Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Stephen Kinnock Excerpts
Michael Tomlinson Portrait Michael Tomlinson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The answer is that this Prime Minister has placed around his Cabinet table the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Johnny Mercer)—a veterans’ Minister sitting at the highest level. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has served our country, as have many right hon. and hon. Members across the House. We will not let veterans down. That is the reassurance that has been given from this Dispatch Box and in the other place by the noble Lord Sharpe.

The hon. Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) expressed optimism on Monday. I confess that I too am an optimist. May I take this opportunity, perhaps in the optimistic hope that this might be my last opportunity during the passage of the Bill, to thank all the Bill team in the Home Office for their extraordinary work? It is a team effort, but may I praise one who has gone above and beyond, whose voice, I hope, recovers? She knows who I am talking about. I thank the parliamentary Clerks for their advice and assistance, not least in our marathon Reasons Committee sessions. I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for always ensuring that I have been in order.

To conclude, we have made it abundantly clear that our priority is to stop the boats. We simply cannot stand by and allow people smugglers to control who enters our country and to see more lives being lost at sea. We have an obligation to the public and to those who are being exploited by criminal gangs to stop this vile trade and protect our borders. Letting this Bill pass now will send a clear signal that if people come to the United Kingdom illegally they will not be able to stay. I commend the motion to the House.

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I thank the noble Lords in the other place for all the hard work they have done in trying to amend the Bill, which is quite frankly a sham and a con. I would like to highlight the restraint that they have exercised. Despite the deeply damaging nature of this legislation, in terms of its impact on our constitutional conventions and our adherence as a country to the rule of law, none of the amendments before us today seeks to wreck the Bill or the unworkable, unaffordable and unlawful scheme the Bill seeks to enact. Not one of them would prevent flights to Rwanda from taking off or stop the Government flogging this dead horse of a policy. Instead, the amendments seek only to commit the Government to the promises they have already made about who will be sent to Rwanda, and to clarify the mechanisms that will underpin that process.

Ministers claim that there is tremendous and pressing urgency, but if that is the case why did the Government forgo the opportunity to use Monday 25 and Tuesday 26 March for debates and divisions on the Bill? Could it be because they needed extra time to scramble high and low for an airline that wanted to be associated with this unworkable, unaffordable and unlawful scheme? Or could it be because the Home Secretary is unable to decide who should be exempted from deportation to Rwanda? Indeed, it has been reported that, because of his dithering, the entire hare-brained scheme has been given a “red risk” rating in the Home Office.

That brings me to the permanent secretary’s comments at the Public Accounts Committee on Monday—namely that 40,000 asylum seekers are currently stuck in the truly Kafkaesque perma-backlog of inadmissible cases whose claims for asylum the Government are refusing to process. Forty thousand requires an awful lot of flights, given that the Government have not managed to get one flight off the ground and given what we know about the Rwandan Government’s capacity to process just a few hundred cases a year.

Therefore, given that a maximum of around 1% of the asylum seekers who are in the perma-backlog can be sent to Rwanda, what is the Minister’s plan for the remaining 99% who are stuck in this indefinite limbo of his Government’s own making? Is the plan to keep them in taxpayer-funded hotels, of which hundreds are still in operation, according to what the Minister for Legal Migration and the Border said on Monday, despite the Government’s boasts? Or, perhaps they will have an amnesty, which the hon. Member for South Thanet (Craig Mackinlay) warned about last year, and which the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) warned about at that very Committee.

Well, we know what we would do: we would deliver our backlog clearance plan, surging the number of decision-makers to process claims quickly, and set up our new returns and enforcement unit with 1,000 new staff to remove those who have no right to be here.

It is quite frankly shocking that the number of foreign criminals removed has dropped by a staggering 27 % under the Conservatives, and also profoundly worrying that the number of failed asylum seekers being returned has plummeted by 44 % in that time, with just 2%—2%!—of small boat crossers removed since 2018. What a sorry state of affairs.

Our new returns unit, together with our cross-border police units to go after the criminal smuggler gangs operating in the channel upstream—funded, of course, through redirecting the money that has been squandered on Rwanda—gives us a compelling and realistic plan. It is a plan that is based on hard graft, common sense and effective international co-operation, in stark contrast with the headline-chasing gimmicks, empty gestures and blank cheques that have come to define the way in which successive Conservative Governments have broken our asylum system and lost control of our borders.

The Government’s refusal to engage constructively with the other place on this Bill is deeply disappointing, given that their lordships have simply been fulfilling their constitutional duty to revise and improve the draft legislation that we convey to them. The noble Baroness Butler-Sloss received a tiny concession for her commendable attempts to stop the Government sending victims of modern slavery to Rwanda, but let us be clear: that concession was barely worth the paper that it was written on.

It is utterly shameful that Ministers are still refusing to accept the amendment in the name of the noble Lord Browne. We owe a debt of honour and gratitude to the Afghans who so bravely fought alongside British troops, and the idea that we might send them to Rwanda is simply unconscionable. Lord Browne’s amendment is not only driven by a moral imperative; it is underpinned by our national interest and by military logic, for the simple and obvious reason that the ability of our armed forces to recruit local allies will be severely constrained if this Bill passes unamended.

