All 15 Baroness Chakrabarti contributions to the Illegal Migration Act 2023

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Wed 24th May 2023
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Committee stage: Part 1
Wed 24th May 2023
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Committee stage: Part 2 & Committee stage: Minutes of Proceedings Part 2
Mon 5th Jun 2023
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Committee stage: Part 1
Mon 5th Jun 2023
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Wed 7th Jun 2023
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Wed 7th Jun 2023
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Committee stage: Part 2
Mon 12th Jun 2023
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Committee stage: Part 2
Wed 14th Jun 2023
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Committee stage: Part 1
Wed 14th Jun 2023
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Committee stage: Part 2
Wed 28th Jun 2023
Mon 3rd Jul 2023
Mon 3rd Jul 2023
Mon 10th Jul 2023
Wed 12th Jul 2023
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Consideration of Commons amendments
Mon 17th Jul 2023
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Consideration of Commons amendmentsLords Handsard

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office
I conclude by saying that all this goes to our international reputation for complying with human rights law and will, indeed, be helpful to our attraction for global business.
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 4 in this group, in my name and those of the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton. I have also added my name to Amendment 2 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, and I have some thoughts on Amendments 1, 3 and 5 in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. Amendment 84, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, is partly duplicative of mine, but focuses specifically on international anti-trafficking provisions. In as far as it adds the EU anti-trafficking directive to the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, I support it; however, I think we should settle on a single, holistic list of obligations that, crucially, includes the precious refugee convention and its principles of non-penalisation, non-discrimination and non-refoulement, which the Government seem so intent on violating by this obscenity of a Bill.

I turn briefly to the amendments in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. I thank him for his explanation earlier. Contrary to the explanatory statement for Amendment 1, I cannot quite agree that this does anything for so-called legal certainty. To the contrary, it seems a rather circular amendment, in defining “illegal migration” according to the conditions for removal in the Government’s own Clause 2. As the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, suggested in her very pithy intervention, as a matter of international law, someone who qualifies for protection under the 1951 convention can never have been illegal.

Noble Lords who have come to the Committee sensibly armed with copies of the Bill might care to compare its Short and Long Titles. It has become quite fashionable in recent years for Short Titles to become creatures of political spin, but parliamentary counsel guard the Long Titles—so crucial for scope, for example —rather more jealously. While the Short Title is the Illegal Migration Bill, and our graveyard humour alights on the adjective accurately describing the second noun, the Long Title refers instead to

“persons who have entered or arrived in breach of immigration control”.

As the refugee convention was effectively the world’s apology for the Holocaust and the insufficient and inconsistent protection given to those attempting to escape the Nazis, the convention always contemplated some genuine refugees having to escape persecution and enter places of safety by clandestine means and in breach of ordinary controls.

That is why

“in breach of immigration control”

is accurate and appropriate for the Long Title and “Illegal Migration” is not appropriate in the context of refugees, who, as a matter of declaratory law, will always have been refugees, even before they were given their status—hence the excellent point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher.

The probing Amendment 3 from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, helps to draw attention to contradictions in the Government’s public positions around the ECHR compatibility of the Bill. As the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, pointed out, the Section 19(1)(b) statement on the tin indicates one thing—that no statement that the Bill is compatible can be made—but aspects of the ECHR memorandum of ingredients suggest another. However, the medicine prescribed by the noble and learned Lord and the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, is far too weak a remedy. When a Government are so intent on violating rights to protection from torture, slavery and death, allowing the same Government to issue guidance on interpreting their offending legislation is like handing burglars the keys to the house. Therefore, the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, is right to seek to remove Clause 1(5), which seeks to disapply Section 3 of the Human Rights Act, which, as we have heard, requires that legislation be interpreted compatibly with the European convention so far as possible. That is why I added my name to her Amendment 2.

Amendment 4 in the names of the quartet of the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, and myself goes further. It does not just remove subsection (5); it replaces the whole of Clause 1 with the requirement that this legislation shall not require violation of any of the key international legal obligations that we fear would otherwise be violated by it, namely the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights, the 1951 UN refugee convention, the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. I am very proud to stand with noble Lords from four corners of the Committee whose experience includes high-level legal adjudication, law enforcement, and Home Office ministerial duty. What brings the senior judge, police officer, Conservative former Immigration Minister, and human rights lawyer together around the amendment is our desire that the United Kingdom remains committed to the international rule of law.

As we heard, last week, alongside other European leaders, the Prime Minister signed the Reykjavík declaration. It begins:

“We, Heads of State and Government, have gathered in Reykjavík on 16 and 17 May 2023 to stand united against Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and to give further priority and direction to the Council of Europe’s work … We reaffirm our deep and abiding commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) as the ultimate guarantors of human rights across our continent, alongside our domestic democratic and judicial systems. We reaffirm our primary obligation under the Convention to secure to everyone within our jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in the Convention in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, as well as our unconditional obligation to abide by the final judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in any case to which we are Parties”.


Mr Sunak said:

“We remain a proud European nation. And we must work together to defend the values we all hold so dear … Because we know what we can achieve together. Just look at this Council’s extraordinary legacy: protecting human rights, abolishing the death penalty in Europe, supporting media freedom and championing democracy across Central and Eastern Europe after the Cold War”.


Those fine words from the Prime Minister must not be contradicted by the Home Secretary’s illegal Bill.

Noble Lords will no doubt explore the many violations of our common and constitutional law tradition, as well as international law, via the anxious scrutiny of this Committee. At the very least, the Bill violates Articles 2, 3, 4 and 14 of the European convention in failing to protect victims of torture and trafficking and those at risk of death, and in allowing the Government to pick and choose which refugees from different countries it finds palatable from time to time. The Bill fails to protect stateless people and children in the context of its provisions on removal, detention, accommodation and age assessment. In the words of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, it amounts to

“an asylum ban—extinguishing the right to seek refugee protection in the United Kingdom for those who arrive irregularly, no matter how genuine and compelling their claim may be”.

This must be one of the strongest condemnations of a democratic and rights-respecting nation ever uttered by the commissioner.

If Ministers seek to argue that the Bill does not violate these various linchpin treaties, many of which the United Kingdom played a leading role in negotiating, they should have no problem with the requirement that the Bill be read in that way by Ministers, officials and the courts. If, instead, Ministers wish to argue that it is time to renegotiate these obligations, fair enough. Let them try to do so with such reserves of soft power as they think we have left. In the meantime, in contrast with Russia and other pariah states, let them respect the law.

Lord Carlile of Berriew Portrait Lord Carlile of Berriew (CB)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness. I support her Amendment 4 for the following reason. If I was a person in a country far from here who faced torture and very serious discrimination, possibly for his or her political views or opposition to the Government, or possibly for their sexual orientation which is an issue in quite a number of these cases, I might look up what the United Kingdom stands for in international law before I make my decision as to whether to seek asylum in the United Kingdom or some other country. And what would I read? With a couple of clicks on the internet, I would read exactly what is set out, or aspired to, in Amendment 4 tabled by the noble Baroness. In my view, that is the principled position to take.

I also understand completely—I think—the views expressed by my noble and learned friend Lord Hope when, if I can be permitted to use a little bit of transatlantic language, he pointed out certain uncertainties about the Bill in the speech with which he opened the first debate.

I want to challenge the Minister to do something he has failed to do—I say this with respect, because he is known for his clarity in this House. I challenge him to return to the very first page of the whole Bill, where the statement under Section 19(1)(b) of the Human Rights Act is set out. The first sentence reads:

“I am unable to make a statement that, in my view, the provisions of the Illegal Migration Bill are compatible with the Convention rights, but the Government nevertheless wishes … to proceed with the Bill”.


Does that mean, “I don’t know if the provisions of the Bill are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights”? Does it mean, “I know that it is not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights”? Or does it mean that some parts of it are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights and others are not?

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Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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Having no qualms is something that I would never do, but I am also suggesting that having qualms, or using those qualms, to undermine what the British public would like to do is something that other people should have qualms about. I think that people are tearing their hair out outside of here being told, “You cannot do that; you may have voted for that, but that cannot happen”. When international treaties are used in that instrumental way—which is the way I think they are being used—that is difficult.

May I ask noble Lords to put aside the specifics of this Bill just for one moment? I know that people are very emotional about this Bill, but what if, on another topic, the UK Government—perhaps another Government, not this one, whom more people in this House might be sympathetic to—brought in a different Bill? Just imagine if such a worthy Government, with a popular mandate, tried to bring in a radical, novel, innovative law; for example, enhancing workers’ rights or improving women’s reproductive rights—things that I would support. Just imagine if that Government tried to bring that Bill in and it got to the Lords, where they were told, “You cannot do that because there are all sorts of international treaty clauses that prohibit you doing it”. Imagine your frustration: would you break your promise to the electorate in that instance? I just want us to acknowledge that asking the Government to break a promise on the small boats—

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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Would the noble Baroness like to remind the Committee which limb of the constitution takes responsibility for negotiating and revising treaties on the world stage? Is it the judiciary? Are they the wicked people who run off, committing us to all these international obligations? Is it parliamentarians who go and negotiate these instruments that she is finding instrumental, or is it the Government who negotiate, renegotiate and, in some cases, even walk out of international obligations?

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I do not think there are evil people involved in this and I have not gone down the moral/immoral route. I am concerned, genuinely, with ensuring that the electorate and citizens of this country do not feel that parliamentary discussion uses international treaties as an excuse to not do what they anticipate that Parliament was asked to do. For example, this could be about the abolition of the Vagrancy Act. Let us be honest; a lot of promises have been broken recently. I have heard excuses made for why we have not yet abolished that Act. I have heard excuses for why we can no longer get rid of tuition fees, and for why leasehold will not be abolished—

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Lord Sandhurst Portrait Lord Sandhurst (Con)
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, I looked at Sir Peter Gross’s report yesterday and the night before to remind myself of what it said. Two points are important. One is that it was not unanimous on that point, unlike on everything else. We are not told where the disagreement was, but at least one member did not agree that nothing should be done. Secondly, it lamented the fact that there had been no statistics kept of the cases in which the court has gone down the route of Section 3, so we do not actually know when there has been what might be called a strained interpretation or when it has been a perfectly natural interpretation. You can read it if you look at individual judgments. The one in which Lord Steyn spoke is the case of Ghaidan—I cannot remember the other name in the case—

Lord Sandhurst Portrait Lord Sandhurst (Con)
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I am obliged. So there we are.

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Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
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The noble Lord is making a political point. It may be good politics or bad politics, but whether the Government want to do that or not, my focus is on Section 19 of the Human Rights Act, which is very clear:

“A Minister of the Crown in charge of a Bill in either House of Parliament must, before Second Reading … (a) make a statement to the effect that in his view the provisions of the Bill are compatible with the Convention rights … or (b) make a statement to the effect that although he is unable to make a statement of compatibility the government nevertheless wishes the House to proceed with the Bill”.


We could have a nice debate about whether the statement in the Communications Act 2003 was consistent with Section 19, but that is not my point. My point today is simply that we cannot legitimately criticise the Minister for making precisely the statement that Parliament told him to make in Section (19)(1)(b) if he cannot make a Section 19(1)(a) statement.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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With respect to the noble Lord, nobody is criticising the Minister for making the statement. The noble Lord is the distraction, not Section 19. We are criticising the Bill that cannot be stated as compatible. It is the legislation that we have a problem with, not the honesty of the Minister in saying, “I can’t say that I believe this to be compatible”. It might be politics, but politics is the process of legislative scrutiny. The objective of Section 19 was to force Ministers to put their money where their mouth is in the debate and to say whether they believe that this draft legislation complies. If they say, “I can’t be sure”, it is quite right for us to do what we are doing. With respect, this is smoke and mirrors and not to the substance of this Bill.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
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It is certainly not smoke and mirrors. The force of the noble Baroness’s point is, “If you can’t make a Section 19(1)(a) statement, there is something irremediably bad with the Bill”. My point is that if you are legislating in a novel area, there may well be circumstances in which you cannot make a Section 19(1)(a) statement. A Section 19(1)(a) statement is a 51:49 statement that, in your view, it is compatible. If you therefore think that it is finely balanced as to whether it is, you cannot make a Section 19(1)(a) statement. It would be wrong in those circumstances for a Government to think, “I shouldn’t bring this Bill before Parliament merely because I take the view that it is 50:50”.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I am grateful to the former Minister and sure that he listened carefully to how Section 19 was introduced into the deliberations of the Committee earlier, not least by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. Members of the Committee have been pointing to the contradictions in the Government’s position around the compatibility of this Bill—Section 19(1)(b) on the tin and then something else in the ECHR memorandum. It is the clarity of the Government’s belief that Members of the Committee have for some hours this afternoon been looking for.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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To avoid the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, having to be up and down too many times, I will jump in here. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, pointed out that the Secretary of State’s inability to make a Section 19(1)(a) declaration was in relation to only one clause. The content of that clause was the proposed ban on political advertising across all broadcast media. One can see why that might inhibit a Section 19(1)(a) declaration, but it is not on the same scale as what many of us in this Chamber this afternoon maintain are the various and extremely serious breaches of the European convention commitment. It is apples and pears, or chalk and cheese—I am mixing my metaphors horribly. It is not a good precedent for saying why there cannot be a declaration of compatibility for this Bill. It is not on the same scale.

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Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
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I started my remarks by saying that international treaties are extremely important and that we should always legislate consistently with our international obligations, except in the most unforeseen and unusual circumstances. But that is not the question I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. We are a dualist state. That is why we should object to these amendments, which seek to incorporate treaties by the back door.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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As a matter of fact, the European Convention on Human Rights was incorporated by the Human Rights Act 1998, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was incorporated by the Children Act and so on. These particular treaties have been given special status in our domestic law. I also take some exception to the idea that Amendment 4, which everybody can see, is somehow surreptitious or “back door”. We are having this debate because, by definition, some of us want this protection very much via the front door.

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord German. In arguing for Amendment 4, I have already suggested why I think Clause 1 should be replaced by a clear commitment to key international obligations and a requirement that the Bill be read accordingly by officials, Ministers and the courts. However, whether or not noble Lords eventually agree with Amendment 4 down the road, Clause 1 in its current form must not stand part.

