Committee (5th Day) (Continued)
Clause 67: Disapplication of retained EU law deriving from Trafficking Directive
Amendment 172B
Moved by
172B: Clause 67, page 71, line 13, at end insert—
“(1A) This section may not come into force until the Secretary of State has conducted a review of the impact of subsection (1) and laid a copy of the review before Parliament.(1B) A review under subsection (1A) must include, but is not limited to—(a) identification of any parts of the Trafficking Directive which the Secretary of State considers to be incompatible with provisions made by or under this Act;(b) analysis of the costs and benefits of the disapplication of the Trafficking Directive;(c) the impact that the disapplication of the Trafficking Directive is likely to have on the identification, protection, support and access to wider remedies of victims of all forms of slavery in the United Kingdom.”Member’s explanatory statement
This would require the Secretary of State to review the impact of disapplying the EU Trafficking Directive before this section can come into force.
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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My Lords, my Amendments 172B and Amendment 174A relate to Clause 67.

I say at the outset that I do not want to reopen a debate about Brexit, but I do want to reopen a debate about the practical implications of the UK being outside the EU and how it relates to the protection of children and those who are victims of slavery and trafficking.

The Government actively chose to opt into the trafficking directive in 2011, stating that it would send a powerful message to traffickers. The modern slavery strategy of 2014 stated that opting in showed

“our commitment to working with other countries in Europe to drive up standards across the continent in tackling trafficking.”

Can the Minister say what has happened to that and how the Government are demonstrating those continuing commitments? Why is Clause 67, on disapplying the directive, necessary? What the Committee would like from the Minister—which may be difficult to do now as he may need to refer to others before coming back to us—is to explain which specific provisions of the Bill the Government consider to be incompatible with the directive? The Government have not given any detail on this. Is it victims’ rights or children’s rights? In other words, what difference has it made, what was covered and what is not covered? These answers are necessary for us to make a comparison and see whether there are any gaps which we believe would be important to close.

In the Commons, the Minister said that

“the transition period for this measure finished in January, so in effect it has already been disapplied.”—[Official Report, Commons, Nationality and Borders Bill Committee, 2/11/21; col. 547.]

I hesitate to suggest this, but I certainly would not be able to tell noble Lords exactly which bits have been applied, which have been disapplied and whether it makes any difference. Can the Minister provide clarity on this? Are we disapplying it under this Act, or have the Government already decided that it does not apply? In other words, has it just been abandoned?

My amendment does not prevent the disapplication, but simply asks the Government to complete an impact assessment before this part comes into force—including identifying which parts of the Bill are incompatible and, crucially, what impact this would have on the identification and protection of victims of slavery. The Government may have already conducted an impact assessment but if so, I could not find one. If they have, it would be interesting for the Committee to note that. This is particularly important because a Google search finds all sorts of regulations and legislation which have been passed, presumably to protect victims of slavery and trafficking. So, my amendment is a simple probing amendment to ask the Minister what difference the disapplication has made. How do we know it has not made a difference if we have no information about the difference between what there was and what there is?

I do not intend to commence a huge new debate for this Committee, but I want to use this grouping as an opportunity to highlight the issue of internal trafficking and county lines. The Minister will know that large numbers of children are referred to the national referral mechanism. He will also know that 34% of referrals are British citizens. There is a real problem with slavery and trafficking within the UK. Euphemistically, this is called county lines, and we know what that means. This will be the tip of the iceberg. The Government have set up all sorts of initiatives to try to deal with this, but what I am seeking to do is simply to raise the issue of slavery and trafficking of children—British children—within the UK. How big is the problem, what is its extent and what are we doing to get on top of it? People of this country would be shocked at the numbers of British children being trafficked and enslaved. Often, including in the debate we have had on this Bill, much of the discussion has been about people coming into the country—rightly or wrongly—what the numbers are and what the impact of the new provisions will be.

Although this is a probing amendment, it is nevertheless really important. I am pleased to see that the Home Office Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, is now in her place. Perhaps these are issues that should be debated elsewhere, but county lines and internal trafficking are important issues and the number of British children in slavery is increasing. It is a growing phenomenon that is a great shock to us all, and we need to do more to tackle it. I beg to move.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, I would like to lend our support from these Benches to both the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. The subject of retained EU law is one on which it is easy to go down a rabbit hole. But at least this is being put in primary legislation instead of being done by the stroke of an executive pen, which is what the noble Lord, Lord Frost—who is, well, I had better not say—who used to be the Brexit Minister, appeared to suggest would happen. So, I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies.

The EU trafficking directive is, in a sense, a classic EU directive. It aims to get common standards as a measure of human rights protection, in order to establish robust provisions to prevent and prosecute the crime of trafficking and to protect, assist and support its victims. But also, the point of trying to get similar standards was to facilitate cross-border co-operation between member states’ law enforcement authorities through police co-operation, exchange of information and best practices, and dialogue between police, judicial and other authorities. Sometimes misunderstood, the whole point of EU harmonisation was to enable things to happen better, not least law enforcement.

I too do not want to rerun the issue of Brexit, but it is hard to see how pulling out of the EU trafficking directive is a Brexit opportunity. It is a lost opportunity to co-operate internationally across European borders with Europol on major crime. I am afraid that major criminals are one of the beneficiaries of Brexit.

It is a great pity that the part of the TCA on security is so thin. Things like the EU trafficking directive deserve a place in it. You can withdraw unilaterally, but that means you do not get the reciprocity of other police forces co-operating when you have criminal perpetrators who come from all over. Of course, we know this is an international crime. The EU directive also enables the pursuit of action in non-EU countries, such as raising awareness, reducing vulnerability, supporting and assisting victims, fighting the root causes of trafficking and supporting third countries in developing appropriate anti-trafficking legislation. That is an action that would rebound to the benefit of EU countries and the UK, if we were to stay plugged in to the EU’s directives. So, I do not see that pulling out is other than a lose-lose situation.

On the other amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, as has been mentioned—I believe this figure comes from Care UK—in 2020, 34% of all potential victims of modern slavery referred to the NRM were UK nationals. So, the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, is right to focus on that and on the many children involved in county lines drug dealing. We fully support the call for a report on these issues.

Lord Stewart of Dirleton Portrait The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Stewart of Dirleton) (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 172B, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and concerning Clause 67, disapplies the EU trafficking directive so far as it is incompatible with provisions in the Bill. This means that any provisions in the directive that continue to have effect—I stress that we do not think that any do—and remain compatible with the Bill will be unaffected by this clause. Clause 67 provides an important point of legal clarity to ensure that victims can understand their entitlements, that we are clear on the rights that we are providing and that these are in line with our international obligations. I appreciate that this is a probing amendment, but what it proposes is unnecessary. In future, should it be required and parliamentary time allows, we will consider whether further legislation is needed to clarify other elements of the EU trafficking directive. Here, we seek to provide clarity on the specific measures in the Bill.

In speaking from the Liberal Democrat Front Bench, the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, took the opportunity afforded by this short debate to land some side swipes at Brexit and its consequences, a topic I would be happy to debate with her all night. However, not to take up the Committee’s time, I simply stress that we are not removing any entitlements from victims. I can confirm that this will not have an impact on victim identification, protection or support.

Turning to Amendment 174A, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, I take the opportunity to reassure the Committee that there are already robust mechanisms in place across government, the police and the criminal justice system for gathering, recording and publishing victim data. There are measures in place for collecting and publishing data on the areas in which the noble Lord is interested and to which he referred in Committee. The Home Office publishes data on potential child victims of modern slavery referred through the national referral mechanism. Anticipating my answer in greater detail to the noble Lord’s point about the need to collate statistics on the incidence of trafficking of British children, the Home Office also publishes the nationality of recorded potential victims, based on information provided by the first responder on arrival. The noble Lord is shaking his head; I suspect he knows these things better than I do but, for the benefit of the Committee, that information may be updated by the competent authority staff as further information is gathered.

Lord Flight Portrait Lord Flight (Con)
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My Lords, can the Minister say what the contemporary definition of slavery is? We all know what slavery meant 400 years ago, but I find the word used in a way that makes it difficult to assess what it means.

Lord Stewart of Dirleton Portrait Lord Stewart of Dirleton (Con)
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I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Williams here: the short answer is to look at the Modern Slavery Act. It can involve coercion, which can be occasioned by way of threats to others or by threat to the individual. It can come in many different forms; it can be emotional or psychological as well as physical. It is a pernicious practice that exists among nationals of this country as much as it does overseas. Perhaps, therefore, it gives an insight into the universal failings of the human character. The short answer—I have detained the Committee for too long—is the advice that I gave, for which I was the conduit for my noble friend Lady Williams.

I was about to expand on the fact that data concerning criminal gangs is operational and held by each police force. Adding reporting requirements for this data would, we submit, require a significant change in the way the Home Office collates and publishes data on crime. Changing this reporting approach would be unnecessary since we already publish data on county lines NRM referrals through the NRM statistics publication.

I hope that goes some way to answering the noble Lord’s important concern over how we identify, go to the defence of and offer protection to children—nationals of this country who are the victims of these gangs. Modern slavery offences committed against children are, as I say, recorded and published by the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Ministry of Justice. The Crown Prosecution Service maintains a central record of the number of offences in which a prosecution commenced, including offences charged by way of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. All modern slavery offences committed against children are identified through the child abuse monitoring flag. The Crown Prosecution Service definition of child abuse covers any case where the victim was under 18 years of age at the time of the offence.

I reassure the Committee and the noble Lord that a child’s welfare and best interests are the primary considerations in any decision-making—in this Bill and any other. Local authorities are responsible for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of all children in their area, including child victims of modern slavery. In addition to this statutory support, the Government have rolled out independent child trafficking guardians, who are an additional source of advice and support for potentially trafficked children. These have been rolled out in two-thirds of local authorities across England and Wales. The Government remain committed to rolling them out on a national basis.

Given all this, I respectfully request that the noble Lord withdraws his amendment at this stage.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for his answer. It was a short debate but an important one. There are couple of things that the noble Lord said in his answer about the EU directive that I think are helpful. It is something I might suggest with respect to the other amendment on county lines.