Let me turn now to the other amendments before us today. It cannot be repeated often enough that adherence to the rule of law must remain at the heart of our constitutional conventions, and as a cornerstone of our liberal democratic values. It is therefore profoundly concerning that Ministers continue to refuse to recognise how important it is for Britain to abide by these principles, and to have this commitment in the Bill.

William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I simply want to put it to the hon. Gentleman that, as the rule of law includes the basis of sovereignty, it is quite clear—from one great jurist to another right the way down through the generations—that, where an Act of Parliament is clear and unambiguous in its wording, it is the duty of the courts, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister has just said with regard to Lord Reed’s judgment, to give effect to those words. That is the rule of law, not this confection that the hon. Gentleman is producing time and again. If I may say so, he has flogged this dead horse not just once, but many times, because he keeps on saying it. He has repeated himself now three times. I have never seen a dead horse flogged so badly as that by the hon. Gentleman.

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
- Hansard - -

Lectures about flogging dead horses in the context of a debate about Rwanda really is quite extraordinary, because if we wanted a definition of a dead horse, it is this policy. The hon. Gentleman and I have had many exchanges on this point and I have enjoyed them. As I have repeatedly said to him, yes Parliament is sovereign, but Parliament must act with due care and attention and caution with regard to the opinions that come from our most eminent court, the Supreme Court, and in this case the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Rwanda is not a safe country. It is a travesty that Parliament is seeking to undermine the rule of our judiciary in that way and it raises deeply troubling questions about this issue of the rule of law.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Where would the proposed returns unit send illegals to, and what if the countries concerned did not want to receive them?

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
- Hansard - -

I am pleased the right hon. Gentleman has asked me that question, as we often get this point about returns from Conservative Members. What I find fascinating is that, when we look at, for example, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, which are clearly safe countries in principle, we see that 80% of the applicants from those countries whose asylum claims fail are not being removed by this Government. For instance, the Home Office rejected asylum applications from 1,750 Pakistanis in 2023, yet Home Office data shows that just 620 people were removed to Pakistan in 2023. A clear proportion of those would have been asylum seekers—some may well have been foreign national offenders. The key point is that there are many, many countries to which it is more than possible to return people, yet the Government are simply failing to do so.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden) asked an extraordinary question in Home Office orals on Monday about a foreign national offender in her constituency who has been convicted of a sexual offence and has asked to be returned to his country of origin, but the Home Office has not facilitated that or allowed it to happen. Clearly, there is something going seriously wrong with returns. As I have mentioned, we have seen the number of returned failed asylum seekers plummet by 44% since 2010. We should be focusing on those countries with low grant rates, because that is where we can clear some of this backlog and return people to their country of origin when they have no right to be here.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the shadow Minister for giving way. I find it interesting that he has suggested that all we need to do is ask India for emergency travel documents and it will immediately issue them. Has he made any attempt to find out what the issues might be there?

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
- Hansard - -

The key point is that, under the last Labour Government, returns were working. A part of that, I suspect, is based on proper, adult, grown-ups in the room having proper, adult, grown-up diplomatic conversations with the Governments with whom we mean to engage. What we have seen with this Government over the past few years is a consistent commitment to burning diplomatic relationships with a whole range of countries, and when we burn those bridges it makes it much more difficult to achieve what we need to achieve in our own national interest.

The Government have promised a whole range of things from that Dispatch Box, and the Lords amendments on these rule of law issues are simply seeking to put in the Bill what Ministers have promised. Why else are they rejecting the amendment in the name of my noble friend, Lord Coaker, which simply asks the Government to commit to promises that they have made? Likewise, why not support the Lords amendment in the name of the noble Baroness Chakrabarti, which allows Ministers, officials and courts to consider whether Rwanda is safe for individuals on a case-by-case basis, if the Government support the principle of appeals, as Ministers claim that they do?

--- Later in debate ---
Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
- Hansard - -

It is for the simple reason that we want to put in the Bill an articulation of what has already been said by Ministers from the Dispatch Box. We feel that it is extremely important to underline this country’s commitment to the rule of law. The hon. Gentleman mentions the Leader of the Opposition; as an eminent lawyer himself, there are few who are more committed to the rule of law than he.

If there is a parallel universe in which the Rwandan Government are able to process asylum claims in a safe and competent manner, surely it makes sense to verify that point and the measures that are set out in the Rwanda treaty, and to verify that they have been fully implemented, and for the Government’s hand-picked monitoring committee to establish that that is the case. That is not an unreasonable request from the noble Lord Hope, and the Government should therefore support his amendment, precisely as the Chair of the Justice Committee, the hon. and learned Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill), who is no longer in his place, pointed out.