The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, who is no longer in his place, rather smelled the rat earlier. Clause 1 is not some innocuous attempt to repeat the Long Title and extrapolate it into the body of the Bill. Instead, it is a direction to the courts to ignore international obligations in favour of the Executive’s purposes—they are executive purposes because we are part of Parliament and we have not finished with the Bill yet. Ignoring international obligations was the subject of so much of the earlier proceedings of the Committee and I do not think anybody put the problem with that better than the noble Lord, Lord Patten, with his peanut analogy, to which I am sure many people will return for a very long time.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, rather nailed it, if I may say so, by pointing to the particularly perverse nature of subsection (3). Language once crafted by the great Sir Edward Caldwell, the former First Parliamentary Counsel, for the purpose of ensuring human rights compatible interpretation via Section 3 of the Human Rights Act is now being appropriated—or, to use the eloquent language of the noble Baroness, Lady Lawlor, subverted—for the purposes of ensuring that human rights are violated. For those reasons alone, Clause 1 should not stand part.

Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB)
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My Lords, I would like to come back to the points I raised in the first group, because they are the basis for my support for the argument presented by the noble Lord, Lord German. I agree with very much of what he said.

I have two points. The first is why we have to have Clause 1(1) in the Bill at all. As the Minister explained, nothing hangs on “unlawful” or “illegal”. They are tendentious words and I find it uneasy to know what they mean unless they are properly defined. The Minister was not prepared to give me a definition which tied them down to what is in the Bill. I do not see why he is not prepared to do that. His answer was one which I think any parliamentary draftsman would give him, which is that nothing hangs on them because the words do not reappear elsewhere—but that does not remove the need for a definition.

The other point comes back to what the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, has been saying about the combination of subsections (3) and (5). I find them really quite sinister. During the passage of the REUL Bill, we debated the need for parliamentary scrutiny in the face of an aggression by the Executive to reform the whole body of retained EU law without parliamentary scrutiny. Here we are again: the Executive assuming to themselves control over the convention without recourse to the courts. Indeed, there are other provisions in the Bill which exclude any kind of judicial scrutiny at all. That is taking matters a very long way and setting an uneasy precedent.

I would much rather this whole clause was taken out for these reasons. They give rise to real concerns about where this country is going, and indeed where legislation of this kind is going, in the future.

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This situation does not justify such broad and sweeping legislation, which seeks to apply penalties to those who cross the channel to claim asylum, being retrospective in its entirety. It is also extraordinary that the Government are seeking to apply the retrospective provisions to the Home Secretary’s powers over unaccompanied migrant children and the ability to retroactively cancel limited leave to remain granted to victims of modern slavery and human trafficking. I am trying not to take up too much time, but this is therefore a completely unacceptable precedent and falls on the disproportionality side of the question I asked your Lordships’ Committee earlier.
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I heap plaudits on the shoulders of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew. That was worthy of a legal lecture. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, caught his plane, but that was a common-sense lesson in the law spoken with a great deal of humility. I will not call it a lecture because it was too humble and too articulate for that. I associate myself with all those remarks. I have signed only some of the amendments, but I am happy to endorse all the amendments that are against retrospection in the Bill. Our position on retrospection comes from common decency, common sense and common law before we get anywhere near ECHR obligations and other international obligations. Do not change the rules after the game has begun.

I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, is back in his place. He is a great one for the Clapham omnibus. I think this idea of changing the rules half way through the game is something that anyone on the Clapham omnibus or any lay person anywhere in our country would completely understand, and that is why all the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, are so important. It is profoundly unfair to say to people who are already in this country, who have already come to claim asylum, whether they will eventually succeed in their claims or not, should be subject to this new, punitive, retrospective regime.

The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, is clear and articulate, but he is also forensic because there are some extreme situations in which retrospection is permissible and even I would support retrospection. The famous one is marital rape. We know that once upon a time in our country it was not considered rape for a man to rape his wife. That position was changed in the courts in relation to a particular case. This had been brewing for some time. People thought the law was out of step with contemporary views on equal treatment of women and what is acceptable even within marriage. That was changed in a single case in which a man was successfully prosecuted for raping his wife. He took his claim all the way to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, and the court said no, this rape is so profoundly contrary to our international accepted norms that in this case we will accept that retrospection did not offend the common decency principle that you should not punish people retrospectively.

That is the kind of case we are talking about, in which it is acceptable to do that—not in this context. These are very vulnerable, desperate people. Whatever the views of noble Lords in this Committee about the acceptability of this regime, and we will disagree about that, in my view and that of many Members, as we have heard today, applying this to people who came here in good faith, and in many cases in desperation, on the understanding that the refugee convention would be applied in one way, is punitive and discriminatory, contrary to the convention. Retrospection adds insult to injury. I hope the Committee will not accept it and will instead support all the amendments that deal with retrospection in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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My Lords, I am glad to have been able to add my name to the noble Lord’s amendments. I am grateful to him for introducing them so clearly. I am conscious that my name is among those of noted advocates in different contexts.

We are already in an Alice in Wonderland—although I am not sure it is really a wonderland—world, where we are told that asylum seekers will know enough about UK restrictions and provisions to be deterred from trying to get here. I do not recognise that proposition. Added to that is the idea that people who are already here should have known what is in the Bill even before most MPs had an opportunity to pick up a copy of it.

The noble Lord referred to legislation coming into effect when it gets Royal Assent. Yes, of course it does, but very often—almost invariably—in a limited way. Some clauses come into effect, usually the jurisdiction and that type of thing, but many of the provisions and most of the legislation that we deal with have to wait for secondary legislation: that is, the provisions that implement what is in the primary legislation.

I absolutely agree with what has been said about certainty, clarity, predictability and so on. This Bill displays a casual attitude, which goes against not only legal principles but, as I think has been said, common decency. If I were to ask the Minister what is so compelling about the Bill that it should be an exception to all this, I have no doubt that I would be told, “We’ve got to stop the boats”.

As the noble Lord just said, the Nationality and Borders Bill—now Act—had the same policy objective, yet the channel crossings kept on rising and they have gone on rising. If I wanted evidence that retrospectivity had an effect in practical terms, I would have expected to find that they had come down in number since 7 March—but they have not.

I have two amendments in this group; my noble friend Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville also has her name to the first of these, Amendment 9, which proposes to leave out Clause 2(7). Subsection (7) provides that

“limited leave to enter or remain given”

to an unaccompanied child “is to be disregarded”. It says, in effect that, for the purposes of Clause 3(1), we are to disregard what has already happened. It is another bit of retrospectivity. What use is the leave that is referred to in Clause 2(7)? To disregard it is unprincipled. Such leave should be taken into account in determining whether a child has leave to enter or remain; the Government have given it.

I will raise a point that the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and myself, were discussing during the dinner break—it justifies our having had a dinner break, I think—and that is the question of adoption. I have not seen the comment made by the Children’s Commissioner, which no doubt the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, will talk about, but I understand it suggests that, in the case of a child who has been adopted, and who falls within the provisions of the Bill as currently set out, that adoption in some way could be undone, despite the fact that the child has become a member of a British family.

I would have thought that the four conditions would not have been met, but we must be absolutely clear about this. If someone with the credentials of the Children’s Commissioner suggests that there is an issue here, we must have an absolutely clear statement from the Dispatch Box that that is not so and, preferably, an amendment from the Government making it clear that it is not so.

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Certainly. The structure of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 was very different. It was not a Bill like this one, which focuses on a duty to remove and is targeted at creating a disincentive effect on people crossing the channel. This is a very differently structured piece of legislation and therefore the retrospective element is a vital and logical part of the scheme in the Bill.

As to the evidence of the deterrent effect taking effect from the date of introduction, this is seen potentially in the fact that—and one can only draw inferences from the figures—it would appear that the numbers are down on this time last year. I accept that the weather has facilitated a good measure of that, but it is certainly right to say that had there not been a retrospectivity measure in the Bill I would conjecture that the numbers crossing the channel would have been far higher. It would have been easy for people smugglers to advertise their services—and I will come to this in a moment—as something of a fire sale, saying, “Get across the channel now. Here’s your opportunity before these measures in the Government’s new scheme take effect”.

The provision in the Bill does not mean that all those who enter the country illegally on or after 7 March will be subject to the duty to remove in Clause 2(1). We have expressly provided in Clause 4(7) that asylum and human rights-based claims made on or after 7 March may be decided by the Secretary of State prior to the commencement of Clause 4. Where a person is then granted leave to remain, they will not be removed.

The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, noted that retrospectivity is problematic because it impinges on legal certainty. The key here is that we have been clear in the Bill and in the public messaging—for example, in the statement given by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and the other messaging—that this is the date when the scheme will commence. That means that there can be no uncertainty about the Government’s intention. While I accept that this is unusual in our legal system, it is not unheard of. The Revenue sometimes announces intended changes to tax law which are then later introduced by Finance Bills but backdated to the date of the announcement. In those cases, it is usually to prevent a closing-down sale of improper tax structures. There, retrospectivity is designed to protect tax revenue. Here, it is to prevent a closing-down sale of dangerous, sometimes fatal, channel crossings in the lead-up to some prospective date. We do not take this step lightly but feel it is necessary to reduce this perverse incentive.

I say “reduce” advisedly. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, has pointed out that migrants on the other side of the channel may not be as well advised as some taxpayers, but it is clear they are alive to changes in policy in the UK. For example, it is clear that announcements of a change in the approach to Albanian illegal migrants has led to a very significant dropping off of that cohort in the small boats, even before removals have begun at scale. This shows that the criminal gangs and migrants are aware of policy announcements in the UK, as my noble friend Lady Lawlor has pointed out. Similarly, the original announcement of the Rwanda scheme was known in the camps in Calais, with some suggesting in reporting that asylum seekers sought to go to the Republic of Ireland instead to avoid being sent to Rwanda. Indeed, the then Taoiseach Michael Martin noted a surge in applications and partly blamed the Rwanda announcement.

While clearly announcing the start date of the new scheme may not have had a decisive impact, it is important to do everything we can to discourage those dangerous journeys. Announcements such as this can have an impact on behaviour, and we hope they will reduce the incentive for a surge in dangerous crossings, perhaps at a time when the weather makes crossing very dangerous. To answer the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, these are the compelling and exceptional circumstances that justify this decision.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I apologise to the Minister for intervening at this late hour. If I understand him correctly, it will now be permissible to legislate retrospectively in any case of criminality because, by definition, it is very important not to have a fire sale. If we believe that certain conduct is wrong and there is a gap, whatever that conduct is, and if it is a serious enough matter to legislate in criminal terms, for example, it would now and in the future be permissible to legislate retrospectively.

My second point is that the Minister seems to suggest, like his noble friend Lady Lawlor, that because Ministers have announced a prospective change in the law, that should be good enough, because presumably we now believe that executive fiat and ministerial announcements and pronouncements are enough to suggest to people, not just in our own country but across the world, that that is what the law is and will be and always was. Have I understood the Minister correctly on this point?

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I am afraid the structure of the Bill is that it creates a duty on the Secretary of State. That is in order to send the deterrence message that entering the country illegally is unacceptable and to reduce the number of people crossing the channel. I am afraid to say that it is a logical step that if the Government were to change, then it would be open to that other Government to pass legislation of their own. That is democracy.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I am very grateful to the Minister for his patience, but it is not quite right that that is the reason for the “must”, is it? It is not to send a signal to all those people overseas who are reading our draft legislation; it is to give a direction to our courts. The Home Secretary is choosing to tie her own hands. It is really in order to oust the jurisdiction of the courts and their ability to say that where the Secretary of State has a choice, they should exercise that choice in compliance with international law.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Clearly, the intent is to send a message—that people really must not make these dangerous journeys across the channel. As I say, all the avenues of legal challenge are open but there are only two categories that will suspend removal. There are a number of provisions—I am sure the noble Baroness and I will be debating them at length over the coming days in Committee—and that is how the Bill will have its effect.

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

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Illegal Migration Bill

Baroness Chakrabarti Excerpts
Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Portrait Lord Kerr of Kinlochard (CB)
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I am grateful to the noble Baroness; I should have mentioned the point myself. I am concerned that the Government keep saying that the UNHCR runs safe and legal routes and that it is perfectly possible for someone in Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan to register with UNHCR, which will see them right. It is simply not true. UNHCR has again said so, formally and on the record. It does not run a clearing house. It does not run a general scheme open to all. It is able to cope with approximately, it says, 1% of the demand.

It is the case that if you are a persecuted young woman in Iran, there is no safe and legal route by which you can come to this country. If you are fleeing in Sudan from the war that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred to, there is no safe and legal route to the United Kingdom. UNHCR does not stand up the Government’s story that it is the fallback, the clearing house, that we can always turn to. It says it cannot do that. Obviously, it cannot do that; it is not resourced to do that. I agree that the impact assessment, in considering the deterrent effect on what the Government call illegal immigration, must address the question of how people from war-torn, famine-struck, civil war countries can achieve a legal route.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, it is an absolute privilege to follow such a distinguished former Permanent Secretary to the Foreign department. To return to my noble friend’s amendment, it may seem a little counterintuitive or surprising for me to welcome a probing amendment about removal and about a duty to negotiate removal agreements, but I do. The reason is that there is actually a greater and stronger link between the principles that we have been discussing and the practice that my noble friend is considering here, because in this neck of the woods, in particular, the two go together.

I say, with respect to the Committee, that it would have been wise for the Government to have thought about a duty to negotiate removal agreements before they proposed to legislate for a duty to remove. The sin is to have duties to remove with nowhere to remove people to, and duties to detain with no ability to remove, because that leads to indefinite detention.

There were all the arguments that we had on the last illegal Bill, and the arguments that we will have again about whether refugees and asylum seekers should be allowed to work after a period of time. People argued about pull factors, and some of us said that there were push factors, not pull factors. But if people’s claims were being considered quickly, including of those who did not qualify for asylum—who were genuinely illegal migrants and never qualified for asylum—some of us would have no problem with the principle or practice of having a short period of arrest and detention for the purposes of facilitating a lawful removal.