I think the people who read our debates will be pleased to hear the Minister say that no entitlement will be removed on victim support, protection or identification. I think I have that quote right. That will be helpful because, in the sector certainly, that is what a lot of people have been worried about: that the disapplication of the directive will impact on those aspects. The Minister’s reassurance will be welcome, although, as with everything, we will see how it works out in practice.

It was also interesting that the Minister said that other legislation may be needed to clarify the disapplication of the EU directive in due course—a fabulous phrase. As we move forward, we will see how it goes. Like Clause 67, this is very important. Sometimes, Governments fail to spell out how the disapplication works and what the practical consequences are. So, short debates like this are important.

On county lines and the report, I think that, despite the information being available, the British public have no idea that 34% of the referrals to the national referral mechanism—the body set up to deal specifically with this—are British children. I do not think that people have any idea that it is that high—that is an astonishing figure. Given that 47% of referrals to the NRM are children, this means that a very high proportion of all the people who are referred are British children. So that is the purpose of this.

It is not that the Government are not doing anything. If I had been the Minister, I would have mentioned the co-ordination centre that the Government set up in 2018, which is actually about all of the things that I am talking about: the need for more data, greater co-ordination, greater prioritisation of this work and greater identification of this as a new crime that people have not taken as seriously as they should; the fact that children are moving across county boundaries without being tracked or followed; the lack of statistical sharing between police forces, social services and children’s services; and children ending up on the south coast and coming back to London. All of those sorts of things are what the co-ordination centre was set up to deal with.

All I would say is that the Government, through the Home Office, need to keep their foot on the pedal on this because it is a growing problem. What is happening in our country is an absolute disgrace. Some of the children involved are not even teenagers; they are not even 17 and a half—I was admonished earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, for mentioning 12 and 13 year-olds rather than 17 and a half year-olds, which is what he wanted me to say. Some of these children are seven, eight and nine years old. It is a disgrace, which is why I make no apology for bringing this forward in that context. British children are being enslaved and trafficked within our shores. I know that this is a priority for the Government and for all of us, and this has given me the opportunity to raise it, so that the people of this country can hear how bad the situation is and what we are seeking to do to try to address it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 172B withdrawn.
Clause 67 agreed.
Amendment 173 not moved.
Amendment 174
Moved by
174: After Clause 67, insert the following new Clause—
“Migrant domestic workers
(1) The Secretary of State must amend the Immigration Rules to make provision for the matters the subject of subsection (2).(2) All holders of domestic worker or diplomatic domestic worker visas, including those working for staff of diplomatic missions, must be entitled—(a) to change their employer (but not work sector) without restriction, but must register such change with the Home Office;(b) to renew their domestic worker or diplomatic domestic worker visa for a period of not less than 12 months, provided they are in employment at the date of application and able to support themselves without recourse to public funds, and to make successive applications;(c) to apply for leave to enter and remain for their spouse or partner and any child under the age of 18 for a period equivalent to the unexpired period of their visa and of any subsequent visa;(d) to be granted indefinite leave to remain after five continuous years of residence in the United Kingdom if at the date of application their employer proposes to continue their employment.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would serve to reinstate the rights and protections that domestic workers originally had under the terms of the original Overseas Domestic Worker visa, in place from 1998 to 2012.
Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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My Lords, in moving Amendment 174, I will leave my noble friends Lord German and Lord Wallace to speak to their Amendments 181 and 183. I received a message asking me to pass on the apologies of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol, who signed this amendment; she is in her place, but I suspect that she is going to make a hasty exit at some point fairly soon. She is of course the bishop with safeguarding responsibilities. I have her speech on my iPad; we are not allowed to read out other noble Lords’ speeches, which is a pity because it is much more neatly set out than the rather scrappy notes that I have.

The very unhappy position of some—too many—overseas domestic workers and the appalling situations that many of them are in were explained very powerfully to many of your Lordships during the passage of the Modern Slavery Act. One of the things that remains in my memory is the thanks that we received after the discussion on the Bill, even though we had not achieved the changes that we sought. A number of women who had been treated as slaves and prisoners but who had escaped and have connections with the charities working in the sector, particularly Kalayaan, were very keen to get us all together after those defeats to say thank you and of course to continue the campaign. They presented each of us with a single flower, which felt very significant.

It was a cross-party effort at that time. At the end of the day, we did not succeed in amending the Bill, but the Government commissioned an independent review into the terms of the overseas domestic worker visa to see whether it facilitated abuse and, as a result of that, made some changes to the visa regime in 2016. I am advised that these remain, in practice, ineffectual. The Government accepted in 2015-16 that workers need an escape route and should not be trapped working for abusive employers, so they reinstated the right of workers to change employers, but it is limited to the time remaining on the worker’s visa, which is kept at six months—so in practice a worker has weeks or, rarely, months, but very little time remaining to find new employment. Of course, most employers need the certainty of having someone working for a longer period. Many workers do not have their passports and they cannot demonstrate that they have valid leave, so automatically they fail work checks.

The Government also committed to the implementation of mandatory information sessions for workers newly arrived in the UK, in recognition that many—I suspect almost all—workers did not know what rights they had here. These information sessions were also intended to help them to know where to find help, if they found themselves in abusive employment. The right reverend Prelate tabled a Parliamentary Question last year, which confirmed that the commitment has now been abandoned.
Given the barriers that such workers still face in the UK, this amendment would simply serve to reinstate rights which holders of this visa originally had under the terms of the overseas domestic worker visa in place from 1998 to 2012. Concern has been expressed by United Nations experts, who say that they firmly believe that migrant workers should be granted the right to change their employer—and I have explained the problems here. It sent out a communication in July last year to which the Government have responded, confirming that they are looking to understand the nature of exploitation and are developing proposals to reform the route from next year—that is, this year.
There is a lot of evidence that demonstrates that reported abuse is lower when migrant domestic workers—this does not apply only to domestic workers—have rights that enable them to challenge abuse. These rights are not some sort of Trojan horse enabling people to come into the UK on an overseas domestic worker visa and then join the wider workforce. They could not, under this amendment, change work sector; they would have to register with the Home Office. They would have a right to renew but, provided that they were in employment and not dependent on benefits, a right to be joined by family and to be granted indefinite leave to remain after five years, provided that their employment at that time was secure.
Noble Lords will appreciate that this would provide stability and certainty, to which I have referred, to those who are forced to work in the teens of hours each day, every day, and to sleep in the corner of a kitchen, fed on nothing more than scraps from a family’s table. I am not suggesting, of course, that every overseas domestic worker is in this situation, but it seems that many are—and one in this situation would be too many.
The amendment also refers to the visas granted when a diplomatic family brings in a servant for the family. Again, this does not of course apply to all diplomats, but I remember that in 2015 we were told of examples of families from the Gulf with Filipino servants. It would make it practicable for them to find other employment.
As Callaghan put it, working conditions should not have to deteriorate to the point of slavery before workers can access redress and justice. I see that the right reverend Prelate has had to leave. She would have said that, by the standards of this Bill, this is a very modest amendment, merely restoring a model that worked well in the past. I beg to move.
Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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My Lords, Amendment 181 seeks an exemption from the immigration health surcharge for international volunteers who come to the UK to work with vulnerable adults and children. International volunteers make a significant contribution to the work of UK charities across the whole of our country, particularly in the health, social care and education sectors.

The decision of international volunteers to travel hundreds and thousands of miles to help vulnerable people in the UK is a huge decision and commitment. Though they might get a subsistence allowance and board and lodge, they receive no salary. Additionally, the volunteers have to pay for their visa, insurance and flights. The additional impact of the immigration health surcharge simply adds to the financial burden on these volunteers and the charities they support, with the net result that the UK will probably attract fewer international volunteers.

Beyond the role they play in our domestic work, helping our society, these volunteers often become friends for life, not just to the individuals they have helped but as friends of the United Kingdom, in much the same way as international alumni of UK universities become friendship ambassadors of this country. They have formed bonds of friendship that can pay big dividends for us as time passes.

This amendment has the support of 55 charities and voluntary sector bodies across Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England. These organisations are feeling the impact of this surcharge and are seeking an exemption for their international volunteers. One of these organisations is Camphill Scotland, which supports more than 600 people with learning difficulties and other support needs. It works in the social care sector and has the support of more than 300 international volunteers. Without them, the charity would have to curtail its work. The Welsh Centre for International Affairs supports international volunteers, many of whom work with young people in disadvantaged areas in the south Wales valleys.

By way of comparison, if the work of international volunteers was undertaken by full-time paid staff, each post would cost the charities more than £17,000 per year. Volunteers cost charities about £600 plus subsistence, board and lodge. But the volunteers have to pay £625 for a visa, plus now another £230 for the immigration health surcharge, plus their air fares, plus their insurance. As an example, this is what international volunteer Constantin Jacobs says of the problem:

“There will be so many people that cannot afford to volunteer abroad any more, it might not sound like a huge difference for everyone but for young people who have just finished their school or their studies, and who do not have a lot of money, this difference can mean the decision to go or not to go to the UK to spend their voluntary year there. The UK would be much less attractive as a host country. I am sure that there would be many people who would actually love to go to the UK, deciding in the end to go to another country because of this change. This would be very bad for the volunteers and even worse for the organisations in health and social care systems that rely on volunteers from abroad!”

International volunteers are unpaid—not because they are worthless but because they are priceless. If they are priceless, I hope the Government will consider removing this charge from this one special group of people to allow us to continue the work being done and to create such good will around the world.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire Portrait Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD)
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My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 183, which I hope the Government may be willing to accept before Report.

Investor visas were introduced in 1994. They became tier 1 investor visas in 2008. Conditions were tightened under the coalition Government in 2011 and further in 2014. Successive Governments, from different parties, have allowed them to continue. Theresa May announced a review of the scheme in 2018, after the Salisbury poisonings raised concerns about the numbers of wealthy Russians resident in the UK, but so far that review has not been published.

The majority of investor visas have been given to wealthy people from Russia, China and central Asia—all countries with high levels of corruption and extreme inequality. Given the FCDO’s recognition that the greatest state threats to the UK come from Russia and China, this does not fit easily with the Prime Minister’s aspirations for “global Britain”. It has been reported that more than 6,000 golden visas—half of those ever issued—are now being reviewed for possible national security risks. Many of those who received them will by now have acquired full UK citizenship.

