All 41 contributions to the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 (Ministerial Extracts Only)

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Mon 19th Jul 2021
Nationality and Borders Bill
Commons Chamber

2nd reading (day 1) & 2nd reading
Tue 20th Jul 2021
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Tue 19th Oct 2021
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Nationality and Borders Bill
Commons Chamber

Report stage & Report stage & Report stage
Wed 8th Dec 2021
Nationality and Borders Bill
Commons Chamber

Report stage (day 2) & 3rd reading
Wed 5th Jan 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading & 2nd reading
Thu 27th Jan 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage: Part 2
Tue 1st Feb 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage: Part 1
Tue 1st Feb 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage: Part 2
Thu 3rd Feb 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage: Part 1
Thu 3rd Feb 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage: Part 2
Tue 8th Feb 2022
Thu 10th Feb 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage: Part 1
Thu 10th Feb 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage: Part 2
Mon 28th Feb 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Report stage & Report stage: Part 1
Mon 28th Feb 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Report stage: Part 2
Wed 2nd Mar 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Report stage: Part 1
Wed 2nd Mar 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Report stage: Part 2
Tue 8th Mar 2022
Mon 14th Mar 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

3rd reading & 3rd reading
Tue 22nd Mar 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Commons Chamber

Consideration of Lords amendments & Consideration of Lords amendments
Mon 4th Apr 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments & Consideration of Commons amendments
Wed 20th Apr 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Commons Chamber

Consideration of Lords amendmentsConsideration of Lords Message & Consideration of Lords amendments
Tue 26th Apr 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments & Consideration of Commons amendments
Wed 27th Apr 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments & Consideration of Commons amendments
Tue 26th Apr 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Commons Chamber

Consideration of Lords message & Consideration of Lords message

Nationality and Borders Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
2nd reading
Monday 19th July 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Nationality and Borders Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Watch Debate

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

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

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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I have to report that the reasoned amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition has been selected.

5.55 pm

Priti Patel Portrait The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Priti Patel)
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The British people have had enough of open borders and uncontrolled immigration; enough of a failed asylum system that costs the taxpayer more than £1 billion a year; enough of dinghies arriving illegally on our shores, directed by organised crime gangs; enough of people drowning on these dangerous, illegal and unnecessary journeys; enough of people being trafficked and sold into modern slavery; enough of economic migrants pretending to be genuine refugees; enough of adults pretending to be children to claim asylum; enough of people trying to gain entry illegally ahead of those who play by the rules; enough of foreign criminals, including murderers and rapists, who abuse our laws and then game the system so that we cannot remove them.

Peter Kyle Portrait Peter Kyle (Hove) (Lab)
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You have been in for 11 years!

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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The British people have had enough of being told that none of these issues matter. They have had enough of being told that it is racist even to think about addressing public concerns, and to want to fix this failed system.

Peter Kyle Portrait Peter Kyle
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Who says that?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to either intervene or listen.

The British people have repeatedly voted to take back control of our borders, something that the Labour party has repeatedly voted against and complained about. The British people finally have a Government who are listening to them, because our priorities are the people’s priorities. For the first time in decades, we will determine who comes in and out of our country. Our plans will increase the fairness of our system.

Theresa May Portrait Mrs Theresa May (Maidenhead) (Con)
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I hope my right hon. Friend will forgive me if I intervene in this way, but she is giving the impression that no Conservative Government since 2010 have tried to address these issues. Can I assure her, on the basis of six years in the Home Office, that they have been addressed? I will refer in my speech to the fact that Governments constantly have to look at these issues relating to immigration, rather than thinking that one piece of legislation will deal with the problem forever.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I thank my right hon. Friend for making that point, which the Labour party should also recognise. A little earlier, the hon. Member for Hove (Peter Kyle) said, “In 11 years, what have you done?” As my right hon. Friend has just pointed out, cumulative efforts have been made—[Interruption.] Perhaps the hon. Member for Cardiff North (Anna McMorrin) would like to listen as well. It is important to note that over the years —my right hon. Friend is right, and in fact I am going to refer to a piece of legislation with which she will be familiar—change did come in, but unfortunately, for a range of reasons, the system is now being abused and gamed.

Stephen Timms Portrait Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab)
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Will the Home Secretary give way?

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)
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Will the Home Secretary give way?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I will give way shortly.

Our plan will increase the fairness of our system so that we can better protect those who are in need of genuine asylum. That is absolutely right, and it is important that we have that fair principle. However, it will also do something that I sense does not interest the Labour party: it will deter illegal entry to the UK, and, importantly, will break the business model of the smuggling gangs and protect the lives of those whom they are endangering.

Stephen Timms Portrait Stephen Timms
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One of the big problems at present is the very long time that it takes to determine asylum applications. Since the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), left the Home Office, the number of case workers has gone up but the number of decisions has gone down in every single year. Why has that catastrophic fall in productivity been allowed to occur?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I shall go on to refer specifically to the time it takes to process cases, but the right hon. Gentleman will also be familiar with the number of appeals involved. This is not just about initial decisions; it is about the system itself, seen from an end-to-end perspective. That is why—and I will go on to make this case as well—in our new plan for immigration, as the right hon. Gentleman and all other Members will be aware, we are speaking about comprehensive end-to-end reform of the asylum system that looks at every single stage.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab)
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Will the Home Secretary explain why the number of initial decisions—not appeals—made by the Home Office dropped by 27% between 2015 and 2019, before the pandemic started?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I thank the right hon. Lady for her question. In relation to the initial decision making—this point is absolutely in our new plan for immigration—we are looking not just at caseworkers, but at digitalising the system to make it much more efficient. The fact is that when more cases are coming in that are down to things such as illegal immigration—people being exploited by coming into the country illegally—the number of cases in the system has gone up. That is a fact. Cases have gone up over a significant period of time.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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Will the Secretary of State give way?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I will shortly, but I am going to make a bit of progress. It is important to reflect on the fact that when it comes to reforming the immigration system and tackling many of these complex issues, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. I think it is important for all right hon. and hon. Members to recognise that we would be kidding ourselves if we thought there was a silver bullet and said, “There is one thing that could be done.” There are a range of cumulative issues that this legislation seeks to address.

When we launched our new plan for immigration, Labour effectively spoke out about many of the measures in the Bill and in the new plan for immigration. I think it is fair to say that the Opposition seem to think that the British people have the wrong priorities when it comes to tackling issues of migration and illegal entry.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I will give way shortly, but I want to make progress first. The Opposition argue that it is wrong to deport murderers, rapists and dangerous criminals—[Interruption.] It is a fact. They think that border controls are wrong. They think that ending free movement is wrong. Well, Labour Members can sigh and shake their heads, but the fact of the matter is that over the last 12 months, when it has come to ending free movement and having discussions about reforming immigration and our points-based system, they seem to think that open borders are the answer. They obviously do not support our new plan for immigration. They do not like the people’s priorities when it comes to these issues, yet they have no plan.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (Lab)
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The public seem to want a fair, fast and affordable system, so can the Home Secretary tell the public how much more the taxpayer will pay for her new proposals?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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In fact, the taxpayer will be saving money in the long run. We already spend over £1 billion a year on dealing with the failed and broken asylum system. If the hon. Gentleman has read the Bill and the new plan for immigration, which I urge him to do, he will see that there are a range of measures—

John Hayes Portrait Sir John Hayes
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I am extremely grateful. Is not the truth of the matter that too often our courts exaggerate the significance of international treaties and obligations and, by so doing, frustrate the process by which we deport illegal immigrants, including large numbers of foreign criminals?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I thank my right hon. Friend for his question and for his observation. There are a range of aspects, certainly through this Bill, that we are seeking to address in order to make courts and immigration tribunals more efficient. It is wrong for them to have endless appeals, where individuals frustrate the appeals process and clog up the system. It is right that we do that because otherwise there will be individuals—genuine people seeking to claim asylum—who are simply not getting their cases heard, and we want to make sure that we can give them the support.

--- Later in debate ---
Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
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Will the Secretary of State give way?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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No, I will not.

For years, people have risked their lives to enter our country, such as those crossing the channel in dangerous boats to claim asylum. [Interruption.] I have been generous in giving way and I will give way again shortly, but I would like to make progress.

If there were simple and straightforward solutions to many of these challenges—my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) has touched on this—issues such as illegal migration to the UK would have been resolved by now, but illegal entry to the UK and the subsequent claims of asylum have become complex because of the nature of cases that arise. But I am absolutely clear that no one should seek to put their life, or the lives of their family, in the hands of criminals to enter the UK illegally, and I would like to think that that is an important point that this House can unite on.

The Bill will finally address the issues that over a long period of time, cumulatively, have resulted in the broken system that we have now. It is a system that is being abused, allowing criminals to put the lives of the vulnerable at risk, and it is right that we do everything possible and find measures to fix this and ensure that a fair asylum system provides a safe haven to those fleeing persecution, oppression and tyranny.

Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con)
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We are receiving emails saying that this Bill is somehow cruel to illegal migrants, but is not the cruellest thing to do nothing? This very day, hundreds of people are putting their life at risk by crossing the channel. If we close these loopholes, if we clear up the doubts about human rights legislation and if we create safe havens, this trade will stop dead, as it did for Australia.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. There are many ways in which we can address this problem, and creating safe and legal routes, which are in the Bill and are something I have spoken about many times, will build upon the generosity of our country. We are generous as a nation when it comes to providing refuge and support to people fleeing persecution, but what we have to do right now is stop this trade in which people are being exploited so that they can come to the country illegally.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
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Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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No, I am giving way to the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), who has been waiting patiently.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
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I thank the Home Secretary for giving way. One of the things that greatly concerns me and others in this House, and I know it concerns her, is the children held in immigration detention. The figure has dropped since 2019, down to 73, but they often arrive having been separated from their family, or they arrive unaccompanied, unaware that they will be placed in detention straightaway. What will be done to help children in particular?

--- Later in debate ---
Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I will shortly address some of these wider issues, but obviously, along with our work on safe and legal routes, we have to provide the right pathways and a secure environment for children to rebuild their lives. That is at the heart of our work in being humane, compassionate and fair.

Our system is overwhelmed, and it is a strong point of reflection that, because of the trends we have been seeing in organised immigration crime and gangs that are effectively exploiting vulnerable individuals, we now need to be able to provide support and to understand where those needs are coming from. Genuine people are being elbowed aside by those who are paying traffickers to come to our country.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I will not give way.

As a nation, we have always stepped up to support refugees in need, and rightly so. This is a great source of national pride for our country, and of course that will never change.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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No, I will not give way.

Since 2015, more than 25,000 refugees have been resettled in the UK from regions of conflict under formal schemes, more than in any other European country. Again, reflecting on the comment made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead, this has happened at a time when we have seen all sorts of challenges around the world and have seen people fleeing persecution, oppression and conflict.

In addition, more than 29,000 close relatives have joined those refugees in the UK over the past five years. Our country is not mean spirited or ungenerous towards asylum seekers, as some may claim.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
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May I gently say to the right hon. Lady that I do not think the issue is whether we are mean spirited or generous? The issue is whether the legislation that she is introducing will actually solve the problem. Every single Member of this House is opposed to illegal migration and every single Member of this House hates the trafficking that has made many vulnerable people put their children in terrible positions, through no will of their own. If we really are to have an end-to-end solution, do we not need to be able to answer the question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), the Chair of the Homes Affairs Committee? Do we not all have to be able to say how we will make sure that the factors that push so many people out of their country, when they would much prefer to stay, are dealt with?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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If the hon. Gentleman had followed much of the work undertaken by the Home Office prior to the introduction of the Bill, and if he had looked at our new plan for immigration, he would fully appreciate the end-to-end work that is already in train. There is a lot of upstream work to go after criminals outside the United Kingdom, not just in France but across Europe. We do a great deal of work with our partners around the world and across Europe on intelligence to go after criminal gangs, but he will recognise that that is one component of our work.

I have already spoken about the refugees we have resettled from parts of the world where there has been oppression and conflict. It is a fact that, since 2015, this Government, with the generosity of the British public, have spent billions of pounds on accommodation, education, healthcare and amenities to resettle people and keep them in their own regions. That is absolutely right. I can say from my time as Secretary of State for International Development that economic development in countries upstream is at the heart of everything we do. Of course, there is much more that we need to do on that.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I will give way just one more time.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
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This is a really important point. The vast majority of people who, as the Secretary of State said earlier, put their children at risk by putting them on boats to cross the channel are doing so only because they were forced to leave their country—they did not do so of their own free will. The more we can do to prevent that happening at source will, in the end, save us from some of this headache, will it not?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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There are a number of points to make on the hon. Gentleman’s intervention. First and foremost, no one would dispute the work that we do in other countries around the world, or how vital it is. All of our Governments have had a very strong record on that—on investment in people, in livelihoods, in women and girls, and in economic empowerment. That is fundamental to the work of the Government and always has been.

Secondly, we must recognise that, given the trends we are seeing in illegal migration, the majority of people entering the UK illegally are travelling through safe countries across the EU where they could claim asylum. Indeed, the figures bear this out. France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Greece are all safe countries, yet these people are being trafficked through those countries. Furthermore, the majority of people entering the United Kingdom are young men, not women and children, and they are paying the people smugglers to push those women and children to one side. That is why—

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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If I may just finish my remarks before I go back to my speech. That is why our focus is on creating safe routes and looking at what we can do outside the United Kingdom to help support women and children and families to come to the United Kingdom to resettle. These are important principles that we have already established in our resettlement schemes, and we do want to do much more in this area.

Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Sir Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con)
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My right hon. Friend is making a very good speech. As we can see from the Bill, much needs to be done. I want to draw her attention to part 4, which deals with modern slavery. I was very proud when the Centre for Social Justice brought forward the paper and very proud that my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) brought forward the world’s first legislation on this subject. There are problems with part 4. I gently ask her and her team to retain an open mind about changes that may come forward, because we really do want to lead the world on this and be generous to those who are not just trafficked, but trafficked for the most abominable reasons.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. He will know from our discussions that we will continue to work with him and others to ensure that we are doing the right thing. I will come to part 4 later in my remarks, but let me expand on exactly where we are seeing the problems and anomalies within the system. Of course we want to close them down, because modern slavery is absolutely abhorrent, but there are key elements that we also need to address.

Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller (North East Bedfordshire) (Con)
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I cannot let the comment from the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) just pass. He made the point that people who seek asylum here are always fleeing their country because of persecution. I have many concerns about the immigration Bills that have been passed in this place, many by my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), the former Prime Minister. It is naive to think that the people coming through irregular routes are only seeking asylum for reasons of persecution. There are a large number who are seeking asylum based purely on economic migration. Is that not one reason why separating out regular and irregular people is such an important change in the way that we are pursuing the legislation?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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My hon. Friend is right, and that is where the system becomes conflated and there is no separation between the two. He is absolutely right to make that point.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I will not give way. [Interruption.] I have been very generous in taking interventions, and I would like to make some progress.

It is important to reflect on the fact that, when it comes to anyone claiming asylum in the UK—this is established in long-standing legislation—we have a statutory duty in relation to accommodation, subsistence, cash and transportation. The system, as I have already mentioned to the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Neil Coyle), is currently costing the taxpayer more than £1 billion a year. It is right that we look to reform the system, and not just to make it efficient but to ensure that we do the right thing. The very principle of seeking refuge has clearly been undermined by those who are paying to travel through safe countries and then claiming asylum in the UK. As my hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller) said, many of those are economic migrants and not just those fleeing persecution. People should be claiming asylum in the first safe country that they reach and not using the UK as a destination of choice. That is why our intention is to work—

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady
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Will the Home Secretary give way?

--- Later in debate ---
Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I will not; I have given way several times now.

Our intention is to address the wider system to fix this problem so that we can help those who are in genuine need to resettle here. We are strengthening through the Bill the safe and legal ways in which people can enter the UK, adopting a fair and firm approach. From today, I will be granting indefinite leave to remain to refugees resettled under our world-leading resettlement schemes, giving them the vital freedom to succeed from the moment that they arrive in our country and, importantly, offering certainty and stability to help them rebuild their lives from day one.[Official Report, 22 July 2021, Vol. 699, c. 9MC.] That is absolutely the right thing to do. From that, we can also learn and build better schemes going forward.

We also want to continue to strengthen our proud record to support those in need, such as, over the past few months, the brave Afghan nationals who have worked alongside our brave military and who are now benefiting from a bespoke resettlement scheme. That is in addition to the type of scheme we have set up for British nationals overseas from Hong Kong whose liberties were restricted and who are now able to live freely in the UK, with a full pathway to citizenship, thanks to the route that we opened up this year. We will always give people coming through safe resettlement schemes the support that they need, which is of course the right thing to do. From learning English to gaining employment and training, they will gain essential skills to build a new life in the UK. New pilots to support refugees into work are already happening. Community sponsorship schemes that are well-established and have been established over recent years are making an enormous difference and helping local communities to support refugees directly. We want to do more, and we are empowering more schemes like these every day.