My noble friend Lord Coaker has really hit the nail on the head. What is the practice here? If there is no practical agreement to remove people to whichever country they are from, and people are in practice irremovable, that is where the cruelty comes in. That is a cruelty towards people who are detained for lengthy periods, quite possibly at great public expense, in inappropriate accommodation; this could include accompanied or unaccompanied children not being housed or detained appropriately, not being educated, and so on. That is the sin—the terrible maladministration and lack of good practice, which is then translated into this culture war via more draconian legislation for a general election that will no doubt be sloganed, “Stop the boats”. We do not stop the boats, but we do not welcome the vulnerable people either, so we perpetrate this great swindle on the British people. We toxify a debate that needs to be handled much more temperately, and we do not achieve anything very much at all.

The final link between principle and practice in this area is that, in this amendment, we are talking about a duty on the Secretary of State to negotiate these practical removal agreements for those people who do not meet the tests and do not qualify in the end as refugees. In this probing amendment we are talking about that duty and asking whether it does not need to be a duty because the Secretary of State genuinely wants to negotiate. To go back to what the noble Lord, Lord Patten, said before the break, whether that is the case or not, who will negotiate with us? We have heard some flummery from the Benches opposite about how international law is not real law—“We have a dualist system and let me not give you a law lecture, but it’s not real law, it’s only international law”. If our word is not our bond, who will negotiate with us?

There is currently a contradiction at the heart of government between those who want to be leaders on the world stage, with all the challenges that have to be met internationally at the moment, and those who want a culture war. My understanding is that the Prime Minister is now saying not only that we are going to be part of the Council of Europe and honour our international commitments but that we are going to be the architects of new ones. London is apparently going to be at the heart of regulating artificial intelligence—this is where it is all going to happen. But why should anyone allow us that moral leadership on the world stage, if we will not honour international law?

I look forward to the answers to my noble friend’s questions about the moment when principle really does need to meet practice.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, perhaps the Minister can help us here. Is not it the case that, without removal agreements, the Bill is likely to make the current situation worse in terms of costs to the Exchequer? As the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, has said, if people are not able to work, and they are not allowed the right to remain but cannot be removed, they will have to be looked after by the state. The difficulty that the Minister has is that, without an impact assessment, there are all sorts of organisations that are filling that vacuum. The vacuum was filled at the weekend—and the estimated additional costs of this Bill were £3 billion to £6 billion in additional accommodation needed to detain those people who could not be removed.

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I am afraid that I must disagree with the noble Lord. The point about the Bill is that we know that deterrence has effect, and we have seen that, as the Prime Minister announced this morning, in relation to the effect of our returns agreement with Albania.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I am grateful to the Minister for his patience. Could I try this another way in relation to the debate on the impact assessment? If I am wrong about this, I want to be set right. This is not a rhetorical question; this is a genuine question about the process and purpose behind these impact assessments. I had been thinking that the purpose of these various assessments by the department was that they become part of the case for the legislation in Parliament. The department does the drafting and the policy and that is the Bill, that will be law; and to back it up, it has its case based on the evidence that it has marshalled.

If I am right about that, that gives rise to the concerns about why we are going further and further down the legislative process before the court of Parliament—if you like—without the evidence base. Of course, that is particularly important in the case of so-called illegal migration, because public expense is such a concern in the public debate about immigration: cost-benefit economic analysis is always a keen part of the debate in the Committee, in Parliament and in the public square.

Finally, on this same point about process and the impact assessment, the Minister said earlier that it was not for him to dictate what would be in the impact assessment, and I do understand that, because no Minister would want to dictate that. However, if I am right, and the purpose of these assessments is that they are part of the Government’s case for the legislation, surely it is for the Minister and his colleagues at ministerial level to sign off on the quality of this work and the soundness of the proposition in it. Perhaps the Minister could clarify that. It is not a judicial process; it is an executive process of marshalling the economic case for this legislation.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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There is no statutory requirement to have a public impact assessment in relation to items of public legislation. Indeed, as I understand it, many pieces of legislation do not have one at all; so it is not a statutory requirement, as perhaps the noble Baroness seemed to suggest. Clearly, there is work done in the department behind the development of policy, and an economic impact assessment is certainly not an essential part of that process; nor is it a fundamental part. It is a part and, as I say, it will be published in due course.

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Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I hope the Minister will forgive me, but a narrow but important point of principle was raised by both the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed; they spoke on different matters but on the same issue of principle. One case was about what would happen to a child who came to this country as an infant and was adopted; another, put by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, concerned a child who would not be returned to adequate reception arrangements. I believe that the Minister said to the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, that we can deal with that in regulations—so nothing to worry about there—and the answer to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, was that the Government have no intention of removing children to a country which, even if it meets the other criteria in the clause, does not have adequate reception arrangements for an unaccompanied child.

The whole structure of this so-called robust legislation is about creating tightly crafted duties to tie the hands of the Secretary of State. We know what that game is: it is about ensuring that we have, in effect, ousted the court’s supervisory jurisdiction. Powers become “duties to remove” and then, because there is a little ounce of compassion in relation to children, they say they will flip the duty and so there will not be a duty but, in certain circumstances, a power to remove even unaccompanied children. Given that this is the approach of the scheme, why on earth cannot comfort be given in the Bill to both the noble and learned Baroness and the noble Lord on those two limited circumstances? Why can the Bill not say that a child who came as an infant and who has now been adopted by a British national cannot be removed? For a child who would otherwise be removable because they have an identity document—there is a thought—or sent to a country where they are a national but there are no reception arrangements, why can it not be a criteria that there should be adequate reception arrangements? Why cannot that be in a Bill that is so tightly and robustly drawn by the Home Office?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The noble Baroness is always a powerful advocate but, in this instance, these provisions are already clear. As I have said, and for the reasons that I have explained, there is no need, in those limited circumstances, for further exploration in the Bill. As I have said, these are things that we can explore, and doubtless will return to in other parts of the Bill, but for the moment I am afraid there is no need for further additions in relation to those areas.

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

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Illegal Migration Bill

Baroness Chakrabarti Excerpts
In conclusion, the LGBT exclusions in the amendments I have referred to and co-signed are based on case law, Home Office country of origin information, Home Office country policy and information notes, and incontestable facts and information.
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise in support of Amendment 53 tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, and moved by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, also signed by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich. While I support everything said so far, I wish to draw the Committee’s attention to this amendment in particular and its constitutional importance, given the constitutional conceit of this whole Bill.

If I have said it before, I hope the Committee will forgive me: the conceit of this Bill is for the Secretary of State, via primary legislation, to tie her own hands and give herself a duty to do something that we believe to be unlawful. The reason for tying her own hands is to avoid the interference of the courts. That is, in essence, the conceit at the heart of the Bill. It goes a little further. The Home Secretary is tying her hands with a duty to remove people to a list of countries, but it is a list that she may add to. Now we are very permissive and the hands have become untied in a fairly fluid way when it comes to adding further countries to this list of supposedly safe countries in Schedule 1.

The contents of Schedule 1 therefore become quite important, hence the various submissions that are being made and the various amendments that are being tabled in Committee about this country or that country, not just as they are at this moment but, in a very difficult world in flux, regarding what may or may not happen in them in the future. The present Home Secretary, and Home Secretaries of whatever stripe of Government in the future, will have this duty to remove people to countries on a list which they may add to by secondary legislation. Therefore, the factors that they must consider as Home Secretary when adding to that list are incredibly important. I hope that the Committee agrees.

The factors for deciding whether a country is safe to add to the list are in Clause 6, particularly Clause 6(4), for those who can still pick up a Bill at this time of night:

“In deciding whether the statements in subsection (1)(a) and (b) are true … the Secretary of State … must have regard to all the circumstances of the country”.


Well, of course. That is a bit of a non-protection, because we would hope so, would we not? Secondly, the Secretary of State

“must have regard to information from any appropriate source (including member States and international organisations)”.

With respect, that is not enough. Therefore, it is worth being explicit about what has been done in Amendment 53, tabled by the noble learned Lord, Lord Etherton, and supported ably by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, which I support. They have beefed up that second limb, so that it is not just having regard to appropriate information. What does “appropriate information” mean—appropriate information as determined by the Secretary of State in this beautifully circular process? Instead, the Secretary of State must

“apply relevant decisions of courts and tribunals operating in the United Kingdom”.

There is a radical suggestion. The Secretary of State must have regard for the law and apply the law of the United Kingdom—the case law of our courts in this country—about the safety or otherwise of these countries that might otherwise be added to the list of the countries to which the Secretary of State will have a duty to remove people.

I almost choke on my words that this has to be put in law, but we are in a place of such disregard for our domestic courts. Therefore, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, were quite right to insist at the very least that this should be clear in the legislation before a future Secretary of State can add further to this schedule of countries to which people must be removed by current and future Secretaries of State.

Perhaps more controversially—not for the Minister currently sitting opposite but to others, although I hope not—in addition to applying the law of this United Kingdom, as has become our custom as good members of the Council of Europe and under the Human Rights Act, the Secretary of State, before adding countries to this list, must

“have regard to decisions of the European Court of Human Rights”,

so please do not add further countries to this duty to remove unless you have applied the law of this land and had regard to the European Court of Human Rights. The Minister is a distinguished former judge. He is unique in this Committee and on the Benches opposite as an international lawyer, as opposed to being just any old lawyer, like me. Like the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, I hope that he will see the good sense in the amendment tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton.

Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD)
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My Lords, I was not going to intervene in this particular group of amendments but, seeing that the two Front Benchers have agreed we are going to stay until 10.40 pm, and as I believe we should not be rushing through groups, I will add my bit to scrutinising the Government’s thinking on these particular amendments.

I have done a lot of work with groups in the UK who work with individuals who have sought asylum because of their sexuality, sexual orientation or gender identity. It is not a straightforward assumption that people come here and the first thing they do is claim asylum on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity. They have lived in countries where to trust the authorities with personal information about your sexual orientation or gender identity would mean either jail, persecution, discrimination or in some cases death.

So when a lot of people come here who are claiming asylum or wish to claim asylum on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, they tend not to tell the authorities to start with. They tend to keep it private and very much to themselves. It is through a process of working with a number of non-government organisations and gaining trust during the interview process for asylum that, maybe on the fourth, fifth or sixth intervention with an official in the UK, they may start to open up. That is when many individuals who are claiming asylum as part of the LGBTQ+ community start to open up. They are secretive and they do not trust authority to start with.

This Bill gives them absolutely no way to explain why they are claiming asylum before the Government, under this Bill, make a decision that they could go to a country where they are in as much or more danger as in the country they have just come from in terms of their sexual orientation or gender identity. I am not clear how the Government come to the view that certain people, particularly gay males, transgender people, or people who are struggling with gender identity issues, are going to be able to go to a country of safe haven under the provisions of this Bill. If somebody is fleeing a country because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, they will maybe go to Gambia or Ghana or Jamaica. One only has to look at the Government’s own website to see travel advice that makes it very clear that these are not countries that you as an LGBT person should go to and be open, even if you are a tourist. The words that come out are “conservative” and “reserved”: “attacks” occasionally appear. So I just wonder how the Government have come up with this schedule, particularly with the process that a lot of individuals go through in terms of claiming asylum for sexual orientation or gender identity, knowing that it tends not to be something that is divulged instantly on the first interview, and then saying that people can go to countries, as I have suggested, and be safe. How would they know they are not sending somebody to a country where they are not safe?

I will move on slightly, because I was quite intrigued by the Government’s website on travel advice. With quite a lot of these countries, the Government’s own advice is that some of them are quite violent, with “express kidnappings” referred to in certain countries. If noble Lords do not know what an express kidnappings is, because I did not, it is literally that somebody will come, be able to determine that you are not from that country, assume that you are a foreign national, kidnap you instantly off the street, and then determine who your relatives are and where you have come from, and use you as a potential source of income, including potentially injuring you and in some cases killing you. On the Government’s website, with some of the countries on this Schedule 1, express kidnappings are there.

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Lord Bellamy Portrait Lord Bellamy (Con)
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It will remain a question of fact in each case and the examples of relevant harm are set out in Clause 38(4), which refers to

“death … persecution … torture … inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”

and where onward removal would raise a risk of

“real, imminent and foreseeable risk of … harm”.

If that in practice amounts to a situation in which you could not send a gay person back to that country, that would be a decision for the tribunal.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I am so grateful to the Minister for responding with his characteristic courtesy and patience. I think I can help him, because I think the problem here arises from the Government own cake-eating, if I can put it like that. The general proposition in the Bill is that we will now decide on a blanket basis that people are to be removed, regardless of their circumstances, because of the means of their arrival, not because of the circumstances of their past and their persecution. Fair enough; that is the thinking behind the Bill. Then the Government say, “Here is the schedule of safe countries”, again on a blanket basis. Then the Government say, “But only for men”—so they have already adopted the approach that there are some countries that are safe for men but not for women. But then when my noble friends and other noble Lords in the Committee say, “But gay people are a vulnerable group in many parts of the world, just as women are”, the Minister is, I think, forced into the Government’s position of saying, “But women are not a precedent”.

That logic is not standing up to scrutiny, in this Committee at least, so I hope that, after Committee and before Report, the Minister might just consider that issue of gay people, or LGBT+ people, in particular. We all know, in this Committee, that just as there are some countries that may be safe for men but not women, there are many countries that are not safe for queer people either. Rather than playing on this sticky wicket, which he, with his characteristic grace, handles with great aplomb, perhaps before Report, the Government could think again.

Lord Bellamy Portrait Lord Bellamy (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the Government will of course consider that, as we try to consider everything that is said in this House, before Report. I simply reiterate that under Clause 5(3)(d), it still has to be

“a country or territory to which there is reason to believe P will be admitted”—

and that is probably not very likely to be satisfied in the particular countries we are talking about, such as Ghana, for example. Having responded to the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, the Government will of course consider the position.

