Baroness Ludford debates involving the Home Office during the 2019 Parliament

Immigration (Restrictions on Employment and Residential Accommodation) (Prescribed Requirements and Codes of Practice) and Licensing Act 2003 (Personal and Premises Licences) (Forms), etc., Regulations 2022

Baroness Ludford Excerpts
Tuesday 7th June 2022

(2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, I too thank the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for ensuring that we have this debate, and I join with him in applauding the previous work that my noble friend Lord Oates has done on this issue.

These regulations make online checks mandatory for all people with immigration status in the UK, as has been the case for almost a year for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens. However, there has been little publicity or awareness raising; perhaps this debate helps to fill that gap. There has also been no learning exercise from the EU settlement scheme. If there had been, there may well have been a revolt, because millions are being stripped of their right to use their biometric cards to prove their right to work and rent.

Many EU, EEA and Swiss citizens are already struggling with this digital-only status, and the Home Office is very aware of this. It is inaccessible for those with low digital literacy or certain disabilities. It is reliant on Home Office systems, so the applicant depends on the Home Office service and databases being up and running continuously. The group the3million, which has already been cited in this debate, has extensively documented the fundamental design problems, accessibility issues and system glitches of the digital-only proof of status. There are people for whom an online status can never work, such as vulnerable adults who do not have a smartphone or computer or any internet access. They might have no access to the email or phone number that was used to apply if they were helped by somebody, and therefore they cannot receive a security code themselves to log in. Those in these groups are at a heightened risk of being marginalised by a digital-only status.

Others have mentioned that the online portal is prone to error, with people unable to access their status and facing error messages or incorrect information. Updating a status with a renewed passport has led to some not being able to access or prove their status with either their old or their new passport details. A person with a refused application for EU settlement status and a new application can only see the refused one. Many with pre-settled status and a pending application for settled status can only see a certificate of application for the pending application. They can no longer prove the vital information that they already have pre-settled status.

People cannot check what contact details the Home Office currently holds on them. Although they might get a confirmation email, that only states that they have updated their contact address. It does not state the actual address, so you do not know whether it is registered in the system. Many people are known by a name other than that held in the identity document—most obviously, those with a married name—who want to add that name to their EU settlement status. Although the Home Office says that this is now possible, people are not at all happy with the process, which involves sending identity documents through the post.

We have heard that the Government have a call centre, the Settlement Resolution Centre, to assist those having difficulty with the new, improved system. However, in the year to October 2021, only 44% of the calls to that line were successfully connected, which means that 56%—nearly 820,000 calls—were abandoned, many automatically disconnected. The Home Office has stressed that, since its inception, the Settlement Resolution Centre has handled over 2 million calls and emails. This rather goes to show how many people need support, so will any additional support options be made available beyond the Settlement Resolution Centre if this SI comes into force?

Moved by
47: After Clause 37, insert the following new Clause—
“Refugee family reunion
(1) The Secretary of State must, within 6 months of the date of the passing of this Act, lay before Parliament a statement of changes in the rules (the “immigration rules”) under section 3(2) of the Immigration Act 1971 (general provisions for regulation and control) to make provision for refugee family reunion, in accordance with this section, to come into effect after 21 days. (2) Before a statement of changes is laid under subsection (1), the Secretary of State must consult with persons he or she deems appropriate.(3) The statement laid under subsection (1) must set out rules providing for leave to enter and remain in the United Kingdom for family members of a person granted refugee status or humanitarian protection.(4) In this section, “refugee status” and “humanitarian protection” have the same meaning as in the immigration rules.(5) In this section, “family members” include—(a) a person’s parent, including adoptive parent;(b) a person’s spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner;(c) a person’s child, including adopted child, who is either—(i) under the age of 18, or(ii) under the age of 25 but was either under the age of 18 or unmarried at the time the person granted asylum left their country of residence to seek asylum;(d) a person’s sibling, including adoptive sibling, who is either—(i) under the age of 18, or(ii) under the age of 25, but was either under the age of 18 or unmarried at the time the person granted asylum left their country of residence to seek asylum; and(e) such other persons as the Secretary of State may determine, having regard to—(i) the importance of maintaining family unity,(ii) the best interests of a child,(iii) the physical, emotional, psychological or financial dependency between a person granted refugee status or humanitarian protection and another person,(iv) any risk to the physical, emotional or psychological wellbeing of a person who was granted refugee status or humanitarian protection, including from the circumstances in which the person is living in the United Kingdom, or(v) such other matters as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.(6) For the purpose of subsection (5)—(a) “adopted” and “adoptive” refer to a relationship resulting from adoption, including de facto adoption, as set out in the immigration rules;(b) “best interests” of a child must be read in accordance with Article 3 of the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”Member’s explanatory statement
This new Clause would make provision for leave to enter or remain in the UK to be granted to the family members of refugees and of people granted humanitarian protection.
Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, the Ukrainian family scheme drives a welcome coach and horses through the usual Home Office approach to refugee family reunion, which is to oppose anything but a very narrow definition of “family”. The Home Office, in my opinion, seeks to restrict this safe route very considerably. As I understand it, the new scheme would allow children as well as adults to sponsor parents, grandparents, siblings and their immediate families, as well as allowing adults to sponsor their children over 18. It does not go as far as Amendment 48 from the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, in including, for instance, reunion with an aunt or uncle, and I look forward to him speaking to that amendment.