Two Court of Appeal judgments in the past year have thrown up new questions about the regulation of this scheme and the sources of the finance pledged by applicants. Paragraphs 49 to 52 of the Intelligence and Security Committee’s Russia report, now published over three years ago and to which the Government have been extremely slow to respond, let alone to implement its recommendations, say that

“the UK has been viewed as a particularly favourable destination for Russian oligarchs and their money. It is widely recognised that the key to London’s appeal was the … UK’s investor visa scheme … The UK welcomed Russian money, and few questions—if any—were asked about the provenance of this considerable wealth … What is now clear is that it … offered ideal mechanisms by which illicit finance could be recycled through what has been referred to as the London ‘laundromat’. The money was also invested in extending patronage and building influence across a wide sphere of the British establishment … there are a lot of Russians with very close links to Putin who are well integrated into the UK business and social scene … This level of integration … means that any measures now being taken by the Government are not preventative but rather constitute damage limitation … It is not just the oligarchs either: the arrival of Russian money resulted in a growth industry of enablers—individuals and organisations who manage and lobby for the Russian elite in the UK. Lawyers, accountants, estate agents and PR professionals … To a certain extent, this cannot be untangled and the priority now must be to mitigate the risk”.

After warning about the extent of illicit Russian financial activity in the UK, including extensive donations to political parties, the report states in paragraph 56:

“One key measure would be an overhaul of the Tier 1 (Investor) visa programme—there needs to be a more robust approach to the approval process for these visas.”

So far, the Government’s published response to the ISC report makes no reference to this recommendation. If this has been true for Russians, it has also been true for Kazakhs, Azeris, Malaysians and Chinese. The Government recently made a great fuss about a British citizen with close links to the Chinese state and the funds she had donated to a Labour MP. It is surprising that they have so far made much less fuss about our resident Russian-linked community.

In a Bill that is largely designed to make access to UK residence and settlement more difficult, this singles out the very wealthy, who are often also politically exposed people, for easy entry. Home Office records show that, between 2008 and 2020, some 9% of golden visa applications were refused. In comparison, 42% of asylum applications were rejected. The UK has been one of the top 10 to 15 most popular golden visa regimes in the world.
It is also reputed to have one of the fastest application turnarounds globally, with the Government promising a decision within three weeks to applicants. In comparison, the turnaround time for a UK asylum application is six months. It is perhaps ironic that a recent report suggests that the UK has now lost ground in comparison with Cyprus and Malta, since UK citizenship no longer provides easy access to other EU states, including the Riviera and southern Spain—another unintended consequence of Brexit, of course.
Peers will recall May and Johnson’s rhetoric about patriotic “somewheres” and unpatriotic “anywheres”. But these new citizens are the ultimate cosmopolitans, using London as a safe haven while maintaining much of their wealth and business connections offshore. Those who provide for their needs in London serve the ultra-rich without considering the implications for Britain’s sovereignty and reputation. Oliver Bullough’s new book labels British enablers “butlers to the world”. One of them is co-chairman of the Conservative Party.
If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would believe that the reason the Government have not published the report of the review they promised in 2018, now four years ago, is all of a piece with their reluctance to act on the recommendations of the ISC’s Russia report: that they have something to hide; that Russian money flowed to the Conservative Party; and that the close links between property developers, other enablers and these wealthy people has become, as the ISC report put it, impossible to untangle. I hope that is not the case and that publication of the review will show that it is not so.
However, it is demeaning. A Government who claim to be proud to have restored British sovereignty are selling a fast track to citizenship to dodgy people from dodgy countries. It has distorted the London property market to an extraordinary degree. The Minister will remember Nigel Farage complaining that London commuters hear more Polish and Romanian on their trains home than English. He did not remark that there are parts of Belgravia and Hampstead where you now hear more Russian, Mandarin and Arabic than English. We have imported corruption and, with it, the danger that corrupt overseas wealth will in turn corrupt our own society and democracy.
My Amendment 183 asks the Government to publish this overdue review in full and, in the light of that report, to reconsider whether this scheme should be ended or restricted and policed more tightly.
Baroness Lister of Burtersett Portrait Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab)
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My Lords, the noble Lord makes a very strong case, but I rise to strongly support Amendment 174, to which I have added my name. I am grateful to my friend Professor Fiona Williams, an important researcher on this issue, and Kalayaan, to whom I pay tribute for all their work on behalf of migrant domestic workers and for their briefings.

As we have already heard, it is clear that the 2016 reforms are not working. Rather than listening to overseas domestic workers and reinstating the original ODW visa, the 2016 changes ignore the need for workers to be able to exercise their rights before exploitation escalates. Support organisations such as Kalayaan and Voice of Domestic Workers report the bind in which the current situation leaves many such workers. Do they risk leaving before abuse escalates? If this abuse does not equate to trafficking, they could be left destitute, without a reasonable prospect of finding work and without access to public funds or legal aid to challenge mistreatment. The desperate need to remit money to one’s family and pay off debts means that workers may not feel able to risk leaving exploitative labour situations.

Professor Williams argues that key to understanding the problems faced has been the shift from placing ODW protection within an employment and immigration rights frame to a trafficking frame. The problem with the latter is that it puts the onus on the worker to prove that they have been trafficked when their exploitation may come from daily infringements of what should be their rights as workers. It leaves them more vulnerable to these infringements, not less.

Kalayaan has given me a recent case study that exemplifies the problem. I will go into some detail because it makes the case rather well. Jenny—not her real name—is from the Philippines. She comes from a poor family but, having won a scholarship to train as a teacher, she was unable to finish her training for various reasons. She later married and gave birth to a daughter who caught an aggressive form of pneumonia, which needed specialist costly private treatment. Jenny and her husband had to borrow money to pay for it. Their joint income could not cover the loan repayments, which prompted Jenny to look for work abroad.

Jenny moved to Lebanon to work as a cleaner. Her employer gave birth to a third child; Jenny was instructed to look after the baby as well as continue her cleaning duties, which was not in her contract. She worked longer hours than expected and was on the go and on call for much of the day. She had wanted to return home at the end of her first contract but was persuaded to stay when the family relocated to London. She was offered shorter working hours and pay at the national minimum wage.

Jenny arrived in the UK last year on a visa. In contravention of UK published policy, she was issued no information on her rights as a worker in the UK, either during the visa application process or on arrival. She worked the same long hours as before and, although she was paid a little more than in Lebanon, her hourly rate was less than half the national minimum wage. Her employer told her that she would be arrested if she left. Nevertheless, she did leave because she was exhausted from her long working hours for pay less than she had been promised.

Jenny approached Kalayaan when her visa had two weeks before it expired, having only just heard of the organisation. Kalayaan explained to her that her visa was non-renewable and that while she had permission to work in the UK, it would only be while her visa remained valid—for the next two weeks—after which she would be subject to the UK’s hostile/compliant environment for migrants. On the basis of Kalayaan’s assessment, it did not consider Jenny to be a victim of trafficking or slavery, so could not refer her to the NRM.

It is worth noting here that even cases that Kalayaan has judged appropriate for NRM referral are frequently turned down on the grounds that, while the working conditions may have breached employment terms, they do not constitute trafficking or slavery. Yet calls for the reinstatement of the original ODW visa are repeatedly met with the response that workers who have suffered abuse can avail themselves of the NRM.

Despite experiencing labour law violations, Jenny’s right to change employer was in practice of no use to her, given that she was not allowed to renew her visa. Had she entered the UK on the original kind of ODW visa, she would have remained visible to the authorities by renewing her visa annually, while contributing in taxes and visa renewal fees. Jenny’s case underlines how unhelpful it is to require maltreated migrant domestic workers to fit themselves into the slavery or trafficking frame, and how their rights would be better protected through the restoration of the original ODW visa.

Professor Williams also argues that the issue should be seen in an international context, where there have been very important advances in employment rights for domestic workers. In particular, ILO Convention 189 on domestic workers has been ratified by 35 countries—but not the UK. Ironically, when the convention was voted on, the UK Government abstained on the grounds that the UK already had a progressive policy—the OWD visa—which they then went on to withdraw. Will the Government therefore now rethink their position and restore the ODW visa without further delay?

Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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My Lords, I support Amendment 183 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, which I am cosponsoring along with the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and the noble Lord, Lord Rooker. I do not always agree with the Lib Dems, but I think the noble Lord’s arguments were very powerful and need to be listened to. The effect of this route is to sell permanent residence in the UK, and later even citizenship, to anyone who turns up with a couple of million to spare, with no questions asked about where that money came from. It is an extraordinary outcome. I can see why one might have thought this was a good idea initially, but it has turned into a nonsense.

As the Committee may know, this route is for individuals able to make an investment of £2 million. The applicant does not need a job offer or sponsor, and the visa includes all immediate family members. The tier 1 investor visa is initially granted for three years and four months and can then be extended for another two years by providing evidence of an investment of the required amount. The funds must be invested in UK gilts, bonds and equities only—of course, the money can be taken out of those afterwards, so it is a very convenient little entry for your money.

Currently, if you invest—so called—£2 million, you will get your permanent residence in five years; if you have £5 million to spare, it is three years; and if you have £10 million in your pockets, it is two years. The whole thing is just absolutely absurd, frankly. Indeed, between 2008 and 2020 it has led to a total of more than 12,000 such visas being issued. There is not even any economic benefit to the UK in this. According to Sir David Metcalf, a former chair of the Migration Advisory Committee, in 2014,

“the main beneficiaries are the migrants. Investors benefit from, for example, rule of law, property rights and access to efficient markets. Second, at present, the investment is a loan, not a gift.”

A MAC report from 2015 noted that the main proponents of this type of visas are—guess what—law firms, accountants and consultancies that help organise the affairs of such extraordinarily wealthy investors. There are also speculative concerns around whether this investor visa is being used by criminals. In an October 2015 report, Transparency International UK argued that it was highly likely that substantial amounts of corrupt wealth stolen in China and Russia had been laundered into the UK via this visa programme.