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

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Department: Ministry of Justice
In my view, we cannot send people to countries that are not party to the convention and do not have an asylum system. Remember that we are sending people not to have our asylum processes carried out offshore by some other country. We will have declared these people inadmissible—they will never be allowed into our asylum process. We are going to deport them to other countries, where an application that they never made for asylum in those countries will be considered by us and by the country in question to have been made. But how can the country in question do that if it does not have a system for doing it? How should we accept that it is reasonable to require people to seek asylum somewhere else—which in my view is contrary to the convention—and to do so in a country that is not a party to the convention and has no asylum system? I put that all interrogatively—I may be wrong on all or several of those points—but the Minister needs to address them.
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, in the submission that Clauses 5 and 6 and Schedule 1 should not stand part of the Bill. The reasoning becomes increasingly repetitive and circular, because these provisions are parasitic on the meat of the Bill, which is really Clause 2. That is the duty that the Secretary of State is quite deliberately taking upon herself so that it looks as if no discretion is being exercised, she must remove people and therefore the courts have no ability to supervise that judgment. That is the heart of the moral and practical problem with the Bill, so when we look at the parasitic clauses that follow on from Clause 2, we come back to that central problem.

There are so many reasons why this is wrong in both principle and practice. As always, it is a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, a most distinguished senior diplomat and former Permanent Under-Secretary to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office—which is important. The poor old Home Office gets lumbered with all the tough talk and rhetoric and with translating press releases into legislation, but the foreign department has to represent this country all over the world, negotiate further treaties and hold its head up in its attempt to do so. The foreign department will no doubt try to persuade people that Mr Sunak is so right and that, as I said last time, we should be the hub of AI intelligence and the world regulator, and everybody should support the idea that these treaties should be formulated here. Once upon a time, we could have said that.

If any noble Lords, particularly on the Benches opposite, want to understand the importance of the refugee convention, not as it is being flexibly interpreted by the current Government but as it was intended after the war, they might care to read the correspondence between our wartime Prime Minister and the then Archbishop of Canterbury. That correspondence between Winston Churchill and William Temple is very revealing of what the obligations of the future treaty were going to be in relation to individuated justice for refugees, which of course is the problem.

We were treated last time to good cop, bad cop by two Ministers, from the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice respectively; I will leave Members of the Committee to decide who was which. But I think that the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, was right in his rather forensic—if I may say so—examination to point out some tensions in the case as it was put by the two Ministers.

The Home Office Minister concentrated, quite rightly, on the message as we have heard it thus far: this is about deterrence; we do not want people to come here; this is all about stopping the boats. Therefore, he stressed the automaticity of Clause 2 and the absolute commitment—no ifs, ands or buts—to a duty to remove anybody who comes by an irregular route; no matter how genuine a refugee, they must be removed. When, as amendment after amendment was debated, and noble Lord after noble Lord gave the litany of heartbreaking cases of trafficked people, of gay people who should not be sent back to certain countries, and so on, the Minister from the justice department pointed up the possibility of exceptional non-suspensive claims—it will be all right, there will be the possibility of individuated justice in those cases. But, of course, both positions cannot be the case, and they were not intended to be. It was excellent advocacy, perhaps, but it does not stand up, as the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, said so clearly in his introduction to the debate.

This is the blanket treatment of claims that were always intended to be considered in a case-by-case analysis. As the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, pointed out, there are countries, including very large democracies such as India, perhaps, that are perfectly safe for some people but not at all safe for others—because they are political dissidents, because they are queer, because they are women. That is conceded by the Home Office in the schedule that lists some countries as safe only for men.

It is a diplomatic nightmare to be creating this automaticity of “These are safe countries; these are unsafe countries” and to be telegraphing it in the schedule to the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Murray, will say, “There has been this development for some years under Governments of both stripes to have inadmissibility and presumptive safety”. It is one thing to say to your officials considering individual claims that some countries might be prima facie safe, but you still have a duty to consider the individual asylum seeker before you to determine what their story is. That was always the intention in the refugee convention and that is the obligation on signatories to it—and, I would argue, not just signatories any more because non-refoulement has become accepted as a principle of customary international law. That is what we propose to breach by this legislation.

That is how serious it is. The Bill is wrong in principle, wrong in practice and internally incoherent. Certainly, the arguments that have been put by Ministers—elegantly, charmingly, patiently, late into the night—do not hold together, and these provisions should not stand part of the Bill.

Baroness Whitaker Portrait Baroness Whitaker (Lab)
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My Lords, following the eloquent speeches of my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, I would like to refer again to the proposal that Schedule 1 should not stand part.

Some of those countries breach protected rights. I ask the noble and learned Lord the Minister which of the countries on the list practise female genital mutilation and do not reserve refoulement only for men? Which criminalise homosexuality? Which criminalise humanism? Noble Lords may remember the case of the president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, who has received a life sentence.

Surely it is very odd to remove people to those countries. Does the Minister think that that conforms to our signature to the treaties of international law?

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Lord Bellamy Portrait Lord Bellamy (Con)
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My Lords, in relation to the latter point, I repeat the point I made on Monday that this is precautionary. There is no reason to deprive oneself of the possibility of providing for “a part”. With an enormous country such as India, it may be that up in Nagaland or somewhere there are some disturbances, but that does not prevent us saying that India is a safe country. That is the Government’s answer to the first point.

Our answer to the second point is that the words “in general” have—I am open to correction and I will correct myself if I am wrong—stood for 20 years on the statute book without difficulty and do not preclude, in an individual case, an application being made to oppose removal on the grounds of irreparable harm. It is the combination of a general view that the country is safe with the possibility of individual protection. Those are essentially the answers I gave on Monday.

I entirely accept the noble Lord’s point that this is new, but, for the reasons I have tried to explain, it is a workable and, I submit, balanced approach to a very difficult problem which the Bill is trying to solve.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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As always, the Committee is very grateful to the Minister. I want to be absolutely certain that I have understood his case, because this is so important. My understanding is that he is reassuring the Committee on the basis that, first, nobody is going to be sent to the country that they fear in the first place—they are not going to be sent back directly to the country that they have escaped from and which they say was originally persecuting them—and, secondly, they can be sent only if there is a deal with a country. So maybe this is all going to be rhetoric in the end: we are going to tell the British people that we are stopping the boats, and we are going to warehouse more and more people under this whole edifice because there will be a duty under Clause 2 to remove people to places where they are irremovable to because there is no deal. Thirdly, the Minister points to the little chinks in the scheme whereby somebody might make some kind of exceptional non-suspensive claim. That is what I understand to be the three parts of his case.

On sending people to third countries that are unsafe because they are gay or because there is some other reason why that individual person would be at risk, it matters not that they would be unsafe in a third country or unsafe in a first country. In relation to the other little nudges and winks that he offers us—that this is perhaps fiction because in the end we do not have deals with a lot of these countries—that might be some comfort to people coming, and maybe even to those smuggling them, but it is certainly no comfort to the British people on the cost or on the toxicity of the debate we are having about stopping the boats, when actually the boats are not likely to be stopped.

Lord Bellamy Portrait Lord Bellamy (Con)
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My Lords, it is a question of judgment. The Government’s judgment is that this legislation will go a long way towards reducing the terrible risks that people and unaccompanied children are facing in crossing the channel in difficult circumstances, and will destabilise the business model of the people smugglers. Those are surely legitimate objects for any Government to pursue.

The noble Baroness’s analysis is essentially correct: if I am a national of a particular state and I make an asylum claim or human rights claim then I cannot be sent back to that country; I could be sent back to a country with which—she puts it somewhat colloquially, and I would not quite use these words—we have a deal. The country with which we have a migration partnership at the moment is Rwanda, so that is still a possibility, subject to the individual in that case being able to make an application for either a factual suspensive application or an application based on imminent and foreseeable and serious harm. That is how it works, and that is how the Government see it.

While I am on my feet, I will address the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, about whether the threat of deterrents supersedes individual human rights. For the reasons I have given, our answer is that there is no question of superseding individual human rights due to the protections I have just explained. Refoulement is covered by the existing agreement with Rwanda, and I am sure it will be covered in future agreements.

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Baroness Hoey Portrait Baroness Hoey (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I had not intended to speak on this provision, because when I read the Bill and saw it, I genuinely thought that it must have been a drafting error on the part of civil servants that Ministers had not noticed. Having listened to the noble Lord, Lord Davies, move his amendment, and to the other noble Lords who have spoken, it seems very sensible to me that this be taken back by the Government before Report. I am amazed that there was no consultation with the trade unions on this issue, which really does affect their members’ livelihoods. If this went through, I can imagine how workers on planes, ships and other forms of transport would react, knowing that it could be used against them.

It right that this Chamber address this issue, being an advisory, revising Chamber that gets things changed that we think are obviously wrong. In addition to what has already been said about consultation, why has this not been discussed properly? As the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, has said, many trade union members believe that the way we deal with illegal immigration has to change, but this is not the way to do it. This bit of the Bill must be taken out. The Minister should accept that there will not be support for it in this House, and that the other place has not, perhaps, thought about this in a sensible way.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Davies of Brixton for tabling these amendments, which are supported by the trade union movement and by other noble Lords.

I will put my cards on the table: my personal position is that coercive powers of detention should be in the hands of the state, for a number of reasons. I think Ministers should be directly responsible for the use of coercive power in our democratic society, and those powers should be exercised by properly trained people who enter into a profession to exercise powers such as that. However, that is not everyone’s position. I know that reasonable people, including friends of mine with whom I disagree and some on the Benches opposite, believe, for example, in private prisons. Those are circumstances where there is a contract that a private provider enters into to provide services for detention, coercion and so on. I have problems with that; I will not bore the Committee with my various concerns about it, but I believe that there is an entire Wikipedia page devoted to G4S scandals. I am thinking also of Brook House detention centre and the various people who have died in the context of forced removal from the country. I have concerns about the use of private contractors to exercise some of the most coercive powers of the democratic state.

However, the problem that has been identified by my noble friend Lord Davies and others is even more serious than that, because these are not private guards who have been employed by AN Other private security company—although I am concerned about that, and the scandals speak for themselves—but people who are transport workers. They are used to giving service to the public, which is a very different job with a very different understanding, different training and, as the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, pointed out, different preoccupations and priorities from the use of coercive force.

On mixed flights, holidaymakers sit alongside deportees. To be fair, that is already a problem; under the regime that we have now, these problems have arisen for some time, but the Bill makes the problem worse. We also have to be realistic that, in the context of the challenges we will face on this planet in the years to come, more and more desperate people will come. The idea of having mixed flights, with transport workers now being responsible for a policy of transportation in addition to normal service provision with the priorities of customer safety, is a total nonsense. If the Government want to pursue the sorts of policy that we are seeing in this legislation, with controversy, coercion and desperate people who may want to fling themselves off the train, the ship or the plane, that is really not appropriate for transport workers. We are now getting into a transportation policy of coercive control and removal, and that really ought to be done by servants of the state, agents of the state, who have been employed for that purpose.

It is not just for the sake of their consciences or for the safety and security of the desperate people themselves—or indeed the terrible people. We keep calling them “illegal migrants” but that is a bone of contention, because of course these people are being removed without consideration of their asylum claims, so we do not know whether they are illegal or not. However, whether they are illegal or are genuine refugees, some of these people will be desperate and will resort to desperate means to escape removal, and the lovely people who I travel with on the trains, when I can, should not be charged with that task; it should be people who are genuine volunteers who have been properly trained, and they should be directly responsible to Ministers when things go wrong, which I am afraid they sometimes will. So the amendments are very well put and I urge the Government to think again.

The Minister will rightly say that this is not novel. I do not want to pretend that it is totally novel to give directions to conventional transport providers and to contract out aspects of immigration control; bit by bit, that has been happening for decades, and it has simply been turbocharged by this policy. However, it is not safe or ethical, and nothing good will come of it.

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The powers in Schedule 2 to the Immigration Act will continue to apply to those being removed who are not subject to the new duty in the Bill but are otherwise liable to removal from the UK. The powers in the Bill will relate to those who fall within the cohort in Clause 2. They provide clarity and certainty by being present in the Bill in this context. It is also clearly right that the 1971 Act powers need to be applied to the Bill, so that is the purpose for their inclusion. I hope that answers the noble Lord’s question.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I hope I conceded earlier that we know that there have been directions issued to captains and others since the 1971 Act; that is not in contention. My concern, given the greater controversy of a forced duty to remove people who have not even had a refugee claim considered, and given the larger numbers that the Government clearly anticipate in relation to this policy, is about some of the detail. The Minister said that we need greater clarity, but that greater clarity will bring greater concern. I personally do not remember all this deeming of legal custody and the criminalisation of transport workers, certainly not in the original 1971 Act. Maybe more of that has happened over the years.

I ask the Minister to go back to the issues of policy and principle, and not just to rely on the precedent of the creep of legislation forcing these duties on transport workers. Whether that creep has happened or not—I can see that it has—some of us are really concerned about where it has gone. He said that this has passed without comment or controversy but that is not the case, is it? Every so often, somebody dies while being removed because of the coercion and force that is necessarily involved. If the people using that force are not prison guards, soldiers or police officers, but just common or garden transport workers, there is a real concern and controversy. I would be very grateful if the Minister would address that as a matter of principle.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I am afraid I do not agree with the noble Baroness that there is a substantive difference in the fact that the people being removed under the Bill have had their asylum claims rendered inadmissible, because under the present law categories of people have inadmissible asylum claims and they too are subject to removal. They have been subject to the powers in the pre-existing legislation, so I am afraid I do not accept the premise of her intervention.

I should add that we regularly read of instances where there is disorder on an aircraft or instances where a pilot is obliged to land somewhere; then the doors are opened and the police remove a person from the aircraft. That detention can be as simple as keeping the doors closed until the agents of the law arrive to remove the necessary people, and similarly on trains with electric doors. The effecting of the detention is not going to be overly burdensome on the operators as a result of these provisions.

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office
Lord Etherton Portrait Lord Etherton (CB)
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My Lords, Amendment 69 is in my name. I am very grateful to those who have co-signed it: the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and the noble Lord, Lord Cashman.

The amendment provides for a general standard or series of standards to be applied—to some extent, picking up some of the more specific points that have been raised by other Members of the Committee. The amendment says:

“The conditions under which persons are detained pursuant to this section must comply with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Detention Guidelines”.


This becomes particularly important in the context of this proposed legislation because there is no time limit currently provided for detention. Indeed, earlier today, the Minister, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bellamy, made great play of the fact that currently Rwanda is the only country in Schedule 1 which has actually signed up to admit people and therefore the rest of the people are not going to be accommodated by way of a removal.

People who are not suitable to go to Rwanda, which, according to the FCDO’s travel guidelines, would certainly include LGBT people, would be subject to indefinite detention until some other arrangement—if and when, if ever—with a truly safe place for that group was arrived at.

