Tribunal and Inquiries

Friday 24th May 2024

(3 weeks, 1 day ago)

Commons Chamber
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12:10
Gareth Bacon Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Gareth Bacon)
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I beg to move,

That the Tribunal Procedure (Upper Tribunal) (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) (Amendment) Rules 2024, (SI., 2024, No. 588), dated 1 May 2024, a copy of which was laid before this House on 1 May, be approved.

This statutory instrument forms part of the Government’s preparations for the implementation of the Illegal Migration Act 2023, which I will hereafter refer to as the IMA. The SI delivers the tribunal procedurals necessary to implement the new appeals regime for suspensive claims already approved in Parliament, in sections 44 to 49 of the IMA. The rules have been drafted to give effect to the timing set out in the IMA. Exceptionally under the IMA, in order to provide for swift implementation, section 50 provides that the Lord Chancellor, instead of the Tribunal Procedure Committee, is responsible for making the first set of rules for the upper tribunal, immigration and asylum chamber for the purposes of suspensive claims under sections 44 to 49 of the IMA. This reflects Parliament’s recognition of the importance of implementing the Act rapidly to tackle illegal migration.

As the Lord Chancellor’s power to make rules has now been spent with the laying of this SI, the Tribunal Procedure Committee retains its rule-making powers and will be able to amend or replace these rules as it deems appropriate under its usual procedures. We have kept the TPC fully informed throughout our work in preparing the draft rules, and we also understand that the TPC will review these rules as part of its priority to keep all nine sets of tribunal procedurals and employment tribunal procedurals under constant review.

Before I conclude, this is the last time I will address the Chamber from the Dispatch Box as a Justice Minister this side of the election. On that basis, and I hope you will indulge me, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to thank all of the officials and special advisers that I have worked with in my time as an Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, particularly Harry McNeill Adams, Andrew Spence, Molly Parsons-O’Connor, Claire Fielder, Christina Pride, Catherine Elkington, Tim Coates, Amy Rees, Ross Gribbin, Gemma Hewison and Jenny Pickrell. I would also like to thank the excellent special advisers Sally Rushton, Rupert Cunningham and Hannah Galley. Finally, and most importantly, I would like to thank my private secretaries, who have worked tirelessly to keep me organised and on the straight and narrow: Charlotte Hewitt, Andrea Benjamin, Imogen Jailler and Naomi Hartley.

I also thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. You have been a beacon of fairness and good humour in the Chair throughout my time in this House. I wish you well in your retirement. You will be much missed by this House, and the House will be the poorer without you.

To conclude, these rules will come into force on commencement of the duty to remove under section 2 of the Illegal Migration Act. The Lord Chancellor laid this SI on 1 May in preparation for that, having already laid the Civil Legal Aid (Remuneration) (Amendment) Regulations 2023 and the Civil Legal Aid (Financial Resources and Payment for Services and Remuneration) (Amendment) Regulations 2023 late last year. By doing so, the SI will be in place should the decision be taken after the election to proceed with the swift implementation of the IMA.

12:14
Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab)
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I can see that I am not your only fan in this Chamber, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am sure that I speak for everyone in saying that we wish you well in what you do. We are also joined by the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May). We thank her for exemplary public service in her time in this place. I also pay tribute to my dear friend, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), the Mother of the House, who has had an extraordinary career as a Labour politician. She was briefly—all too briefly, in my view—the leader of the party. I thank her for her service to the Labour party, to Parliament and to our country.

The statutory instrument governs one of the few parts of the Prime Minister’s so-called signature immigration legislation to have actually been enacted—the Illegal Migration Act 2023. Most of the key clauses, including the duty to remove those who arrive without permission, have not been enacted because the Government know deep down that the Act is a bit of a sham. It was the second of three Acts designed, but failing, to tackle the small boats chaos under their watch. We opposed that Act because we warned that it would not work, and the Government’s reluctance to enact any of its key provisions shows that we were right.