The Ukrainian family scheme is not the normal, routine Home Office approach. That approach was expressed at Second Reading of my Private Member’s Bill on refugee family reunion, and in Committee in response to my amendment, which was essentially the text of that Private Member’s Bill, as is Amendment 47 today.

In Committee on this Bill, the Minister said that the Home Office recognised

“that in some cases there will be exceptional and compassionate circumstances which warrant a grant of leave”

for the purposes of family reunion and that the guidance on exceptional circumstances would be “published in due course”. Can the Minister tell us what progress has been made in publishing that guidance? Yet again, as so often, the basis of the policy is just the exercise of discretion. It does not give certainty.

The Ukrainian family scheme is of course welcome, but in its recognition that, having fled to safety, refugees need their families, it should be a precedent, not an exception. As to allowing children to bring in family members, the Minister said at Committee stage of this Bill that

“noble Lords will at least grant that I have been consistent in opposing that sort of policy, because of its negative consequences”,

which, she claimed would creative incentives for children to be encouraged and forced

“to leave their family and risk extremely dangerous journeys to the UK in order to sponsor relatives.”—[Official Report, 8/2/22; col. 1474.]

In fact, it is the lack of safe routes such as family reunion that force dangerous journeys. Families Together, the coalition of 90 NGOs, talks about how the existing rules mean

“that those family members who have become separated but are not covered by the rules are left with the invidious choice of staying put in insecure and dangerous places or embarking on treacherous, expensive, unregulated journeys.”

I agree with another NGO, the excellent Safe Passage, that:

“Safe routes save lives, reunite families and support refugees to rebuild their lives … welcomed by our communities.”


I hope that the Government will take the precedent of the Ukrainian family scheme and widen it out to their family reunion policies. I beg to move.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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My Lords, I wish to speak to Amendment 48 in particular. I say at the outset that I am grateful to the Minister for the trouble she has taken to give me a chance to talk to her and her officials about the clause and the Government’s view of it. Although I do not think that either of us was persuaded by the other as a result of our conversation, nevertheless I am grateful for the trouble she went to.

I want to just say a word or two about the background. Until we left the EU we had the benefit of the Dublin treaty, particularly Dublin III. To summarise, the benefit of that was that a refugee child or a child claiming refugee status could seek to join a relative living in this country. For example, a Syrian boy in France could apply to join an uncle in Birmingham or Manchester. That worked fairly well. The figures show that it was quite successful and it was an important part of reuniting families.

When we were concerned that Brexit would put an end to all this because the Dublin treaty would no longer apply, this House passed an amendment to the 2017 legislation so that the Government would negotiate to continue the family reunion provision after we left the EU. That was passed by this House on a vote, it was eventually accepted by the Government in the Commons and it became the law of the land. Then came the 2019 legislation and the Government took the provision out again, for reasons we never understood. Many of us were alarmed that something that had been passed could just be reversed, as it were, by other legislation.

Partly to conciliate me, I think, the Minister arranged a meeting. I was quite surprised that there were three Government Ministers and seven officials at the meeting, and me: it was sort of 10 to one. The effort was made to persuade me that everything would be all right under the then Immigration Rules. The then Immigration Minister was Brandon Lewis. He looked me in the eye and said, “Don’t you trust me?” I found this quite difficult. I said, first, “There is no guarantee you will stay in your job for very long.” Indeed, within weeks he was promoted to Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Secondly, I said, “I may trust you personally but I don’t trust the Government.” I am afraid that is still my position on this legislation.