The British people are looking on at this Government’s attempts to continue flogging this dead horse of a Bill—that seems to have become the metaphor of the day—with a growing sense of bemusement and anger. Blowing half a million pounds of taxpayers’ money on sending 300 people to Rwanda is utterly mind-boggling. It is equally staggering that £2 million will be spent per asylum seeker to send them to Rwanda. We could surely spend £2 million more effectively on sending the Prime Minister and his four predecessors on a one-way trip to outer space with Virgin Galactic.

Perhaps the right thing to do would be for the Government to drop this entire failing fiasco and instead adopt Labour’s detailed plan to repurpose the Rwanda money into smashing the criminal smuggler gangs and ending the Tory small boats chaos. We know what the Bill is really about; the former Immigration Minister, the right hon. Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick), admitted it in December. It is all about the Prime Minister getting “a few symbolic flights” off the ground before the general election. This weekend, a civil servant confirmed to Lizzie Dearden in the i newspaper that efforts are geared towards a single flight as “proof of concept”, calling it an “election vanity scam”.

That really tells us everything that we need to know. None of this is about dealing with the chaos that the Government have created; they have focused on getting a couple of symbolic flights off the ground. It lets the cat well and truly out of the bag. Everyone can see the Rwanda scheme for what it really is, everyone can see the legislation for what it really is, and everybody can see this Government for what they are. I think we need a new one, and so too do the British people.

Robert Buckland Portrait Sir Robert Buckland (South Swindon) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Bearing in mind the short time, I will do my best to speak briefly. We have four amendments from the Lords. I can deal with them in short order. Amendment 1D has no merit. I have not voted on that particular issue before, but today I will vote against it, because we cannot perfect that mess of a clause—clause 1. I will not repeat the arguments that I have made on that, and I really do not think that the amendment improves the clause with the addition of various statutes, as the Minister said. I think that we should reject the amendment.

I agree that amendment 6D is a wrecking amendment. We know that the delineation of clause 4 specifically with individual cases was a proper and right addition to the Bill from the outset, which I think makes it compliant with the rule of law. Therefore the amendment should be rejected. I will not repeat my arguments on amendment 10D. I still think that there is a class of people who served this country, and bravely exposed themselves to danger, who have not yet been dealt with. Many of them are in Pakistan. It would perhaps have been helpful to see an amendment in lieu to deal with that point, as the Minister did with regard to modern-day slavery, for which I thank him.

I was pleased to hear the detailed reference that the Minister made to the progress being made by the Government of Rwanda to implement the provisions under the treaty. That is clearly the issue at the heart of amendment 3E and clause 2. He knows my concern about deeming provisions and the desirability of their meeting the reality of the situation, which is why I welcome his statement, and the statement of the noble Lord, the Advocate-General in the other place, that the Bill will not come into force until the treaty has been implemented.

I think the Minister conceded that the amendment in the name of the noble Lord Hope is not a wrecking amendment; it is designed to ensure that there is a mechanism through which this place can deal with the fact that Rwanda is a safe country, and to ensure that if, God forbid, the situation ever deteriorated such that it was no longer a safe country, we would not need primary legislation to correct the situation. At the moment we would. The second proposed new subsection in amendment 3E would allow this place to be involved in a situation where Rwanda might no longer be a safe country, on the advice of the independent monitoring committee, which of course is a creature of the treaty itself, set up under the treaty, as the Minister described. It is not part of the Hope amendment to set up a new body. That is not the intention.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Kinnock Excerpts
Monday 15th April 2024

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the shadow Minister.

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

Under successive Conservative Governments since 2010, returns of failed asylum seekers have collapsed by 44%, and returns of foreign national offenders have fallen by almost 30% over the same period. For all the Government’s tough talk, only 2% of those arriving on small boats since 2018 have been returned anywhere, yet Ministers are still resisting Labour’s plan for a new returns and enforcement unit to ensure the swift removal of those with no right to be here. Meanwhile, over the weekend, more people crossed the channel in small boats than will be covered in the entire first year of the Government’s failing Rwanda scheme. Will the Minister stop the headline-chasing gimmicks and instead commit to setting out his plan for the 99% of people currently stuck in the asylum system who will never be sent to Rwanda?

Michael Tomlinson Portrait Michael Tomlinson
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The fact of the matter is that nearly 18,000 foreign national offenders were returned between January 2019 and December 2023. The fact of the matter is that Opposition Members, including the leader of the Labour party, have campaigned to prevent the deportation of foreign criminals, while Government Members welcome an increase of 74%, with an average of 500 people being removed every single week.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Kinnock Excerpts
Monday 26th February 2024

(3 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the shadow Minister.