It is not clear what will happen to the tier 1 investor visa under the new points-based system—at least, it is not clear to me—but it seems that it will remain in place. I suggest that a thorough review is in order and, meanwhile, the route should be closed, as set out in this amendment.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I am happy to join the noble Lords, Lord Green and Lord Wallace, and others who have brought this amendment. I may not agree with all that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, says, but I share with him a passion for the rule of law and a real concern for our reputation for protecting the rule of law. It is a real irony that our reputation for protecting the rule of law is one of the things that attracts people who have very little regard for the rule of law themselves and come from countries which ignore it almost altogether. I am afraid that this Government and their predecessor have a very inadequate record in responding to the threat of corruption of all sorts, and of course I support the proposals in this amendment.

In 2016, the then Prime Minister, David Cameron made a seminal speech about the importance of stamping out corruption. The Minister will remember the Criminal Finances Act 2017 and what a nuisance I was during its passage. I found it inadequate in a number of respects, including unexplained wealth orders, which I did not consider were nearly tough enough. I also put down amendments to try to persuade the Government to establish a register of overseas entities’ property, in order to try to reveal a great deal more about who actually owns vast parts of London. The noble Baroness was emollient and responded that as soon as parliamentary time allowed, there would be an appropriate response. I was slightly reassured by that. I continued to harry the Government. I asked the noble Lord, Lord Young, when he was a Minister, about the progress of matters. He was reassuring—none more reassuring than he—and said good progress was being made.

In 2018, when the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill came before your Lordships’ House, I put down a similar amendment with the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, on the register of beneficial owners of overseas entities. The matter progressed through Committee and was debated at some length. It then came to Report, when I was fully prepared to take it to a vote. I was in the Conservative Party then and it was not a popular decision. Quite frankly, I was leant on. I was leant on by No. 10 Downing Street and summoned to a meeting of officials from all sorts of different departments, who told me it was very unfortunate that I was going to do this because the matter was in hand.
I was then told, from the Dispatch Box, that the Bill was a priority for the second Session. It would be introduced by 2019 and the register itself would be operated by early 2021—sooner, if possible. I suppose I then received the prize for being a naughty boy; I was asked to chair the Joint Committee on the draft Bill. We looked at it in 2019. It was an excellent Bill that had been very well prepared by some skilful civil servants. We responded, stressing that time was of the essence. The Government appeared to accept our recommendations.
What has happened? Absolutely nothing. In the meantime, frankly, we look like a laughing stock. We are not responding to the threat of economic crime. We are giving away visas and the rest of the world must think we simply do not care. I thoroughly support this amendment.
Lord Berkeley of Knighton Portrait Lord Berkeley of Knighton (CB)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure and privilege to make this trio of noble Lords—of naughty boys—into a quartet led by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, because I strongly support all the points that have been made. On this occasion, I am talking not about people with millions of pounds, but about domestic workers, mentioned in the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. Here, there is another financial imperative for the Treasury, because I have long thought that we force people into the black economy because they simply cannot find a legal way to stay here.

I suggest to the Minister that this amendment would at least help a lot of people to come out into the open and pay taxes. If they could extend legal visas, those people would not go into the black economy and extend that uncontrolled area of work.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Portrait Lord Kerr of Kinlochard (CB)
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I support all three amendments in this group and particularly that of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, for two reasons. First, it gives me a rare and particular pleasure to say that I strongly support an amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, among others. His dedication has been remarkable throughout these debates, and this is the first time I have agreed with what he has said.

Secondly, there is just one element missing from the powerful case for this amendment made by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. It is partly filled by the remarkable speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, and it is about reputation. The noble Lord said that we have become a laughing stock worldwide but, in America and large parts of continental Europe, it is worse than that. People are not laughing; they think it is beyond a joke. I strongly recommend this amendment to the Minister.

Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee (Con)
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My Lord, I strongly support the basic thrust of Amendment 183 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. I do so having regard to the negative effects of the system of tier 1 visas, both in our own country and overseas. The first undesirable effect of this dirty money is on the economy of London; in particular, the cost of housing being pushed up to unaffordable levels by foreign so-called businessmen seeking secure investments, as explained by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. My noble friend Lord Faulks identified a lack of progress by the Government in this area.

I accept that there may be some business opportunities in meeting the demand and providing both professional and artisan services to tier 1 investors. Personally, I would not want to earn my living from dirty money, in effect stolen from people of overseas countries. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, explained this with his usual skill. Not only do some of these tier 1 investors illegally suck money and assets out of their own country to enjoy in ours but they take full advantage of our well-developed system of justice and the rule of law—JROL. This means that they can keep their assets secure and also enjoy a reliable means of passing them on to their offspring. Of course, they have no incentive to seek to implement any decent form of JROL in their own country because it is not in their interests to do so. The lack of JROL and the negative effects of corruption mean that countries such as Russia, and many developing countries, will never be able to achieve their full economic potential.

For instance, defence equipment apart, I cannot think of any manufactured product that comes from Russia. No wonder it has an economy the size of Italy’s, despite its natural wealth, larger, if declining, population, and vast space. It is not for us to interfere with the internal arrangements of other sovereign states, but if we denied oligarchs, the super-rich and despots of countries without JROL the safety and advantages of a safe landing and base in UK and other similar countries, they might be more inclined to seek to put their own countries in order. This would have enormous economic benefits and other benefits for the people of those countries.

I turn to the problem of Ukraine. It is clear that any invasion by Russia will result in severe sanctions against Putin’s regime, including Russian tier 1 investors in the UK who are judged to be close to Putin. I am confident that the Government are planning such potential sanctions as we speak, although the likely targets will already have taken precautionary action. However, if our worst fears are realised, we should go much further and hit all Russian tier 1 investors, whether they are President Putin’s friend or foe. That way, they might be more inclined to get off their posteriors and put pressure on Putin and maybe even think about improving JROL and press freedom in Russia. Furthermore, this course of action would not adversely affect the inhabitants of Russia.

We cannot continue to allow filthy, dirty money to come into the UK via the tier 1 investor visa route, because it pollutes our economy, damages the economies of other countries, and seriously erodes our soft power position.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Amendment 174 would return rights to people in the UK who are on the overseas domestic workers visa—primarily, the right to change their employer and renew their visa for a period of not less than 12 months. The then coalition Government changed the visa regime in April 2012, so that workers and their immigration status are tied to their original employer, and their visa cannot be renewed past six months. That has caused real concern that the working people involved are tied into situations of abuse and slavery. The cross-party Joint Committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Bill, as it then was, said that the changes to the regime had

“unintentionally strengthened the hand of the slave master against the victim of slavery.”

It concluded:

“Tying migrant domestic workers to their employer institutionalises their abuse; it is slavery, and is therefore incongruous with our aim to act decisively to protect the victims of modern slavery.”

In 2015, the independent Ewins review called for all overseas domestic workers to be given the right to change employer and apply for further leave to remain in the UK for up to 30 months. It found that the terms of the domestic worker visa were

“incompatible with the … protection of overseas domestic workers’ fundamental rights while in the UK”.

Unfortunately, the Government disagreed with the recommendation; instead, they made more limited changes to the Immigration Rules, with the effect that all domestic workers can change employer during their six-month visa, but only those who are found to be victims of trafficking or modern slavery can change employer and apply to stay for longer in the UK. The problems with this limited approach were set out in the Ewins report: they failed to provide an immediate escape route out of abuse; the six-month limit makes it difficult for people to find other employment; and the national referral mechanism requirement means that a person must have taken the step to report, and met an evidential burden to prove, that they are victim of slavery, which, frankly, many are too frightened to do. We certainly support the thrust of Amendment 174.

Amendment 181 would exempt international volunteers from paying the immigration health surcharge, and I await the Government’s response with interest. I would like to know what consideration the Government have given to extending the exemption, and have the Government met charities which have raised concerns about its effect on volunteering in particular sectors, especially social care?

Amendment 183, about which most has been said—with some feeling and fervour—would require the Government to suspend the tier 1 investor visa route, known as “golden visas”, until the review into those visas has been made public. In its 2020 Russia report, the Intelligence and Security Committee recommended that a key measure for

“disrupting the threat posed by illicit Russian financial activity”

is an

“overhaul of the Tier 1 (Investor) visa programme—there needs to be a more robust approach”.

In March 2018, the Government announced a review of golden visas issued between 2008 and 2015. This followed revelations that the Home Office and banks had made next to no diligence checks in that period. According to a freedom of information request in June 2021, the Home Office is reviewing 6,312 golden visas, half of all such visas ever issued, for a range of possible national security threats. Almost four years since the Government announced the review, and as has been said more than once this evening, the findings have not yet been reported.

Many of those who received visas during this period will have been eligible to apply for British citizenship over the past seven years, and it is surely essential that there is full transparency about the findings of the review, including: a detailed breakdown of how many visas have been revoked; how many cases have been referred to law enforcement; and how many applications for renewal or citizenship have been denied.

In the Commons last month, Stephen Kinnock MP asked the following question:

“Six months ago, the Government said that they were finalising their report into how more than 700 Russian millionaires were fast-tracked for British residency via their so-called golden visa scheme. Can the Foreign Secretary tell the House when that long-overdue report will be published?”

The Foreign Secretary’s reply was:

“We are reviewing the tier 1 visas that were granted before 5 April. I am sure the Home Secretary will have more to say about that in due course.”—[Official Report, Commons, 31/1/22; col. 60.]

Therefore, I ask the Minister, speaking on behalf of the Government: does the Home Secretary have “more to say” about this tonight? We are all waiting to hear why it has taken so long to produce this report. In the absence of a credible explanation, one can conclude only that there are some embarrassing reasons that have led the Government to delay producing this report.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I thought it might be helpful to slightly unpick the two types of workers—the difference between domestic workers in households and those who work for UK-based diplomats. Obviously they are different groups with different needs, the latter being served by the temporary worker international agreement route, which permits dependants. This is not the only aspect of our domestic immigration system that already provides what the amendment proposes. Both groups of workers are free to change employers; in fact, our existing arrangements already go further than the amendment proposes, and I will outline why.