The UNHCR’s refugee Detention Guidelines currently set out, in guideline 8, some 18 minimum conditions of detention. They range from general propositions on treating asylum seekers with dignity to conditions around medical treatment; the ability of persons resident in detention to make contact; physical exercise; for children, education and vocational training; standards of food; and so forth. We certainly know that, on the ground at the moment, those standards are not being adhered to in the accommodation currently being occupied by those who seek asylum.

The time has come—particularly in view of the possibility of detention without any limit whatever; although that issue is going to be dealt with in a later group, I might add that it is in itself contrary to guideline 6 of the UNHCR’s refugee Detention Guidelines —when the Government must commit themselves to the minimum recognised standards that apply to asylum seekers. As others have said, we are not just dealing with numbers—number 1,231, for example. Each of these cases is a human being deserving of dignity and proper treatment.

Those are the minimum standards set down in guideline 8. I would like to know whether it is the Government’s proposal that they should adhere to these minimum standards.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise in support of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, whose Amendment 69 I have signed. It would require detention conditions to comply with those set out in guidelines by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. I need not repeat the arguments that the Committee well understands about the United Kingdom’s historic role in the refugee convention and other aspects of the post-war human rights settlement.

Like many noble Lords in this Committee, I have been in these debates for some time, so I understand that there is some dispute on the Government Benches about the UNHCR. The UNHCR says something; they say, “So what? It is just another woke NGO”. Well, it is not. The UNHCR has a special role in the convention. It is a UN body and it was given a special role in the supervision of the refugee convention.

I simply refer noble Lords to Article 35 of the convention, headed “Co-operation of the national authorities with the United Nations”. We were an architect of the convention and a key signatory to it; I am sure that every Member in this Committee wants to abide by it. Article 35 states:

“The Contracting States undertake to co-operate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or any other agency of the United Nations which may succeed it, in the exercise of its functions, and shall in particular facilitate its duty of supervising the application of the provisions of this Convention”.


This body was given from the beginning the very special role of supervising the convention. That is fair enough, is it not? It cannot just be that every nation gets to interpret the convention in its own way; that would not exactly be global governance.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
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Is that not precisely what the Vienna convention on the interpretation of treaties provides for: that each nation interprets it? States have to relate to and deal with the body to which the noble Baroness refers, but that is separate to the legal question of what the convention actually means. These are two distinct legal questions, are they not?

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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Well done. Article 35 continues:

“In order to enable the Office of the High Commissioner or any other agency of the United Nations which may succeed it, to make reports to the competent organs of the United Nations, the Contracting States undertake to provide them in the appropriate form with information”.


The bottom line is that the UNHCR is not just any other body, think tank, NGO or pressure group. It is a specific organ of the United Nations that was commissioned right at the beginning, when this convention was drafted, to have a special role in its supervision. That is why I support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, in suggesting as a bare minimum that our detention provisions ought to comply with guidelines—they are only guidelines—set out by the UNHCR. We can have these lovely little Oxford Union interventions from Members opposite, but the bottom line is that if we do not comply—

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
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I am sorry, but this is not an Oxford Union intervention. There is a clear distinction between an obligation to co-operate with a body in the implementation of the convention and that body having a role in the interpretation of the convention. They are different legal concepts and, with great respect, the noble Baroness knows that; it is quite wrong to elide one with the other. “Interpretation” does not appear in Article 35 and is deliberately excluded.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I am very grateful, obviously, to the noble Lord for his intervention. I repeat:

“The Contracting States undertake to co-operate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees”.


This was the body given special status in the drafting of the very precious convention that was drafted with key instigation by the wartime generation in this country for reasons that I need not repeat.

If we do not comply with guidance from the UNHCR in relation to the detention of asylum seekers and refugees, who will? For that reason alone, I am very glad to support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton.

Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD)
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My Lords, Amendment 70A in this group is in my name and also signed by my noble friend Lord German. It is focused on the protection of unaccompanied migrant children and child victims of modern slavery. Picking up on the theme from the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, I want to make a brief reference to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 22 on refugee children says if a child is seeking refuge or has refugee status Governments must provide them with appropriate protection and assistance to help them enjoy all the rights in the convention.

There is consistent medical evidence that immigration detention is damaging the mental health of those who are detained. This Bill now forces children to be detained beyond the very short period which has been about acceptable before, although it was good that during the coalition years we stopped children being held in detention.

People seeking asylum have a very high prevalence of pre-existing vulnerabilities, including serious mental health conditions and histories of being trafficked, tortured and suffering sexual and gender-based violence. This puts them at particular risk of being further harmed in their time in detention.

The health implications of this Bill to detain people anyway without adherence to particular standards was highlighted by the events at Manston. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark has mentioned, it had a capacity of 1,600 but last autumn it was overcrowded, with the number of people detained nearing 4,000 following a decision by the Home Secretary not to send people on to hotels. People were beyond the 24-hour time limit without clear lawful basis for detention in holding rooms or five days in holding facilities.

My noble friend Lord German referred to the recent reinspection of Manston, but it is worthy of note that Charlie Taylor said there seemed to be some improvements while it was “fairly empty” but that he

“was not assured that if numbers increase … the site will be able to cope much better”

than last autumn, which is why I wish to persevere with my amendment. Conditions at Manston deteriorated very quickly and are likely to have amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of Article 3 of the ECHR, including overcrowded living conditions, unclean and unhygienic facilities, inadequate food provisions—some days without sufficient food or drinking water—lack of adequate medical care and spread of infectious diseases.

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Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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If the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, does not want to take that opportunity, I would quite like to. The noble Lord makes the point that Article 35 of the refugee convention does not have the term “interpretation”, but it does say, as the noble Baroness quoted:

“The Contracting States undertake to co-operate with the Office of the … High Commissioner … in the exercise of its functions, and shall in particular facilitate its duty of supervising the application of the provisions of this Convention.”


I suggest that that is not a million miles from assisting in the common interpretation of the convention.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I am grateful to the noble Baroness and the noble Lord. Acoustics are not always with me. I literally read from Article 35 and so did not use “interpret”. I used words such as “co-operate”. I think that I might have said “supervise”—I believe there is a supervisory jurisdiction. At this late hour, I really do not think that this should be a great beef between lawyers. I just say that there is a duty to co-operate with the UNHCR, and it has a special position as an organ of the UN that we set up. That is why I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, that our detention policies ought to have serious regard to the guidelines from the UNHCR.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
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I may have misheard, but I thought I heard “interpret”. I think that other noble Lords did as well. The Official Report will make it clear, no doubt. With great respect to the noble Baroness, in legal terms there is a million miles between a duty to co-operate and giving that other party the right to interpret. There is a huge difference between this country as a state saying that the treaty means whatever the UNHCR says it means and, on the other hand, saying that we will co-operate with the UNHCR to enable it to fulfil its obligations under the treaty but we as a state arrogate and retain the right to arrogate to ourselves in good faith and bona fide what that treaty actually means. It may sound like one is drawing fine distinctions but there is a very clear distinction, as lawyers will tell you, between the right to interpret a document, whether that be a contract or a treaty, and co-operation in the implementation of whatever that contract or treaty means.

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Your Lordships may be wondering why I am so worried about the use of force. The use of force in law enforcement could potentially include handcuffing, the use of a baton, the use of dogs, the use of irritant spray, body restraints, spit hoods, Tasers, and aiming firearms. The Government have a duty to safeguard the most vulnerable in society, so I hope they carefully listen to our concerns today.
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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Good morning, my Lords. I hope all Members of the Committee—it is a large group; larger than usual, for which I give credit to the Committee and to Members opposite in particular—will remember 8 June 2023. I will always remember where I was this morning, and I hope that other noble Lords will too, because this was the morning when we began debating whether detention and force are appropriate for pregnant women and small children.

I am very privileged to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Gohir, with her various well-put medical and other reasons why it is not a good idea to use force against pregnant women. It seems that this is now necessary in the context of debating amendments to the Bill. It would seem that there is the edge of depravity, and then there is the abyss. In the last group, we talked about detention. We now take it to its further conclusion, because in the end, a consequence of detention will sometimes be force. It is as well that we confront that, and confront it in the case of both children and, in this example, pregnant women.

Whatever our views about the basic policy here, I rather agree with the noble Baronesses in the previous group and with the speeches we have just heard that it would be appropriate for the Government to think again about this group of vulnerable people in particular, considering all the reasons that were given. Surely, whatever is said about deterrents and so on, there can be some concession to humanity, please, in relation to children and pregnant women. That will not hurt the signalling and the deterrents and so on. We cannot go on like this—and I do not just mean that we cannot go on at 12.20 am. When we were younger, hey, we used to go on all night, so we can go on all night in here; this is how we get our kicks in the Committee. However, we cannot go on degrading ourselves and our values by suggesting that there is no difference between a child or a pregnant woman and an adult, and that everybody is illegal. We need to make some restraints, just for decency, for our own sake.

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Illegal Migration Bill

Baroness Chakrabarti Excerpts
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Migration and Borders (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this short debate. It has been particularly illuminating; I have noted the quality of the speeches and hope that I can answer the questions that have been put in relation to these clauses.

Clauses 29 to 36 prevent a person who has entered the United Kingdom unlawfully, and meets the conditions in Clause 2, being able to lawfully re-enter the UK, secure settlement or become a British national through naturalisation or most registration routes. A person who arrives in the UK illegally should not be able to make the UK their home and eventually settle here. Settlement in the UK confers significant benefits, such as the freedom to study, work and access healthcare and public funds; of course, it is also a pathway to British citizenship which, in turn, confers further benefits.

Allowing someone who arrives in the UK illegally to settle clearly creates an incentive for people to make those dangerous journeys. It is a vital part of the deterrent effect that those categories should be included. This is because people taking advantage in that way is unfair. It is unfair on those who play by the rules and come here legally, it is unfair on those who are genuinely in need, as it constrains our capacity to help, and it is unfair on the British public.

Clause 29 precludes people who meet the conditions in Clause 2 from ever settling here and, once removed, being able to re-enter. This is achieved by preventing them from being granted any form of permission through the immigration system. We do, however, recognise there will be occasions when we will need to waive the bans and grant permission; for example, as the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, noted, where not granting permission would contravene our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. Clause 29 balances our need to disincentivise people from making dangerous journeys to the UK by ensuring that there is no benefit to be gained from entering the UK illegally, while recognising there may be a limited number of scenarios in which it is appropriate to grant permission. I put it to the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, that this is a proportionate and balanced provision. Therefore, I do not recognise her description of the Bill as “wielding a sledgehammer”.

Clause 30 sets out that a person will not be eligible for British citizenship, British Overseas Territories citizenship, British overseas citizenship and British subject status if they enter the UK unlawfully and meet the criteria in Clause 2. The ban will also apply to someone who enters a Crown dependency or British Overseas Territory unlawfully in a similar way. We have included the other types of British nationality as we do not think it is right that illegal entry should allow a person to acquire any form of British nationality, but also to prevent a person using it as a stepping stone to register as a British citizen. Illegal entry into the UK, a Crown dependency or an overseas territory will have the same effect. We do not want people to be able to enter illegally in any of those locations and use that as a way to acquire citizenship and, ultimately, a right to enter and live in the UK.

Clauses 31 to 34 set out the routes to which the citizenship ban will apply. The key citizenship route which will be affected is naturalisation, as my noble friend Lord Moylan noted. This is the main way in which adults born outside the UK can acquire British citizenship and British Overseas Territories citizenship. The ban will also apply to certain registration routes. However, those applying under provisions that address historical inequalities in British nationality law will not be affected. This includes people born before 1983 to British mothers, those who missed out on citizenship because their parents were not married or those applying on the route for descendants of Chagossians.

Clause 35 allows us to exempt a person from the citizenship ban if treating them as ineligible for citizenship would contravene our obligations under the human rights convention. This means that if a person can demonstrate that, for example, their right to a family or private life can be met only by us considering a grant of citizenship, we will not exclude them from applying. We do not think that acquiring citizenship will usually be essential to allow a person to have a private or family life in the UK; other options, such as leave to enter or remain, may satisfy that. However, in very exceptional cases where considering a grant of citizenship is needed to prevent us breaching our ECHR obligations, Clause 35 may apply. We will publish guidance for nationality caseworkers setting out how to assess human rights in the nationality context.

The amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Moylan would remove registration routes for British citizenship and British Overseas Territories citizenship from the ban so that it applies only to naturalisation. They would also remove the bans on becoming a British overseas citizen and British subject through registration. My noble friend Lord Moylan has described registration as an “evidence-based process”, with decisions not based on the Secretary of State exercising discretion. I am afraid to say that I disagree with my noble friend as this is not universally the case: some registration routes are dependent on ministerial discretion and there is no automatic entitlement.

Let me explain this further. As my noble friend Lord Moylan said, not all registration routes are included in the ban. Those that allow people to acquire British nationality they missed out on because of previous unfairness are not included; nor are the specific routes for children born in the UK or stateless persons. However, registration routes that rely on residence or specifically for children born outside the UK are included in the ban, as we expect people who want to become citizens to have followed a compliant pathway, including having entered lawfully.

For example, Section 4(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981 allows people who already hold another form of British nationality to register as a British citizen on the basis of five years’ lawful residence in the UK. The residence requirements mirror those for naturalisation: the only significant difference between the routes is that other British nationals wanting to register under that route do not need to meet the knowledge of English and life in the UK requirements. Given that the residence requirements are the same as for naturalisation, it would be appropriate for them to be subject to the ban in the same way as naturalisation applicants. This is the route that BNOs can use if they come to the UK under our scheme and become settled: they can go on to apply for citizenship. It is right that those who apply and come through legal routes should have the right to become citizens, but we do not think it is right that those who enter unlawfully should benefit.

The registration routes for children who are subject to the ban include two routes for children born abroad to British citizens by descent. Both have a residence element: either that the parent lived in the UK for a period of three years before the child was born or the family lived in the UK for the three-year period before applying to register the child. We do not anticipate that children of British citizens would be brought to the UK on a small boat when there are routes available to them as family members, but should that happen, the child will not be able to register as a citizen.