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I outlined some of the other things we have been doing in the debate on a previous group so I will not go over them again, but what I have outlined is an extremely generous and expansive package befitting the need of Ukrainians for our refuge and protection. On that point, I hope that noble Lords will withdraw or not press their amendments.
Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, I have listened carefully to the Minister. I still hope that some lessons will be learned from the Ukrainian family scheme, about which we will probably have some exchanges shortly. I hope for wider reform in future. I heard everything the Minister said but I still think that there needs to be fundamental reform of the family reunion rules for all the good reasons expressed in this debate. However, I am not going to make any further progress so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 47 withdrawn.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Baroness Ludford Excerpts
Monday 28th February 2022

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I agree with the noble Lord that the crisis that is unfolding is horrifying in the extreme. Poland has been generous to a fault to its neighbours. We will assist with some of the humanitarian assistance in Poland and other places. Of course countries should come together to decide the best way forward for what is yet another humanitarian crisis.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, the EU has said that Ukrainian refugees, who do not need visas to get into the Schengen zone anyway, can stay for three years without having to regularise their situation. I thought that the UK took back control in order to regulate better than the EU. Can the noble Baroness tell me what the UK will do better than the EU for Ukrainian refugees?

Nationality and Borders Bill

Baroness Ludford Excerpts
Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, I recognise that the Bill removes discrimination against those, including some descendants of Chagossians, unable to claim previously through their mothers or unmarried fathers. But with this amendment we are talking about a limited number of people, in the hundreds—maybe 800 to 1,000—who, as descendants of Chagossians evicted from the islands, will still have no rights to British overseas citizenship and, in due course, British citizenship even with Part 1, even though they would have that right if they had not been evicted. In Committee, the Minister’s only answer was that

“offering this right is contrary to long-standing government policy.”—[Official Report, 27/1/22; col. 497.]

That position does not take into account the exceptional nature of what happened to the Chagossians. No other British Overseas Territories citizens suffered this fate. Chucking out colonial subjects in the modern age was also, I hope, contrary to good government policy. If an exception could be made for the Chagossians then, one can be made now.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, in Committee there seemed to be some representations from noble Lords who did not know about the plight of the Chagos Islanders; they were hearing about it for the first time. There is so much injustice in the world that it is very difficult to keep track of all the consequences of British and American imperialism, but it is one of the beauties of your Lordships’ House that any of us can table amendments that can be debated and discussed. I say a big thank you to the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, for debating this issue and for her powerful speeches on this cause. Having had the issue raised in Committee, and now again on Report, no one can claim ignorance of this real injustice. We have to take action. It is time for the United Kingdom to make reparations for forcing changes on the Chagos Islanders. This amendment is the beginning of that process and the Greens support it completely.

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I have explained to the noble Baroness that we do not want to treat EEA nationals differently from other nationals who are required to meet the same requirements for naturalisation in terms of lawful residence. The government amendment we have tabled on lawful residence will benefit EEA nationals and their family members, as well as others who have acquired indefinite leave to remain in the UK, as previous residence will not be reassessed. For the reasons I have set out, I imagine the noble Baroness will be pleased and happy not to press her amendment.
Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, I very much thank the Minister, who has taken a very welcome personal interest in this matter, which is very encouraging. The government amendments are interesting and represent some progress, but they are unspecific for EEA citizens, and there is still that discretion, not certainty, that the Secretary of State “may” but not “must” do this.

As I said in Committee, I was grateful for the concession, announced by the Minister and which she has just talked about, to the effect that the Government would

“amend the Immigration Rules … to disapply any requirement for a Lounes dual national”—

this area is littered with technical terminology—

“to have held CSI in order to sponsor applications by relevant family members”

for settlement. I would be very grateful, as we asked in Committee, to know whether there is any further knowledge of what progress there is on that change to the Immigration Rules.

So far, so good—but on the other two arms of my amendment, on registration of children as British citizens and naturalisation as British for an EEA settled person, both without looking at past CSI history, as my amendment asked for, the Minister said in Committee that

“it would not be right to single out EEA nationals”,

and she has repeated that. We are slightly in the same territory as we were on the Chagos amendments, whereby the Government say that they cannot do something specifically for this group. The Minister also said in Committee that

“it would not be right to treat certain nationalities differently”—[Official Report, 1/2/22; col. 794-95]

and she is maintaining this approach.

However, EEA nationals are being treated differently. They have resided previously in this country, often for a long time; a large chunk of an international treaty, the withdrawal agreement, is devoted to them and to their counterparts, British citizens in the EU, and legislation specifically covering them; and there are various arrangements for monitoring and supervising how they are treated. So they are a special case. I would just mention that some children who should have been born British were not, and now have to be registered at a cost of more than £1,000 because of the specifics of the situation of EEA nationals.

