.

We reached an agreement with the French 21 years ago that tackled organised criminality, not its victims. For a time, it was successful. The business model changed, and we must change with it. The National Crime Agency, working with its counterparts in France, could do a similar job, with the Government negotiating with the Government of France. We could pay for a licensing scheme in France that would make it a criminal offence for anyone to purchase, transport or sell a boat without a licence. Our agencies and theirs could then work together to tackle the organised criminal fraternity, who are bringing such misery.

In support of the most reverend Primate, if we ever needed a long-term strategy of 10 years rather than 10 months, one geared not to a general election but to solving a problem, and to dealing with it internationally, on a long-term basis, we need it now. That is why this House should support both propositions.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, today the Government heralded a reduction in the vacancies in the social care sector. This was achieved mainly through the arrival of 70,000 overseas workers in the last year, while the Bill tries to stop 45,000 people desperately seeking sanctuary in the UK. We on these Benches support Motions X1 and Y1. In a Bill devoid of any measures that target people smugglers, Motion X1 is the very minimum required. It is remarkable that stopping the boats is one of the Prime Minister’s five priorities, and yet it is not one of the Home Secretary’s strategic priorities for the National Crime Agency.

The most reverend Primate has made a compelling case in Motion Y1. The Government have set out in legislation the need for a climate change strategy. But, again, on one of the Prime Minister’s five top priorities, there is no need to set out in legislation the need for a strategy in relation to the movement of refugees and human trafficking. How can the Minister possibly say that that is a consistent position for the Government to take? We on these Benches will support both these Motions if the noble Lord and the most reverend Primate decide to test the opinion of the House.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I associate those of us on these Benches with the kind words of the Minister and others around the House in relation to the sad news about the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood. He will be greatly missed.

Since Second Reading, we on these Benches have made clear our opposition to what we consider to be an illegal—to use the word of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew—and immoral Bill. If there were any way in which a Bill of this kind might have any chance of stopping the boats, it was by acting as a deterrent. Despite its proposed retrospectivity, record numbers crossed the channel in June and again this weekend, as the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, said. The Government’s own impact assessment describes a consensus among academics that the Bill is unlikely to deter those seeking sanctuary in the UK. Both in theory and in practice, the Bill appears destined not to achieve what it sets out to do.

Instead, as introduced into this House, the Bill undermines both the UK’s international reputation and the global consensus that mass migration needs to be dealt with through international co-operation, not unilateral action. Unamended, the Bill is all pain and no gain, potentially creating a permanent underclass of tens of thousands of people who cannot be removed, whose claims for asylum will not even be examined, let alone accepted, and who will be unable to work legally—a permanent drain on the taxpayer.

Contrary to what the Minister has said, some noble Lords, whose attendance during our lengthy debates on the Bill has been—how can I put it?—sporadic, claim that no alternative has been offered. Nothing could be further from reality, as the official record shows. For example, some 15 years ago claims for asylum were higher; the backlog of claims awaiting decisions was a fraction of what it is today; and the number of those being removed was far greater. The only immigration crisis in the UK today is one created by the Home Office, and a Bill targeted at criminalising asylum seekers, rather than people smugglers, is bound to fail.