The other child route that is included in the ban is registration of children at the Home Secretary’s discretion. The only statutory requirements are that the child is under 18 and is of good character if over 10. However, guidance sets out expectations about when a child will be registered. The normal expectation is that the child will be settled in the UK, and that the parents will be British, or at least settled. It is unlikely that children who enter the UK unlawfully would be able to meet the normal expectations of having a British or settled parent, being lawfully present and having completed a period of residence, as under the Government’s proposals, children who have entered illegally will be removed. The citizenship ban will, however, prevent a child being registered under this provision unless there are ECHR grounds. This fits with the Government’s intention to discourage parents from bringing children to the UK via dangerous methods, including crossing the channel in a small boat, and that such a child cannot become a British citizen and create a means for the family to stay.

My noble friend raised, quite rightly, the issue of compassionate cases. As I have said the ECHR exemption will allow us to consider registering, in rare and exceptional cases, where a person meets the statutory requirements and granting citizenship would be essential to allow them to exercise their family or private life.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I have two short questions. First, how can a child be culpable? The whole point of the Bill, as I understand it, is that people should not be encouraged to come by illegal means, they should not jump the queue, et cetera. We disagree about that, but none the less, in that conversation about culpability, how can a child be culpable? Secondly, why should the ECHR take on the slack of compassion? There are many members of the Minister’s Government who do not think we should even be signatories of the ECHR any more, and now the ECHR is being relied on for discretion and for slack and compassion. How can that sit well with this Government?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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On the first point, there is no suggestion that these measures impute culpability in the way that the noble Baroness suggests. On the second point, I would have thought that the noble Baroness would approve of the fact that the statute relies upon the convention rights as being the pressure valve for exceptional circumstances in the way that I have described.

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I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response to those specific questions.
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, it is an enormous pleasure to follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton. I declare an interest as a former and retired Home Office lawyer and therefore there is a small pension that is being administered by some private company. The important point about that declaration is that when I was a Home Office lawyer in the 1990s, working on matters that included asylum, there was a moment when a particular failed asylum seeker who was removed was shot on arrival in their home country.

I make that point because the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, has made the detailed, forensic point so clearly, but as we move into this part of the Bill and start considering non-suspensive appeals, interim relief and what should happen to someone while there is a dispute about the safety of the place to which they are being sent, that is the story that hangs in my mind, and that is really the best contribution that I can make to the Committee’s thinking when we think about non-suspensive and suspensive appeals, and when we think in due course about my own group of amendments, which is about interim relief from domestic courts and international courts.

To facilitate the swift progress of the Committee I will do something that seems counterintuitive. The Government Chief Whip, who is returning to her place, gave us some very good advice about the Committee not liking reading. Which day was that on exactly? Was it Wednesday or Thursday? Was it this year or last year? I understand that point but this is not a filibuster; this is a very short, pithy quote from the JCHR report, which makes the point better than I could about what is wrong with the particular provisions dealt with in this group.

Noble Lords will find the quote on page 105 of the blockbuster JCHR report, which we will not all be able to read in its totality. Paragraph 333 says:

“Making human rights claims ‘non-suspensive’”—


non-suspensive means that you can appeal from the place you say are not safe in; it is perhaps not the place you say you will be shot but the place you might be sent to where you will be shot or otherwise persecuted—

“can only be consistent with our human rights obligations if pursuing those claims from the destination state is viable”.

This is from the JCHR, which is an all-party committee of both Houses. It continues:

“We are concerned that this has not been established for the states deemed safe for removals”.


That was one of the many excellent points made by the noble and learned Lord. It goes on:

“The threshold required to establish a suspensive claim based on serious harm under the Bill, and the requirement for ‘compelling evidence’ to support it”—


for those desperate refugees—

“puts at risk of removal those who have genuine human rights reasons why they should not be removed. Furthermore, allowing the Secretary of State to redefine ‘serious and irreversible harm’ by regulations opens up the possibility of increasing disparity between the protections against refoulement in domestic law and those to which the UK is committed in international law, including”—

the Minister’s favourite—

“the ECHR. We urge the Government to reconsider its decision to make human rights claims non-suspensive, and the extremely high threshold imposed to establish serious harm suspensive claims. The meaning of ‘serious and irreversible harm’ should not be open to amendment by regulations. Clause 39 should be removed from the Bill”.

Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I have three amendments in this group: Amendments 101, 110 and 113. Two of these amendments, to which the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, has added his name, are about the meaning of words. They are words to which the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, drew attention in her opening remarks on this group.

Amendment 101 directs attention to the definition in Clause 38(3) of the serious harm condition. The Bill says that this requirement will be satisfied if the person faces a

“real, imminent and foreseeable risk of serious and irreversible harm if removed from the United Kingdom … to the country … specified in the third country removal notice”.

Amendment 113 directs attention to the requirement in Clause 41(5) that a serious harm suspensive claim must

“contain compelling evidence that the serious harm condition is met in relation to the person”

making the claim. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, for drawing our attention to the reference in the JCHR report to the word “compelling” and its consequences.

So far as

“real, imminent and foreseeable risk”

is concerned, we suggest that that phraseology is unnecessarily complex. If a risk is imminent and foreseeable then one would say it must be a real risk and not a hypothetical one. Conversely, if the risk is real then it would follow that that is because it is imminent and foreseeable. These words are unnecessarily complex. It would be better, we suggest, to delete the words “imminent and foreseeable” or, alternatively, delete the word “real”. The real question is whether the word “real” adds anything if the other two words are satisfied.

As for the word “compelling”, there is an important question in addition to the fundamental point raised in the JCHR report as to what exactly “compelling”, in Clause 41(5), is dealing with. Clause 41(5) is telling the asylum seeker what his or her claim must contain. There are various requirements set out, and the first is that it

“must … contain compelling evidence that the serious harm condition is met”.

The first question is who is to judge that the evidence in that claim is compelling? The clause begins by telling us that the Secretary of State must consider the claim, before the end of the decision period, and make one of the following decisions:

“that the serious harm condition is met … or … that the serious harm condition is not met”.

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Moved by
116: Clause 52, page 54, line 1, at beginning insert “Providing the procedure set out under subsection (3A) has been followed,”
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, this may be the graveyard shift, but I will do my best to keep the Committee awake for a little longer. I give huge thanks to all members of the Committee for being here for whatever reason—under pain of whipping, out of love for human rights or whatever it is. I thank you for being here.

The whole Bill is a clash between politics—I would say rather tawdry, populist politics, but politics none the less —and human rights. But this group—Amendments 116 to 119 and the issue of whether Clauses 52 and 53 should stand part of the Bill—is not even about human rights. It is about something that precedes both human rights and democracy itself: the rule of law. In our country, the rule of law came before we had even democracy. I would argue that no civilised society, let alone a democracy, can be sustained anywhere in the world without the rule of law.

Clauses 52 and 53 are, in effect, about ousting the jurisdiction of domestic and international courts to grant interim relief—interim injunctions in our domestic courts and interim measures in the European Court of Human Rights. They deal with some of the concerns that have been raised in previous groups about what you do when you have not actually considered the person’s substantive claim yet. They say, “You send me to Rwanda, Uganda et cetera. I will not be safe there. Bad things might happen to me there and/or I might be sent on to the country from which I originally came, where I feel I would be killed or tortured”. This is about interim relief: whether the courts should be allowed to grant it and whether our Government should respect that. All other parties to litigation have to respect the decisions of courts in relation to interim relief when there is an arguable case and a real risk.

If noble members of the Committee will forgive me, I will take the clauses backwards to make my point better. I will start with Clause 53, work backwards to Clause 52 and come to the amendments last.

Clause 53 deals with the European Court of Human Rights, and I am delighted to see the Foreign Office Minister in the Chamber to hear this. I am very grateful for that, because this is a matter of foreign policy and our relationships with the Council of Europe and the wider world, as well as a domestic legal matter.

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These clauses are essential to put a stop to the merry-go-round of repeated and late legal challenges to removal. For these reasons, I invite the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to all noble Lords who spoke in this debate—it was not that short—and even more grateful to those who sat through it without getting anything off their chest. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, who pointed out, and I agree, that the double act of the noble Lords, Lord Sandhurst and Lord Wolfson, did not help the Government very much, nor was the Committee hugely assisted. To suggest that rulings of interim measures indicated by the court are not binding or important except sometimes is a very strange approach to any kind of court order or indication. If a court order is important only sometimes, we get into who gets to choose and when, which is not the way to develop any kind of trust between people, nations or legal systems.

Neither of the noble Lords mentioned the Russia situation or answered on whether it would be okay for the Russian Federation now to ignore interim indications that prisoners of war in the Russia-Ukraine conflict should not be executed. They also did not mention that, in an earlier group, the Government prayed in aid the Strasbourg test as the test that they want to adopt before anyone can have a non-suspensive claim. That is odd, because you would expect the Strasbourg court to trust Governments more than you would expect His Majesty’s Government to trust removal of individual people to places outside the jurisdiction of the Council of Europe.

I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for pointing out that Clause 52, which is about our own courts, was totally ignored in the extensive vaudeville. We had the pleasure of the vaudeville but there was no mention of the ouster in Clause 52 of our own courts, and that is rather telling. However, I am grateful to the Minister. I think he got to the point of the debate between us in his closing remarks. He talks about the last-minute opaque process. With emergency interim measures, there is always the possibility for ex parte—get the judge out of the Garrick Club late at night or get the judge up in his or her pyjamas. The crucial thing is that I agree with the Minister that thereafter, even if that emergency relief has to be granted, even ex parte, there ought to be the possibility of looking again, with both parties represented. The Minister and I agree about that.

I think that Clause 52 is totally unconscionable. I think that Clause 53 is the Government’s attempt at negotiating. We are negotiating now by legislation—so we do policy by legislation and now we do negotiation with the Council of Europe via this legislation. I disagree about whether that is the right way to make friends and influence people, but it may be that I am wrong about that. Perhaps it will work, but if it has not worked by the time of Report I will be back, and I will be urging the Committee, and by that point the whole House, to reject not just Clause 53 but Clause 52 as well. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 116 withdrawn.

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

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Illegal Migration Bill

Baroness Chakrabarti Excerpts
Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I have my doubts about the term “safe and legal routes” as well. I would prefer to focus on safety; to talk about legal routes now impliedly accepts the argument that people who come here in the way that we have been discussing are in some way illegal. I do not think the routes are illegal any more than the people.

I did not know that my noble friend was going to refer to the recent report of the Justice and Home Affairs Committee on family migration, published in February. It raised a number of matters pertinent to the debate. Noble Lords will be familiar with the problem that one of our recommendations addresses. We recommended that the Home Office should allow biometrics to be completed on arrival in the UK for a wider range of nationalities in crisis situations. As noble Lords will know, there are many countries in which it is not possible to reach a visa application centre before travelling in order to enrol your biometrics. There are countries which do not have them. My noble friend Lord Purvis of Tweed said of the Government’s attitude to Iran and Sudan that they do not recognise the reality of the situation. In this connection, I do not think they recognise the realities either.

The reply from the Government arrived less than a week ago. I hope that this “in due course” is quite quick, and we will have the opportunity to debate it, but who knows? The Government said:

“Where an applicant considers they cannot travel to a Visa Application Centre … to enrol their biometrics, they can contact us to explain their circumstances”.


Well, that sounds practical, does it not? They continued:

“New guidance will be published in the near future setting out the unsafe journey policy. Where an applicant believes that travelling to a VAC would be unsafe, their request will be placed on hold pending the new guidance being published, however, should there be an urgent requirement to resolve their request this should be made clear in the request and consideration will be given as to the applicant’s circumstances and whether there is an urgent need to travel to the UK. If the request is deemed to be urgent we will contact the applicants to explain available options prior to the guidance being published”.


What a neat and tidy world the Home Office thinks exists.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I know this is not something I say very often, certainly not in the context of this debate, but the Government are to be commended for their welcome to Ukrainians and Hong Kongers, and a little less so for their slightly less warm welcome to Afghans.

Even more than commending the Government, I commend the British people who opened their homes and hearts to these desperate people. When we are making these generalisations about what our countrymen will or will not tolerate and what the will of the people is or is not, it is important to remember that. There is real value in allowing people to open their homes and hearts, rather than putting people on barges or in de facto prisons and so on. It is that separation that leads, in part, to the dehumanisation of these people who are coming to our shores in the most difficult times.

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is because that is the structure of the legislation, and it simply makes for good parliamentary drafting. There it is. Forgive me: I shall make some progress because we have a lot of groups to deal with.

Clause 58 provides for the Home Secretary to consult local authorities, and any other organisation or person deemed suitable, to understand their capacity. The cap figure, and by extension the routes to be covered by the cap, will be considered and voted on in Parliament through a draft affirmative statutory instrument. The cap will not automatically apply to all current and new safe and legal routes that we offer or will introduce in the future. The policy intention is to manage the accommodation burden on local authorities, and my officials are currently considering which routes are most suitable to be included within the cap.

Alongside the cap on safe and legal routes, Clause 59 further requires the Home Secretary to publish a report on existing and any proposed new safe and legal routes. In response to the right reverend Prelate, we will continue to work with the UNHCR and other organisations as the Secretary of State considers appropriate in devising proposed additional safe and legal routes.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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This is a technical point, but it is important to reflect on it before Report. It is not a substantive policy point, but the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, may have hit on something, in relation not just to the question of why it does not say “asylum seekers” but to a potential unlawful sub-delegation. If the regulation-making power is about safe and legal routes, and “safe and legal routes” will not be defined in vires in the primary legislation but will be determined in the regulations, there is a circularity that is in danger of looking either too vague or specifically like a potential unlawful sub-delegation. No doubt the Minister and his colleagues can discuss that with parliamentary counsel. I may be totally wrong, but the noble Lord may have hit on a point which the Government have been given an opportunity—there is time—to consider before Report. That is what Committee is for.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As I said, we have considered these issues and are satisfied with the drafting as it is, but of course I will look again at what the noble Baroness suggests.

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

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Baroness Chakrabarti Excerpts
Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, this is the first of a number of proposed new clauses relating to the efficiency of the Home Office and the elusive—maybe even illusory—impact assessment statement. We know we will be told that the impact assessment will be published “in due course”. The timetabling may be clear to the Home Office but it is not to any other noble Lord who has spoken. It occurred to me that the Home Office could really teach even Avanti West Coast or TransPennine Express something about timetabling.