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

Since our last Home Office questions, the list of Government failures on immigration has continued to grow relentlessly: 30,000 asylum seekers stuck in limbo, unable to be processed due to the Prime Minister’s legislative fiasco; 250 visas awarded to a care home that does not actually exist; net migration trebled; and criminals free to fly into our country undetected on private jets. Having just sacked the independent inspector of borders and immigration, is the Home Secretary sitting on 15 different reports by the inspector because he is checking for typos, or is it because he is utterly terrified of what those reports will tell us about this Government’s shambolic and failing immigration system?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Let me answer that point very directly: having given proper consideration to those reports, we will be responding to them. As I said in the House last week, we will do so very soon. The shadow Minister mentioned the Government trying to dodge scrutiny. When it comes to the general aviation report, for example, it was our officials who asked the inspector to take it forward. Far from dodging scrutiny, we have invited it in that area. We will respond properly and thoroughly to that report in exactly the way that I undertook to do last week.

Deportation of Foreign National Offenders

Stephen Kinnock Excerpts
Wednesday 7th February 2024

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Mr Gray. I congratulate the hon. Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean) on securing this important debate. It was interesting to hear her questions to the Minister about the Government’s dreadful record on removing foreign criminals, and I look forward to his answers.

I also want to echo the comments from the Scottish National party spokesperson, the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss), on the deep concerns around the Clapham incident. The shadow Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), has written to the Home Secretary with a number of questions, trying to probe what has happened and to get to the bottom of that deeply disturbing matter.

It is beyond doubt that the Conservatives have completely lost control of our asylum system; indeed, the Prime Minister has admitted that the system is broken. He has failed to stop the Tory boats chaos, with 30,000 asylum seekers crossing the channel last year, the second highest number on record. We have 56,000 asylum seekers in taxpayer-funded emergency hotel accommodation at a cost of £8 million every day. Just to exacerbate the problem, the number of foreign criminals being removed has collapsed by a staggering 34% since 2010, when the last Labour Government were in office. Arguably even more disturbing is that we know that 8,786 foreign national offenders are not even being detained. They are out there living in communities across Britain for at least 12 months, with almost 4,000 staying for more than five years, having been released by the Conservative Government. It is quite frankly astonishing.

The first duty of any Government is to keep their people safe. The Home Office is responsible for ensuring that rules are fairly and robustly enforced. It must deport dangerous foreign criminals who have no right to be in our country and who should be returned to the country of their citizenship. That is precisely why the last Labour Government introduced stronger laws to that effect. We on the Opposition Benches are committed to building an immigration system that is firm, fair and well managed, so we find it deeply troubling that Ministers are failing to uphold these basic principles and deeply frustrating that they are blaming everybody else for their failings.

It is little wonder that a number of expert reports over recent years have pointed to how Home Office failures have resulted in fewer foreign criminals being deported than should be the case. In 2015, the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration stated that one in three failures to deport foreign criminals was due to Home Office dysfunction. If we fast-forward to the present day, the latest immigration figures show that the Home Office is still failing miserably in that regard, so it is no surprise that the ICIBI has intensified his criticism. Last summer, he stated in his report:

“This is no way to run a government department.”

He added that the Home Office is unable

“to track and monitor the progression of cases”

with insufficient focus on processing removals rather than simply managing cases. What an utterly damning account of the Government’s handling of this critical aspect of our national security.

Why have removals collapsed under the Minister’s watch? Why does he think the independent inspector has criticised his Department in such damning terms? He will no doubt point to the large number of appeals. He loves to blame the judges, the French, the Opposition and the civil servants—he will probably even blame the football pundits—but what are he and his Government doing to make sure the cases are brought forward, and that they are watertight and not easily delayed?

Further, what diplomatic work is being done with other Governments to ensure that we can return those who have no right to be in the UK to their countries of origin? What is being done to encourage more voluntary returns? There used to be a much more effective system, whereby an assisted returns programme was run by Refugee Action. Since 2015, under Home Office management, that programme seems to be utterly broken, with voluntary returns plummeting.

Time and again, the Conservatives choose headline-chasing gimmicks rather than doing the hard graft of Government. Thankfully, Labour has a plan to clear up that dreadful mess. We have set out plans to establish a major new returns and enforcement unit in the Home Office, recruiting 1,000 new enforcement officers to speed up the deportations of those with no right to remain in Britain, including the removal of foreign national offenders, which, as I say, has plummeted by a third since 2010. We are also warning that the failing £400 million Rwanda scheme will not solve the problem of foreign national offenders, as the Rwandan Government can refuse anyone with a criminal conviction. The treaty instead says that foreign national offenders in Rwanda can be returned to the UK—you could not make it up.

The Home Office has a responsibility to get its deportation decisions right. The Conservatives have been in power for 14 years. It is their failure, their responsibility. If they cannot get it sorted, let us have a general election so that we can have a Labour Government in place that will fix the dreadful mess that has been made over 14 years.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Kinnock Excerpts
Monday 15th January 2024

(5 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the shadow Minister.

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

The shambolic incompetence of this Government across every aspect of its disgraceful mismanagement of our country’s asylum system knows no bounds, but today I will highlight a particularly egregious example. We already knew that the number of removals of asylum seekers whose claims had been rejected had collapsed by 50% since Labour left office in 2010, but over the weekend it emerged that the Home Office had lost contact with an astonishing 85% of the 5,000 people who have been identified for removal to Rwanda. Where on earth are those 4,250 asylum seekers who have gone missing?