Those displaced by conflict and violence will also be able to benefit from access to our global points-based immigration system to enable skilled people who have been displaced and who have fled their homes to come to the UK safely and legally through established routes. We will work with the charity Talent Beyond Boundaries and other partners on this pilot project. Up to 100 refugees in Jordan and Lebanon will be supported first to gain sponsorship from a UK employer. These are the types of schemes that we will continue to build on.

This is in addition to our world-leading resettlement schemes. Providing greater support to refugees arriving safely will reduce the incentive to enter the country dangerously and illegally, because when the British people object to illegal entry, they are right to make the case as to it being absolutely abhorrent. In 2020, 8,500 people arrived in the UK by small boat, 87% of whom were men and 74% of whom were aged 18 to 39. Those who claim that it is heartless to stop these illegal crossings have it all the wrong way round, because it would be heartless and immoral to let them continue to do so through these dangerous and perilous journeys. People have drowned in the channel, and thousands, some only recently, just three weeks ago, have died in the Mediterranean.

It is not just illegal sea journeys that are lethal. One of my first and saddest tasks as Home Secretary was to respond to the devastating and, really, preventable deaths of 39 Vietnamese people in a trailer found in Essex. The judge described their deaths through suffocation as “excruciatingly painful”. This terrible crime was organised by a gang; it was all gang activity. In recognition of the severity of this appalling crime, five members of the people-smuggling gang were jailed, with two ringleaders going down for 20 and 27 years respectively. Two lorry drivers were imprisoned on manslaughter charges with sentences of 18 years and 13 years, four months. Such cases are not just heartbreaking; there is only one word for them: they are evil. We have a moral duty to prevent such appalling atrocities from happening again. There is simply no justification for what is going on. People-smugglers are motivated by profit. They line their pockets with the takings to finance other crimes such as drugs and firearms-trafficking. They do not organise illegal entry by small boat and in the back of lorries out of kindness.

Three weeks ago, to give another example, late at night, I received what I can only describe as a sickening call from officials at the Home Office. They told me of reports of a family attempting to make their way across the channel who had been separated. They said that people smugglers in northern France had forced a mother and father to get into a small boat at gunpoint. They said that their family, their two young daughters, would be put in the next boat to make the crossing. When the parents refused to be separated from their children, the people smugglers threatened them again.

The anguish and distress of those parents is absolutely unthinkable, but it is all too common for families to be put into many such perilous situations by criminal gangs. Organised gangs involved in exploiting and trafficking children are of course involved in modern-day slavery. We have also had recent accounts of facilitators using violence. The threat of guns and violence has now become the norm. The threat of violence also includes rape to control people. We are talking about unimaginable wickedness. We cannot, in good conscience, fail to act. We have a moral obligation to stop this vile trade, because human beings are not cargo.

The status quo is entirely unacceptable. That is why I and this Government will look at all options—every option—and work with international partners on how to fix the system and save lives. We are determined to smash the criminal gangs who cause such misery. We are absolutely determined to break their business model.

Let me turn to the key measures in the Bill. It is illegal to arrive in UK waters without permission. Those who bring migrants to the UK and facilitate illegal entry will now face a life sentence. That criminal and exploitative behaviour can now be punished with the severity it rightly deserves. A maximum prison sentence for entering the country illegally will increase from six months to four years. We are sending—we need to send—a signal to those criminal gangs that there is increased risk of paying for propping up criminal activity to get to the UK illegally.

The Bill will also give Border Force additional powers, including powers to seize vessels used to facilitate illegal entry to the UK. Border Force will be able to search all freight for people suspected of seeking illegal entry, to prevent illegal trafficking and facilitation, like the case of almost 50 minors who were found recently hidden in tiny crevices in the back of a lorry with no chance of escape. This is what we are dealing with.

In addition to the changes and the powers for Border Force, we intend to make the border fully digital, which will not only allow us to count people in and out, but, importantly, help us to stop dangerous people coming here. Anyone who is not a British or Irish citizen will need to provide more information about themselves before they travel, including any history of criminality. Electronic travel authorisations have been a major step in our border security. Carriers will check that passengers have the digital authorisation, or another form of digital permission such as a visa, before they travel. They will risk a civil penalty if they fail to deny boarding to those without permission. We are also increasing the maximum penalty for hauliers caught entering the UK with an illegal migrant onboard from £2,000 to £5,000.

In addition to many of the changes included in the Bill, we will introduce new accommodation and reception centres, which are already used by many countries across Europe and elsewhere. They will provide new accommodation for processing and speeding up claims, and that will include the reforms to and digitisation of much of our own processes within the Home Office. Asylum seekers will be allocated to accommodation centres by the Department and the Home Secretary, rather than being dispersed across the United Kingdom, as we do already.

Currently, detained appeals are subject to the same rules as non-detained appeals. There is no set timeframe in which decisions have to be made. That can result in appeals taking a long time. We will reinstate an accelerated appeals process that is fast enough to enable claims to be dealt with from detention, while ensuring that a person who is detained has fair access to justice. That will expedite the removal of people without a legitimate need to claim asylum in the UK.

In recent years we have seen some of the most shocking cases of grown adults—mostly men—claiming asylum as children. Through deception, they have been able to access children’s services and education, leading to the most worrying cases and safeguarding issues. This Bill will change how someone’s age is assessed. Many countries around the world and across the EU already employ safe scientific methods, and we will start to do so. This will stop people falsely claiming to be children and protect genuine children from being moved into the adult asylum system.

The British public are incredulous that it is so hard to remove foreign criminals and failed asylum seekers from our shores. We are therefore amending the early removal scheme to help us to remove foreign criminals from the UK as early as possible. The British people have also had enough of foreign criminals getting one over on us. One foreign national offender first claimed asylum in 2001. He chose to leave the UK voluntarily in 2009, re-entering in 2011 with his wife and child and claiming asylum for a second time. He was deported in 2015 after a 15-month sentence for sexual assault on a child. He returned to the UK in breach of a deportation order in 2017 and was arrested and detained. He then went on to make a fresh asylum claim. He then appealed that refusal and eventually exhausted his rights to appeal.

In detention, this man sewed his lips together, refused food or fluid and declined healthcare. Then, in 2018, he was released on health grounds with electronic monitoring. He appealed this decision through the family courts and a hearing was scheduled for months later, acting as a barrier to removal. Then, in early 2018, he cut off his electronic tag. In 2019, he was arrested on suspicion of murder after his estranged wife was found dead. That is not justice, and it shows that our system is simply not working. Things cannot continue like this, and we must change the law so that we can remove dangerous foreign criminals and ensure that justice is done.

The Bill raises the minimum sentence for any foreign criminal who returns to the UK in breach of a deportation order from six months to five years.[Official Report, 22 July 2021, Vol. 699, c. 9MC.] It speeds up appeals and stops the endless cycle of baseless claims. People who are subject to removal action often wait until the very last minute to make a challenge, leading to cancelled flights and delayed removals—I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead could recount many tales from her time as Home Secretary—and this has become standard practice when it comes to too many of these cases with foreign national offenders and others.

Time and time again, we see murderers, rapists and child abusers launching numerous last-minute claims to attempt to try to stay in the UK. That simply is not right. These last-minute claims and appeals mean that criminals can thwart removal from our country, even when they are on the tarmac ready to be removed from the UK. We have had far too many cases like that, and we and the British public are sick of it.

Through this Bill, all protection-related issues will need to be raised up front and in one go, and that includes, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) has already said, claims of modern-day slavery. It will stop the endless cycle of people raising repeated claims to frustrate their removal. Our approach is fair, but firm. It is firm where we have seen too many abuses over many years and, in fact, decades. The notice period of an intention to remove someone will be standardised, and we will provide fair access to justice and legal advice for individuals.

Slavery is one of humanity’s greatest evils, and it has never gone away. It was a Conservative Government who pushed through the Modern Slavery Act 2015, led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead when she was Home Secretary. The House recognises—we all do—that she deserves immense credit for the work that she undertook. It was an act of good faith that other countries have since been inspired to follow. We will continue, as we have done, to protect victims of modern slavery by creating a statutory grant of leave for confirmed victims. They of course need the time and the support to recover from their horrendous and appalling ordeals, and the authorities also need time to bring perpetrators to justice.

I would also like to pay tribute to many colleagues in the House and to policing partners as well, who have worked diligently. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green has already mentioned the Centre for Social Justice, but we have worked with policing partners as well to look at many of the cases around law enforcement and bringing perpetrators to justice—how difficult some of those cases are. But the law on modern slavery is being exploited.

Debbie Abrahams Portrait Debbie Abrahams
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Will the Home Secretary give way?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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No, I will not.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
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Will the Home Secretary give way?

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Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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The hon. Gentleman will have his chance to speak shortly.

There has been an alarming increase in the number of illegal entrants and foreign national offenders, including child rapists and people who pose a national security risk seeking modern-day slavery referrals to avoid immigration detention and frustrate removal from the UK.

One individual, who was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK, had that leave revoked following persistent offending that led to a prison sentence adding to more than 12 months. They were subject to a deportation order, a decision upheld by the courts. On the day that they were due to be removed, they went on to make an asylum claim. Once that was refused, they claimed to be a victim of modern slavery in relation to incidents several years before they came to the United Kingdom. This was then referred to the national referral mechanism, which rightly identifies and supports victims of modern slavery. Decisions on these cases currently take around 12 months, with a low bar for postponing removal. The person was released from detention and their removal was postponed. They subsequently absconded and went on to commit further serious offences.

The Bill contains vital measures to ensure that victims are identified as quickly as possible, while making it easier to distinguish between genuine and non-genuine accounts of modern slavery. It is absolutely right, as I have said throughout my remarks this afternoon, that we are doing the right thing to support genuine victims and genuine asylum seekers. This is where we absolutely need to reform the system, to close down loopholes and gaps that are being exploited by those who have been a harm to British citizens and who have no legal right to be in the UK.

Help and support will be available where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a person is a victim, rather than that they may be a victim. People claiming asylum or human rights protections will be required to provide relevant information relating to being a victim of slavery or human trafficking within a specified period. In response to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green, I say that this is exactly the area where we need to do more work. We will absolutely work with Members of the House and other organisations to make sure that we have the right protective measures in place for those who have absolutely been victims of modern-day slavery.

Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Sir Iain Duncan Smith
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The Home Secretary is being most generous in giving way. The time in which people are granted leave to remain has a bearing on whether we can prosecute those who are guilty, because they need to be settled, in a settled state, able to give evidence and not fearing what will happen next. This will have a huge impact on the ability to prosecute those who traffic them.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. Without going into detail here, I give him the assurance that this is effectively what we are seeking to achieve and are working on right now. The point has been very well made by him and by the Centre for Social Justice. Linked to his comment, it is right that we pool all our resources into helping genuine victims of modern slavery and that we do not allow dangerous foreign criminals, who are effectively pushing aside real victims, to go on to abuse the system for their own despicable means.

We already maintain a list of safe countries that consistently adhere to international human rights law, to stop people delaying removal by falsely claiming that their human rights are at risk. Every EU country will be on that list, as they are safe countries. That speaks to the point frequently made and discussed in this House that people moving through safe countries—through EU member states—should seek to claim asylum in the first safe country, not to come to the UK as a destination of choice. Furthermore, we are taking a power to allow us to remove countries from the list as well as adding them to it, so that the list can remain relevant and appropriate to our needs as assessments change.

If someone’s human rights claim is clearly unfounded, there will no longer be a right to appeal. Whether someone has complied with the asylum or removal process will also be considered when deciding whether to grant immigration bail. Other countries must co-operate when taking back those citizens who have no right to be in the UK. If countries do not co-operate in the return of their nationals, their access to our generous, fast and open visa system will be at risk. Every effort will be made to remove those who enter the UK having travelled through a safe country in which they could and should have claimed asylum.

For the first time, how people arrive in our country will impact on how their claim is progressed. Those we cannot remove but whose claims prevail will receive only temporary status with limited entitlements. Anyone who arrives in the UK via a safe third country may have their claim declined and be returned to a country they arrived from or a third safe country.[Official Report, 22 July 2021, Vol. 699, c. 9MC.] People who make a successful claim after arriving via another safe country may receive new temporary protection status without the same benefits and entitlements, and that will be reassessed periodically.

The Bill also makes it easier to remove someone to another safe country while their asylum claim is being processed and enables us to recover taxpayers’ money from lawyers where their unreasonable behaviour wastes the courts’ and other parties’ resources.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper
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Will the Home Secretary give way?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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No, I will not give way. I have taken many interventions.

We are also closing the loophole that has prevented the defence of some immigration decisions on the ground of national security.

I am resolute that we must fix a terrible injustice suffered by the Windrush generation and others who were denied British citizenship unfairly—

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle
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At the hands of the Conservative party.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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By successive Governments, if the hon. Gentleman had read the Wendy Williams report about Windrush. I have already overhauled the Windrush compensation scheme. I urge colleagues across the House to help us encourage people to come forward. What happened to them must never be repeated. That also means fixing our outdated nationality laws. The Bill gives the Home Secretary power to grant British citizenship to people who would have become British citizens if not for unfairness and exceptional circumstances beyond their control. For example, in one case, an individual was refused citizenship due to an absence from the UK on a given day, despite many years of previous residence. Of course it was not his fault.

The Bill provides further flexibility to waive residency requirements to help members of the Windrush generation and others acquire British citizenship more quickly. That will also mean that children unfairly denied British overseas territory citizenship can finally acquire citizenship here. That was one of the anomalies that came out in the Windrush scandal.

Our laws must be clearer and easier to understand. The “Windrush Lessons Learned Review” by Wendy Williams also said that immigration and nationality law is complex. The Bill gives the Home Secretary the power to simplify and consolidate immigration law so that we can address many of the citizenship anomalies that have existed for too long—for decades, in fact.

The British people are generous and compassionate. As I said to the hon. Member for Rhondda earlier, they give billions of pounds every year in overseas aid to provide support in countries around the world, to empower countries and communities and to invest in many economies. The British public also embrace those in genuine need and want people to succeed. They also want a system that is fair and firm—fair to the British people and to those in genuine need, but firm against the criminals and those who exploit our generosity by gaming the system.

The Bill is critical to delivering that new fair but firm system. It is also central to our new plan for immigration. It goes a long way to addressing decades of failure and challenges, in the law and illegal migration and in immigration courts and tribunals, in the way in which I have just reflected upon. The Windrush scandal has shone a spotlight on many of the anomalies that have existed when it comes to citizenship. We will change those areas, with secure borders and rules that will be easy to understand. That is part of the cumulative end-to-end change that we seek to introduce.

We want to slam the door on foreign criminals, put organised crime gangs out of business, and of course give help and support to those in genuine need. Everyone who plays by the rules will encounter a new system—

Debbie Abrahams Portrait Debbie Abrahams
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On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker.

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Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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Order. That is not a point of order. We are starting a debate, the purpose of which is to allow this House to hold the Government to account. We will be doing so until 10 o’clock tonight, and then again tomorrow. That is not a point of order, and the hon. Lady knows that.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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This is an important Bill, and it is right that we have given the House plenty of time to debate it.

We are seeking to achieve systematic, end-to-end reform of this system, but it is complex—it is absolutely complicated. Throughout this debate and in Committee, I hope all hon. Members will reflect on some of the points that have been made by Government Members. Over decades, we have found anomalies in our system. I have mentioned Windrush, tribunals and many of the processes that we want to streamline, which will of course deal with efficiency and productivity in case management.

Fundamentally, the new system will be fair to those who need our help and support. Everyone who plays by the rules will encounter a new system that is fair but firm. As representatives of the British people, we will be finally in control of many of these highly challenging issues that many successive Governments have sought to address in different ways, but now this Government are committed to fixing the broken system.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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Order. Before I call the shadow Home Secretary—[Interruption.] I would be obliged if the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Neil Coyle) did not speak loudly while I am on my feet. He can heckle other people, but he should not be heckling the Chair. I draw to the House’s attention the fact that there is obviously a very large list of people who wish to take part in this important debate. Therefore, there will be an initial time limit of four minutes, which will be reduced to three minutes at some point, depending on how fast we proceed.