The provisions in the statutory instrument govern the appeal procedure relating to removals under the Act, but no such removals are occurring, as the duty to remove has not even been enacted. The truth is that the Government have lost control of our border security. They have allowed criminal gangs to take hold of the channel and they have allowed dangerous boat crossings to soar. They have lost control of the asylum system, allowing decisions to collapse and the backlog to rocket to a record high with record numbers of people in asylum hotels, which costs the taxpayer an eye-watering £8 million a day. Meanwhile, yesterday’s statistics show that they have let returns and enforcement crumble too, with returns of failed asylum seekers down by 35% compared with the last Labour Government.

We will strengthen our border security and fix the asylum chaos. We will crack down on the criminal gangs and their supply chains to stop the boats before they reach the French coast. We will set up a new border security command, backed by new resources and counter-terrorism style powers, to bring those gangs to justice. We will clear the backlog with new fast-track procedures for safe countries and end asylum hotel use to save the taxpayer billions of pounds. We will also strengthen enforcement with a new returns and enforcement unit.

We do not intend to divide the House, but the British public will have their say on 4 July. It will be a choice between gimmicks from the Tories and strong border security and real grip from Labour.

12:16
Kirsty Blackman Portrait Kirsty Blackman (Aberdeen North) (SNP)
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I made a comment yesterday, but I would like briefly to thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for your time in the Chair. Whenever I have made a request, you have either granted it or given me a very good reason why it was not a reasonable request, which I really appreciate.

As SNP Members have laid out on numerous occasions, we have many issues with the UK Government’s immigration policies, especially the Rwanda policy. We fundamentally disagree with the decision-making processes that are happening and with the ideology. From the SNP Benches, we can say on behalf of the people of Scotland, “This is not being done in our name,” because they fundamentally disagree with this.

Hon. Members will know what happened on Kenmure Street, Glasgow a couple of years ago. The people of Glasgow, on behalf of the people of Scotland, stood up for one of our own who was being taken away. It does not matter to us where that person was born. If somebody wants to come and be part of Scottish society—if they want to come and live in our country, bring their skills, talents and culture, and contribute to Scotland—that is welcome in Scotland. This policy is not being done in our name.

I understand that the statutory instrument is part of the Government’s preparations in relation to the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act 2024, which we disagreed with at every stage. It is disappointing that Labour Members are using the same rhetoric and playing the same game as the Tories on this issue. They are talking about small boats at every opportunity, but they should be talking about the issues that actually matter to people. They are fundamentally misunderstanding the public view in Scotland.

People in Scotland do not wake up every morning and worry about the small boat crossings—that is not the biggest issue. They are worrying about the cost of living crisis, the NHS and their daily lives. They support immigration policies that allow people to come.

One of the good things about the general election being called is that the changes to graduate visas cannot be implemented. The Migration Advisory Committee report said that the graduate visa should continue, but understandably we had no faith in this Tory Government allowing that to happen. The changes relating to dependants will have a significant impact on so many places, particularly when it comes to universities, a number of which might actually go under as a result of the decisions being made by the UK Tory Government. We have a history in Scotland of opposing Tory immigration policy and opposing crackdowns that simply demonise innocent people who are trying to escape unimaginably bad situations. We have fought against dawn raids; we have had the Glasgow Girls; we have had a huge amount of civic action against taking our people away.

The shadow Minister mentioned the immigration backlog. It would be much better if the UK Government focused on ensuring that the immigration system works, and that people who have applied for visas get a decision within a year, or a year and a half—or even, thinking about some of the casework I have faced, within three years. It would be much better if they did not randomly move people from hotels in Aberdeen to hotels in Glasgow, while also moving others from hotels in Glasgow to hotels in Aberdeen. It would be much better if they did not move people in Aberdeen who are waiting for an operation to London or another place in England with absolutely no notice, and no justification apart from the fact that they get free legal advice in Scotland. Given that the law and the legal systems are different in the two countries, people who are moved to England have to restart their asylum case from scratch.