Will the Home Secretary drop all the smoke and mirrors and acknowledge that the Rwanda plan is just an extortionately expensive and unworkable distraction? When will he adopt Labour’s plan to recruit 1,000 additional immigration enforcement officers to a new returns unit, so that we can have a system that is based on common sense—

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
- Hansard - -

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No, it is not “thank you”. I have to get a lot of people in and this is totally unfair. The question was very, very long, and I was coughing to get the hon. Gentleman to stop, not to continue. That is the signal we need to understand. If the hon. Gentleman does not want a particular Back Bencher to get in, I ask him please to point them out, because this is giving me that problem.

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Stephen Kinnock Excerpts
Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I rise to join the shadow Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), in supporting the reasoned amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

I start by sending my condolences to the friends and family of the asylum seeker who tragically died while on the Bibby Stockholm this morning.

I thank all those across the House who have sent their condolences to me and my family over the past 10 days. We have been overwhelmed by the flood of tributes and messages, which have made us prouder than ever of what my mum was and all she achieved. It is very tempting to respond by taking a more conciliatory approach to this debate, but given the state of the legislation before us, and given everything that my mother stood for, I think she would be absolutely appalled that such a thought might ever cross my mind. So, let’s get stuck in, shall we?

First, I thank the House for an excellent debate. I express gratitude in particular to my hon. Friends on the Labour Benches, who spoke with such passion, logic and conviction. I also of course welcome the latest immigration Minister to his post, the Minister for Illegal Migration. I note that the performance of his predecessor led the Prime Minister to conclude that the job was too big for one Conservative Member alone, so they cut the position in two. Well, the more the merrier, I say. Welcome one and all!

When I began in this post two years ago, my first opposite number was fronting the Nationality and Borders Bill, which effectively handed each asylum seeker who crossed the channel a badge saying, “I am inadmissible for asylum” while making no provision for what practically could be done with those unprocessed claimants. They duly ended up in taxpayer-funded emergency hotels at the cost of £8 million a day. Next up was my second opposite number, with the Illegal Migration Bill. It was rushed through Parliament, yet not a single one of its core measures on detention and removal have been enacted. The Act is on the shelf, gathering dust. Now we have my third opposite number, who has well and truly taken one for the team by agreeing to introduce this utterly absurd piece of legislation, a Bill that his predecessor described as

“a further betrayal of Tory voters”.

The deckchairs have been rearranged, but the Titanic is still steaming towards the iceberg.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Rwanda scheme is the story of its origin. Cast your mind back to April 2022, Madam Deputy Speaker. Boris Johnson was Prime Minister, and he was in the eye of the partygate storm, so he cooked up a cunning plan to rescue his premiership, which I believe became known as Operation Save Big Dog. And lo, the Rwanda scheme was born. Like every other scheme Mr Johnson has ever been associated with, it was extortionately expensive and doomed to fail. Yet here we are 18 months, two Prime Ministers, two Home Secretaries and three immigration Ministers later, and those on the Conservative Benches are still shackled to a policy that was only ever designed to be a diversion from a scandal. True to form, the Rwanda scheme is still being deployed as a skin-saving operation, the only difference being that it is the current Prime Minister who is desperately trying to cling to power by burnishing his Faragiste credentials to keep the circling vultures at bay. It really is déjà vu all over again.

I turn now to this new “Please, Please, Please Make Rwanda Safe Bill”, which is without doubt the most absurd piece of legislation I have ever seen. It does nothing at all to make Rwanda safe; it just asserts that Rwanda is safe and that our courts are not allowed to say otherwise. It argues that black is white and white is black; that the grass is blue and the sky is green. In the spirit of this legislation, I might try to introduce a Bill that deems that Wales actually won the rugby world cup recently.

Further still, the Rwandan Government are calling the shots. Having extracted £300 million from the British Government—today we think we heard £400 million—Mr Kagame is now instructing the Prime Minister not to do anything that might break international law. It really is quite extraordinary. How ironic that some on the Government Benches rail against our international legal obligations, yet seemed content to allow Kigali to dictate the terms of our asylum policies. So much for taking back control!

The upshot of this fiasco is that the Prime Minister has gone for a fudge. The Supreme Court judgment was his opportunity to stop flogging the dead horse that the Rwanda scheme has clearly become, but he has chosen not to take it. He is also not prepared to go with the full-fat option that some on the Government Benches are urging him to adopt. So, inevitably, his semi-skimmed formula satisfies no one, because, as everyone—from this side of the House to even the former Home Secretary —has said, it is destined to fail, both legally and in operational terms.

The fundamental contradictions at the heart of the Bill are also quite astonishing. First, the Home Secretary told us from the Dispatch Box last week that it complied with international law, but the very first page confirms that he is actually not sure that it does. Secondly, the Bill says that Rwanda is safe for refugees, but then also states that the Government might need to offer refuge to asylum seekers from—checks notes—Rwanda. Thirdly, the Bill is meant to be about preventing what the Government call “illegal migrants” from seeking sanctuary in the UK, but if one of those asylum seekers commits a crime in Rwanda, that person can be sent back to—checks notes again—the UK. Never mind Operation Save Big Dog. This Bill is Operation Dog’s Breakfast.