We do not expect domestic workers to register with the Home Office because we want a worker to be able to leave as soon as their mind is made up to do so, so we must avoid anything that may act as a barrier to exercising that right. Imposing an extra condition now risks undermining changes that have been made for the better. We have already made provisions under which both groups of domestic worker can obtain a two-year extension of stay if they are found to be a victim of modern slavery. I think these arrangements strike the right balance, ensuring that those who find themselves in an abusive employment situation are able to escape it by, first, finding alternative employment and, secondly, encouraging them to report that abuse through the appropriate mechanism.

On the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, on overseas domestic workers who are not slavery victims, very similar to the case that she has pointed out, but are actually exploited, the Immigration Rules are deliberately designed to prevent the importation of exploitive practices—for example, they set out that they should be paid the national minimum wage. I hope that helps on her point. I appreciate that the case she outlined seemingly falls between the cracks, but the Immigration Rules are very clear on that.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett Portrait Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab)
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The fact is that I do not think it is an unusual case; I asked Kalayaan for a recent case study and that is what it came up with. The Immigration Rules are not working in that respect. We have overseas domestic workers who are being exploited but, even when they are referred to the NRM, are told that it is not slavery or trafficking. Would the Minister be willing to look at that again? There is a problem, as she put it, of some people falling through the cracks.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I am not going to look at it again but I will perhaps explore it further and see why what is happening is happening. That is probably fair enough.

Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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Is the Minister aware that, in some countries, applicants choose those families that come to London regularly in the summer, with a view to leaving them after a month or two and settling, legally or otherwise, in the UK? The system needs to be fairly tight to avoid trouble on that front.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Between what the noble Lord has just outlined and what the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, has just said, that probably explains both ends of the system in different ways.

On visa extensions, although I fully support the noble Baroness’s determination to improve protections for migrant domestic workers, rewinding the clock and reinstating the features of a route that were deliberately removed almost a decade ago is not the answer—probably, in part, for some of the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, outlines.

The overseas domestic worker visa caters specifically for groups of visitors who by definition stay for short periods. That visa allows private domestic staff to accompany their employer where that employer enters the UK as a visitor and where they intend to leave together. Approximately 20,000 visas are issued every year on that basis, and the vast majority leave well within the validity of their visa.

The amendment seeks to reintroduce features of the route which were removed for good reason. We must not forget that abuse existed before 2012 and be mindful that allowing overseas domestic workers to stay could inadvertently create a fresh cohort of recruits for traffickers. We must avoid a route that could be used by criminals to entice victims to come to the UK.

Noble Lords have referred to the report, commissioned by the Government, by James Ewins QC, which, crucially, did not establish a direct link between the length of stay and the likelihood of exploitation. Years later, this picture remains. There is no greater risk if a domestic worker is here for two weeks or 12 months, so increasing the length of time that they can stay will not afford them greater protection from being exploited.

I think that the noble Baroness and I share the same objective of the delivery of a safe and appropriate system for a very vulnerable category of workers. However, for all the reasons that I have given, we do not agree on the means of achieving it.

I am aware of comparisons that have been made between those employed in the healthcare sector who are exempt from the health charge and those who come to the UK as volunteers. However, there are very clear and important distinctions between workers and volunteers on the charity worker visa. The route should not be used to fill gaps in the labour market, even on a temporary basis. To answer the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, yes, we have been engaging with charities. The Government think that appropriate immigration concessions are already in place, which support volunteers on this route. The charity worker visa offers a low fee, compared to other work routes, and sponsors pay a lower licence fee, in recognition of their charitable status. While the charity worker route is the main route for volunteers, it is not the only way in which volunteers can be recruited to support the work of charities.

I note the concern of the noble Lord, Lord German, that the immigration health charge might deter volunteers from coming to the UK. Published figures indicate that, for the years immediately preceding the pandemic—clearly the years after that are very unusual—the number of charity visas granted remained broadly consistent. This indicates that volunteers are not being deterred by having to pay the health charge.

The NHS must continue to be properly funded and the immigration health charge plays an important role in that. It has generated almost £2 billion for the NHS since its inception, and it ensures that temporary migrants who come to the UK for more than six months make a direct contribution to the comprehensive range of NHS services available to them during their stay. Those who pay the charge can, from their point of arrival in the UK, use the NHS in broadly the same way as a permanent resident, without having to make any prior tax or national insurance contributions. For those reasons, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord German, will not press his amendment.

On Amendment 183, I hear noble Lords loud and clear. I recall the debate that my noble friend Lord Faulks and I had during the Criminal Finances Bill. I also completely acknowledge the point about those relying on funds that have been illegitimately acquired. It is because of those concerns that we have committed to a review of visas issued under the route between 2008 and 2015. We are finalising the review, if noble Lords can be patient, and we will publish it in due course—I knew there would be a sigh from behind me and in front of me when I said that.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Four years is quite a long time to produce a report. Why has it taken four years to date and why are the Government still in a position where they cannot really give any proper indication of when it will be produced? “In due course” is the cop-out expression for a Government who do not really know.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I will have to think of a new phrase: perhaps “shortly”.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Is it this year?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Yes, I hope that it will be this year.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I say to noble Lords that I share their concerns. I will also be writing to the Committee before Report on this very matter. Since 2015, we have excluded investment in government bonds and strengthened the rules to ensure that investments are made in active and trading UK companies. Applicants must also demonstrate that they have a wealth of at least £2 million for at least two years, up from 90 days, or provide evidence of the source of those funds. We require banks to explicitly state in a letter to the Home Office that they have completed all requisite customer due diligence and know your customer checks prior to opening the applicant’s account, and we have increasing evidential requirements where migrants have invested their qualifying funds through a chain of intermediary companies so that the Home Office can better assess the ultimate destination of qualifying investment.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire Portrait Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD)
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My Lords, I hope the Home Office has consulted the FCDO on this issue. The Minister will be aware of the report from the Center for American Progress in Washington which argues—and this is the conventional wisdom in Washington as far as I can see—that we are the weak link in the West’s relations with Russia, and the reason why we are the weak link is because of this large colony in London with such close links to Putin.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I acknowledge all the points that the noble Lord has made and agree that there is more to be done here. I do not think anyone could deny that. The Criminal Finances Act was a start and there is more to be done in this space, most definitely, but I think I will leave it there. I hope, with what I have said, that the noble Baroness will be happy to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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My Lords, my noble friends both made very powerful cases. I hope that my noble friend Lord Wallace will forgive me if I make only one comment on his amendment, in fact in response to what the Minister said about banks checking up: I wonder whether the banks check up on the holders of golden visas as often as they check up on noble Lords who are PEPs.

With regard to my amendment, like the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, I ask why we would have been asked to propose this amendment if there were no problem. I regarded the registration with the Home Office as a sort of olive branch, something that might make the Government feel a little more comfortable. The Immigration Rules are not working because there is not the distinction to which she and I have referred.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley of Knighton—how is “Berkeley” pronounced? I should know from hearing him on the radio—referred to the financial aspect of this and forcing people into the black economy. It is wider in respect of people who are here irregularly, of course, because it is hugely important. But it is exactly the same as the point made by the Minister that if the situation were changed it would provide a group of people who would be—I wrote it down—a cohort for traffickers, but that is exactly what the danger is now. I am puzzled and disappointed but clearly we are not going to make progress today, so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 174 withdrawn.
Amendment 174A not moved.
Clause 68 agreed.
Clauses 69 and 70 agreed.
Clause 71: Electronic travel authorisations
Amendment 175
Moved by
175: Clause 71, page 74, line 16, at end insert—
“(c) the individual is travelling to Northern Ireland on a local journey from the Republic of Ireland.” Member’s explanatory statement
Under this amendment, persons who are neither British nor Irish would nevertheless be able to make local journeys from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland without the need for an Electronic Travel Authorisation.
Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Portrait Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick (Lab)
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My Lords, the amendment is in my name and those of the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, and my noble friend Lord Coaker. Its purpose is to ensure that persons who are neither Irish nor British would nevertheless be able to make local journeys from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland without the need for an electronic travel authorisation. Clause 71 amends the Immigration Act 1971 to introduce electronic travel authorisations. It provides for a pre-entry clearance system which requires anyone who does not need a visa, entry clearance or other specified immigration status to obtain authorisation before travelling to the UK. This includes journeys within the common travel area; indeed, the clause has been expressly formulated to ensure that CTA journeys are captured.

This system does not apply to British or Irish citizens or those who have already been granted leave to enter or remain in the UK. The system will impact mainly non-visa nationals, including EU nationals, who can presently enter the UK visa-free for set periods. Almost all such persons are presently automatically considered to have deemed leave to enter the UK when crossing into Northern Ireland on the land border. It is believed that new subsection (4) in Clause 71 has been drafted intentionally to ensure that persons who are travelling within the CTA and consequently would not need leave to enter the UK will still require an ETA.

In preparing for this amendment today, I spoke to both the Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission based in Belfast, which have commitments under Article 2 of the Ireland/Northern Ireland protocol in all these matters. I spoke also to the Committee on the Administration of Justice, and my noble friend Lord Coaker and I spoke to representatives of the Irish Government based in the Irish embassy, who are deeply concerned about the impact of Clause 71 on tourism, not only in the Republic of Ireland but in Northern Ireland —for those people who come in to have a holiday via Shannon and Dublin airports and then move northwards.

It appears that the UK Government intend the scheme to apply on the land border and, so far, are dismissive of concerns raised. This looks very much like it is in breach of Article 2 of the Ireland/Northern Ireland protocol, which deals with specific rights of individuals. The clause shows a total lack of understanding of the border, which has many crossings. The noble Lord, Lord Patten of Barnes, who served in Northern Ireland as a former Minister and was chair of the Patten commission on policing, will be well aware of the geography not only of Northern Ireland but of the border area. I am sure that he would very clearly see the issues involved.

The situation for some time has been that almost all EU, EEA and non-EEA citizens who are non-visa nationals present in the Republic of Ireland can cross the land border freely on local journeys into Northern Ireland without any requirement for prior immigration permission. In some ways, the Bill conflates modern slavery issues with immigration, as well as with the necessities of an economy and tourism.