We cannot put into the Bill that it should not go to Report without an impact assessment. Amendment 149 is therefore one of a number that I have tabled, all following the same form of drafting, so that the Bill should

“not come into force until”

and unless various things had happened, one of them being the receipt of the impact assessment. I realised, on reflection, that it was not my cleverest thought because I did not mean any old sort of impact assessment; I meant the sort that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, was referring to the other day, when he talked about due diligence. That is a term I understand pretty well, as I think most people would. However, the amendment enables me to make the point that noble Lords have been making throughout.

On Monday, the Minister certainly referred to an economic impact assessment, as I think he mentioned before. My reading of the debates is that noble Lords want far more than just an economic assessment. I do not need to spell out that the impact of the Bill on third-sector organisations and so on, as well as individuals, will be considerable.

Amendment 132 is about the operation of the Home Office. Frankly, it is a pretty mild amendment, especially given how often it is remarked—I agree with this—that the backlog of applications is the problem, not the number of asylum seekers. The amendment simply calls for a management review by independent experts.

Many people are calling for the Home Office to clear applications from asylum seekers who come from countries whose nationals succeed in their applications in almost every case. We have heard reference to this throughout the Committee. It should be quite straightforward, but I confess that I am in two minds about it. I am anxious that asylum seekers are not all in the same position or with the same characteristics, even if they come from the same country. It would be too easy not to see each asylum seeker as an individual whose application should be treated as that particular individual’s application. However, that does not invalidate the point that what has been happening—or not happening —in the Home Office, rather than in the channel, is at the heart of the situation.

I mentioned earlier today the Justice and Home Affairs Select Committee’s report, All Families Matter: An Inquiry Into Family Migration, and the Home Office’s response to it. During the inquiry that led to that report, the committee, which I chair, heard from witnesses vivid descriptions of their attempts to find out what was happening to their applications. To give one example, people said that they had to hold the line for long periods and had to give a credit card number in their details because they had to pay for the call. They paid to sit on the phone but then found, when they got through, that they were not speaking to the right person or that the number that they had been told to call was not the right one. The frustration and distress mount and mount. We know that the Home Office’s service standards were affected by the Ukraine visa scheme and that the Home Office aims—I stress that word—to begin republishing quarterly performance data as soon as possible. Let me stress that I do not think that any of this is the fault of individual officials; there is something about leadership and management that needs to be sorted.

I will not read a lot from the Government’s response to the committee’s report but I want to pick out a couple of points. We made these recommendations:

“The Home Office should adopt a new approach to communication … The Home Office should establish standards about its communication with applicants and routinely publish statistics on whether these standards are met. Applicants should be able to contact the Home Office free of charge”.


The Government’s response states that the Home Office

“is working on a notification service”;

it is “currently in test”, it says. It goes to say:

“All applications are proactively monitored, and customers”—


I hate the word “customers” in this context—

“are notified prior to the end date of the service standard”.

Communication does not seem to be the Home Office’s strongest point or its natural behaviour; it is not one of its characteristics. So much of this goes back to efficiency and sympathy for customers, which matters an awful lot. These people feel that, too often, too many of them are treated as statistics and numbers. The service is a poor one. That is one of the reasons why I have tabled Amendment 132, which I beg to move.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, Amendment 139 in this group is in my name. This group is all about efficiency and administration. Amendment 139 is purely a probing amendment—there is no way that anyone would seek to engineer changes to the machinery of government via an opposition amendment to yet another immigration Bill—but I put it down to probe the tensions that have been emerging and increasing in recent years, even months and weeks, between the respective competencies and missions of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on the one hand and the Home Office on the other. I also tabled it to stress the vital importance of international co-operation in dealing with the worst refugee crisis since just after the Second World War. It is, I am afraid, a crisis that is only going to deepen with the threats posed not just by the various conflicts all over the globe but by the climate crisis, as others have said.

Amendment 139 probes and sets out the kind of functions that sit with the Secretary of State. Noble Lords will remember that the Secretary of State is indivisible, so when Governments of various stripes move the deckchairs around and pass functions from one department to another or even rename or reconstruct departments, the Secretary of State is the Secretary of State. The kind of functions that I set out in my suggestion for an office for refugees and asylum seekers are those in general that are much more suited to the expertise and mission of the Foreign Office. That is why consideration of the various international obligations is set out, such as the function of considering safe passage and humanitarian protection and advising the Secretary of State in relation to aid and other action in conflict. It is the relationship between over there and over here.

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sorry to upset the noble Lord opposite, but that is the best I can do.

Amendment 138, again put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, is similar to his earlier amendment on returns agreements. It anticipates the debate we will come to later today about action to tackle people smuggling. As I do not want to pre-empt my noble and learned friend’s response to later amendments, I will keep my remarks brief at this stage. Suffice it to say that I support the broad intent of this amendment—namely, the need to strengthen the cross-border law enforcement response to modern slavery and people trafficking—but you do not advance such co-operation by setting out in a public document the UK’s negotiating strategy to agree co-operation agreements with other countries.

Moreover, there are also existing established channels which the NCA and others use when working with their counterparts to tackle human trafficking. Where new bilaterals or multilaterals are needed, we will pursue these, but, as I have said, there are well-established mechanisms which already support cross-border co-operation in this area.

In answer to the noble Lord’s questions about specific figures, I am afraid that I do not have those to hand; I will make those available to him later.

Amendment 135, also tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, looks to the Government to publish an assessment of the likely impacts of the Bill on the use of contingency asylum accommodation and the costs associated with any necessary increase in the use of contingency asylum accommodation. The Home Office is committed to ending the expensive use of hotels for asylum seekers, costing nearly £7 million a day. We recognise the need to take urgent action and will look at all available options for looking at reducing the use of hotels, including alternative sites and vessels. Asylum seekers will be in basic, safe and secure accommodation appropriate for this purpose, while providing value for money for the taxpayer. We are working closely to listen to the local communities’ views and to reduce the impact of these sites, including through providing on-site security and financial support.

Amendment 139, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, effectively seeks to transfer responsibility for the UK asylum system—the national referral mechanism, which considers and provides safe and legal routes and other similar functions—to the FCDO. She acknowledged that this is a probing amendment and put her case. I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, gave a rather better explanation than I will give, but I will attempt to explain the status quo. The Home Office is responsible for all aspects of control of the UK border. Managing and controlling legal and illegal migration into the UK, including processing asylum claims and the designation and operation of safe and legal routes, are part and parcel of this strategic function. Different parts of the system cannot, and should not, be considered and managed in isolation.

To take one example, as we have previously debated, our capacity to admit people to the UK through safe and legal routes is impacted by the level of illegal migration, so hiving off aspects of immigration policy and operations to a separate department is a recipe for confusion, disjointed policy-making and ineffective operations. The migration and borders system is highly complicated and this change would serve only to add unnecessary complexity. However, I assure the noble Baroness that the Home Office already works closely with other government departments, including the FCDO, on all cross-cutting matters to ensure that relative interests are considered accordingly during the development and implementation of immigration and asylum policy, and it will continue to do so.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to the Minister. He was quite right about this being a probing amendment to demonstrate the importance of the joined-upness of this being over here and that over there. I am equally grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, who is doing his old department a great service in dodging that particular bullet. The Minister talked about respective competencies and so on, so the Foreign Office should keep doing foreign affairs, including negotiating treaties, for example. Why did the Home Secretary and the Home Department negotiate the Rwanda pact, as opposed to leaving treaty negotiation to the Foreign Office? That came into my mind because the Minister mentioned the Rwanda agreement in the context of the impact assessment. Just to help him, I suggest that the impact assessment should be provided on the basis that the Government believe they will succeed in the litigation, so the impact assessment could be produced without delay on the predication that the Government are confident that their litigation will succeed.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will certainly ensure that the noble Baroness’s points are noted in the department.

Finally, Amendment 139FD would place a duty on the Home Secretary to publish quarterly statistics on the Bill’s operation after it is enacted. Again, I have no issue with the basic premise underpinning the amendment. We already publish a raft of immigration statistics on a quarterly basis and I have no doubt that these regular publications will be augmented to report on what is happening under this Bill once it is commenced. We will consider carefully what data it is appropriate to record and publish as part of our implementation planning. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and his Front-Bench colleagues in the other place will not be slow to press the Government for the kind of data referenced in the amendment.

I and my ministerial colleagues, in particularly my indefatigable noble friend Lord Murray, have heard loud and clear the calls from around the Committee that the economic impact assessment for the Bill should be available to your Lordships before the start of Report. My noble friend has committed to updating the House before the first day of Report and I have already read out the Home Secretary’s comments from this morning. However, having had this opportunity to debate the issue again, together with the other issues addressed in these amendments, I invite the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

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Moved by
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 3, leave out “unlawful migration, and in particular”
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, noble Lords across this House are to be commended for the anxious scrutiny given to this most controversial Bill over many hours, days and nights in Committee. Now, it is time to move through votes on as many already well-debated amendments as quickly as possible.

I have Amendments 1, 2, 3, 5 and 13 in this first group. However, short of any miraculous change of heart by the Home Secretary and the Government, it is the crucial Amendment 5, also bearing the names of the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, that I shall press in what I hope will be a very short while. It replaces the rather long and strange narrative in Clause 1, so as to reinstate Section 3, the interpretation provision, of the Human Rights Act, and ensure that the rest of the Bill is read so as not to require that British officials, Ministers or His Majesty’s judges breach precious international treaties that our former statesmen and stateswomen played such a heroic part in creating. These are the ECHR of 1950, the refugee convention of 1951, the conventions on statelessness of 1954 and 1961, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989, and the anti-trafficking convention of 2005.

This interpretation amendment is essential to protecting the most vulnerable people, including by any amendments to follow. It is equally important for the international rules-based order and for our reputation as a great democracy in a troubled world. That was two minutes. I beg to move.

Lord Etherton Portrait Lord Etherton (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I support the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, on one legal point. In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, stated, quite correctly, that we have a dualist system under which international obligations are not part of our law unless specifically incorporated by statute. I consider that this interpretation amendment does not fall foul of that because it imposes no positive obligation to do anything specifically required under those treaties. It is simply of a negative nature to say that the Bill itself —and, in due course, the Act—must be interpreted so as not to conflict with those treaties. For my part, it is perfectly legitimate and legal.

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the noble Lord will recall, and as my noble friend Lord Wolfson made clear in Committee, the UNHCR is not empowered to interpret or referee the convention. That is clear from the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. The UNHCR is not in a position to make that assessment, and I refer the House to the comments I made a moment ago.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am so grateful, as always, to all noble Lords for their contributions and to most noble Lords for their brevity. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 1.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.
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Moved by
5: Leave out Clause 1 and insert the following new clause—
“IntroductionNothing in this Act shall require any act or omission that conflicts with the obligations of the United Kingdom under— (a) the 1950 European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;(b) the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees including the Protocol to that Convention;(c) the 1954 and 1961 UN Conventions on the Reduction of Statelessness;(d) the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;(e) the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking Human Beings.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment replaces the narrative and interpretation provisions of Clause 1 with clear provision for compliance with all the key international obligations engaged by the Bill.
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
- Hansard - -

If the Government will not accept Amendment 13 as consequential, I will need to press Amendment 13 as well; but, first, I would like to test the opinion of the House on Amendment 5.

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Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Portrait Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the House will be aware that I support the direction of travel of the Bill quite strongly. It represents a serious effort—it may be a vain one, and will certainly be so if the Government accept all the loopholes in the amendments we have discussed this afternoon—to address an issue of considerable concern to our fellow citizens. But, although I support the direction of travel, that does not mean that I think it perfect in every sense. I will therefore take a minute to support Amendment 131, in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead—to which he has just spoken—and the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich.

I do not want to add to the background as the noble and learned Lord has obviously explained that very clearly. However, this does come under the issue that the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, and I tried to draw to the attention of both Houses when we chaired the Delegated Powers Committee and the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee respectively: the way in which power has been slipping through the hands of Parliament, with extensive and wide powers being taken by means of secondary legislation. Some might say that their use is improper, but let us say “extensive” for the purposes of this afternoon. Too often, these issues should have had a degree of scrutiny appropriate for primary legislation, and it is not satisfactory to introduce major issues of policy without that scrutiny.

We have to remember that we do need secondary legislation. Without it, the Government’s machine would gum up completely. But we need to make sure that its use is restricted to what it says on the tin—namely, issues of secondary importance. In my view, Clause 39, entitled

“Meaning of ‘serious and irreversible harm’,”


is of pretty fundamental importance.

I agree with the need for regulation. The world moves on much faster than the rather stately pace of primary legislation. That is why I could not support Amendment 132 in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, and the noble Lords, Lord Carlile and Lord Paddick, because it seeks to delete the whole clause. We need some regulatory power. In much the same way, I am concerned about Amendment 130, because it opens up a whole series of other loopholes that impede the impact of the Bill as a whole.

In response to the wider powers that the Government are seeking under the present formulation, Parliament is entitled to ask for some limits on future ministerial power. Let me use the analogy of driving down a road. The Government are entitled to drive down the road, but in turn Parliament is entitled to ask for guard-rails—guard-rails that will ensure that a future Minister cannot swerve off into parts of—

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way and for all his remarks thus far. Would he agree with me, in the light of the Companion, that this would be a good moment to hear from his noble friend the Minister?

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Portrait Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

If the noble Baroness had given me another two sentences, I would have finished. I was going to say we need guard-rails to make sure that future Ministers do not swerve off in directions hitherto undreamed of. It is because I think Amendment 131 represents those guard-rails that I support it.

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Moved by
152: Leave out Clause 53
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, the rule of law requires that Ministers are subject to the same rules as everyone else. This includes the possibility of discretionary interim relief in circumstances where courts believe that irreparable harm to one side in any litigation needs to be prevented while both parties await the final determination of an issue. Some noble Lords, including businesspeople and their lawyers, are perhaps more familiar with commercial than human rights litigation. However, the same principle applies. If I propose to dump or destroy the precious cargo entrusted to me because of alleged breaches by my customer, a court must obviously have the power to delay such drastic action pending crucial determinations of fact and law.