The Rwanda scheme is not only unlawful; it is also unaffordable and unworkable. First, let us give credit where credit is due. The Rwandan Government have played a blinder on this one, and they are laughing all the way to the bank. They really did see this Prime Minister coming. After all, £400 million with absolutely nothing in return, no questions asked, really is a sweet deal—although never let it be said that the Government have failed to get any flights off to Rwanda, because they absolutely have. They have proudly flown not one, not two, but three Home Secretaries to Kigali. I suppose we could say that so far it is £130 million per Home Secretary, which I am sure the British people will see as an excellent use of their taxes.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As my hon. Friend will know, I worked for his father and my daughter worked for his mother. Does he think that all this is a façade for a form of international development? The Government do not like international development, so is this a way of targeting one country and giving it £140 million, or £200 million?

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words. He is right to suggest that the vast majority of people fleeing war and persecution end up in neighbouring countries in the region in which their plight is generated, and of course we need an overseas development programme that is focused and seeks, through enlightened self-interest, to ensure that we support those countries.

We are constantly told by Conservative Members that the Rwanda scheme will act as a deterrent, but that claim simply does not stand up to scrutiny, because Rwanda can take fewer than 1% of the asylum seekers who cross the channel in small boats. It is inconceivable that people who have already risked life and limb to get as far as northern France will be deterred by a 1% risk of anything. The Labour party has therefore been steadfast in our opposition to this madness from the very outset. We are absolutely committed to stopping the Tory boats chaos, but we will never vote for a madcap gimmick that is unaffordable, unworkable and unlawful.

We have constantly said that the Government need to redirect the money that is being squandered on this nonsense to a cross-border police unit, a new returns unit, and a security partnership with Europol that can stop the Tory boats chaos at source. We have also consistently called for the Government to speed up decision making and remove swiftly and safely the 30% of asylum seekers who fail to secure leave to remain. A small upfront investment in Labour’s plan would save the taxpayer an enormous £2 billion. Our reasoned amendment sets out why this Bill is a sham and what the Government should be doing instead, and I urge all Members across the House to get behind it. I trust that, in his concluding remarks, the Minister will confirm whether the Government will be accepting any significant amendments in Committee, because the House really deserves that clarity.

The Conservative party is no longer a serious party at all. It is a rabble, an alphabet soup of factions and cabals. The former Home Secretary is constantly on manoeuvres and the former Immigration Minister is firing broadsides on a daily basis. We have a Prime Minister who is so desperate to save his own skin that he apparently invited an outfit called the New Conservatives to No. 10 for breakfast this morning. The reality is that the Prime Minister was not actually at the table at all; he was on the menu, being consumed by the warring factions in his party and devoured by his own weakness and lack of judgment.

Our country simply cannot afford more of this chaos. We are in the midst of a cost of living crisis and our public services are crumbling, but we have a Conservative party that is at war with itself and completely incapable of governing. The good news is that the Prime Minister does have a way out of this mess: he can call a general election so that voters across this country can kick him and his shambolic Administration out of office and finally give our country the leadership that it needs and deserves.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Kinnock Excerpts
Monday 27th November 2023

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

Since the previous Home Secretary was removed from her post, I think it is fair to say that the Immigration Minister has become a law unto himself. First, he briefed the media that he has been instructing the Prime Minister to tear up all our legal obligations to fix the unfixable Rwanda policy. Then he set himself on a collision course with his new Home Secretary by appearing to bet the house on the Rwanda flights taking off. To add insult to injury, he went behind his new boss’s back to present his laundry list to the Prime Minister, including a cap on social care visas and abolishing the shortage occupation list. Does the Immigration Minister have any respect whatsoever for the authority of the new Home Secretary? Given that he is said to be on resignation watch, will he confirm that he will resign if his proposals are rejected?

Draft Strikes (Minimum Service Levels: Border Security) Regulations 2023

Stephen Kinnock Excerpts
Monday 27th November 2023

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

General Committees
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

As always, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Ms Elliott.

The ink is barely dry on the primary legislation under which these regulations are being made, yet the Government are already telling us quite a different story from the one they set out in the arguments made during the passage of the Bill—now an Act—through Parliament. As Members will recall, one of the Bill’s primary stated purposes was to give Ministers the power to define, in secondary legislation such as this, the scope of the definition of the relevant services covered and the particular minimum service levels that will apply to the services in question.

On the first issue, we were led to believe during the Bill’s passage that the only services for which the Home Office is responsible that were likely to be covered by the legislation were those relating to border security—namely, roles carried out by Border Force employees. The regulations go much further than that. Their scope will also include some Passport Office employees, but we have no idea how many or which roles, because the Government are not saying. The impact assessment tells us only that what is likely to be a small number of employees of HM Passport Office will be covered. This apparently last-minute addition to the draft regulations is so poorly defined that it is impossible to scrutinise, and the Opposition will never accept that.