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Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds
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I suggest that the hon. Gentleman reads clause 48 of the Bill, because he will discover in it a higher bar for people receiving support as victims of human trafficking. That is despite the fact that recent reports show that four out of five rejected trafficking claims are overturned on appeal. These reforms risk leaving greater numbers of victims without support and more gangmasters free to commit further crimes. Human trafficking and modern slavery are vile crimes and those responsible should face the harshest penalty. Yes, there should be a full-term life sentence for those convicted for human trafficking and increased sentences for perpetrators of modern slavery, but such measures will not be effective if we withdraw support from victims.

I come to the issue of safe routes for claiming asylum and helping unaccompanied children. Following the outbreak of the Syrian civil war and the resulting refugee crisis, the Government agreed to Lord Alf Dubs’ amendment to accept unaccompanied children to the UK. The initial pledge was understood to have committed to provide support to around 3,000 unaccompanied children, but the scheme closed with the number having been capped at 480. It was wrong to close the Dubs scheme after helping just a fraction of the number of children promised help. It has meant that under this Government the UK has looked the other way when unaccompanied children have faced dire consequences, including when the Moria refugee camp was ablaze last summer.

Worse still, clause 9 introduces a new requirement for the registration of a stateless child aged five to 17 as a British citizen or a British overseas territories citizen, and maintains existing requirements in relation to those aged 18 to 22. No wonder there is concern about leaving children stateless, which would run contrary to the UK’s obligations under the 1961 UN convention on the reduction of statelessness.

Chris Philp Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Chris Philp)
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The shadow Home Secretary talks about the Dubs amendment and those 480 children. I remind the House that those children were already in safe European countries, and I remind the shadow Home Secretary that the United Kingdom currently has more unaccompanied asylum-seeking children—more than 5,000—than any other country in Europe, including Greece and Italy. Finally, on the point about providing protection to those in need in war zones, the resettlement schemes that have operated here since 2015 have seen in excess of 25,000 people being directly resettled not from Europe, which is safe, but from war zones such as Syria. That is more than any other country in Europe. This Government’s record is a proud one and we stand by it.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds
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Well, we will see how proud their record is in a moment when we go through it. Let me just say to the shadow Minister for Immigration Compliance—

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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Not shadow.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds
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I certainly stand corrected on that. The point is that there were local authorities that were willing to step up and help beyond that 480 and it was this Government’s absolute failure—[Interruption.] Including my local authority, yes, and I am very proud—

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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Torfaen—zero.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds
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Absolute utter nonsense. I have visited the Syrian refugees in Torfaen, so I hope the Minister will take that comment back because it is utter nonsense.

The Government often talk about the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme—I just heard it from the Minister—and I of course pay tribute to local government, including my own local authority of Torfaen, for stepping up to help to deliver safe havens for those fleeing persecution. Those who have come to the country under that scheme have added to the diversity and richness of our communities. The Government have gone quiet on a 2019 commitment to resettle 5,000 further refugees at the conclusion of the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme, and they still refuse to make proper commitments on the future of the scheme. Existing safe routes are very limited. The Minister stood up a moment ago to speak about statistics; well, in March 2021 the new UK resettlement scheme began, and in its first month it resettled a grand total of 25 refugees. The lack of safe and legal routes will lead people to continue to attempt dangerous routes to the UK.

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Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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indicated dissent.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds
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The Home Secretary shakes her head, but in the 2019 report “Responding to irregular migration: A diplomatic route” the Foreign Affairs Committee warned of exactly that:

“A policy that focuses exclusively on closing borders will drive migrants to take more dangerous routes, and push them into the hands of criminal groups.”

The Home Secretary should remember that because she was a member of the Committee at the time and her name is attached to the report.

While we are debating—or at least should be debating—a plan for refugees, we should cast our minds back to last week and the failure to restore the 0.7% commitment to international aid. The Department for International Development was tasked with delivering help to countries to tackle poverty and the drivers of people becoming displaced from their homes in the first place. The abolition of that Department was wrong and short-sighted. The work that was going on around the world to tackle the refugee crisis has been starved of funds, with programmes suddenly cut off. Our reputation around the world as a force for good has been damaged. The Government should restore the Department for International Development and restore spending to 0.7%.

The Bill is as wrong as it is ineffective. It will not tackle people smugglers, and it will not protect victims of human trafficking. It is, in reality, a continuation of this Government’s culture war. It is a culture war that led them to side with those booing the England men’s football team for taking the knee. Instead of supporting that brave stance against racism, the players were dismissed as taking part in “gesture politics” by the Home Secretary, and were told to stay out of politics altogether by other Conservative MPs. Last week, the Government refused to live up to their promises on international aid, and they ran away from their own failure to stand with football players against racism. This week, they promote more division with this Bill. As ever, they talk tough, but deliver nothing.

As it stands, the Bill is a charter for human trafficking. It is a missed opportunity that represents the worst of all worlds, lets evil criminals off the hook, and fails those who have been exploited. The cruel irony of this Government’s approach is that they are weak on taking action against criminal gangs, and brutal when it comes to orphan children from war zones. I ask all Members of the House to reject the Bill in the vote tomorrow.

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Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (SNP)
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I am afraid that I regard this as a dreadful Bill, and the Refugee Council was absolutely right to characterise it as the “anti-refugee” Bill. There are eight welcome clauses on nationality, but thereafter what we see risks trampling international convention after international convention, and vulnerable children, stateless children and victims of trafficking will all pay a penalty. Nowhere is the retreat from international law, international co-operation and basic human decency more apparent than in the absolute trashing of the refugee convention as it approaches its 70th birthday. A convention that has saved and protected countless millions of people is being undermined by one of its first champion countries.

Refugees and asylum seekers—we have skirted over this so far—will be criminalised, stripped of their rights and offshored. That is true whether they are Uyghurs fleeing atrocities in China, Syrians fleeing war crimes or persecuted Christians seeking refuge here. The Bill does absolutely nothing to stop them getting in boats in France; what it does is punish them when they get here. That is morally reprehensible.

It is not just the Bill’s awful ends that justifies the Scottish National party refusing it a Second Reading and stopping it in its tracks but the means by which it seeks to pursue those ends. We are talking about a unilateral rewriting or reinterpretation of our obligations under international law. That is, once more, a hugely dangerous precedent to set. It will make our international partners query whether this country gives two hoots about international law and keeping its word.

Secondly, to put it directly, what we have here is a deliberate policy decision to inflict harm on people seeking sanctuary by criminalising them, splitting them from their family, forcing them into destitution, putting them in legal limbo and offshoring them. That is not just ineffective and dangerous, but morally outrageous.

Not only is the Bill the opposite of the right solution, but it wrongly identifies the problem that needs solving. The problem in the asylum system is simply down to the incompetent management of it by this Home Office and this Government. We live in a world in which 80 million people have been forcibly displaced, and 30 million of them are outside their country of origin and are therefore refugees. Four million of them are asylum seekers pursuing recognition as refugees. Some 86% of them are hosted in developing countries, 73% in neighbouring countries.

What we are asking of wealthy western countries barely scratches the surface of their share of responsibility. In European terms, what has been asked of the UK is very little at all. I applaud and support everything that has been achieved through the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme and other resettlement programmes, but none of it justifies what the Government propose today.

The Government regularly trot out that they have resettled more Syrian refugees than other European countries. In absolute terms that is true but, per head of population, neighbours such as Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Finland and Ireland have all resettled more. Yes, although the UK resettled a few thousand more Syrians than Germany and France, those two countries have offered sanctuary to more Syrians through their asylum systems by massive margins.

In 2019, the UK received around five applications for asylum per 10,000 people, compared with the European average of 14, putting the UK 17th in the table of member states, just behind Italy, Finland and Ireland. Similarly, the UK granted roughly two applications per 10,000 people, compared with the European average of 13, putting it 16th in the table. Yes, although by international standards the UK has a decent history of offering protection, let us not pretend that it has been bearing an unbearable burden that entitles it to rip up the refugee convention and start trying to pass refugees back up the chain to those that already do much more.

The real problem, as we have heard, is that the Home Office’s handling of asylum cases is abysmal. We have heard the extraordinary figures on how long it is taking, and it is not just the length of time it takes to make a decision but the number of decisions that it gets wrong. We are at record levels of successful appeals—it is almost 50:50.

It is not just statistics that cause grave concern but the regular stories of life inside the Home Office: impossible targets, a culture of fear, ill-treatment of staff, high staff turnover, a shortage of skilled asylum caseworkers and administrative chaos. Asylum decision making is a matter of life and death, and it seems clear to me that it should no longer be entrusted to the Home Office, a Department that has again shown itself to be unfit for that purpose. Such decisions should be removed from political interference and entrusted to an independent body, as they are in Canada. That would be a sensible approach.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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What about democratic oversight?

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
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Absolutely, as there is in Canada.

Members from all parties in this House, sitting on the Front Benches and the Back Benches, regularly speak up for some of the most oppressed people on the planet. We have seen brave interventions on Uyghurs fleeing atrocities in China. The plight of Syrians fleeing a decade-long conflict has been championed, and Christians around the world, including Christian converts, have numerous ambassadors in this Chamber, but we have hardly come to terms with what this Bill means for them.

This Bill prompts a question: why speak up against persecution abroad only to say, when they come knocking at our door seeking shelter, “You are not our responsibility. Go somewhere else”? France seems to be the popular answer among Conservative Members. What if France and the rest of Europe say the same thing? We would end up with the system of international protection of refugees breaking down, as the UNHCR points out.

If the Bill passes, that is exactly what it means. Prior to the Bill, we would have sheltered people fleeing persecution. The Bill expressly seeks to discourage them from coming here by making life miserable for those who do. Today, if a Uyghur, Syrian or persecuted Christian convert arrives in the UK to seek asylum, life will be far from plain sailing, precisely because of the outrageous waiting times, the dreadful asylum accommodation, the prohibition on work and the dreadful levels of financial support. They get here and, thanks to our amazing non-governmental organisations and charities, they slowly start to rebuild their lives.

But next year, if this Bill passes, for many of those Uyghurs, Syrians or persecuted Christian converts claiming asylum here, things will be infinitely bleaker, and that will be a deliberate policy choice of this Parliament. Arriving next year, the Uyghur, Syrian or persecuted Christian will be much more likely to be criminalised, regardless of arguments about whether they had come here directly or not.

Section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971 already punishes illegal entry by those without leave to enter. Sensibly, however, those who claim asylum on arrival are granted immigration bail, which does not count officially as entry. Clause 37 of the Bill changes all that. It would essentially criminalise the very act of arriving to claim asylum, because, as the explanatory notes acknowledge, the majority of asylum seekers will not have the ability to secure entry clearance. Despite the Home Secretary’s protestations last week, as the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) said, this criminal offence will apply to Uyghurs, Syrians, persecuted Christian converts and anybody else, and the penalty is up to four years in prison.

The next problem for the Uyghur, Syrian or persecuted Christian convert is that although they are absolutely obviously in need of international protection, this Government, in their wisdom, are not even going to consider their claim for protection for six months. The Government are trying to pretend that that is some sort of replication of the Dublin regulations that the UK was party to prior to Brexit, but of course it is not, because, as we have heard, there are no returns agreements with any remotely relevant country and little indication at this stage that there will be any time soon. Any such returns agreement would have to be carefully circumscribed so as to be consistent with the convention and to have carefully considered the circumstances of the individual, including any ties to the UK, such as family members here.

By contrast, the powers in the Bill will allow the Home Secretary to remove a Uyghur, persecuted Christian or Syrian to any country at all, even if there is no connection, and with very little by way of restriction. Today, the Uyghur, Syrian or persecuted Christian faces outrageous delays in asylum protection systems, and the Bill simply adds another six months.

Where will the Uyghur, Syrian or persecuted Christian be during that time—during that limbo—while the Home Office goes through the futile motions of seeking to remove them? Just now, for those who seek asylum we have a struggling, privatised, over-concentrated system of dispersed asylum accommodation. Numerous Committees have told the Home Office how it could be improved, only to be ignored. Under this Bill and this plan, that is not where the Home Secretary envisages the Syrian, the Uyghur or the persecuted Christian going. Instead, the grim future for these refugees appears under this Bill and this plan to be the disgraceful, disreputable open prison-like conditions that we have already witnessed at Napier or Penally.

Even worse, as we have heard, they may face being removed to an offshore centre to have their claim resolved. Here is the real asylum shopping: the British Government grubbing around to find a country to palm off their responsibilities on to. Let us think of the outrages and the lack of accountability we have seen in relation to immigration detention and the Napier open prison—the abuses that have been meted out there and the harm done. As we know from the Australian experiment, that will be as nothing compared to the hell that is likely to await at an offshore asylum facility. How on earth have we gone from having a Parliament where there was widespread support for time-limiting and restricting the use of detention, to imposing a form of it that is infinitely worse?

Having endured their limbo period, these three groups of refugees will finally have their case assessed by the Home Office. But instead of working to improve asylum decision making, the Bill seeks to make it harder for them to prove their case. It seeks to alter the long-established test set out in the refugee convention that the standard of proof required is a lower, but far from negligible, standard of real risk. That standard is clearly justified by the possible consequences of getting decisions wrong and the huge challenges of proving circumstances that happened thousands of miles away in a country the person has fled.

The Bill seeks to muddy the waters by applying a higher legal threshold. The claimant now has to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that they do belong to one of the protected convention groups and that they fear persecution based on that characteristic. That not only undermines the cautious approach in the convention, justified by the dangers that exist for asylum seekers, but pays no regard to just how difficult it is to prove events that happened in faraway countries.

In addition, by having two different standards of evidence in the same proceedings, it makes life harder for already struggling caseworkers. The judge or decision maker may be certain that the proselytising Christian convert will face the death penalty or torture on return, but now the “real possibility” that the claimant is such a proselytising Christian convert is not enough. If the judge is only 49% satisfied that the person is a proselytising Christian convert, the claim is going to be rejected, even though the risk of torture or death is absolutely certain if the decision maker has got that assessment wrong. I find that deeply troubling, and it is clearly inconsistent with the refugee convention.

Let us imagine that the persecuted Christian, the Syrian and the Uyghur have survived their limbo period and made it through the asylum system, and the Home Office refusal of their application has been overturned on appeal. Unbelievably, the harms inflicted on them by the Bill have barely started. On the contrary, the repugnant programme of disincentives is ramped up further, even after they navigate that system. Because they have stopped temporarily in a European country, they are to be treated as a second-class refugee. Regardless of what any Minister says, that is absolutely contrary to the refugee convention and, more importantly, it is simply disgraceful. It is not just nasty, but sickening—

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend makes a good point. There are all sorts of problems with provisions in the Bill that penalise late disclosure of information, which can very often be the case in modern slavery or LGBT cases, or even religious conversion cases.

Having established that these people are refugees—and the Government have had to recognise that—the system should allow them to rebuild their lives after the trauma of their persecution, their journeys and their asylum claim, but instead this Government still want to turn the screw. Instead of the stability and permanent residence refugees were once provided with, today they are given five years’ leave, with a review that is fairly light-touch, before settlement. But this Bill and the Government’s plan propose endless 30-month cycles of review and ongoing attempts to remove. Nobody can rebuild their lives in those circumstances—and I do not know how on earth the Home Office is going to cope with having to revisit every single asylum case every 30 months.

These refugees will not be entitled to public funds unless they are destitute. So if, say, the Christian convert finds some part-time, low-paid work—a big ask, given the language and cultural barriers, the enforced years out of work, and the trauma—there will be no universal credit to cover housing or income shortfalls, and if he or she was able to bring a child, there will be no support for that child. Their refugee family reunion rights will be diminished, according to the plan, meaning that they cannot be joined by a spouse or perhaps a child. The detail is not in the Bill, but that is what the plan suggests and the Bill enables.

That inevitably gives the Christian convert a choice: does the family stay apart or do other family members—often the women and children that the Home Secretary professes to be protecting—then have to follow and make their own dangerous journeys? Without the family, without state support and without stability, the Uyghur, the Syrian and the persecuted Christian convert have no hope of rebuilding their lives. That amounts not to a place of sanctuary, but to a place of punishment—and the Home Office has the audacity to claim that it is in their best interests. This is, in short, an outrageous way to treat refugees, and it is why the Bill is rightly being called the anti-refugee Bill.

There is so much that could be said about the undermining of efforts to support trafficking victims, the total absence from the Bill of protection for children, and the undermining of rights of stateless children. We need to know what the placeholder clauses will give rise to. We do not even have the chance to debate them here on Second Reading, and there are six or seven of them. The whole of the dentistry profession is up in arms at the suggestion that the discredited and unethical dental X-rays system could return as an inaccurate method of assessing age.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Just like in any other European country.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Well, the dentistry profession and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees say that it is not accurate and it is entirely unethical.