It has been the case for some time that citizens who are non-visa nationals present in the Republic of Ireland can cross the land border freely on local journeys into Northern Ireland, without any requirement for prior immigration permission. For EU-EEA citizens since Brexit, as was already the case with other non-visa nationals, permission in such circumstances is restricted to entry as a visitor and certain activities, such as work, are restricted when entering the UK this way. However, this system has allowed non-visa nationals resident in border areas in the Republic of Ireland to enter Northern Ireland freely for a range of activities, even visiting family members or for work purposes. I am aware of people who do that; they contribute to the economy in the Republic but have family in the north, and vice versa.

Under this new proposal, non-visa nationals resident in the Republic of Ireland will be required to apply in advance and pay for an ETA before crossing the border into Northern Ireland. It is clear that this will have a detrimental impact on non-visa nationals who need to enter Northern Ireland for activities such as visiting family, accessing childcare, carrying out permitted work engagements and accessing services and goods. This system will also impact the ability of members of the migrant community to take part freely in cross-border projects and programmes. I am sure the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, living in County Fermanagh, will be well aware of these issues for people who are resident or working in Counties Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal.

Concerns have also been raised about the impact of the ETA system on business, health and tourism, plus recreational issues, as it would require non-visa nationals in the Republic of Ireland to obtain an ETA before a visit to Northern Ireland, a fact that has been recognised and raised directly with the Home Office by the Irish Government. This would have an impact on tourism in Northern Ireland, as many people travel via Dublin and Shannon airports and head northwards. Therefore, the Government’s ETA proposal will impact detrimentally on tourism and economic opportunities in Northern Ireland. It will act as a disincentive to people from North America coming northwards to visit the Mourne Mountains in my own area and the Giant’s Causeway in north Antrim, which are both geographical icons. My noble friend Lord Coaker will be aware of this from his time as shadow Secretary of State, when I travelled with him round the constituency of South Down.

In the context of an invisible land border that British and Irish citizens can freely cross, it is eminently foreseeable that many other persons who have hitherto been able similarly to cross the border without any prior permission will be largely unaware of the ETA requirement. There are legal impacts to this. I am a member of the protocol sub-committee in your Lordships’ House. We wrote to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, with a series of questions on 14 January. To my knowledge, we have not yet received an answer. We asked whether she would specify

“who will be required to have a valid ETA, and any exceptions to this; the form or manner in which an application for an ETA may be made, granted or refused; any conditions that must be met before an ETA application can be granted; the grounds on which an ETA application must or may be refused; the validity of an ETA (length of time and/or number of journeys); and the form, manner, or grounds for varying or cancelling an ETA”.

I hope the Minister answering this debate will be able to provide the Committee with some answers this evening and will exhort his colleague, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, to reply to the chair of the protocol sub-committee. I ask again: can the Minister confirm whether holders of a frontier worker permit will be exempt from the requirement for a valid ETA? Will there be any other exemptions or special arrangements for people crossing the land border frequently from the Republic of Ireland?

It would be preferable if ETA requirements did not exist or were not applied when travelling from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland. I understand that much discussion has taken place. I exhort the Minister to give such commitments here this evening. If he cannot, can he give a commitment that the Government are prepared to come back with an amendment on Report to deal with this matter and cancel ETA in such circumstances, because it is utterly crazy? Can the Minister specify what the results of those discussions have been? If the Government do not wish to adopt my amendment, will they bring forward an amendment on Report to deal with these issues?

I also agree with Amendment 175ZA in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. Although it is very much an exploratory amendment, it is a very important one that is allied to mine. I agree too with the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti, which I have also signed. It deals with the birthright commitment under the Belfast/Good Friday agreement and the onus on the Government to report on progress in giving effect to the nationality provisions of that agreement. We should always remember that the Belfast/Good Friday agreement states that people can identify themselves as

“and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose.”

For my part, I hold an Irish passport. I am Irish and I declare myself to be Irish, although I live in the UK—which I freely recognise.

I look forward to the Minister’s response. I thank noble Lords who will speak in support of these amendments, and I hope that the Minister brings us some positive news tonight, or that he indicates what the Government might do on Report.

Baroness Suttie Portrait Baroness Suttie (LD)
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My Lords, I will speak in favour of Amendment 175 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, to which I have added my name. I also support Amendment 175ZA, in the names of my noble friends Lord Paddick and Lady Hamwee, and Amendment 186, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti.

I will be brief because I fully support and agree with the very powerful points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie. As it stands, the Bill does not give proper consideration to the economic and legal implications for the island of Ireland. Amendment 175 would amend the Bill so that all local journeys from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland, including for people who are neither British nor Irish, could continue to be made without the need for electronic travel authorisation.

I will highlight three areas of concern about the proposals as they stand and would very much appreciate a response from the Minister. The first is the question of legal uncertainty. If the Home Office remains committed, as I sincerely hope it is, to no checks on the land border on the island of Ireland, how will it enforce this new measure in practice? As the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, has said, thousands of crossings are carried out each day by non-British and non-Irish residents in the Republic of Ireland who need to cross the border for work, leisure, family or educational purposes. There is currently no requirement or expectation that people carry passports if they live or work in the border areas. Given the very particular circumstances of the border areas in Ireland, I would be grateful if the Minister could explain how these measures will be enforced in practice.

The second area of concern is how these measures will sit with the existing commitments on the common travel area, as set out in the Northern Ireland protocol. The protocol sets out quite clearly that, irrespective of nationality, the rights and privileges contained within the common travel area will continue

“with respect to free movement to, from and within Ireland for Union citizens and their family members”.

Can the Minister confirm that this will continue to be the case?

My third and final point is the issue, raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, of the potential economic impact of these measures on the Northern Ireland economy, most particularly the potentially very detrimental impact on tourism. Tourism is a major part of the economy in Ireland. Previously, American tourists, for example, arriving on the island of Ireland would have the expectation of free travel across the island for the duration of their visit. They would expect to be able to travel completely freely between Dublin, Belfast and Donegal during their stay. Has an economic assessment been undertaken on the impact of these measures? In particular can the Minister say whether any studies have been undertaken on whether the requirement for an ETA might discourage tourists from travelling to Northern Ireland from the south during their visit—and the consequent impact on the Northern Ireland economy?
In summary, I believe that these measures have not been properly thought through, and I urge the Government to think again and accept these amendments.
Viscount Brookeborough Portrait Viscount Brookeborough (CB)
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My Lords, I support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie. I had not necessarily thought about saying anything, but she mentioned me in her speech. First, I declare an interest in that we are involved in tourism at home. Secondly, my brother is chairman of Tourism Ireland, a cross-border body that survives on funds from both the United Kingdom and Ireland to market the island of Ireland. Therefore, this particular regulation would make a complete fool of the whole practical implementation of it.

People ought to understand what the border really is—or, in fact, what it is not. We have come through all the Troubles. Before them, we had a border and we had to have certain papers to cross it. Then we all joined the European Union and that side was taken out of it. But then we had the Troubles so, in effect, the border was reinstated, albeit for a different reason. We do not have those border checks now; there is no border under the Good Friday agreement and everything since, including the protocol. That is the way it should be. Whether the noble Baroness and I are supporters of the protocol is neither here nor there; it is about the practical problems raised by this.

Whether tourists from another country cross the border, and who polices this, is of course an issue. In fact, they will not know whether they are crossing it, so it becomes rather ridiculous—on the whole, they do not have a clue. During the Troubles, there was a time when even our own British people—soldiers and police—did not know whether they were crossing it, so they used to draw yellow lines on it so that they knew when they were. A certain part of the population moved the yellow lines, so they still did not know where they were and then there were diplomatic incidents.

I live in County Fermanagh, which is one-third of the border in Northern Ireland. The border does not just affect it in terms of regulations—people cross it not just from day to day but time and time again in one direction or another to do very simple things. I know that you can use euros here if you are pushed, but every shop and business there uses euros and pounds. Therefore, half the time, no one has a clue whether they are in the north or the south, even when they walk into a shop. All the people working there, and of course the ones who are straightforward British or Irish, are not covered by this.

However, a wealth of people who are not British or Irish live and work within a few miles of the border and they do not think twice about it. If you cannot get a plumber very locally—we might get one from further afield anyway—you just ring up the nearest person. We are five miles from the border and he could well be from either side of it, and he might not be an Irish or British citizen.

I entirely support this amendment. I know that what I have said is not technical and I can only be very grateful to the noble Baroness, as we all can, for going into it in such detail because there is very little for us to say, except for the Government to sort it out.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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My Lords, I support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, and spoken to by other noble Lords. I was grateful, too, to have been briefed by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. I did not need to be convinced of the importance of local journeys for work, education, health services, shopping, frontier workers and so on. I was lucky enough to be a member of the EU Select Committee of the House during the transition period, when we heard direct from people living and working in Northern Ireland about the concerns which the amendments in this group address.

I want to speak particularly to Amendment 175ZA. The points raised in it apply more widely than to the Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland border. I certainly do not want to suggest that there is greater concern about criminals in the Republic than at other borders. I am not quite sure why these proposals come to be in the same group but I understand why there is a concern to get through the remaining amendments. The point is relevant to the border and there is a practical problem, as the noble Viscount just said.

My noble friend Lord Paddick is concerned about checks on the criminal record of an individual, now that we are no longer a member of the EU or have access to SIS II or ECRIS. We have to fall back on the Interpol database, which requires specific uploading of information and is not integrated with our police national computer or with member states’ national systems.

The report of the EU Security and Justice sub-committee on post-Brexit arrangements in that area is due to be debated on 25 February. I know that the Minister will deal with the points in the report then. I was going to say that I was sorry to see she does not get that Friday off, but it is never off for a Minister, is it? The points in it are relevant to Northern Ireland.

My noble friend Lord Oates has Amendment 180, which is not in this group, on physical proof of status. This amendment relates to the points that I know he will make and asks the very pertinent question: what happens when the digital system malfunctions? I am normally a glass-half-full person but that is pertinent to everyone, especially at this land border.

I noted, and think it deserves to be mentioned here, that the Constitution Committee of your Lordships’ House has reported in the following terms:

“The House may question why the detail of the Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme introduced under clause 71 is not set out in the Bill.”