In the absence of the key data from the impact assessment, perhaps the Minister could tell us now exactly—or even approximately—how many HMPO staff are likely to be required to meet the service levels the Government intend to impose, and exactly which roles in HMPO are likely to be included. If he cannot answer those questions, would he accept that bringing that agency into the scope of the new minimum service levels today is at best premature and at worst impossible to justify.

These questions matter because the consultation process that the Act requires, as part of the process of setting new minimum service levels, made no mention of any prospect that HMPO staff would be included. In a foreword to the consultation document, published over the summer, the previous Home Secretary suggested that other services under her remit could potentially be included alongside Border Force within the scope of the new rules. She asked for views from the stakeholders consulted as to whether any additional services should be included and if so, which ones. According to the Home Office, the majority of the responses it received said that only Border Force staff should be subject to minimum service levels among the Department’s employees. There were no suggestions from any stakeholders that Passport Office staff should be included.

The first and most obvious question is when the decision was made. Beyond that, can the Minister explain the rationale for HMPO to be brought into scope, and can he explain why his Department failed at any stage to consult the trade unions and employees who stand to be significantly affected by the regulations?

More broadly, some of the most obvious questions and concerns are conspicuous by their absence from the Government’s impact assessment. In other words, it seems that the Home Office is simply ignoring the questions that it does not wish to answer. For instance, have the Government made any assessment of how the introduction of the proposed minimum service levels might affect the ability of both Border Force and HMPO to recruit and retain the qualified and experienced staff that they need? If so, information on any such assessment is not included in the impact assessment. Why is that?

I am sure the Minister is aware of statements that several trade unions have made to the effect that they may adopt a strategy of deliberate non-co-operation or non-compliance with the proposed changes. With those unions responding with understandable anger to the changes under discussion, does the Minister accept that the Government’s heavy-handed approach to setting the minimum service levels we are discussing—and, particularly, his Department’s wilful refusal to carry out the most cursory of consultation processes with its own employees—risk seriously undermining his ability to bring union members to the table for negotiations in good faith on any potential disputes in the future? In so doing, have not the Government made even more likely the kind of industrial unrest that the legislation is supposed to be aimed at preventing? In light of our profound concerns about the regulations, I confirm that Labour will seek a Division this evening and will vote against them.

Draft Immigration (Age Assessments) Regulations 2023

Stephen Kinnock Excerpts
Monday 20th November 2023

(7 months ago)

General Committees
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Mr Hosie. The Government’s plans to use scientific methods in verifying the age of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children have been long in the making, but we would not necessarily know it from the somewhat sketchy evidence around the SI or the rather flimsy documents published alongside it.

The legislative framework for such assessments was set by the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, which has been on the statute books for more than 18 months. Yet the Government have still not managed to answer some of the most basic questions that these proposals raise, in particular how much they will cost and what their impact will be on our health services, at a time when our NHS is under unprecedented strain.

These are questions that any reasonable Member would expect the Government to address in their impact assessment. However, no such assessment has been provided, on the basis that, in the Government’s words:

“the policy and design are still under development.”

I note that the explanatory memorandum commits to preparing a full impact assessment as implementation of the policy moves forward. If the Minister could commit to a timely publication of such an assessment, I am sure that Members from all parties would be very grateful.

It is also unclear to me, as it was to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, why the Government should feel the need to move forward with legislation that is still in the process of being developed. We would be very grateful if the Minister could shed some light on that question posed by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee.

We also find that House of Lords Committee expressing palpable frustration at the repeated running-up against a brick wall of any reasonable requests to Ministers for basic information, in this case about the extent of any further consultation between Ministers and experts from the medical and wider scientific communities beyond the members of the Government’s hand-picked Age Estimation Science Advisory Committee, to which the Minister referred. More importantly, what specific feedback have Ministers received from experts beyond the members of that committee in the course of any consultations that have taken place?

These questions really matter, because there is clearly no evidence of consensus among experts in support of the Government’s plans—far from it, in fact. From a report in a recent edition of the New Scientist, it is clear that a widely shared view among experts is that what the Government describe as scientific age verification is based largely on what those experts describe as pseudo-science. Based on their public statements, a range of expert bodies, representing such diverse fields as social work, paediatrics, dentistry and radiology, also seem to be proactively urging their members to play no part in such practices.

Therefore, my final question to the Minister is this: what thought have the Government given to how they might be able to implement the measures that he has set out today if professionals in the sector are not willing to operationalise them? My question specifically is this: do the Government have a plan B in the event that the key practitioners are not prepared to operationalise the measures that have been set out today?

Paul Blomfield Portrait Paul Blomfield
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend raises some important questions, as others have, and he will know the concerns that we raised when the Nationality and Borders Act was in Committee. Clearly, we are in a situation where the actual implementation of these measures will fall to a future Labour Government, so I wonder whether he could confirm something. If it is our experience in Government that these measures do not add value and do not assist the process, will we review and scrap them?