The Home Secretary is also making it harder to identify victims of modern slavery and cutting their recovery period to the minimum allowed in international law.

There is so much that should be in the Bill that is not. I mention just one thing: the failure to end the disgracefully painful 10-year route to settlement that many essentially British kids face and the outrageous fees that others are charged for registering their entitlement to British citizenship. When will that finally be done? This is an abysmal and, indeed, shameful Bill. It does not remotely deserve a Second Reading.

--- Later in debate ---
Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to be able to follow the right hon. Member for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes), who has worked hard on this issue.

There should be widespread agreement that the UK should do its bit to support those fleeing persecution and torture, that the system should be fair and not be undermined, that there should be a crackdown on the criminal gangs who exploit people’s misery and desperation, and that we should prevent the dangerous journeys across the channel in unsafe boats in which lives are put at risk. That includes encouraging asylum much earlier. In this House, we have debated many different ways to tackle those problems in a calm and common-sense way that avoids stoking division or promoting hostility against those who are most vulnerable, because we know where that leads. However, that is one of the things that troubles me about the debate and the approach Ministers are taking.

I also think that the Bill is counterproductive. It is likely to attract more people into the UK asylum system and drive more people into the arms of criminal gangs. The caseload, the backlog, is not a reflection of an increase in applications. In fact, those have stayed at about 30,000 a year—with a drop recently, during the pandemic—but the number of initial decisions made dropped 27% between 2015 and before the pandemic.

The Bill will make that worse, because there is no serious return agreement to replace the Dublin agreement for people who have travelled through a third country. Under the provisions of the Bill, asylum seekers who have travelled through third countries will have to wait in the system for six months. Those whose claims are unfounded will not be assessed or be returned, and those whose claims are justified and who need support will not be able to get on with their lives, to start working and rebuilding their lives here. Moreover, instead they will be waiting, dependent on the support of the Home Office, dependent on making the system more costly for the taxpayer.

Rightly, the Government say that we should prevent dangerous routes, but the Government have cut the alternative safe legal routes. The resettlement scheme has been halted, with no commitment for how many people will be supported.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It has not halted.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will give way to the Minister if he wants to tell me how many places will be included in the resettlement scheme when it restarts.

--- Later in debate ---
Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It never stopped. When we met the 20,000 commitment in February this year, the UK resettlement scheme continued. Obviously making a precise numerical commitment is difficult, given the coronavirus circumstances, but it has never stopped; it continues to this day.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Everybody understands the pressures of the coronavirus crisis, but what we need is a commitment to the number of places. The UK has been resettling approximately 5,000 a year over the past few years as a result of cross-party consensus to support Syrian refugees, but we have not yet heard a commitment. Will it be 5,000? Will it be 10,000? What will the support be from the Government to ensure that the resettlement scheme continues?

The Dubs scheme has been cancelled, even though we know the need for support for those who are most vulnerable, and the Dublin family reunion system has not been replaced. Safe Passage, which works with young people in need of family reunion, said that last year, under the Dublin scheme, all the young people it worked with on family reunion went through the legal system; they did not try to go with people traffickers or people smugglers through a dangerous route. This year, however, under the new system, a quarter of the children and young people it has worked with had given up in frustration, sought to try illegal routes and ended up in the hands of people smugglers or people traffickers as a result. Those are the dangers that we face: if there are not safe legal routes for family reunion, we end up with more people driven into the hands of dangerous criminal gangs.

Clause 26, on offshore processing, is perhaps most troubling of all. The Government floated a range of impossible proposals: sending asylum seekers to be processed on Ascension Island or disused oil platforms or, most recently, sending them to Rwanda. Of course those proposals are impossible, but it is deeply troubling that the Minister even thinks that it is okay for them to be floated and for him not to deny them. We heard from Australia about how its offshore processing simply did not work in the end. It stopped doing it in 2014 because there were too many humanitarian and practical problems and it was costing approximately 1 billion Australian dollars a year to accommodate just 350 people.

This is not an answer. It is deeply shameful and undermines our international reputation. We need France, Spain, Italy, Greece and countries across the world to work together, but for that we need to show proper international leadership and not undermine our reputation.

Nationality and Borders Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
2nd reading
Tuesday 20th July 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Nationality and Borders Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Watch Debate

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

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

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What I would say to them, what the Scottish Government have said to them and what my party says to them is that they are very welcome in Scotland, but unfortunately at the moment we do not have control over that aspect of policy. Until we take the steps to ensure that we do have control over that aspect of policy, we are stuck with trying to persuade this British Government that their policies are wrong.

I fear that the chances of this Government amending the Bill in any meaningful way are absolutely zero, but I know that it matters very much to my constituents, other people in Scotland and many organisations—the Trades Union Congress in Edinburgh passed a motion condemning this Bill just in the last few days—that the Scottish National party stands against the Bill. As I say, I do not think that our stand will work, and I continue to look forward to a future where an independent Scotland will be able to set a better example on refugee policy.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sorry, but I am coming to an end.

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Alyn Smith Portrait Alyn Smith (Stirling) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to see you in your place, Madam Deputy Speaker; thanks for the slight jolt, as I was called a wee bit earlier than I was expecting. I have also forgotten that I can take my mask off while I am speaking. Eid Mubarak to my constituents across Stirling and those elsewhere who are celebrating.

Today’s debate really cuts to matters of deep principle. How we treat the world’s most vulnerable seeking sanctuary here touches deeply held sincere principles on all sides. I detect throughout this debate a real difference in world view between the SNP Benches and the Government Benches. Scotland’s tragedy is that for centuries we exported our people. We are a third of the UK landmass, but we are not full. We need more people, not fewer. Scotland’s challenge for decades has been a declining population. European freedom of movement was helping us with that and then it was ended.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for being a little more accommodating than the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry). He says that Scotland would like more people. Could I therefore urge the Scottish Government and Scottish local authorities to accept dispersed asylum seekers? The only one of Scotland’s 32 local authorities to accept dispersed asylum seekers is Glasgow. Scotland accepts only a small handful of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, each one of whom carries with them £53,000 a year of funding. If the Scottish Government are so keen on having more people, how about they play their part in the way that I have just described?

Alyn Smith Portrait Alyn Smith
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister, I presume inadvertently, actually makes my point for me. Scotland, under my party’s philosophy, wants to play a part on the world stage as an independent state of the European Union, playing our part in upholding international law—all of it, not breaching it on a regular basis—however limited or specific that way may be. We want to take our fair share of asylum seekers. We want to be that haven. But the financial mechanisms in the UK, as the Minister well knows, mitigate our ability to do that. That is my answer to him.

I thank the hundreds of my constituents who have been in touch about this Bill—all against it. I thank in particular Forth Valley Welcome, Stirling University Student Action for Refugees, the church groups across the Forth Valley and Start Up Stirling, all of which have done great work to welcome refugees.

I will try for consensus, because this issue is too important for Punch and Judy politics. Let us accept that this is a difficult, sensitive issue for any Parliament, anywhere, to deal with. It is a problem that needs to be addressed; we agree with that. We all want to see the dreadful people traffickers properly penalised for their dreadful actions. Scotland, independent, will have immigration, nationality and asylum laws, and we will control our borders—the UK is not the only country dealing with these issues—but we will not do it like this. The Bill is not all bad, but from our perspective it is assuredly more bad than good. We would contend that the problems of the UK’s complicated, expensive, bureaucratic and slow nationality and refugee policies are entirely made in London and have been made worse by this Government.

The Bill is about issues of deep principle, so let us hear what some of the faith groups think about it. The Very Reverend Dr Susan Brown, the convener of the Faith Impact Forum of the Church of Scotland, says:

“we are urging the Government to think again and listen to asylum seekers and refugees, organisations that support them and people in receiving communities working to provide welcome and friendship.”

How about the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland? It says:

“Creating arbitrary divisions based on people’s method of entry will have profound implications for those who need our support most… many families and individuals have no choice in the route that they take, and to penalise them on this basis dangerously undermines the principle of asylum.”

In the time allowed, I will focus only on clauses 10, 29 and 38, because between them they provide ample grounds for voting against the whole package, although there are parts to which we might be more amenable.

I am particularly grateful to the Law Society of Scotland for its forensic examination of the Bill, on which I will draw heavily.

Clause 10 introduces a two-tier treatment of refugees based on means of entry. The Law Society of Scotland endorses the UNHCR in saying that

“to create a discriminatory two-tier asylum system”

undermines

“the 1951 Refugee Convention and longstanding global cooperation on refugee issues.”

A number of Conservative Members have said that France should somehow solve the UK’s problems for it. If the UK is playing a part in undermining global co-operation, it can hardly expect co-operation back.

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Chris Philp Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Chris Philp)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank all Members who have spoken in this extremely thorough two-day debate.

The public expect this House to protect our borders, they expect us to combat the dinghies crossing the English channel and they expect us to remove those with no right to be here. This Bill will deliver those people’s priorities. The Labour MPs who say those priorities are somehow racist are not only wrong, but they are insulting our fellow citizens who rightly want proper border control. The Bill is fair but firm: fair to those in genuine need, but firm towards those seeking to abuse the system. Let me reiterate the Government’s commitment to supporting those in genuine need. Of course, we cannot help all 80 million displaced people around the world who may wish to come here, but we will play our part.

First, we are continuing our world-leading resettlement programme. We are working with the UNHCR. We resettle the world’s most vulnerable. We have resettled 25,000 people in the last six years—more than any other European country—half of them children. We will be strengthening that arrangement by immediately granting indefinite leave to remain to those entering via the resettlement programme. I am concerned about the poor integration outcomes in the resettlement scheme—fewer than 5% are in work after a year—so we are going to do more on integration. We are also going to draw in a wider range of persecuted people, recognising, for example, that the most persecuted group globally are persecuted Christians, whom we should make an effort to look after as well.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister talks of what the public expect, but one thing I do not think they would expect is for this Government to create a criminal offence that would see a Uyghur fleeing genocide in China, a Syrian fleeing war crimes or indeed a persecuted Christian who gets here without a visa subject, potentially, to a four-year prison sentence under this Bill.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman mentions Syrians fleeing war crimes. Our resettlement programme has principally focused on Syrians fleeing war crimes, who, via the UNHCR working in the region, have been able, safely and legally, to come to this country in greater numbers than are seen in any other European resettlement programme. That is quicker, safer and easier than illegally crossing the channel in a dinghy. We are not just running Europe’s resettlement programme; as we speak, we are bringing locally engaged staff from Afghanistan to the UK, and we have opened up a route for British nationals overseas from Hong Kong to come here, escaping the oppressive regime of the Chinese Communist party. In addition, 29,000 people have come in the past six years as part of refugees family reunions. So when the Opposition claim that we are not offering safe and legal routes, that is simply not true.

The Scottish nationalists have been saying that Scotland would like to do more. I am very disappointed, as I said in my intervention, when I was able to get in, that out of the 32 local authorities in Scotland only one, Glasgow, takes dispersed asylum seekers. If Scotland wants to do more, they have the opportunity to do so. Moreover, when it comes to taking unaccompanied asylum seeking children under the national transfer scheme, Scotland took only a very small handful of the 600 or so who were transferred last year. Scottish National party Members cannot talk about money, because those children have more than £50,000 a year of funding going with them. There are children right now in Dover who need to be looked after, so I call on the Scottish Government to put action behind their words and take some of those children on—tonight. They do not need independence to do that; they can do it now.

Let me be clear: we will always play our part for those in genuine need, but we should choose who deserves our help. Illegal immigration undermines that choice. Instead of the UK being able to choose the children and families most in need, illegal immigration instead allows those who pay people smugglers or who are strong to push their way to the front of the queue.

--- Later in debate ---
Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will give way in a moment. There is no worse example of that than the small boats crossing the English channel. About 80% of the people on them are young single men, who have paid people smugglers to cheat the system. They are not fleeing war. France is not a war zone. Belgium is not a war zone, and nor is Germany. These are safe European countries with well-functioning asylum systems. These journeys are dangerous and unnecessary, and push to one side those in greatest need, including women and children.

John Hayes Portrait Sir John Hayes
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am delighted that my hon. Friend has brought us this Bill. He deserves great credit for it, alongside the Home Secretary. But will he go further? Will he fulfil the pledge to actually turn back the boats in the channel that he has just described, using the Royal Navy, if possible? Will he process claims offshore, as has also been pledged? Will he do something to frustrate those lawyers who game the system by claiming all kinds of international obligations taking precedence over our sovereign law and our sovereign Parliament?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my right hon. Friend for his very timely intervention and I agree with what he says. This Bill contains provisions such that people arriving by small boat and other illegal means will be liable to prosecution and a four-year jail term, and people smugglers will face a life sentence. This Bill also gives Border Force the powers it needs to make interceptions at sea. Let me be clear: nothing in this Bill would have made the Kindertransport from the 1930s illegal. That was an authorised and organised programme that would be perfectly legal. Indeed it is rather analogous to the safe and legal route we are at this very moment offering locally engaged staff from Afghanistan. Let me also reassure the House, and in particular my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins), that there is no intention in this Bill to criminalise bona fide, genuine rescue operations by the RNLI.

Let me also be clear that nothing in this Bill infringes our international obligations. Opposition Members should study article 31 of the refugee convention, which makes it clear that it is permitted to impose penalties where someone has not come “directly” from a place of danger and where they did not have a reasonable opportunity to claim asylum somewhere else.[Official Report, 22 July 2021, Vol. 699, c. 10MC.] The people coming from France are not coming directly from a place of danger, as required by article 31, and they did have a reasonable chance to claim asylum in France. These measures are wholly consistent with our international obligations.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I must finish soon. I apologise.

My right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes) asked about the legal system, which also needs reform as it is open to abuse. People make repeated human rights claims to asylum and modern slavery claims, which are often strung out over many years in an effort to avoid removal. Very often those claims are later found to be without merit. For example, in 2017, 83% of the last-minute claims that were raised in detention to frustrate removal were later found to be without merit. I have seen terrible examples of murderers and rapists making last-minute claims, without merit, to avoid deportation. It is not just me saying that. Let me quote what the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon, said in a judgment last October:

“Late claims raised shortly before…removal have been endemic, many fanciful or entirely false…It is a matter of regret that a minority of lawyers have lent their professional…support to vexatious representations and abusive late legal challenges.”

In those remarks, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales is saying that change is needed.

The Bill also contains measures on age assessment. We are the only European country not to use scientific age assessment. Recent evaluations in Kent concerning 92 people claiming to be children later found that half were not. There are obvious and serious safeguarding issues if men who are 23 years old, for example, successfully pretend to be under 18 and get housed or educated with 16-year-old girls. We cannot tolerate that.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister has referred to Glasgow’s dispersal area, but there are also individuals who have come over on false passports because that is what they were given to flee their country of origin. They are children, but their passport says they are adults. What assistance will the Home Office give those individuals?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Where somebody claims to be, or says they are, under 18, if there is any doubt, there is already a system—and in future there will be a better and more rigorous system—for properly assessing someone’s actual age. There are risks in both directions. If we wrongly assess someone to be over 18 there is a risk, but equally there are risks in the other direction, and it is time those risks were recognised.

On modern slavery, I pay tribute to the work done by my right hon. Friends the Members for Maidenhead (Mrs May) and for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith). The Bill will ensure that we identify genuine victims of modern slavery and avoid unmeritorious claims that are designed to delay removal or deportation. Where someone is a genuine victim, we will ensure that they are properly looked after. This policy will make it clear for the first time in legislation that confirmed victims with recovery needs stemming from their exploitation will be entitled to a grant of leave, where that is necessary to assist them in their recovery, or to assist a prosecution. We hope that by encouraging people to bring their claims upfront in one go, asylum claims and matters involving modern slavery and human rights will be identified early and properly, and that we avoid some of the abuses that we have unfortunately seen all too often.

Some Members raised questions about detention, claiming that it was indefinite. That is not the case. We do not have indefinite detention, and 75% of people spend less than a month in detention prior to removal. The Hardial Singh case law principles mean that someone cannot be detained if there is no reasonable prospect of removal. There are frequent opportunities to apply for immigration bail, in addition to the protections afforded by article 5 of the ECHR. On the Dubs amendment that we have seen in the past, we prefer to prioritise, not people who are in safe European countries, but those who are in dangerous places.