It is because the scheme has not been worked up—at any rate not to completion, as I understand it. The report continues:

“If it is appropriate to make such provision in immigration rules, the House may expect it to be subject to a form of affirmative procedure, at least for the establishment of the scheme.”

The committee is saying much more delicately what I said the other day: we should not be expected to deal with criminal offences, as it was that day, arising from the scheme when we do not know what the scheme is. That also applies here.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick and Lady Suttie, for raising this issue, and I think some very good questions have been asked. I have a different question. In the absence of an electronic travel authorisation, are there problems in enforcing immigration, asylum or indeed criminal law? Can we be reassured that there would not be an incentive for people who want to come to the UK to come in large numbers through the Republic of Ireland? That would be my one concern in trying to address the very real issues across the border that have been identified, and which you see in other countries where you have borders—especially where there has been a practice of having no border.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, I will very briefly give support from these Benches to all three of these amendments. They all demonstrate the practical consequences of Brexit. I declare a bit of an interest on Amendment 175—not that I am neither British nor Irish but that I am both British and Irish. In fact, I have been Irish from birth without for a long time realising it, but I have now just got my passport, so I am a dual national.

But it makes no sense—and the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, gave very graphic examples of how silly it is to try to stop people crossing the border. It is not just about tourism; it is about work and business. Surely it is not in the spirit of the good relationship that we have with the Republic of Ireland, or of the Belfast agreement, or of everything that we want to work, Brexit or no Brexit—or despite Brexit. We want to have very good relations on the island of Ireland. I am not sure how it would actually work, but trying to stop people would be a nuisance, to put it at its mildest, and harmful from every direction.

On the point about the ETA system having to rely on the clunky Interpol system, my noble friend reminded me that we are going to be debating the report from the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, in a couple of weeks. We do not have access to SEIS or ECRIS, or other EU instruments, and this is not good for operating an ETA system. So it would be very good to hear from the Minister whether he has anything positive to say about how to remedy the practical consequences, to use a neutral word, of Brexit, both for internal travel on the island of Ireland and for how the ETA system can work optimally.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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Perhaps I, too, should declare that I am both British and Irish since birth. I understand the difficulties locally that potentially arise and have been so well illustrated by the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, but I wanted to ask the Minister whether he could put this in the context of the common travel area. Does it really exist in practice as a reciprocal arrangement? I specifically ask because I have never been able to land at Shannon Airport, even on a direct flight from Heathrow, without standing in a queue and presenting a passport—yet when I return and land at Heathrow, I walk straight through and am guided past the passport gates. To what extent is this common travel area being operated by the Irish Republic on a genuinely reciprocal basis? Could it not in a sense be tied up with this issue?

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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I will add my voice of support to my noble friend Lady Ritchie. It is good to have the perspective that she brings to this Committee. Our institutional memory in Parliament, in this place and the other place, with respect to Ireland is not as great as it was. It is a perspective that needs to be brought here more often, so this is an important little debate. I think the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, will agree.

I say to the Minister that, whatever the rights and wrongs of all this—and I agree with what my noble friend said—it plays into the narrative that the Government do not have a grip with respect to Ireland. The consequences of that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, pointed out, are absolutely and potentially really difficult. Even if people are non-British or non-Irish, if they have to have an ETA to cross the border, how on earth is that going to work? Practically, at the end of the day, if it is worth having, somebody will have to check it. I know that it does not apply to British and Irish citizens, but suppose, as a British man, I have an American wife or a French girlfriend; we go to Northern Ireland and somebody checks it—with the history of the police and security forces checking documents. The Government have to wake up to this. Unless the Minister can get up and say, “We’re going to sort this and this is what’s going to happen”, it will drift on and on and the consequences will be potentially really difficult.

It is no wonder that the Irish Government and various organisations across the whole of the UK and Ireland are saying that the Government need to get a grip on this. It is ludicrous. I gave an example. The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, will know far better than me. What about somebody who for years has lived a mile across the border, has a mixed marriage in terms of nationality—somebody who is a British or Irish citizen married to an American—and wants to go shopping or to a hotel four miles down the road that happens to be in Northern Ireland? Do they need an ETA?

This is one of those things about which people outside Parliament say, “Do you know what you are doing?” Frankly, this is something that is so serious, and all the time we are looking at it we are trying to resolve it. It is difficult. It raises issues that you do not appreciate. If only you understood how difficult it is. Well, I do understand how difficult it might be, and I also understand this: the border, for reasons that we all know, whether it is drawn in Ireland or down the Irish Sea, has consequences that are enormous for the people of Ireland and for people here.

The Government have to sort this out in a way that commands respect and agreement from all communities. The amendment that my noble friend Lady Ritchie has brought before us is important, but I implore the Government: whatever the rights and wrongs of getting into Shannon Airport, whoever is right about whether it is seen as a back-door way of getting into the UK, et cetera—and I should say that the Irish Government have visa requirements as well, which will influence how people come in, so that may be one of the answers —it just has to be resolved. There has to be more than a ministerial, “We understand the importance of this and the difficulties, and that it needs to be sorted out”. The frank reality is that the time for sorting it out was yesterday, not today or tomorrow. It is about time that the Government got a grip of this, otherwise there will be very serious consequences further down the road.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I thank noble Lords very much for participating in this short but powerful debate. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, and second the point of view of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, that you bring—I said “you” again; I am very sorry—an interesting and unusual perspective to this debate. I thank her for that. In answer to the noble Baroness’s question about the letter to my noble friend Lady Williams of Trafford, the noble Baroness will have a reply in a week that will outline the details she asked for.

The Government are clear: there will continue to be no routine immigration controls on journeys to the UK from within the common travel area, and none whatever on the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. That will remain the position when the ETA scheme is introduced.

It may be helpful if I explain that all individuals, other than British and Irish citizens, arriving in the UK, including those crossing the land border into Northern Ireland, already need to enter in line with the UK’s immigration framework. I think this goes some way to answering the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, about the hypothetical American wife or French girlfriend. I think it also deals with the point made by my noble friend, Lady Neville-Rolfe. For example, visa nationals are required to obtain a visa for the UK when travelling via Ireland, otherwise they are entering illegally. We are therefore applying the same principle to individuals requiring an ETA who enter the UK via Ireland without one.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, referenced Article 2 of the protocol. The Government consider that the ETA scheme is compliant, and they will continue to consider their obligations under the protocol with regard to this. I want to reassure the noble Baroness that the process for obtaining an ETA will be quick and light touch. I am told that it will be not dissimilar to acquiring an American ESTA, which I am sure many noble Lords are familiar with. As many people will know, that is very straightforward and easy. Once granted, an ETA will be valid for multiple journeys over an extended period, minimising the burden on those making frequent trips, including those across the Northern Ireland border. I perhaps should have said that I have had considerable experience of crossing that border on numerous occasions.

In terms of the specific questions on the CTA, as far as I am aware, it has nothing to do with Brexit. It predates Brexit does it not? It goes back to 1923 and partition I think, from my dim and distant memory. I am sure I will be corrected if I am wrong. All CTA members are firmly committed to protecting the common travel area. I will reiterate this point: even with the introduction of ETAs, there will be no routine immigration controls on arrivals to the UK from elsewhere in the common travel area—only intelligence-led controls with no immigration controls whatever on the Ireland/Northern Ireland land border. Given the tone of the debate, I hope noble Lords will allow me to keep reiterating that point.

Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Portrait Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for giving way. Could he outline to the Committee how these ETAs will operate. Where will the work be carried out? How will people complete the necessary requirements and what will be the cost? These are the issues that the people are asking. They do not want ETAs to be a disincentive to tourism, the local economy or business generally.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for that intervention. I am going to come on to a number of those points subsequently. In terms of cost, I am told it will be competitive with international norms. I have just referred to the ESTA programme in the States. I looked that up this morning in anticipation of this, and it is currently $14, so it is not overwhelming. In terms of the enforcement, which I think is at the heart of the matter, I will come to that in a second if I may.

There will be no controls whatever on the Northern Ireland land border. Individuals will be able to continue to pass through border control at first point of entry to the common travel area. As is currently the case, individuals arriving in the UK, including those crossing the land border into Northern Ireland, will need to continue to enter in line with the UK’s immigration framework. Obviously, that includes the ETA.

Many noble Lords, including the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, have asked about the impact on tourism. The Government acknowledge that a clear communication strategy is obviously going to be key to tackling any misunderstanding about the requirements to travel to Northern Ireland. We are planning to work across government, utilising internal and external stakeholders and a variety of communication channels to ensure that the ETA requirement is communicated very clearly.

Viscount Brookeborough Portrait Viscount Brookeborough (CB)
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Can I just make one point? Northern Ireland is the size of Yorkshire. What the Minister is really stating is that somebody who goes on holiday to Yorkshire must not go to a neighbouring county for any reason without complying with this regulation. I am terribly sorry, but this is complete and utter rubbish. It is nonsensical and it is not going to work. What do people do if they go touring in Yorkshire? They tour outside it. If tourists go to Ireland, why should they not simply tour Ireland? No amount of communication will do—I am very sorry—and there is nobody to police it. What the Government are talking about is simply unworkable and disastrous.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I thank the noble Viscount—sort of. There will be no hard border. As I said, there is not going to be a hard border in Northern Ireland, and within the CTA there is effectively no change.

In answer to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, about enforcement, which was brought up subsequently as well, I have said it three or four times now: there will be no routine border controls on journeys from within the common travel area, which goes some way to answering the Yorkshire example. There will be none at all on the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Everyone entering the UK, regardless of where they enter from—again, as I have said—is required to meet the UK’s immigration framework. In answer to “What’s the point of having it, then?”, anyone entering the UK without an ETA, or any form of immigration permission where required, will be entering illegally and may be subject to enforcement if encountered during intelligence-led operational activity.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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I say gently to the Minister that he has to be really careful with language on things such as conforming to immigration policy and the UK border. The historic context of some of the language that he used means that he has to be really careful when talking about moving across borders or even saying that there will not be a border control but talking about complying with UK immigration policies.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I completely understand the point that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, is making. I promise him that I am sticking very closely to the script. I am well aware of that.