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
- Hansard - -

We will certainly keep these measures under review, as would be the duty of any sensible Government. Policy making should be based on evidence, on facts and on the law, and Labour Members remain absolutely committed to those basic principles. If our review concludes that they are working, effective and accurate, then we would look to retain them. However, if such a review concluded that they were counterproductive, ineffective or damaging, particularly around safeguarding and so on, then—of course—we believe in evidence-based policy and that is a very important principle for any Government to pursue.

With that response to my hon. Friend, I conclude my remarks. I thank the Minister for his attention and look forward to hearing his response.

Illegal Migration

Stephen Kinnock Excerpts
Tuesday 24th October 2023

(8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I thank the Minister for advance sight of his statement.

At the time of the last election, the asylum backlog had already spiralled under Conservative mismanagement, but the number of small boats crossing the channel was close to zero, as was the number of emergency hotels being used. If we fast-forward four years, we see before us a picture of Tory boats chaos. For the third year running, more than 25,000 people have crossed the channel in small boats, while the number of hotels being used is about 400, at an eye-watering cost to the taxpayer of £8 million a day—higher than the cost last year. And what is the Government’s response? A Rwanda plan, but they have sent more Home Secretaries than asylum seekers to Rwanda; an Illegal Migration Act that is counterproductive and has not even been brought into full force yet; and a new barge that was meant to bring down hotel costs, but has only added to them. Also, the military bases promised by the Prime Minister last December are still not ready. All of this has left the Prime Minister with an asylum strategy this summer that was less akin to the Australian asylum model that he is so desperate to replicate and more in tune with the Australian cricket team during this summer’s Ashes: cross your fingers and pray for rain. Surely the Prime Minister knows that this was the wettest summer since 1912, and surely he recognises the impact that this had on small boat crossings.

The Government also like to claim to be bringing the backlog down, but it stands at 176,000. They like to talk about a legacy backlog, but this is just nonsense. It is a figment of the Prime Minister’s imagination. He is taking last year’s workload but ignoring this year’s workload. The backlog is the backlog is the backlog. You can slice the cake however you want and spin it however you want, but the cake is still the same size: 176,000 in the last quarterly figures—up, not down. As for those who are being processed and rejected—slowly, it must be said, at half the productivity of seven years ago—are they actually being returned? Removals are down 70% since Labour left office, with a 40,000 removals backlog.

On the issue of hotel use, today’s announcement illustrates better than any other the utter lack of ambition the Prime Minister has for our country. It beggars belief that the Minister has the brass neck to come here today to announce not that the Government have cut the number of hotels being used but that they simply plan to do so, and by a paltry 12%. Is that really it? Is it really their ambition that there will still be 350 asylum hotels in use at the end of the winter, despite promises last year that they would end hotel use this year?

Further questions for the Minister. Is it really true that the hotels he is considering closing will be in marginal constituencies? Does he really think that the public might not see through that ruse? Will he publish a list of the hotels he plans to close over the next six months? And why does the Minister not come back to update this Chamber when he has actually achieved something—not when he plans to achieve something or done a small part of what has been promised, but when the Prime Minister has actually achieved what he said he was going to achieve? At the moment, he sounds like an arsonist who has burned our house down and is expecting us to thank him for throwing a bucket of water on it.

Better still, why will this Government not get out of the way so that we on these Benches can show the leadership shown by our leader and our shadow Home Secretary on their trip to Europol recently, where they set out Labour’s plans to stop the Tory boats chaos by smashing the gangs, clearing the asylum backlog by surging the number of caseworkers, ending hotel use and fixing the asylum system, which successive Conservative Prime Ministers have utterly broken after 13 years of neglect and incompetence?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

So it is all down to the weather again. Every time I come to this Chamber, it is about the weather. The hon. Gentleman is becoming the Michael Fish of British politics: he always gets the forecasts wrong. The truth is that he cannot bear to admit that our plan is actually starting to work. Returns are up, raids are up, productivity is up 10 times and, above all, small boat arrivals are down. We are closing hotels; he wants to open our borders. The Government will never elevate the interests of illegal migrants over those of the hard-working taxpayers of this country. That is what we hold in our minds every day in this job, and that is the difference between the Labour party and this Government.

We used to think that the Labour party had no plan, but now we know that it does not even want to stop the boats. In the summer, the Leader of the Opposition said that, even if the Rwanda plan was working, he would still scrap it. How telling was that? Even if we were securing our borders, he would scrap it and wave people into our country. He also said on his fabled trip to Europe that he would strike a new deal with the EU, which would bring thousands of people into the country. The new towns that he announced at the Labour party conference would be filled with illegal migrants. We will never do that. The Labour party’s strategy is to force the British public to grudgingly accept mass migration. We disagree. We believe that the British public believe in secure borders and that they want a robust and fair immigration and asylum system. Our plan is working. Don’t let Labour ruin it.