The public expect us to look after those in genuine need. We will do so, but the public also expect us to protect our borders from illegal immigration and to promptly remove those with no right to be here. The Bill delivers those objectives. When the Labour party votes against it in a few minutes, it is voting against border control, and against removing dangerous foreign criminals who pose a threat to our constituents. The Labour party may not be prepared to protect our borders, but the Government are. I commend the Bill to the House.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am anticipating two votes. Even though we have relaxed the regulations, I still urge Members to show due caution in giving safe distancing to their colleagues.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

--- Later in debate ---
19:00

Division 57

Ayes: 265

Noes: 359

The list of Members currently certified as eligible for a proxy vote, and of the Members nominated as their proxy, is published at the end of today’s debates.
--- Later in debate ---
19:10

Division 58

Ayes: 366

Noes: 265

Bill read a Second time.

Nationality and Borders Bill (Second sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage
Tuesday 21st September 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
Nationality and Borders Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 21 September 2021 - (21 Sep 2021)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

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

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Okay, thank you, Zoe. I will bring in the Minister at this point.

Tom Pursglove Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Tom Pursglove)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you, Ms McDonagh. I have one question for Ms Gardner. One of the real focuses of the work of your organisation is around welfare. What assessment do you make of our proposals to streamline the judicial process to process cases more quickly and, of course, remove people who have no right to be here more quickly? What do you make of that?

Zoe Gardner: I am quite confused about that being the aim of the legislation that we have in front of us. The measures that have been put forward in the Bill, as far as I can tell, will only serve to exacerbate and complicate the repeated legal claims that will be made. For example, the split standard of proof in the Bill would apply a different standard of proof to different parts of a person’s asylum claim. That will be challenged and tested in the courts and will take longer. Obviously, the delays of six months will make the system take longer. On the other side, slapping a priority sign on to somebody’s deportation order does not actually make any difference. Again, as Lucy said, that is a matter for having well-resourced court systems and a fair and efficient system, and the Bill just does not do anything to achieve any of that.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Apologies, but that brings us to the end of the time allotted to ask questions. I thank our witnesses on behalf of the Committee. Many questions were asked and our witnesses gave evidence that Members wanted to listen to.

Examination of Witness

Assistant Chief Constable Dave Kirby gave evidence .

--- Later in debate ---
Anne McLaughlin Portrait Anne McLaughlin
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Good afternoon. I will start by saying that none of us here can possibly understand how complex the work is that you and your colleagues do. I am trying to understand some of it. I know that recently you said that you have spotted a trend of people who were arrested in drug busts claiming to be victims of slavery when you did not believe that to be the case. I think that, as a result of those concerns, the Home Secretary is overseeing plans to roll out a new public order definition that will allow police forces to refuse NRM protection to those committing serious crimes.

That turns the presumption of innocent until proven guilty on its head. Do you think that that is the most helpful way to go forward and, if so, are there other circumstances in which we should not offer support to people because we do not believe them, before they have had the opportunity to prove otherwise? If you do not think that it is helpful, how would you amend the legislation to be more helpful, while recognising that we do not know whether people are victims of slavery at the point at which they are arrested?

Assistant Chief Constable Dave Kirby: There are a few areas there. First, the existing legislation does not apply to a lot of crime types in any event—some of the more serious crime types that you mentioned, such as kidnapping and manslaughter, and lots of offences included in the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and firearms legislation, so some of that is there already. I do not think that it is right to say that policing is turning the presumption of innocent until proven guilty on its head. What I would say is that, where we already have information and intelligence in relation to individuals and their place within a criminal hierarchy, at that point it may be appropriate to turn that presumption on its head.

To illustrate, there is a recent case in Derbyshire where an Albanian gang has been dismantled only in the last couple of weeks. There have been 24 arrests, and I think 12 of those people were Albanians, running cannabis growers and other types of criminality in the region. More than one of those people claimed to be victims, but we had a covert investigation behind us that showed their level of control, their ability to communicate, the resources that they had and various things that clearly went against that claim. Absent that information and intelligence, I do not think that we would say, “We don’t believe this person,” in the first instance. An investigator should, and in all investigations does, go into that situation with an open mind. This person could be a victim or could, in fact, be a criminal. They start at that point, not on one side or the other.

The other part of your question was about what we do to make things easier for investigators to understand the true position. I think that, again, that would be some sort of duty to co-operate, because it is quite difficult if somebody claims to be a victim and then, for example, refuses to provide a phone passcode, and so on. Perhaps a duty there would assist us. I mentioned whether a person should have to declare straightaway, because often there are delays, but I think that a lot of genuine victims would suffer that way.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Clearly it is critical that our resources are focused on genuine victims of modern slavery. Are you able to share any examples or concerns that you have about individuals or groups taking opportunities to misuse the national referral mechanism by falsely claiming to be victims?

Assistant Chief Constable Dave Kirby: Absolutely. I cannot give you names right now. That perhaps would not be appropriate, but in various areas of criminality we have seen that, and again it is for various reasons. One reason that I have alluded to already is to hamper prosecutions, as a tactic. Quite often we can get around that as investigators because we have been looking at the various areas that would prove or disprove a person’s status throughout, but sometimes the defence is raised in order to obtain access, we believe, to other services that we would of course want to provide to genuine victims, such as access to housing and potentially some assistance in securing visas and so on.



We do see those things. I can only say that in some cases we have proved that those people are not victims—for example, through covert activity that was already in place because it was a part of larger operations or because of things such as telecoms investigations and so on, sharing that work. There is a lot of technical detail in how it is done, but we have detected people exploiting the system for those two reasons: benefits and to avoid prosecution.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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Q Building on that, what, in your experience, is the impact of sequential claims and referrals, and how will the measures in the Bill help to ensure more effective process?

Assistant Chief Constable Dave Kirby: By “sequential”, do you mean repeated?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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Q Just sequential claims and referrals to the mechanism.

Assistant Chief Constable Dave Kirby: Okay, I am trying to understand where you are going with the question. I am sorry, do you mean if somebody makes a claim and is referred, and then does so again following a criminal justice process? Or have I misunderstood your question?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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Q It is about issues around repeat claims and those sorts of difficulties that we know exist.

Assistant Chief Constable Dave Kirby: We see victims being referred into the system and then disappearing from it and turning up somewhere else, and then being referred into the system again, and so on. That is an indication, of course, that the control that these criminal gangs have has remained in place and they continue to be controlled, coerced and taken out of that process. Again, in general terms, the speedier the decision that is made in terms of a conclusive grounds decision and the support put in place in a substantive way, the less likely we are to see that because this would be an alternative for people who otherwise are in some sort of a holding pattern, waiting for decisions to be made, perhaps in temporary accommodation and so on. So, for me, the measures that are most effective are those that are going to cement those decisions the quickest and provide real support to those individuals—[Inaudible]so they can be taken out of that coercive group of organised crime groups.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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Q I am grateful for that thorough answer. One final question: what assessment have you made of wider criminality resulting from the proceeds of criminal gangs organising dangerous crossings?

Assistant Chief Constable Dave Kirby: Can you repeat the question? I had an issue with the connection. I apologise.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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Q What assessment, if any, have you made of wider criminality resulting from the proceeds of criminal gangs bringing people across the channel?

Assistant Chief Constable Dave Kirby: The ability of gangs to bring people across the channel is a really important part of how many of those gangs work, particularly when we talk about foreign national offenders and foreign national organised crime. Again, at the risk of being boring talking about west Balkan criminality, I think it is a good way to illustrate that. West Balkan criminality, Albanian criminality, which is really what we are talking about, has taken more of a foothold since around 2017 in the UK, partly because of a real crackdown in Albania around cannabis cultivation. There needs to be a business model to support that. The gang members themselves do not want to spend long hours in uncomfortable and dangerous cannabis grows, for example, with the risk of being caught. Why would they want to do that? Similarly, if the business model is to exploit people for sexual practices then there need to be people to exploit. The ability to bring people into the country across the channel is hugely important for them.

Of course, there are other rackets such as labour exploitation and so on that have been talked about many times. Focusing on those two, they need people who can be exploited. British citizens form part of that, but people from comparatively poor areas who have comparatively few opportunities are much easier to exploit. In fact, many of those people do not initially believe they are victims—they believe that they are entering into a business deal. “You do this for this long, and then we will fly you back, or there will be some sort of benefit”. Sometimes that is the case. I would suggest that the conditions those people are living in are appalling and that the deal is a terrible one, but for some of them that is a better deal than they had where they came from.

Forgive me, that is a bit of a long answer. The point is that without the ability to bring foreign nationals in-country, those very well-organised criminal gangs—in my experience, many of them are far better organised than our own high-level criminality—would struggle to prosper in the way they currently are.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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Thank you, that is very helpful.

Bambos Charalambous Portrait Bambos Charalambous
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Q I have some follow-up questions to that. You mentioned the Balkan states, in particular Albania and Lithuania. Is it generally the Balkan states which are involved in the criminal gangs you have come across?

Assistant Chief Constable Dave Kirby: At the moment, there is a heightened threat from people from those areas. That is what we are seeing most of in terms of foreign national offenders in Derbyshire and the east midlands, and I am fairly confident that is also the pattern elsewhere. To illustrate, we used to see Vietnamese organised criminals involved in cannabis growing, sex trafficking and other issues, but more often than not we now see Albanians in control, potentially exploiting those Vietnamese people, or, if not, working together. Some alleged groups are so well-organised and disciplined that they are able to effectively out-perform other criminal gangs. That is the threat we are seeing most in terms of foreign national criminality.

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Paul Howell Portrait Paul Howell
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Q Can we change the direction slightly? We have heard lots about the stresses that illegal immigration is putting on local councils. Looking at the Bill as it stands, can you tell me whether there are things in there that help the situation for you, and are there things that you would like to have seen in there—things that would have helped if they had been put in? I am trying to see what difference the Bill would actually make to your life.

Councillor Rachael Robathan: Yes, there are certainly some things that we would welcome, although it would be good to see some more detail when the secondary legislation comes forward. Just to back up slightly, a further issue that we have in Westminster, as many of you will be aware, is the significant number of rough sleepers. Our latest count was 171, which is actually fewer than there have been previously. We worked very closely with Government on the Everyone In programme and so on last year, which was very successful, but we still have 70 in a bridging hotel within Westminster, so there is a significant issue around rough sleeping.

Over half of those people have no recourse to public funds. All of the asylum seekers in Westminster have come through the sanctioned route, so they would be in category 1 under this Bill, but one of the concerns for us would be if there is more clarity, if you like, in terms of no recourse to public funds for category 2, whether some of those people who would have no recourse to public funds might slip into rough sleeping. There is always a draw to the centre of Westminster: it is known that an aggressive beggar can make up to £500, or sometimes more, on our streets in Westminster, so if people find themselves on the street, there is an economic pull into the centre. That could lead to increasing numbers within Westminster.

Speaking very specifically about Westminster, the issue is that we then have an issue with tented accommodation, and the point about tented accommodation—I have had a number of meetings with the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice about this—is that there is a very high bar for the police or others to be able to gain entry to the tents. Not only is it difficult to enforce against those who would be illegally there but, much more importantly, it is very difficult to address issues around trafficked women and other people who are on the streets and need support and help, because we are unable to deliver that. That is a concern.

One of the things that we would welcome—I think this has come through in what both Councillor Gough and I have said—is a more organised approach to the way asylum seekers are looked after and accommodated. More planning around the process would help. I think we have also both said that the Afghan resettlement has been much better in terms of being able to have planning and co-ordination with local authorities, so that is something we would welcome.

Also in Westminster, I welcome the measures around modern slavery, but also the greater sanctions to stop people coming back into the country if they have been convicted of criminal activity. Once again, we have people on the streets in Westminster who engage in criminal activity to earn money. That activity is not at a very high level, but they are still things that have a real impact on our residents’ lives. We would welcome the moves around electronic travel authorisation and other measures to make re-entry into the country more difficult for those people who are here to commit criminal activity.

Councillor Roger Gough: I would endorse what Councillor Robathan has said; I agree with all those points. There are a couple of specifics from our side. One slightly begs the question as to how effective the measures will be, ultimately, because others looking at the Bill can judge that better than me. The basic principle of seeking to promote safe and orderly routes at the expense of those that involve things like the small boat routes would be very welcome. There is no doubt, and it has been much emphasised, that that route is very dangerous. It creates a degree of political tension because it is so visible. It is something that we very much wish to avoid. Those issues come home to those of us who are border authorities, particularly in the case of the small boats in areas such as Kent. The measures to try to shift the balance between the two ways in which people get here would in principle be very welcome.

The second area I want to touch on relates to age assessment. Broadly, the direction there seems to me to be a favourable one. The attempt to create a national body, not to carry out or provide support to local authorities, unless it is requested, so much as to provide some consistency and regularity to a very time-consuming process that can wrap up huge amounts of time from very qualified social workers and which often has no very obvious end to it because it is relatively loosely guided, is welcome. Establishing best practice as well as providing support for local authorities, many of which will be less experienced in this area than authorities such as mine, would be very welcome.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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Q First, I have a very Kent-specific question. You will appreciate that I am new in role, but for the benefit of the Committee, could you set out what pressures Kent County Council currently faces as a result of the number of people crossing the channel?

Councillor Roger Gough: We are slightly betwixt and between on that. I apologise if I give an answer that may not be quite as definite as you would like. I shall explain why. If we take this year and last year, the very specific pressures that we have been experiencing were rapid increases in the numbers of young people coming into our care, the end result of which was that social work case loads rose far above recommended levels, particularly for the specialist teams dealing with those cases. We also had reception centres that, particularly with the first wave of big pressure last year, were filling rapidly. That was the point at which placing young people in other accommodation was difficult because of the circumstances of the pandemic.

Just to be clear, it is perhaps worth saying that when we talk about unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, historically, these have been adolescent males. Indeed, if you look at last year’s figures, we have very few indeed who were under the age––or stated age––of 16. There was something of a shift in the early part of this year where, from memory, about a fifth of those arriving were of stated age under 16. That tended to push you more towards foster accommodation rather than the semi-independent and other forms of accommodation that we would provide for the 16 and 17-year-olds. That has meant that through the pressures on fostering, and to some extent on other forms of accommodation, we had to place more young people outside the county, and we were certainly heading into that sort of territory at the time when we were closing our doors again in June. That was the biggest area of concern.

One thing that is worth noting, too, and it has a longer lag on it, is care leavers: those who come into our care, or indeed the care of any authority, under the age of 18—they are taken in as children in care—then become care leavers. Councillor Robathan referred to that. Under the changes to legislation that took place three or four years ago, we have a responsibility for them through to the age of 25. While at the moment, we have around 300 under-18s in our care, we have over 1,000 care leavers. In fact, our care leaver service is more ex unaccompanied asylum-seeking children than it is ex Kent children in care. As you can imagine, that generates a number of specific pressures, too. I hope that answers your question. The only reason for my hesitancy at the start was that we have just come out of the period when we were not taking young people into our care, and therefore some of the very large numbers of arrivals that we saw a few weeks ago, of whom typically 10% to 15% would probably be unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, were not having a very direct effect on us at that point. But clearly if those numbers were to continue, we would potentially be in a different situation.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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Q In terms of the broader measures that we are seeking to introduce in the Bill, how pressing do residents in your communities think they are?

Councillor Roger Gough: First, there is a big variety of views in Kent, as I think there is anywhere. My inbox, my postbag, tells me that about all the issues that are raised, but as I mentioned in my earlier responses, the very visible sense of large numbers of arrivals on the coast has had an effect within the county, and therefore that has made the issue a pressing one. As I say, from a service delivery point of view, for us the most pressing element of it has been to do with the children.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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Q To touch on age assessments again—I know that you have commented briefly on those—there are almost three elements to my question, and I would be delighted to hear from both of you on this. What pressures do age assessments place on your local authority in resource terms? What safeguarding risks do you think exist as a result of adults successfully posing as children? How many UASCs who approach you for support do you have doubts about in relation to their claimed age?

Councillor Roger Gough: On the first question, it is a demand and I cannot quantify it at this moment, but I can give you perhaps some indications. It is a demand on social worker time, so you will tend to see that a typical age assessment involves two experienced social workers, who will carry out interviews. If you just take everything going smoothly, if I could put it that way, that would involve a couple of half-day interviews followed by extensive paperwork, research and then later stages of the process. In practice, and this goes back to my earlier comments about age assessment, there are a number of ways in which the process may well be less smooth running than that. But you need experienced social workers, and one of the areas in which we have worked with the Home Office has been through their support for us in backfilling posts so that experienced social workers can take that role on.

On safeguarding, clearly there is a significant concern—it is quite hard to specify the full details of it—where you have adults in what one would take to be a young person’s space. Clearly, you will have a challenge over those who are, if you like, on the cusp. What happens—this ties in, perhaps, to your third question—is that we have had historically quite large numbers of young people being put through by the Home Office where doubts have been raised by Border Force regarding their age. There are some of whom they would say—interestingly, recent court findings have helped with this process a bit—“Look, this person is definitely, in our view, out of the reasonable range to be considered a child,” and they would be into the adult part of the process.