After the meeting of the UK-EU joint committee last week—the committee on the withdrawal agreement—Vice-President Šefčovič recalled that

“it was a commitment from both of us that we will do our utmost for the UK nationals in the EU and the EU citizens staying in the UK.”

An EU official was reported as saying that the Commission would consider whether to launch consultations on citizens’ rights, and could ultimately trigger an arbitration process. I am not saying that those remarks were targeted at this specific problem, but that reminds us that there is an oversight mechanism for the fate of EEA citizens.

The CSI issue affects only EEA citizens, nobody else, so removing it entirely from being a virus—I called it “snakes and ladders”—in our immigration regime, would simply bring EEA citizens into line with all other migrants, who do not have a CSI problem. When Prime Minister, Theresa May said:

“The requirement for comprehensive sickness insurance is an EU requirement, and as long as we are members of the EU, it will continue to be there. Once we leave, we can indeed remove it”.—[Official Report, Commons, 26/6/2017; col. 315.]


It is true that the Government removed it for applicants for settled status but, as I hope I have explained through the passage of this Bill, the problem is that it pops up later. You do not get rid of it; that is why I call it a virus. You do not get rid of it—it sort of comes back.

What is not to like about removing red tape? I suggest that while the new government amendments represent some progress—again, I thank the Minister—they still rest on discretion and do not treat EEA citizens on the fair, legally secure basis that I believe they deserve under the withdrawal agreement. I hope that the Government can do more and ward off any possible action from the European Commission and enforce a slightly more secure basis.

If I cannot get what I really want—acceptance of my amendment—I ask the Minister to confirm at least that, when implemented, the guidance will be updated to always state that the Secretary of State will always exercise her discretion in favour of applicants by not inquiring as to whether they had CSI and by treating self-sufficient persons, students and their family members as not having breached immigration laws. That should be in guidance as a firm commitment. Otherwise, I would like to hear the Minister further.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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My Lords, we support much of what the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, has just said and some of the questions she has put forward. No doubt, the Minister will respond to those questions. It has to be said that the Minister has come forward with some amendments that do improve the situation.

Can I just emphasise the important points the Minister made and clarify, in the light of the questions from the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, that she said it would apply to all residents, not just EU residents? That is an important point that the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, made, and the House needs further clarification on what “all”—not to be pedantic—actually means in these circumstances for clarity of legislation.

Having welcomed the step forward the Minister has clearly made, I think that what “exceptional” means is also important—so that the Secretary of State will not use the power to prevent somebody without CSI gaining citizenship other than in exceptional circumstances. The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, again, is right to ask for greater clarity about how “exceptional circumstances” will be defined and whether there will actually be guidance that any future Home Secretary will have to take into account in determining whether leave to remain should be changed to a full citizenship status in the particular circumstances with which this group of amendments is dealing.

I thank the Minister for coming forward with those amendments and trying to meet many of the concerns that were raised in Committee and before. I look forward, with the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, I am sure, to the answers to the important questions that have been raised, notwithstanding the amendments before us this afternoon.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I thank both noble Lords for the points they have just made. I did refer to guidance in the points I was making in introducing. Yes, the guidance will make things clear.

In terms of “all”, “all” means all nationalities; the provisions will apply to all nationalities. I know the noble Baroness says this is a particular EU problem, but we are trying to make provisions that apply to all countries.

In terms of that point about “may” and “must”, “may” rather than “must” reserves the “may” for the most exceptional cases where it would not be appropriate to take that more generous approach. The provisions will be applicable to the vast majority of applicants, apart from those “may” applicants where a generous approach would not be appropriate—for example, criminality. I hope that explains it to the noble Baroness.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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I do thank the Minister for that reply. I am not absolutely certain. It may just be that I did not follow the detail, but I am not sure I quite heard that the guidance, apart from in the exceptional case of criminality, will say that the Secretary of State will always exercise her discretion in favour of EEA applicants by not inquiring about the CSI record of the people that it affected.

I have some understanding for what she said about people with a criminal record but, that apart, I should like to hear—perhaps I will not get this today—that the guidance will say that, in normal cases, for EEA nationals, there will always be a good outcome in disregarding a CSI gap. I am not sure that I have quite heard that. I do not know whether the Minister wants to clarify that now, or whether I should just accept—

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I cannot make an absolutist comment, but I was trying to explain to the noble Baroness that anyone in the normal run of things—other than, for example, serious criminality—would be caught by the government amendments.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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I thank the Minister for that further clarification. I think I have got as far as I am going to get—

None Portrait Noble Lords
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Order!