I think I have dealt with most of the questions, albeit probably not to noble Lords’ satisfaction. What I cannot do, I am afraid, is commit to coming back on Report with anything, but obviously I am going to reflect very carefully on the tone of this debate—to go to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker—and take that back to the department.

Turning to Amendment 175ZA, I assure the House that the Government will conduct robust identity and suitability checks before granting an ETA. We will use the information supplied in the ETA application form to check against our watchlist system. However, as I am sure the noble Lord and the noble Baroness will understand, I cannot go into details of the exact checks that applicants will undergo or how those checks will be conducted, as to do so could undermine our ability to secure the UK border. Such a detailed commentary could provide those people whom we want to prevent from travelling to the UK sufficient information to attempt to circumvent our controls, undermining the very objective of the ETA scheme and the wider universal permission-to-travel requirement to enhance the security of our border.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked about what has happened since we left the European Union and lost access to the European Criminal Records Information System and the Schengen Information System. The UK participated only in the law enforcement aspects of SIS II, meaning that we could not, and did not, use SIS II information for immigration purposes. Therefore, having returned to the Interpol channels, we are now routinely exchanging information with EU member states on persons of interest, including missing and wanted individuals, and on lost and stolen documents. Moreover, through the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, we continue to share criminal records with the EU for law enforcement purposes, including to assist criminal proceedings and for public protection. This is almost identical to the arrangement that we had under ECRIS as an EU member state.

I assure noble Lords that the confirmation of an individual’s status prior to travel will be a matter for the Home Office and their carrier. The onus will not be on the individual to produce evidence of their status to a carrier; instead, carriers will be expected to check and confirm with the Home Office that an individual has an appropriate permission before they bring them to the UK. It is our long-term ambition for all carriers operating scheduled services across all modes—air, rail and maritime—to use interactive advance passenger information, or iAPI, systems to provide passenger information to the Home Office in advance of travel. In return, passengers will receive confirmation of permission to travel prior to boarding.

iAPI is already a well-established mechanism used around the world, particularly by other countries that already operate travel authorisation schemes. None the less, the Home Office will undertake rigorous systems testing to ensure that our messaging to carriers works before the scheme goes live. We expect the likelihood of a technical malfunction occurring to be negligible.

In the unlikely event that a technical malfunction does occur—

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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I wanted to ask my noble friend about what happens when there is a technical malfunction, but I think he was going to answer that question. Having been caught out when the ESTA system went down when I was trying to go to California, I ended up missing my flight and having to go via Seattle, which took another eight or nine hours. It is important to have strong technical systems if you are going to rely on them, but it may be that there is a waiver or some arrangement that can be introduced.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I completely agree with my noble friend: obviously it is important to have well-established protocols in place if such a thing happens. I can assure noble Lords that the Home Office will ensure that passengers are not disproportionately impacted or prevented travelling to the UK. As is already set out in Clause 72, we will not penalise carriers where, due to a Home Office systems outage, it is not possible for them to establish an individual’s status.

On Amendment 186, the Government are steadfastly committed to the Belfast agreement and the two distinct birthright provisions in it: the right to identify and be accepted as British, Irish or both; and the right to hold British and Irish citizenship. In recognising the birthright of the people of Northern Ireland in respect of identity and confirming their birthright in respect of citizenship, the Belfast agreement is clear in guaranteeing that these rights already exist. It expressly and clearly said how and where the law should be changed in many areas but it made no such stipulation on this particular matter of identity.

This amendment would require the Home Secretary to propose stipulating a particular view of identity in law. Doing so would risk impinging on the freedom of the people of Northern Ireland to choose what their identity means to them. It would also amount to treating an integral part of the United Kingdom differently. The Government cannot accept such a proposition; nor can they accept an amendment that is contrary to the intention of the Belfast agreement.

I am aware that some of these answers have not satisfied noble Lords. As I said, I will reflect the tone of this debate back to the Home Office very carefully. I am also aware that I have not answered my noble friend Lord Moylan’s question about reciprocity; I am sure that he will forgive me for not even attempting to do so.

I invite the noble Lords not to press their amendments.

Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Portrait Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick (Lab)
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I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate from across the Committee. I say to the Minister that I happen to agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough: the proposal in Clause 72 is a nonsense and will be unworkable, not because people will not want it work but because it will be dysfunctional both physically and operationally. It will act as a disincentive to tourism and business, as well as to societal arrangements because many non-Irish and non-British people who live in the Republic of Ireland have family in Northern Ireland. There will be preventions there.

I urge the Minister to reflect on all the contributions that have been made today in his discussions with the Home Office. Again, I suggest that we will probably come back on Report with a further amendment on this issue because we do not want impediments placed in the way of our tourism industry, our economy, our business and the normal day-to-day travel of people who live on both sides of the land border, which is largely invisible as it stands. Noble Lords who have travelled a lot will know exactly what we are talking about.

For those reasons, I rather reluctantly beg leave to withdraw my amendment but reserve the right to bring it back on Report.

Amendment 175 withdrawn.
Amendment 175ZA not moved.
Clause 71 agreed.
Clauses 72 and 73 agreed.
Clause 74: Counter-terrorism questioning of detained entrants away from place of arrival
Amendment 175ZB
Moved by
175ZB: Clause 74, page 79, line 7, leave out subsection (3)
Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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My Lords, the short point that my noble friend Lord Paddick wanted to make, as he generally does, in leaving out Clause 74(3) is that, again, this seems to conflate immigration and terrorism. It extends powers to question people about involvement in terrorism at the border and applies the powers to people being detained under a provision of the immigration Acts, and so on. The objection runs like a thread through the Bill, to so many points. Immigration and terrorism are not the same. Not all terrorists are immigrants. Terrorists who have succeeded in the UK have been British, and if the Government allow, in legislation, the bias implied by the conflation of these two, no wonder others display the same bias. I beg to move.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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This clause would extend the use of Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act to people who have been detained under the immigration Acts and transported outside of a port or border area. Schedule 7 can be an important tool in the prevention of terrorism, but it has had a chequered past at times. It has been improved in recent years by the work of independent reviewers of terrorism legislation, two of whom we are now fortunate to have as Members of this House.

I have three or four questions for the Government on the provisions of Clause 74. Have the Government consulted on the extension of the power? Has the change been requested and, if so, by whom or by what body? Can the Minister give more detail on the scale of the problem this is designed to address? How many individuals are officers unable to stop and question under the current arrangements? How was the period of five days arrived at? For those who travel through conventional routes, does not the power have to be used pretty much immediately, in which case five days is a considerable extension? Finally, the powers apply provided an officer “believes” that the person arrived at sea, was apprehended within 24 hours of arrival, and it has been no more than five days since they were apprehended. What will that “belief” that the officer is required to have be based on? It would be helpful if the Government could give some responses to those questions.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I thank both Members of the Committee for their remarks. Schedule 7 examinations have been instrumental in securing evidence to convict terrorists, yielding intelligence to detect terrorist threats and supporting the disruption or deterrence of terrorist activity. Currently, officers may exercise Schedule 7 powers only when an individual is located within a port or border area as defined in the Act. Clause 74 will provide an added layer of protection to the existing processes in place for dealing with those who arrive irregularly by sea in the UK. I think that goes some way to answering the question of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser—they are arriving irregularly outside of ports. The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Jonathan Hall QC, has stated:

“In principle, people arriving irregularly in the United Kingdom should be liable to counter-terrorism examination as much as those arriving at sea ports and airports.”

This clause ensures that, for those arriving irregularly by sea, such as via illegal channel crossings, this will continue be the case.

There are several reasons why those who engage in illegal channel crossings can be moved to a different location from their place of arrival very quickly after arriving. They can range from weight of numbers to the need to move the vulnerable or those in need of medical attention to more appropriate facilities. It is impractical and inhumane to keep large groups of people port side in order to give counterterrorism police an appropriate opportunity to exercise their current powers under Schedule 7.

I reassure noble Lords who tabled the amendment that this is by no means an attempt to treat all migrants arriving in this manner as terrorists, or to stop and examine large numbers of people away from ports and borders. Schedule 7 is not designed and cannot be used as a universal screening mechanism, and Clause 74 has been deliberately drawn to provide an appropriate time window for counterterrorism police to exercise their powers under Schedule 7.

To remove the effect of Clause 74 would impact our ability to determine whether those who are entering the UK in this way are involved in terrorism, impacting our national security. It would continue a scenario where those who arrive in the UK by conventional means are subject to powers to determine involvement in terrorist activity, whereas those who have arrived irregularly by sea, and about whom we have very little documented information, may not be.

I cannot answer precisely who has been consulted on this, other than the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, and obviously the counterterrorism police will have a keen interest in how this debate develops. To answer on the numbers, this concerns those arriving irregularly by sea, outside established ports, under the existing rules. I could not tell you how many there are. The other questions impinge on operational matters, on which I am not qualified to comment. I therefore ask the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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My Lords, the Minister said there is a deliberate time limit to these powers. I may be reading this wrong, but they apply to

“the period of 5 days beginning with the day after the day on which the person was apprehended”.

It is not five days from entry or arrival. I am not sure whether that would alter those points that the Minister suggested we take into account. But, since we are not even half way through the groups of amendments, I had better just beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 175ZB withdrawn.
Clause 74 agreed.
Clause 75 agreed.
Clause 76: Tribunal charging power in respect of wasted resources
Debate on whether Clause 76 should stand part of the Bill.
Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, has her name to the opposition to Clause 76 standing part of the Bill. I am happy to pick this up briefly, as she has had to leave.

Clause 76 gives the tribunals a charging power in respect of wasted resources. I do not know whether it is aimed at lefty, liberal lawyers, a group to which I would be proud to belong, although I do not think I quite qualify—lefty maybe, liberal certainly, but I am an ex-lawyer.

I am trying to read my notes, but I cannot understand what I wrote last night.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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Perhaps while the noble Baroness looks at her handwriting, as a lefty, liberal lawyer, I say briefly to the Minister that the immigration and asylum system is the most unlevel playing field in our legal system. Tribunals were set up, as the Minister will remember, with the aim of people being able to represent themselves, not as places for expensive lawyers.

[The remainder of today’s proceedings should be published tomorrow.]
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