That can sometimes come back. For instance, where asylum seekers have been placed in hotels elsewhere, disputes about age assessment then come back as an issue for the new local authority. I know of a number of places across the south-east where that has happened, but in our case, there are a number of cases where any local authority, I think, would take the view that, where it is very hard to establish—again, the guidance around this is relatively loose—that a young person is definitely out of that age range, there is precious little point in pursuing that further.

That still leaves you with a material number. At one point, at the height of things, around half the young people who were arriving arrived with doubts raised about them by the Home Office. We would then probably in practice seriously investigate, because it was considered viable to do so, only a portion of those, but they would very often go into cases where the age dispute would be pushed to the point of saying that this was indeed an adult.

Councillor Rachael Robathan: As Councillor Gough said, this is very time consuming. As he stated, almost all of the UASC are late-teen boys, and it can be very difficult at the best of times to tell someone’s age, so it involves a huge amount of time on the part of the local authority. There is a very clear safeguarding issue, because once someone has been accepted as UAS they are put into a child setting—schools and other child settings—where there is a very clear safeguarding issue. That is something that we are all very conscious of, clearly.

The other point, as we said earlier, is that there is an ongoing responsibility to these young people, because the responsibility to support them carries on until they are 25, so if you have someone who presents as a 16-year-old, let us say, that means that you have almost 10 years during which you will support that young person. In terms of ensuring that there is the best use of public funds, which we all know are always very stretched, we need to ensure that the people coming into the system are the ones who really need that support, and who are legitimately there.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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Q I noted the broad support for the national age assessment board approach that we are proposing to try to deal with some of this, but what impact do you believe the current judicial review-based processes for settling disputes of age assessments have on your organisation? I am conscious, as a former councillor, that it is not always just financial; it is also around officer time in particular, and the impact on services more generally. What would you say about that?

Councillor Rachael Robathan: Anything that moves towards a uniform process will greatly help. At the moment, involving the local authorities and putting the responsibility on them is very difficult for what are very often stretched institutions. Having a uniform, joined-up process would be very welcome.

Councillor Roger Gough: Already when you see changes in, for instance, what the courts have found about what is a reasonable basis on which a challenge can be presented by Border Force, as we have seen recently, that has made a huge difference. The proportion of young people coming to us age disputed is significantly lower than it was before that.

When you get changes in the process, it can make a material difference. Authorities like ours are at least experienced in this area, even if we are in the eye of the storm. As dispersal happens, or when, as I mentioned earlier, those who have been placed as adults launch a challenge within their own authority, issues may arise for an authority that is not nearly as well set up to deal with them as we are.

To pick up on the point that Councillor Robathan made, it is worth emphasising what a difference going into the children’s system or the adult system makes. As we have both said, first there are children in care and then there is the care leaver process, all of which, quite properly in their own way, have particular requirements for children’s services departments in authorities. The process around adult dispersal clearly still makes demands on council services, but in the first instance it is a housing-related issue, from which a number of other things follow. It is not quite the same as building in what can be a seven, eight or 10 year process of somebody being part of the children’s services operations of the council.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
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Q I thank the witnesses for their evidence so far. I have a couple of follow-up questions on age assessments. You have spoken about the safeguarding issues that arise if somebody who is an adult finds themselves in a space for children, but of course the opposite can also happen; there are huge safeguarding issues if somebody aged 15 or 16 ends up being put in a hotel with adults or dispersed to some other part of the United Kingdom with limited supervision. It is in all our interests to get that absolutely right. Would it make any difference, for example, if we took the pressure off these decisions—I am thinking slightly off the top of my head—by continuing UASC leave to a higher age, say 20 or 21?

Councillor Roger Gough: Sorry, could you just run your last point by me again?

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Anne McLaughlin Portrait Anne McLaughlin
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Q My second and final question is on international relations. The UK lags behind other European countries in terms of numbers. The British Red Cross said that we were the 17th highest in terms of the number of people that we took in. The Bill basically says to the French, among others, “Not in my backyard—your problem”. What does that do to international relations and what could the UK Government do? I accept what you say about other Governments having to come into these bilateral agreements, but what could the UK Government do to reach out to other countries in Europe to try to work on this together?

Tony Smith: I would dispute those figures. We are probably about fifth in Europe in terms of asylum intake, but you are right that other countries have more asylum applications every year than we have. That is not necessarily because those numbers have been invited by the EU to go and live there. It is because they are unable to control their own external frontier. Because of the Schengen arrangement, asylum seekers can choose where they would like to go. Many drift north to Scandinavia, Germany, Holland or France, where they would rather be than in some of the southern or eastern European states.

The EU has its own difficulties in determining the allocation of asylum seekers across the Schengen zone because they do not agree among themselves about how they should be distributed. The bigger question is not necessarily a European one but a global one. No doubt you will hear evidence from experts on this. The need for international resettlement is a huge problem. We have seen it in Afghanistan; we have climate change; and we have migratory pressures coming up from South America to the US border. People are going to continue to move in great numbers over the next 20 or 30 years. The question is how the western world is going to cope with that.

I am quite a big fan of the refugee resettlement programme. UNHCR has been going out to western countries for some years saying, “We have 80 million people displaced, and 40 million in different countries in our camps already. These are refugees who have already fled war zones whom we would like you to take.” Even though we were taking only about 5,000 or so, we are still third highest in the world, so we are not really getting to grips with the global challenge of resettling refugees through the resettlement route. It has picked up a bit since Afghanistan, and we are doing more. There is certainly evidence that we are trying to do more, and I think we could become global leaders on refugee resettlement programmes, but it is going to be difficult politically for anyone to sell that when we are seeing uncontrolled migration across the English channel.

It is finding the balance. How can we help to contribute to genuine resettlement for genuine refugees, but at the same time take back control of our borders, which is clearly the Government’s stated intent?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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Q Is it reasonable to think, based on your many years of experience, that if we do nothing—if we just stand back from the challenge of illegal crossings—the number of crossings will increase and crossing will become even less safe? Do you think that the principle of deterrence is important in all this?

Tony Smith: I do think that. It is absolutely important in all this. While I would not defend the turn back strategy, I can understand why the Government are looking at those kinds of measures to stop the boats. It must be extremely frustrating not to be able to do anything about the ever-increasing numbers, particularly when a succession of Home Secretaries have come in saying that that was what they would do. A number of my successors—civil servants—have given evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, saying that they were going to make the route unviable. I am afraid it is not within their gift to make the route unviable within the current frameworks. One would hope that the new legislation would change things. It certainly changes the dynamic. We can now say, “We know that you arrived by this route. We know that you are not immediately fleeing persecution.”

I am not a big fan of the criminal justice system for migrants. It has not really worked. I am a fan of it for smugglers and facilitators, but putting migrants in prison is not necessarily going to be the answer and will lead to more challenges. The question is how we disrupt the smugglers and break that business model. The only way is to start seeing people going back to France. Then people will see that there is no point putting their life at risk in a small dinghy. There will be no point in more and more of them spreading up to Calais because that business model is broken. The big difficulty for the Government is how to persuade the French that we ought to have a policy like that and negotiate an agreement, and how to counterbalance that with the other problem of significant numbers of people around the world seeking resettlement. How are we going to contribute to responding to that?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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Q Notwithstanding what you have already said about collaboration between us and the French to tackle this, what assessment have you made of the work that is already in train to try to improve the situation? Do you think it has improved the situation somewhat?

Tony Smith: Without a doubt. I support the investment of resources in France, and that is something that we have been doing for a long time now. The French could legitimately say, “Actually, why would you not help us to contribute to border security?” Let us not pretend that the French operational arms, including the police aux frontières, the douanes, the various coastal agencies—I used to talk to them regularly when I was in the job—are not supportive of preventing criminality at an operational level.

We can be quite pleased with the work that we have done to at least try to disrupt the smuggling gangs. Quite a few have been prosecuted on the French side, albeit, sadly, more the middle men rather than the big fish who are behind human smuggling gangs. You will hear from other witnesses more qualified than me to tell you about that level 3 criminality, but it is really difficult. How do we disrupt the business model? It is about deterring people from coming. We owe a duty under the 1951 refugee convention to give refugee status to those who are genuinely in need, but I am not sure that it is the same duty for those who are arriving in this way, from a fellow original signatory to that convention, than those coming through evacuation processes such as we have seen recently in Kabul.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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Q Mindful of the breadth of your professional experience in previous roles, how crucial do you think the streamlining of the processing of applications is to tackling some of these challenges?

Tony Smith: We lived through this before. We had something called the new asylum model when I was in the UK Border Agency, before taking the top job in the Border Force. Previously, I was regional director for UKBA London and the south-east, which meant that my teams were the ones who were processing asylum arrivals coming into the country. I was actually responsible for removals.

Yes, we did have targets in the Home Office in those days for enforcement. It was part of my mission to ensure that those who did not qualify to stay, either because they had arrived under safe third country rules, or they were coming on a manifestly unfounded route, were sent back. The trouble is we have seen a good deal of judicial overreach by the European Court of Justice, and significant interpretations and European directives, which kind of hindered those arrangements on returns. We have now got to a point where we are not really returning anybody who is coming across on these boats, and people notice that. If we do not start returning people, the numbers will continue to rise. We need to find a way of segmenting those applicants who we know have a genuine claim for asylum in this country from those who have probably been in Europe for a long time and may have had applications for asylum rejected—they have had a notice de quitter from Schengen, sometimes two or three notices—who are not genuine asylum seekers but who would just like to come to live here. That is not effective border control.

It is going to be really, really difficult, but I applaud the authors of the Bill, because it finally gets to grips with the difficulty of the way we have interpreted the 1951 refugee convention and put up what I think is the right interpretation of it in not conflating two different arguments, which is human smuggling across the English channel by criminal gangs, putting lives at risk, and the genuine need to resettle refugees from different parts of the world.

Siobhain McDonagh Portrait Chair
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We only have a few minutes, so I call Jonathan Gullis.

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Bambos Charalambous Portrait Bambos Charalambous
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Q You also mentioned some other countries, such as Belgium, Germany and Turkey. Are you working closely with them?

Rob Jones: We are, absolutely. We have very positive relationships with those countries. The supply of boats to northern France and of engines in the infrastructure that supports these crossings is something that those partners can help us with.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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Q I heard your answer in relation to modern slavery, but in terms of wider criminality and what you are seeing on the ground, what impact do you think the proceeds of small boat crossings are having on criminal gangs?

Rob Jones: We know that that route is more and more attractive to organised crime. That is why we need to break the momentum that is pushing the viability of that route. People who are involved in the facilitation of migrants are also involved in drug trafficking and other serious organised crime. We have seen that polycriminality with HGV companies that will one day smuggle drugs and another day smuggle migrants.

One of the good things about these provisions is that they, to coin a phrase, level up the sentencing for people involved in the facilitation of migrants with that for those who are dealt with for drug trafficking. It cannot be right that, at the moment, if you smuggle 20 kg of class A drugs, you could face a life sentence, but if you conceal 20 people in a false floor in a lorry, which is one of the things that we encounter at the border, it is 14 years. Some of the provisions here, including the life sentence for facilitation, are a useful deterrent that we feel will help with that broader organised crime threat where some of this money is reinvested in other crimes.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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Q I agree with you very much on the penalty. It would seem obvious to me that closing down that line of revenue for these criminal gangs is a sensible and obvious thing to do. One other area in relation to penalties in the Bill is the issue of returning foreign national offenders. At the moment, I think the penalty is six months. We are proposing to increase that penalty to five years. How valuable do you think that will be in terms of some of the issues with which no doubt you end up grappling, with foreign national offenders returning to this country and then carrying out further crimes?

Rob Jones: That is another helpful element that has, we hope, a deterrent effect. Criminality linked to the western Balkans, and really determined people who will be deported and then engage in a merry-go-round using false ID cards and clandestine entry to come back to the UK to continue committing crime, is something that we need to deal with. Those provisions would be helpful in that context.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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Q I am interested, on a broader level, in what challenges you think our country faces from organised immigration crime more generally.

Rob Jones: It is now recognised by organised crime groups as something that can generate a lot of revenue quickly. The previous witness talked about pull and push factors. The UK is a very attractive destination, and people will pay significant amounts of money—thousands of pounds—to smugglers. As we move forward with more pressure—we have seen what has played out with Afghanistan—and with more irregular migrants moving, there is the opportunity for organised crime to capitalise on that. Having a strong deterrent and being able to project our response and deal with organised crime groups upstream is really important to us, because there will be more and more pressure on the system, which inevitably will be exploited by smuggling gangs.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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Q Presumably trying to focus our approach on safe and legal routes is also very helpful from a national security perspective.

Rob Jones: Absolutely, with the normalisation of clandestine entry, where people are allowed to hide in a crowd. When this problem began, a big day was 100. We are now looking at a big day as being over 700. Within that, you get an increased risk that people will enter the country in a truly clandestine fashion. The more that you can do to offer safe and legal routes, and to disincentivise the business model through deterrents and a range of provisions, the more effective we can be at tackling the organised crime element, because we can then concentrate on the worst groups, which pose the highest risk and will potentially be moving people with a criminal history, whom we are most concerned about.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you for your evidence, Mr Jones. I do not think that anyone would beg to differ on the need to deter and disrupt the smuggling gangs and to support safe legal routes; the issue is much more about where we draw the line in trying to deter people who use those gangs, whether it is appropriate to criminalise them, and so on. May I ask you about another challenge on which I think you have given evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee: the use of social media companies and encryption to try to organise these sailings, and so on? Back then, I think you indicated that there was a lack of co-operation from a lot of the social media companies, which was posing a lot of challenges. Has there been any progress in that regard?

Rob Jones: There has been some progress. We have been working constantly with the social media companies to get a better response, and to ensure that their platforms are not being used to promote dangerous crossings, and there is progress. We are working in a voluntary environment. We are, in some ways, short of regulation, particularly in relation to this element, but we continue to work with those companies on a day-to-day basis to take material down. That response has improved. It is still not as good as I would like it to be, and we are working to an action plan where we have a common agreement of standards in terms of takedown and our aspiration to prevent adverse outcomes in the English channel, which is ultimately what this is all about. It has got better. It is not as good as it could be. Your point on encryption and some of the closed spaces that we cannot see that are being used to promote these crossings remains an issue for us.

Nationality and Borders Bill (First sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage
Tuesday 21st September 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
Nationality and Borders Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 21 September 2021 - (21 Sep 2021)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

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

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

There are other Members who wish to ask questions, Mr McDonald. If there is time, I am happy to bring you back in. At present I have Jonathon Gullis, Paul Blomfield and Anne McLaughlin who are waiting to speak. Minister, would you like to come in now or wait?

Jonathan Gullis Portrait Jonathan Gullis (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Clause 10 talks about the idea of differential treatment. To people in Stoke-on-Trent this seems absolutely acceptable. Stoke-on-Trent is, by the way, a member of the asylum dispersal scheme and the fifth largest contributor in the UK. Some people have come via safe and legal routes, such as from Afghanistan, whereas others are illegal economic migrants who were already in a safe country in France but who have come over the English channel,. Do you not think that saying we are going to treat people differently is going to deter people from making that journey? That will impact the people smugglers, because people will not make the dangerous journey they should not be making in the first place, because they are aware of the consequences when they are caught.

Jon Featonby: That is one of the reasons why we are concerned about the clause. We come from a different viewpoint in that we believe that people’s rights and entitlements should be based not on how they entered the UK, but on their protection need. People who go through the asylum system and fall into group 2 in clause 10 are people whom the UK has recognised as being in need of international protection, and they have refugee status.

We work with and have conversations with people who have been through the process. Maybe they arrived in the UK on a small boat or through some other irregular means. They tell us that these changes would not have impacted the decisions they made. It is very unlikely that people have a clear idea about what the UK’s asylum system looks like and what their entitlements will be when they are in it or when they go on to get status. Some people have very little choice in the country they end up in. They may well not have started out being involved in the smuggling networks in France. It could have been much closer to the country from which they have fled. The smugglers have much more control over where people end up.

Where somebody feels safe is subjective to the individual. There are many reasons why people in France may be unable to avail themselves of the protection system there. It might be that, because of how they were living in France, they were not aware of how they could claim asylum or the route to do that. It may be that they were treated in some way along that journey that meant they felt unable to avail themselves of protection in France. It is also important to note that the vast majority of people who do make it to France in search of protection stay in France. France receives, generally, at least three times as many asylum applications as the UK.