Our long-held position is that we oppose the Conservatives’ rhetoric and ideology on immigration, and we oppose the Rwanda policy in particular, so we will divide the House on this motion and vote against it. [Interruption.] It is the last day of the Parliament; we are not going to compromise our principles simply because that would be more convenient for the Labour party. We are going to stick by them, act consistently with all the positions we have held previously, and vote against the motion.

12:22
Gareth Bacon Portrait Gareth Bacon
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First, I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan), who has been my shadow for what feels like a lot longer than seven months. I am not completely convinced by his claim of strong borders under Labour—I am sure that the electorate will sort that out in the next few weeks—but he has been extremely decent in his dealings with me.

Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan
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I apologise—I should have thanked the Minister for the courteous way in which he has dealt with the Opposition spokespeople. I do thank him for that.

Gareth Bacon Portrait Gareth Bacon
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For the benefit of the people in the Strangers’ Gallery, I should say that it is not normal for politicians to be so nice to each other across the Dispatch Box. It gets a lot worse than this normally. I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his words.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con)
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Will the Minister give way on the topic of being nice?

Gareth Bacon Portrait Gareth Bacon
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I am really not sure that I should sully—no, of course I will.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill
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I appreciate that this is perhaps one of the most contentious bits of legislation that we have to deal with in the wash-up, but I want to thank the Minister for the constructive approach that he has always adopted towards the business, and in particular for the way that he has engaged with the Justice Committee, which I have chaired, on a number of difficult issues over his time in post.

Gareth Bacon Portrait Gareth Bacon
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I am extremely grateful to my hon. and learned Friend, my constituency neighbour, for his kind words. I have known him for more than 25 years. If the House will indulge me, I first met him when he defeated my wife in the selection for the Bexley and Bromley London Assembly constituency. We overcame that particular bump in the road very swiftly, and he has very much been a guiding light and mentor for me in the quarter of a century that has elapsed since. He is somebody who I have consistently looked up to—perhaps not physically, but certainly in every other sense.

I am grateful for the opportunity to close this debate. There will be a lot of valedictory speeches, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr Jones) will lead off on those, but I would like to personally mark this point. Many hon. and right hon. Members are retiring from the House today, as is inevitable when an election comes around. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May). She has been an exceptional public servant over her 27 years in this House. Taking into account her local government experience in the London Borough of Merton, her public service extends for more than three decades. In my humble opinion, she personifies all that is best about public servants, with her selflessness and her devotion to duty and to the people she seeks to represent. The House will not be the same without her—or without you, Madam Deputy Speaker—and I wanted to get that on the record.

I am grateful for the contributions to this debate. The measure is a key element in the implementation of the Illegal Migration Act 2023. As I said in opening this debate, it is being considered today so that we can ensure that it is ready for IMA commencement after the election. I note the comments from the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman). I disagree with them profoundly, but that will be no surprise to her, because she disagrees with my position profoundly, and that is perfectly okay, and we will obviously contest this matter in a Division.

By laying this statutory instrument before Parliament, the Ministry of Justice has complied with the Lord Chancellor’s statutory obligations under section 50 of the IMA and ensured that the appropriate rules and procedures are in place for when the duty to remove commences. I commend the measures to the House.

Question put.

12:27

Division 160

Ayes: 135


Conservative: 131
Independent: 2

Noes: 10


Scottish National Party: 9

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE (TODAY)
Ordered,
That the Order of the House of 23 May (Business of the House (23 and 24 May)) be varied as follows:
After paragraph (15) insert—
“The motion in the name of the Prime Minister on matters to be raised before the forthcoming dissolution may be proceeded with until any hour, and may be interrupted by proceedings on Lords Amendments, Lords Messages or any Motion moved by a Minister of the Crown.”—(Rebecca Harris.)