However, Clauses 53 and 54 would, first, completely oust the ability of UK courts to issue interim injunctions temporarily preventing a person’s expulsion to potential peril. Secondly, they would allow Ministers to ignore interim measures of the European Court of Human Rights, of the kind issued in the Rwanda case and those currently in place to prevent Russia executing Ukrainian prisoners of war. My Amendments 152 and 153 would remove these clauses, so as to respect domestic courts and the Strasbourg court. They are in no way wrecking amendments, as these courts only very rarely issue such measures against trustworthy, law-respecting jurisdictions such as we have been historically.

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Migration and Borders (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
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My Lords, the Bill establishes a bespoke claims and appeals process which provides for a person subject to the duty to remove to challenge their removal to a safe third country. The duty to remove will be temporarily suspended while consideration is given to any suspensive claim or appeal resulting from the refusal of that suspensive claim. That is of itself an effective remedy for those subject to the duty to remove, and these measures will ensure that all suspensive claims raised in response to a removal notice under the Bill will receive full judicial scrutiny.

Clause 53 is critical to the success of the Bill in preventing the United Kingdom’s domestic courts from granting interim remedies in relation to legal challenges which would prevent or delay the removal of a person who meets the removal conditions under Clause 2. Were other human rights claims and legal challenges to be made, they would be considered after a person has been removed. Clause 53 provides a necessary and effective safeguard against the endless merry-go-round of legal challenges that those with no right to be here use to thwart their removal.

Amendment 152 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, would incentivise people to obtain injunctions or submit judicial reviews to delay or prevent removal, negating the carefully crafted and balanced provisions we have set out in the Bill, which I have just described. We cannot allow that to happen. The amendment would substantially undermine the Government’s ability promptly to remove those who enter the UK illegally, and our overall objective of stopping the dangerous small-boat crossings.

Amendment 153 similarly seeks to weaken the Bill by striking out Clause 54, which relates to interim measures of the European Court of Human Rights. Let me be clear: it is not the Government’s intention to ignore a Rule 39 interim measure. Indeed, Clause 54 provides a clear framework for a Minister to exercise discretion where a Rule 39 interim measure is indicated. That will mean that a Minister may suspend removal in response to a Rule 39 interim measure but, crucially, is not bound by UK law so to do. This will be dependent on the facts of each case.

As I have said before, the Government take their international obligations very seriously. Nothing in the clause requires the Government to act in breach of international law. I reassure the noble Baroness that reflections within the Strasbourg court are ongoing, and we are closely following the process. We are confident that they will lead to meaningful change.

The inclusion of Clause 54 in the Bill reflects our concerns about the interim measures process. We believe that there needs to be greater transparency and fairness in the process to ensure the proper administration of justice. We cannot allow our ability to control our borders to be undermined by an opaque process which does not give the United Kingdom Government a formal opportunity to make representations or appeal the decision. This process risks derailing our efforts to tackle the people smugglers and stop people from making the dangerous, illegal and unnecessary journeys across the channel.

For the reasons I have set out, I therefore invite the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment and, if she is minded to test the opinion of the House on Amendment 152 or 153, I strongly urge noble Lords to reject the amendment.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, I am so grateful to all noble Lords who have stayed. I say to all noble Lords that the length of debate does not indicate its importance. I am particularly grateful to the Minister for his indication that productive discussions are still in train between His Majesty’s Government and the Strasbourg jurisdiction; I take from that a suggestion to reinforce my suspicion that Clause 54 was always a negotiating position to attempt to improve the due process position in relation to interim measures in the Strasbourg court. On that basis, I want to allow the Government more time to proceed with those negotiations before Third Reading.

However, in relation to Clause 53 and my Amendment 152, on depriving His Majesty’s domestic judges of the inherent jurisdiction to grant interim relief, that jurisdiction does not come from any government or party statute; it comes from the common law. To deprive His Majesty’s judges of the ability to grant interim relief is anathema to our common-law system. With gratitude, again, to all noble Lords who stayed—perhaps even more to those who did not speak than to those who did—I would like to test the opinion of the House.

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Illegal Migration Bill

Baroness Chakrabarti Excerpts
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, it is an absolute pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, and I agree with so much of what he said. I do not normally support the contemporary fashion for many speeches at Third Reading, but, because of the Minister’s kind words about the late noble and learned Lord, Simon Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, I want to echo the tributes to him at this opportunity. He was a titan of our chambers and of so much more. He was, above all else, an incredibly kind human being. Kindness is a quality that has been mentioned in this Chamber today a number of times.

The Minister is quite right that Lord Brown was much more sympathetic to the Minister’s position on this Bill than perhaps I have been, but I would like to leave noble Lords with some words from Lord Brown at ping-pong during the passage of last year’s Nationality and Borders Act. He was pressing me all day, by every available means of communication, to press an amendment that would have made that legislation—which is now defunct, I understand—subject to our international obligations under the refugee convention. This is what he said in the Chamber that night:

“My Lords, I rise, I hope for the last time—a hope which will be shared by every Member of this House”—


self-deprecating, as always—

“—to support this amendment. There are not many issues that it is worth going to the stake for, but surely the rule of law is one. I have spent 60 years of my life on it and do not propose to stop here. I suggest that your Lordships support this too”.—[Official Report, 27/4/22; col. 299.]

Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD)
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My Lords, I wish to echo some of the words of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. I, for one—like, I am sure, many noble Lords—do not have any pleasure in this Bill receiving its Third Reading because it lacks kindness, compassion and humanity. It is also not going to be effective, regardless of the rhetoric from the Dispatch Box.

For many of us who have been on this Bill, the way the Home Office has acted towards this Chamber has been with complete discourteousness. We had a late impact assessment, a late child impact assessment and they tried to keep us here for long hours to do our job, which is to scrutinise effectively.

I say very gently to the Minister, even though he has been very robust in his defence of the Bill, that it is not the job of this House to come up with a whole new Bill; it is our job to come up with amendments which make a Bill more effective. I believe the amendments we have passed make the Bill more effective, more compassionate and kinder in how we treat some of the most vulnerable people who seek asylum on these shores. I say very gently to the Minister, as he takes this back and it goes to the other place and as he speaks to the Home Secretary: think about the amendments, which are trying to make the Bill more effective; and make sure that the Home Office comes back, hopefully, with a Bill from the other place with a bit more compassion, kindness and effectiveness, and a lot less rhetoric.

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Illegal Migration Bill

Baroness Chakrabarti Excerpts
Moved by
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti
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At end insert “, and do propose Amendment 1B in lieu—

1B: Leave out Clause 1 and insert the following new clause—
“Introduction
In interpreting this Act, regard shall be given to the intention that its provisions, and any acts and omissions made as a result, are intended to comply with the United Kingdom’s obligations under-
(a) the 1950 European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;
(b) the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees including the Protocol to that Convention;
(c) the 1954 and 1961 UN Conventions on the Reduction of Statelessness;
(d) the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;
(e) the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking Human Beings.””
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, I beg to move Motion A1 as an amendment to Motion A. Ministers suggest that our Amendment 1, Amendment 7 as a consequential and Amendment 90 are wrecking and unnecessary. These criticisms are contradictory. If the Government take their international obligations so seriously, why should they be afraid to ensure that those charged with operating this proposed legislation, which clearly impacts on the rights of vulnerable people, understand that Ministers intend not to violate these rights? Why should Ministers have been unable to make a statement of their belief in ECHR compatibility in the Bill?

Alongside that strange logic comes a pseudo-legal argument from the Mickey Mouse school of jurisprudence that even to reference binding international obligations in domestic instruments somehow offends the sanctity of our dualist system. This is nonsense. It is because of our system, whereby international obligations signed by Ministers do not automatically become directly enforceable domestically without parliamentary approval, that successive Governments of both stripes have had to refer to various treaties or their contents in a host of relevant domestic measures. Section 2 of the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993 expressly gave primacy to the refugee convention. In 2009, in the EN Serbia case, the Court of Appeal found that that provision did not constitute informal or backdoor incorporation or undermine the principle of dualism, which is designed to protect parliamentary sovereignty and not to insulate Governments from their obligations. The Children Act 1989 takes its central best interests of the child principle directly from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child—two of numerous precedents.

The treaties in our Amendment 1 were chosen by truly cross-party, all-party and non-party consensus for relevance to the people, measures and rights engaged by this Bill. The Government’s real objection, and to consequential Amendment 7 and Amendment 90, is that no one, especially His Majesty’s judges, should be able to second-guess Home Office decisions. That is simply contrary to the rule of law on which any civilised society, let alone a great democracy, must be built. None the less, in the spirit of respectful dialogue, we have listened, compromised and amended our new Clause 1, softening its requirement to require having regard to the various conventions when interpreting the Bill. There is no way that that can now be regarded as incorporation rather than interpretation.

Further, the consequential Amendment 7 is reformulated so that the Section 2 duty to remove a person will stand, notwithstanding an application for judicial review, if a court refuses permission, or even just refuses to make an interim injunction. To respond further to concerns from the other place and the Benches opposite about so-called protracted legal knots, interim relief preventing a removal is to be granted under our new version of Amendments 90 only after the Secretary of State has had a reasonable opportunity to tell a court why this should not happen. Far from being wrecking amendments, these are wholly reasonable compromises to restore some semblance of legality and respect for international obligations, domestic judges and the rule of law. I beg to move.

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As I have said in this House many times, the purpose of these provisions is to prevent people smugglers encouraging fraudulent claims to be children. On the question raised by the right reverend Prelate as to whether Rwanda will provide appropriate care for the children, this matter was extensively canvassed during the Rwanda litigation, and the court was satisfied that sufficient arrangements had been made in the memorandum of understanding. I invite noble Lords to refer to the judgment in that regard. I am very grateful to the right reverend Prelate for his indication that he will not press that amendment to a Division.
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords, particularly to the noble and learned Lords who gave their ruling on the backdoor incorporation point. Of course, Section 2 of the 1993 Act was much stouter than either version of our Amendment 1.

Dr King, not a judge but a man of God, famously said:

“It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important”.


Across this House yesterday, we pleaded for kindness. Today, we come with a more modest plea: for the rule of law. I have moved the Motion and ask the House to approve it.

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Moved by
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti
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At end insert “, and do propose Amendment 7B in lieu—

7B: Clause 4, page 6, line 6, at end insert “if the court seized of the application refuses permission, interim relief or the application.””
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Lord Beith Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Beith) (LD)
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The original Question was that Motion D be agreed to, since when Motion D1 has been moved as an amendment to Motion D. The Question therefore is that Motion D1 be agreed to. The matter will be decided by a Division.

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Moved by
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti
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At end insert “, and do propose Amendment 90D to the words so restored to the Bill—

90D: Page 54, line 3, at end insert “without attempting to give reasonable notice to the Secretary of State so as to allow representations as to why, notwithstanding ongoing proceedings as to the legality of a decision to remove the person, they should nonetheless be removed.””
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, I understand that Motion T1 is consequential on Motions already passed. I beg to move.

Motion T1 agreed.

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Illegal Migration Bill

Baroness Chakrabarti Excerpts
Moved by
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti
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At end insert “, and do propose Amendments 90F, 90G and 90H in lieu—

90F: Leave out Clause 1 and insert the following new clause—
“IntroductionIn interpreting this Act, regard shall be given to the United Kingdom’s obligations under—(a) the 1950 European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;(b) the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees including the Protocol to that Convention;(c) the 1954 and 1961 UN Conventions on the Reduction of Statelessness;(d) the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;(e) the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking Human Beings.”
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Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, I remind noble Lords that this Bill was not a manifesto commitment at the last election; it is rather the extended version of a populist slogan for the upcoming one. That distinction is even more constitutionally significant when the Executive propose to expunge the age-old common law jurisdiction of His Majesty’s courts to issue interim relief in expulsion cases, the judicial practice of considering international obligations, and the Human Rights Act 1998 duty to interpret legislation compatibly with convention rights and freedoms where possible.

Noble Lords, and in particular the noble and learned Lords, Lord Hope and Lord Etherton, rejected the Government’s suggestion that the previous amendment to Clause 1 offended our legal traditions. None the less, we have softened it still further, removing references to “acts and omissions” and intended compliance only in the spirit of dialogue with the other place. Now, it merely requires that those interpreting this measure give regard to the human rights treaties mentioned. Without this amendment, an eventual illegal migration Act 2023 could become effectively exempt from the European Convention on Human Rights under domestic law as soon as its provisions are brought into force.

Again, in attempted dialogue with the other place we have clarified the amendment to Clause 4 to ensure that the duty to remove—so central to the Government’s scheme—is revived the moment a first instance court dismisses an application unless permission to an appeal court is granted. Without this amendment, the duty to remove applicants would continue, even where our higher courts are still considering the safety of a third country such as Rwanda.

The amendment to Clause 52 has been tightened to provide that courts must not only attempt but ensure that they give reasonable opportunity to the Secretary of State to object before granting interim injunctions preventing removal. Without this amendment, no British court would retain its common law power to prevent removal, despite grave risk to a person subject to ongoing legal proceedings. Noble Lords will remember that the Government have already taken the power to ignore Strasbourg interim relief under Clause 53.

In summary, without these amendments, the Government could argue a power, or even a duty, to remove new arrivals—potentially even as we rest this summer—before the Supreme Court hears the Rwanda test case in relation to past arrivals this autumn. That is what is at stake: one of the gravest executive power grabs and abrogations of the rule of law in living memory. That is why the, yes, unelected but more independent Chamber should exceptionally stand firm to protect the constitutional role of our courts and the rule of law.

In a state of sadness and some disbelief that things have come to this in our beloved land of rights advancement, from Magna Carta to the post-war settlement, I beg to move.

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, I simply cannot accept the proposition advanced by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti. As the House will remember from the last occasion, a court always has regard, if possible, to the international treaties binding the United Kingdom, as was made clear by Lord Dyson in the Supreme Court in the Assange case.

The noble Baroness’s amendment is simply unnecessary, and, in addition, it would have the effect of changing the constitutional relationship of our law and international law. I am afraid, therefore, that I cannot accept her proposed Motion. I invite noble Lords to vote against it in the event that it is not withdrawn.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords. I have moved Motion A1 and I ask noble Lords to approve it.