We do not believe that the differential treatment will deter people, and there are challenges around the differential treatment in clause 10. Stoke is absolutely one of the places in the country that we work with and pay tribute to. Abi Brown, the leader of the council, speaks very eloquently about how proud she is of the council’s role. However, clause 10 will potentially make it harder for those local authorities who support people. If people continue to come to the UK, go through the asylum process and get status and are then unable to reunite with their family members or have insecurities around the length of time they are going to get status, and, crucially, if they are unable to access public funds, that impacts on their integration prospects and ability to support themselves. That may well increase the pressures on local authorities.

--- Later in debate ---
Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you, Sir Roger. Thank you for coming to give evidence, Mr Featonby. I welcome the support you have expressed for the principle of the Afghan scheme. Of course, this Government are absolutely committed to the principle of establishing safe and legal routes. You have been asked several times about the issue of channel crossings, and I feel that you have glossed over that slightly in your answers. Do you think that it is a priority? How would you go about tackling that challenge?

Jon Featonby: It should be, and it is right that it is a priority. There are too many people trying to cross the channel. It is well known that it is the busiest shipping lane in the UK. It is not said enough, but tribute should be paid to Border Force and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution because we have not seen huge numbers of lives lost, especially compared with what we have seen in the Mediterranean.

We would certainly say that although people continue to make those journeys, the primary focus should be on ensuring that people’s lives continue to be saved and that the loss of life stays relatively low. However, it comes back to the fact that we do not think the Bill will deter people from putting their lives in the hands of people smugglers or, as we are increasingly seeing, taking to small boats—relying not on people smugglers but on very small and even less seaworthy crafts.

There is no easy way to tackle the problem. There is no one simple solution. However, some of it will come down to the increased provision of safe routes. The more safe routes there are, the less likely people will need to take dangerous journeys. Something that needs to be a part of the UK’s international co-operation, and something that it can play an increasingly important role in, is making sure that people have access to protection systems outside the UK.

It comes back to the point about understanding why people make those journeys in the first place. People do not get on those boats on the French shores lightly—it is clear what the risks are going to be when they are there. Understanding what leads someone to that point is vitally important, and I am not sure that the Bill reflects what people with that lived experience would tell us. Some of that will require continued work with our European partners, in particular, to make sure that people have access to information, as well as to their protection systems, in order to look at the reasons why somebody may not have claimed asylum in France, for example.

A vital point that came up in the equality impact assessment published earlier this week is that when states such as the UK look to put in extra measures to protect their borders and asylum systems, they must ensure that does not lead to inverse reactions, which will just lead to people making more dangerous journeys. That is certainly what we have seen over the last 10 to 15 years. The harder it has been for people to make journeys when one route is cut off, the more people are generally pushed to make more dangerous journeys. We should be dealing with the root causes of why people make those decisions in the first instance.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q What assessment have you made of those evil criminal gangs and the associated criminality? You have referred to the life sentences for people smugglers. What more would you propose doing to break their business model?

Jon Featonby: It is largely about the points I have just raised. The explanatory notes to the Bill talk about breaking the business model, and absolutely there are the enforcement procedures regarding the people smugglers themselves. We agree that that should continue to be a priority. However, we need to look at why people turn to people smugglers, and that is because of a lack of other alternatives, whether that is accessing protection systems or those other safe routes.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q On modern slavery, I recognise that one of the challenges to modern slavery prosecutions is maintaining victim engagement throughout the criminal justice process. In your view, what are the key barriers for victims?

Jon Featonby: That is a very good point. We believe that the modern slavery response needs not only to provide protection for people coming out of situations of exploitation, but to enable those people to take part in prosecutions to tackle people who are exploiting others, whether in the UK or abroad.

The challenges that we see people quite often face are, first, at times a lack of trust in the police or whoever else it might be, but also—probably more importantly and more pertinent to the Bill—a lack of security about their immigration status. The people we work with, who predominantly do not have a secure immigration status in the UK, are thinking about where they are going to sleep that night, and how they are going to feed themselves and their family, rather than how they are going to help the police through this, or potentially how they will have to recount quite traumatic experiences to support those prosecutions.

That is why we support the measures in the Bill to try to give more people secure immigration status. We think that will make a big difference, but we absolutely encourage the Government to go slightly further to ensure that more people can avail themselves of that protection, which would have a beneficial impact on prosecutions as well.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I will ask one more quick question, so that hopefully my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South West can come in. In your view, will the new legal aid provision in relation to the one-stop process encourage earlier referrals into the national referral mechanism?

Jon Featonby: Potentially. Some of it depends on how it is implemented. We would probably like to see some changes to that provision. I touched earlier on the work that the Red Cross does at reception centres to support people when they first leave those situations of exploitation. At that point, people come out, they are in these centres, the Red Cross may well be there, but it is probably the police, local authorities and increasingly immigration enforcement. There are very few opportunities for people to get legal advice at that point around what the NRM entails for them.

The provisions in the Bill on legal aid are welcome, but they are only for those people who have ongoing protection claims. Most people who come out of those situations of exploitation will not necessarily have an ongoing asylum claim. We would welcome the broadening of the provisions in the Bill to make sure that it covers everybody who may be thinking about entering the NRM, so that they are able to get legal advice, whether or not they have an ongoing human rights or asylum claim alongside it.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Thank you. This will have to be one final question from Mr Anderson and one final answer.

Nationality and Borders Bill (Third sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage
Thursday 23rd September 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
Nationality and Borders Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 23 September 2021 - (23 Sep 2021)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

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

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I am sorry. I said that had to be the last question. I have to try and get everybody in and there are a lot of Members. Minister.

Tom Pursglove Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Tom Pursglove)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you, Sir Roger. I will be quick, so hopefully the hon. Member might get another go.

Your Excellency, looking back in the Australian context, is it reasonable to think, that if you had stood back and done nothing about this challenge the numbers of people crossing or seeking to cross would have increased, and on less seaworthy vessels?

George Brandis: I think that is an absolutely fair inference to draw, because in the years prior to the introduction of the policy, which was in September 2013, the numbers had escalated, so every year there were more than in the previous year. It almost inevitably follows, given that nothing else would have changed, that the number of those vessels that did not make it and the number of passengers who drowned would have escalated, too.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q How fundamental do you think that offshore processing was in acting as an effective deterrent as part of your wider plan to tackle this challenge?

George Brandis: Well, as I have already said in my evidence, there were three legs, or three elements, to this policy and all of them were essential to it. I do not think you can disaggregate one from another.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I am interested in wider criminality. What impacts did you assess there to be in the line of finance that these crossings were generating for these criminal gangs? What impact did that have on wider criminality? Was it fuelling other types of criminality in Australia?

George Brandis: It is very difficult to answer that question in a general way. The people-smuggling gangs who were the authors and beneficiaries of this activity were located in Indonesia, primarily. That is not to say that they may not have had connections in Australia, but they were primarily groups that operated within Indonesia, and there were many of them. I am not in a position to generalise from that proposition to what extent they had connections in other countries, including Australia.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Trying to create a swifter, more efficient, more streamlined processing of applications is fundamental to the plan the Government here are seeking to advance. Was that an element of the work you put in place in Australia, and how important do you think it is, both in acting as a deterrent and having a system that is much more humane and treats people fairly?

George Brandis: As is evident from the statistics I quoted before, we accept an unusually large number of humanitarian and refugee immigration applications for a country of our size. We have an ambitious humanitarian and refugee programme, and we seek to process those applications swiftly and efficiently, but we do say, “You’ve got to come in the front door, and not put yourself in the hands of criminals and put yourself and your children at risk of drowning.”

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Finally, looking back at your experience, the establishment of the policy framework and everything that underpinned it more generally, what in your assessment were the key challenges you faced in delivering on this, and what lessons could the British Government learn from that experience in the work we are doing?

George Brandis: There were logistical challenges, particularly the turn-back operations. It was very challenging for the maritime authorities to do that while at the same time ensuring that nobody’s safety was put at risk. That was one dimension to this, but it is a bit of a different problem because, as one of your colleagues pointed out, here these people come by dinghy. Almost all the people who were trying to come to Australia were coming in decrepit old timber fishing boats, which were much more fragile. That was the difference.

I am not here to instruct or encourage your Parliament on the right policy choice; I am merely here to respond to the questions you have asked me about how a particular set of measures worked for Australia. I have already observed that there are differences as well as similarities in the profile of the problems. However, I would say that undoubtedly the key to this is to put the people smugglers out of business. The way to put the people smugglers out of business is to demonstrate to their potential clientele that they are wasting their money. The way we did that in Australia, and it was a robust policy, was to persuade the potential clientele that, if they came in through the front door as genuine refugees, they would be embraced; but, if they put themselves in the hands of people smugglers, there was no way they would ever end up in Australia.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

We have time for one final question from Neil Coyle.

Nationality and Borders Bill (Fourth sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage
Thursday 23rd September 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
Nationality and Borders Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 23 September 2021 - (23 Sep 2021)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

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

Paul Blomfield Portrait Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Of course, Chair, I will be very quick. You mentioned that in your view the Bill will be counterproductive to its own objectives. I think I heard you right in saying that it would hamper returns. Could you develop that point?

Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor: I will. One of the important elements is that if you have a system, there have to be consequences to that system. It does not make any sense to have a system that determines who is a refugee and who is not, and then the results go nowhere. I know that it is difficult to arrange for returns—there are a number of issues and they need a great deal of partnerships internationally—but it is a fact that if somebody is properly looked at in a proper procedure and then found not in need of international protection, it is a lot easier if that happens closer to the time than after a few years, when they have had time to establish a family and when perhaps the whole question of identification is getting a little more vague. It is a fact that good case management increases the chances of people returning, and it increases the chances of people returning voluntarily, too.

Tom Pursglove Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Tom Pursglove)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Clearly, one of the fundamental cornerstones of the policy is prioritising safe and legal routes, and I am sure that you would strongly support that. Presumably you also think it is right to try to deter and dissuade people from making those very dangerous crossings across the channel, which pose a grave risk to life. What do you suggest, if not the approach we are suggesting?

Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor: Granted, you will never have a silver bullet that solves all of your issues until and unless people no longer feel the need to seek asylum elsewhere. However, as I said, I think that a fast and fair procedure is your best defence, alongside strong agreements with the European Union on the allocation of responsibility for asylum seekers. That is by far the best way of dissuading people who might sometimes be hopping around countries to choose a jurisdiction or who are just giving it a shot—people whom your colleague referred to as illegal immigrants. There are some who could masquerade as asylum seekers; there is no question about that.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Order. I am sorry, but that brings us to the end of the time allotted for the Committee to ask questions. On behalf of the Committee, I thank our witnesses for their evidence.

Examination of Witnesses

Siobhán Mullally and Dame Sara Thornton gave evidence.

--- Later in debate ---
Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you. Ms Mullally?

Siobhán Mullally: The state has very specific obligations to protect victims and potential victims of trafficking, and there are very specific provisions under the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings with regard to missing children, whether those are foreign nationals or not. Internal trafficking is a very serious concern that is often not recognised sufficiently in many jurisdictions, not exclusively the United Kingdom.

A concern was raised previously by the Council of Europe group of experts on action against trafficking, the treaty monitoring body under the convention on action against trafficking, about children going missing in the UK—particularly unaccompanied, separated asylum-seeking children, but also child victims of trafficking internally. Of course, there are very serious obligations on the state to provide protection to all children without discrimination.

One concern with regard to the trafficking context can be that sometimes the child victims and adult victims go outside of the ordinary protection mechanisms and are not treated with the same urgency that they ought to be, but there are very specific obligations on the state to try to respond effectively and in a timely way to prevent that, and to ensure protection.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Just a few questions for Dame Sara, if I may. As you will know, we are bringing in more staff as decision makers, and we have brought in the new modern slavery victim care contract. For the benefit of the Committee, can you describe what the principal drivers of the pressure on the national referral mechanism are, from your perspective?

Dame Sara Thornton: Thank you, Minister, and I very much welcome the new staff who are being recruited into the single competent authority, because I have raised the need to speed up decision making with your predecessors on many occasions.

The biggest cause of difficulty, I think, is the increased numbers. Although 2020 was similar to 2019, with about 10,600 referrals into the NRM, that number has doubled in three or four years, so there is substantial pressure. The other thing that is happening, as I mentioned earlier on, is child criminal exploitation and the cases of children. Those decisions need to be made quickly, because there are often related proceedings. Having been to the single competent authority and spoken to the staff, what tends to happen is that all those priorities keep going to the top of the pile and then there are an awful lot of cases in the backlog. On the whole, it has been about increased demand, and the resources just have not been able to keep up with it. So I welcome the fact that there are new staff. It will take a while for them to be trained and to be competent, but that is a good thing.

The second thing, which is identified in a report I published last year, is that one of the difficulties for the decision makers in that competent authority is that they do not always have all the information. They have some information, but they are often having to make decisions on partial information. They might have asked local authorities, they might have asked police forces or they might have asked Border Force. They do not always get the replies and therefore they are having to do the best in difficult circumstances. Staff have been under huge pressure and I hope we can begin to bring those averages down and bring the weight down.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Are there challenges around bringing clarity to victims about precisely what their rights are and around how the processes themselves work? Is there more that needs to be done to boost awareness in that area? Does that act as a barrier?

Dame Sara Thornton: There are difficulties. Colleagues might be aware that the process is that you have first responders, who are police officers, members of Border Force, immigration enforcement and local authority staff, who have the ability to refer a potential victim into the national referral mechanism. One of the difficulties, and it is constantly reported on, is that the staff who are doing that do not understand how the national referral mechanism works. They do not understand enough to give good advice. So report after report recommends that there needs to be more training of first responders, and the Home Office recently published some more training.

I am getting to the position now where I wonder whether it is a sensible to expect that every police officer should be able to deal with this—every member of Border Force, every member of a local authority—and whether you might want to have specially trained points of contact who deal with it. If you think about it, even though the numbers have been going up, most police officers in the course of a year will never deal with these situations. I do think there is an issue about that, and we need to think very seriously about the model we have for first responders.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Obviously, the Government are very clear that we want to send an unequivocal message to those responsible for people smuggling that what they do simply will not be tolerated and that the punishment for that will be harsh. We are proposing through the Bill to introduce life sentences for people smugglers. Is that something that you welcome, and what would you observe about that and the difference that it might make?

Dame Sara Thornton: I think that people who smuggle fellow human beings, or indeed traffic them, are committing a most heinous crime. Think about the 39 people who lost their lives in Essex two years ago. Whether they were smuggled or trafficked is a matter much debated, but the callous way that those criminals treated those victims, in my view, needs the harshest punishment. The only thing I would say is that, as a former police officer, I am on the whole in favour of harsh punishments, but you have life sentence as an option from the Modern Slavery Act 2015 for slavery and trafficking. It has never been used. So there is the point that, I guess, it has a deterrent effect, but there is also an issue about whether, if those powers exist, they really need to be used to be a really effective deterrent.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I see no further questioners. I thank the witnesses for their evidence. We will move on to the next panel.

Examination of Witnesses

Lisa Doyle, Mariam Kemple-Hardy, Priscilla Dudhia and Alphonsine Kabagabo gave evidence.

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

We have a couple of minutes. Do any other witnesses want to say something briefly?

Lisa Doyle: May I just add to that? I agree that resettlement needs expansion. Refugee family reunion is a really good safe route; it is used by tens of thousands of people, 90% of whom are women and children. The Bill seeks to reduce the rights to refugee family reunion, rather than expand them. Priscilla also mentioned a humanitarian visa that would allow people to travel to the UK to claim asylum. They would still have their asylum claim looked at, but they could formally and legally get on a plane and come to the UK—you have to be physically present in the UK to claim asylum, so that would be helpful.

However, no matter how many safe routes are opened, you should not be closing down routes for people who need to enter irregularly. That is in the convention, as was just highlighted very strongly by the UNHCR. There will be categorisations and formal processes and criteria that people will have to meet for all of the safe routes, and not everyone will be covered yet. There will still be people who fall outside of those who have protection needs, and we should honour those.

Craig Whittaker Portrait Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I have a quick question on what you just said. For absolute clarity, are you saying that we should not be closing down routes where people are drowning and dying to get here?

Lisa Doyle: We do not want people to drown and die to get here.

Craig Whittaker Portrait Craig Whittaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q But you said that we should not be closing those routes down.

Lisa Doyle: We should not be punishing people who feel they are forced to travel irregularly to enter a country. There is a precedent in international law to do that. All the evidence in previous days has said that if you build your walls higher, the people smugglers become more and more sophisticated and have to take—

Craig Whittaker Portrait Craig Whittaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q So for absolute clarity, you would rather see people drown—

Lisa Doyle: Of course I would not want to see people drown. What I am saying is that there will always be a need for people to enter countries and to seek safety not on formal safe routes, because formal safe routes are not broad enough to encompass everybody. The reality is that people are desperate. They need to move and they want to rebuild their lives.

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Thank you. I call the Minister.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I have a question for Mr Berry. Do you see any benefit whatsoever in streamlining the processing of applications in the way that the Bill seeks to do, and providing clarity for the claimants sooner?

Adrian Berry: I do not think it provides clarity to take away the ability to properly prepare a protection claim. What you need are proper resources and proper funding in order for that claim to be properly advanced, and then you need a robust determination mechanism to assess it. The difficulties relate to gathering evidence, taking witness statements from people who have been traumatised in their home country and traumatised by their journey, and obtaining other evidence in terms of other witnesses of fact and expert evidence in a case. These things take a little bit of time, and the existing procedure creaks even without accelerating the procedures. So long as people are treated with dignity and the resources are available, determinations will be made that are good and do not require challenge. That alone would foreshorten the procedure.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q If you had the opportunity, what would you do to better shape the system to remove those with no right to be here and to deport foreign national offenders?

Adrian Berry: Foreign national offenders are a completely separate issue. We are talking about asylum, and the Bill is focused on protection claims in the section that we are concerned with. It is very important not to confuse foreign national offenders with people who are claiming asylum.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

To be clear, I am talking about the Bill as a whole.

Adrian Berry: Yes, and the Bill as a whole contains provisions on asylum, not extra removal provisions, so I was talking about the Bill as a whole as well. You already have everything you need. We are almost returning to the stage where immigration Bills happen every couple of years, attempting to address problems that had apparently been solved by earlier immigration Bills. The Home Office has a vast array of powers at its disposal. What is needed is that it properly uses them.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No further questions.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Are there any other questions? Mr McDonald, I stopped you on a question. Would you like to carry on?

--- Later in debate ---
Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Based on what you have just said, this came as a bit of a surprise. Would it be fair to say that you think that part 4, on modern slavery, does not belong in a piece of legislation around borders? Perhaps it should be removed, the consultation process should be done properly, and then revised proposals around properly tackling modern slavery and trafficking, supporting victims and bringing perpetrators to justice, could come back in a way that we would all like to see?

Patricia Cabral: I think that would be preferable, given that we have got a review of the whole of the modern slavery strategy. What we do not want to risk is the progress that has been made, and the good provisions that have been made, through the UK’s modern slavery strategy, potentially getting rolled back. That is the big concern. What we should be doing is improving things. I would support looking at the provisions around modern slavery and trafficking as safeguarding matters, rather than immigration matters. Obviously, there are enforcement matters related, but there is confusion. I draw the Committee’s attention to the Government’s 2014 review, by Jeremy Oppenheim, which led to revisions of the national referral mechanism to separate immigration decisions from matters of modern slavery. The provisions in part 4 are rolling that back quite considerably.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I have one further question. On Tuesday, one of the issues that the local government witnesses referred to as being particularly problematic was around age assessments. I would be interested to know whether any of the witnesses have come into contact with that challenge? They mentioned that sometimes those cases end up in quite long and protracted judicial review processes. I would be keen to hear any reflections that the witnesses have around the Bill’s approach to this.

Adrian Berry: I do not know whether the other witnesses have had experience of age assessment trials—I have. This Committee cannot scrutinise that clause in the Bill, because all you have put in it is a placeholder clause, with the detail said to be coming later on. We are not in a position to scrutinise it, and I cannot tell you what it says, because you had not finished the Bill before publishing.

Age assessment trials are trials; although they take place within a judicial review context, they are full trials with witnesses, and over time the courts have developed a system for case managing those trials. The difficulties that arise would arise in any context. In other words, it is very difficult to tell how old someone is. It is a process that requires expert evidence and the gathering of timelines and the chronologies of people’s journeys, and their explanations. That would take time in any context. Until we see the detail of what you propose, the age assessment provision simply cannot be assessed. We hope you bring forward the actual clause by Report.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Are there any further questions?

Nationality and Borders Bill (Fifth sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage
Tuesday 19th October 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
Nationality and Borders Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 19 October 2021 - (19 Oct 2021)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

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

Anne McLaughlin Portrait Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow North East) (SNP)
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I will be brief and echo what my hon. Friend has said. I welcome the Minister to his place and wish him well although I am sorry to say not with this Bill. I thank all the multiple organisations that are concerned by the Bill and supported the moves to make the changes that need to be made.

It might be a moot point but, as my hon. Friend said about amendments 29 and 84, we do not want to be in a situation in which parents are treated equally badly. I suspect that that is not what the clause is about and I hope that the Minister will say that it is fine and we will accept that. However, it is important that we acknowledge that mothers were treated unequally and wrongly. That is because, throughout the centuries, women have been treated systemically badly. Yes, of course things have improved—and this is an improvement—but we have to acknowledge it whenever there has been systemic bias against any group of people, and in this case we are talking about women and mothers. I do not think any member of the Committee would disagree that what has happened is extremely unfair but we must acknowledge it so that we can move forward. Acknowledging a problem draws attention to it. Let us not pretend that we have equality of the sexes and genders. We do not. Every time that that is acknowledged it enables us to move forward and think of other situations in which there is inequality.

We have helpfully been provided with photos of members of the Committee and been given their constituency names but when I saw the photo of the right hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby, I thought he was the right hon. Member for Con, Scarborough and Whitby. I thought, “Where is ‘Con’?” until I realised that it referred to the fact that he is a Conservative. I am learning something new every day.

The right hon. Gentleman was factually correct to say that it is easier for mothers rather than fathers to prove their parentage. That is why I wonder why on earth it was so difficult for women to pass on their nationality to their children. There is no question who the mother is in such cases. I hope the Minister will say that he will change the language to refer to mothers and that the Government will acknowledge the inequalities between men and women and mothers and fathers. Treating parents equally should not mean that they are treated equally badly. I suspect that he does not want to do that and I support most of the provisions in this part of the Bill. That is probably the last time I shall say that today.

Tom Pursglove Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Tom Pursglove)
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I start by thanking Opposition colleagues for their warm welcome to me in my new role. It is welcome that, in the early provisions of the Bill, there is broad agreement across the Committee about the need to correct the injustices and to put things right.

I thank the hon. Members for Enfield, Southgate, for Halifax, for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East and for Glasgow North East for tabling amendments 29 and 84. They both refer to clause 1, which I am pleased to introduce because it corrects a long-standing anomaly in British nationality law. I appreciate hon. Members’ attention to detail in seeking to make sure that the new provision is clear and in line with the parallel provision in the British Nationality Act 1981 for the children of British citizen mothers. However, I do not think an amendment is needed, as the proposed wording here achieves what is intended. In saying that this provision applies to someone who would have been a citizen had their parents been treated equally, we are talking about a situation where the law applied equally to mothers or fathers, women or men.

The term “parents” is consistent with the wording used in section 23 of the 1981 Act, which determined which citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies became British dependent territories citizens on commencement. One of the three conditions that a person needs to meet to qualify for registration under this clause is that they would have become a British dependent territories citizen under section 23(1)(b) or (c) of that Act. That section refers to a person’s “parent”.

I wish to point out that we will further clarify the points that have been made in the underpinning guidance. I trust that will afford greater comfort because it is clear that the Bill is technical, so plain language will be used in the guidance itself to achieve what members of the Committee seek to achieve.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle
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I, too, congratulate the Minister on his new role. If the Minister is saying that this may require further explanation in the guidance, will he agree to review it in more depth before the Bill reaches the Lords if organisations are able to present examples of case studies where the current wording may not meet the Government’s intent?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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I will of course be delighted to receive any such examples. I genuinely think that, as with so many cases of immigration law, the underpinning guidance plays an important role in making it clear, in plain English that people can understand, precisely what various aspects of the law entail. I am satisfied with the current wording of the clause.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
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I understand what the Minister says about the wording doing a job in statute, but will he say whether he thinks that the wording used has any implications for British citizenship as opposed to British overseas territories citizenship? Was a problem with the wording recognised and is that the reason why it was not copied across? Or is this Bill a wee bit different and therefore uses different wording?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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The short answer, based on my understanding, is no. The connected provision in the Act talks about parents and not the mother and the father, so that is why we think this is the appropriate route to take for BOTCs. I am satisfied that the current wording does what is required so I ask hon. Members not to press their amendments.

Bambos Charalambous Portrait Bambos Charalambous
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I have heard what the Minister has said, but we could avoid going down the path of seeking to clarify the current wording if the same wording that was used in the 1981 Act were used here. We do not see what the problem would be. If the wording in the 1981 Act is adequate, why not just repeat it in the Bill? It would provide clarity and stop problems occurring in the future. Our belief is that everyone should be treated equally, and we should not have a separation, which the amendment tries to correct, between British overseas territory citizens and British citizens. Regrettably, we will press the amendment to a vote.

--- Later in debate ---

Division 1

Ayes: 7


Labour: 5
Scottish National Party: 2

Noes: 9


Conservative: 9

None Portrait The Chair
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Ordinarily, Mr McDonald, I will not ask this question, because I will assume that if you, or any other Member who wishes to move an amendment that has been debated but not yet called, have not notified the Chair, you do not want it to be called. However, because this is the first time, do you wish to press amendment 84 to a Division?

--- Later in debate ---
Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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I am grateful to the hon. Members for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East and for Glasgow North East for tabling amendments 8 to 12 and new clause 16, which provides the Committee with the opportunity to consider fees charged in respect of applications for British citizenship and British overseas territories citizenship.

Before I address the specific points in the proposed new measures, I want to provide some background information. Application fees for immigration and nationality applications have been charged for a number of years under powers set out under clause 68 of the Immigration Act 2014, and they play a vital role in our country’s ability to run a sustainable system, reducing the burden on taxpayers. Sitting beneath the 2014 Act are fees orders and fees regulations, which are scrutinised by both Houses before they come into effect; that is an important point. That ensures that there are checks and balances within the system and maintains the coherence of the fees framework. If we were to remove those fees during the passage of the Bill, as the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark suggests, it would undermine the existing legal framework without proper consideration of the sustainability and fairness to the UK taxpayer.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle
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Will the Minister give way?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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I will, although I know that you wanted us to make good progress, Sir Roger.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle
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I want to comment on the point about the burden on taxpayers. First, there is a very significant profit margin—86% profit for some of the processes of the Home Office—so there is no burden there. Secondly, it is quite offensive language to those that are living, working and paying tax here to say that they are a burden, even though they are already contributing economically through national insurance and tax contributions. I find the language unhealthy.

None Portrait The Chair
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Order. The Minister has indicated that we want to make progress, and that is true, but the Minister must not feel under any pressure not to respond to points that have been raised. This is a very important part of the Bill, so please, as a new Minister, feel able to take your time if you need to do so.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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Thank you, Sir Roger. I appreciate that. I also appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s strength of feeling on this matter. I was Parliamentary Private Secretary, several years ago, to my right hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby who was Immigration Minister, and I learned a lot from him. He got to the nub of the issue of fees. The truth is that there is a level of fee that is set. There is constant parliamentary scrutiny of those fees, as I have described. There is a level of cost associated with that. Any fee level that is incurred over and above that is actually invested into the wider nationality and borders system and helps to pay for the services that are provided.

Paul Blomfield Portrait Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab)
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The Minister refers to the contribution of the right hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby. That was a challenge to give a commitment that fees should not be set at a level that does other than reflect cost. I hope the Minister will take advantage of that opportunity. As he is beginning to develop his argument, he is suggesting that fees are set at a higher level in order to reinvest in the Home Office. That is what other people have described and The Times reported in 2019 as profit of quite significant proportion.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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I will gladly take away the Committee’s feedback on fees. As I have said, fees are kept under constant review and are subject to parliamentary scrutiny. I have no doubt that members of the Committee, and indeed Members across the House, will want to scrutinise any fees orders and fees regulations that are brought forward, express views on them and, as they see fit, either support them or take issue with them.

To return to the focus of the amendments and the clause, removing these fees during the passage of the Bill would undermine the existing legal framework without proper consideration of sustainability and fairness for the UK taxpayer. It would also reduce clarity in the fees structure by creating an alternative mechanism for controlling fees.

Beginning with amendments 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12, the aim of which is to limit the Secretary of State’s power to charge a fee for applying for British overseas territories citizenship, I can reassure the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East that I am sympathetic to the view that a fee should not be charged in cases where a person missed out on becoming a British citizen automatically due to historical anomalies. The provisions in the Bill are about righting historical wrongs, and I can give the Committee my assurance that we will look carefully at where fees should be waived via the fees regulations. However, as I have outlined, that is not a matter for this Bill and it should be remedied through secondary legislation, in line with other changes to immigration and nationality fees.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
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My understanding, from the briefing I was given at the weekend, is that in July the Home Office sent a letter to nationality experts stating that the intention was not to charge a fee, but the Minister seems to be saying something different; that there will be fee waivers, rather than no fees at all. We are talking about historical injustices here, so can he be a little more clear? Is the intention not to charge a fee for the applications to which amendments 8 to 11 refer?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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The hon. Member is always on point in asking pertinent questions. I reiterate the point that the Home Office tends not to charge fees in instances where unfairness or injustice have occurred, and it remains our intention to continue to adopt that approach in relation to the provisions that we are enacting through the Bill. I hope that gives him the reassurance he is seeking.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle
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I thank the Minister for giving way. Yesterday we saw Parliament at its finest, and I genuinely think that he is a decent man, but what he is saying today is not what was indicated previously and it does not address what the Court of Appeal has required the Home Office to do. If he is saying that there will be secondary legislation at some point, when is it coming, because we have an opportunity here to address the issue? The Court of Appeal found that the Home Office had failed to assess the best interests of children in setting the fee. To fail to do so again in this legislation will have only one outcome, which is the Government being back in court.

Also, I forgot to mention the case that I was speaking about earlier, so for reference it is R (The Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens) v. the Secretary of State for the Home Department.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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I thank the hon. Member for that further intervention. Let me just set out the position on the point about child citizenship fees that he raises. I understand the concerns expressed about child citizenship fees. However, this is currently subject to legal challenge in the Supreme Court and the position will be reviewed after the judgments have been received.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle
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So when the Government said in February that the issue was being reviewed, was it not being reviewed then? It is extraordinary that many months down the line the Minister is telling us that there will be a review only if they lose the case in the Supreme Court, which will incur further costs of millions of pounds for the taxpayer simply to go through the legal process.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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The hon. Member would be surprised if we did not want to review the situation and take into account fully the judgment of the Supreme Court in due course. I think that it is entirely proper that we take a view on this and that the situation should be reviewed in the light of any judicial ruling handed down. This exchange has been very useful, as it has allowed me to address many of the points that I would have picked up at the end of my remarks.

I turn now to subsection (1) of new clause 16, the aim of which is to limit the Secretary of State’s power to charge a fee for applying for British citizenship and British overseas territories citizenship to the cost to the Secretary of State of processing the application. As I have already outlined, imposing such a requirement would cut across the funding and coherence of the whole system and is not a matter for the Bill.

Subsection (2) would prevent the Secretary of State from charging a fee to register as a British citizen or British overseas territories citizen if the child is being looked after by a local authority. It is important to remember that any child, irrespective of nationality, who is looked after by their local authority can apply for both limited and indefinite leave to remain without being required to pay application fees.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
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The Minister is being generous with his time, but I regret that the Home Office appears to have dusted down the same old briefing and he is making the same points that have been made before. He cannot possibly argue that limited leave is some sort of alternative to British citizenship. None of us would accept that; why should these kids?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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We would argue that the provision ensures no child in local authority care is unable to access leave. We remain of the view that citizenship is not necessary for any individual to work, live, study or access services within the UK. Subsection (3) would prevent the Secretary of State from charging a fee to be registered as a British citizen or British overseas territories citizen that the child or the child’s parent, guardian or carer is unable to afford. That raises similar points to subsection (1) in that imposing such a requirement would cut across the funding and coherence of the whole system and is not a matter for the Bill. Subsection (4) would require the Secretary of State to take steps to raise awareness of rights under the British Nationality Act 1981.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
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I have a quick question on the fee waiver. Why is registration for citizenship just about the only thing where there is no fee waiver scheme at all? There is a fee waiver sometimes for the 10-year route to settlement—as ludicrous a system as that is. Why is there no fee waiver system at all even for folk who cannot remotely afford that?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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I am conscious that I want to get through my remarks on this. I will write to the hon. Member on that point.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle
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The Minister is being very generous in giving way. Perhaps he will be able to tell us how many applications for a fee waiver were denied by the Home Office in each of the last few years, or perhaps he could furnish us with that detail in another way. My understanding is that it is about 90%.