Nationality and Borders Bill

Baroness Ludford Excerpts
Thirdly, there is the specious claim that the right to work after six months might lead to an unmanageable intake of asylum seekers in the first place. Yet, not least as stressed by the Government’s Migration Advisory Committee, these is little evidence to back up that assertion. Instead, the main reason for asylum seekers coming here is the need to escape from intolerable circumstances in their own countries, as we are now witnessing through the thousands of Ukrainians fleeing from war. For all these reasons I hope that my noble friend the Minister will be able to accept this amendment.
Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, the arguments have been put very well and very strongly. I am very pleased to co-sign the excellent amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud. Her speech was really excellent. Others have demolished the pull factor argument and I do not wish to say any more on that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said in Committee:

“To relax the policy would be totally to undermine everything that the British people voted for in 2019”.—[Official Report, 3/2/22; col. 1062.]


This has really nothing to do with Brexit, but the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, just quoted a statistic of 70% of people supporting asylum seekers being able to work. That is quite similar to a YouGov poll today which says that 77% of the British public support relaxing visa restrictions on Ukrainian refugees, refuting the idea that the public do not appreciate these arguments, whether it is about refugees or, in this case, asylum seekers.

This is not a partisan proposal; it has been said that it is thoroughly Conservative—I would like to say it is thoroughly Liberal Democrat or Labour as well—but it is not of itself party political. To us, its proponents, it is a win-win. It enables asylum seekers to stand on their own two feet, support their families, pay tax—that is the economic side—and to help them integrate. I cannot remember whether I quoted it in Committee, but I saw a statistic that said that if asylum seekers do not get that sort of flying start—and of course those who do not qualify for refugee status will have to be removed in the normal way, whether they have been working or not—it can take 10 years to recover from a period of initial deterioration. People’s mental and physical health, their self-regard and ability to mesh with their community is so damaged by not being able to work in an initial period that it takes a very long time for them to recover, and that harms the host society.

I do not believe that the Government are on the same page as public opinion on this one. It really it not logical. If the Government were able to meet the target, which they are failing at horribly, to make an initial decision within six months, then this proposed new clause would not come into effect, because the right to work comes into effect after six months. There is nothing to fear if the Government actually put their resources into frontloading the system—as so many of us have argued for ad infinitum.

Accepting this amendment is a no-brainer, and the noble Baroness has got a considerable brain, so she is going to find it quite difficult to refute the truly heavy arguments for this amendment.

Lord Bishop of Chelmsford Portrait The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford
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My Lords, I give my strong support to Amendment 30 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud. She has eloquently made the case for this amendment, so I do not intend to take a great deal of the House’s time, but I wish to add a few brief remarks in support.

At Second Reading, I raised the question of how different our migration policy might be if we stopped looking at asylum seekers as either victims without agency or criminals seeking to exploit us and instead as future citizens and neighbours. In this light, the right to work for asylum seekers who have waited six months or more for a decision represents an excellent opportunity. It would be good for asylum seekers and for the soul of this nation. Such people are often left without agency or dignity. Their identity becomes limited to a sort of victim status. Being unable to work leaves them dependent on the state or at risk of falling in with illegal labour exportation.

Legal employment represents a chance for people to contribute to their own welfare and that of the common good. It is a way for them to bring their skill and efforts to their new communities, to make friends and to integrate. It provides an opportunity for others to meet and understand these newcomers, and to see them as willing contributors rather than chancers or criminals.

Work is not just a means to a wage or an economic benefit to a business and a community—although, as we have heard, it might be all these things—but innately social. It is activity done with and for others. It is a contribution to common life. That is something we should look to foster and encourage, as it is a means of building stronger ties of fellowship, stronger communities and stronger citizens.

This argument has been advanced before in this place and has been rejected. However, with new recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee and the sense of momentum we can hear in the House this evening, I hope we might be able to make some progress.

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.

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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 Cashman Portrait Lord Cashman (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise briefly to speak to these amendments and congratulate my noble friend Lady Lister of Burtersett on so eloquently moving the amendment. I also congratulate the other speakers who have spoken in favour.

I particularly welcome Amendment 61 of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, because, as he said, he introduces into it elements—human rights and the regard to the special provisions within the Equality Act —of which we should be proud and on which we should lead internationally. I give my wholehearted support to that because, as noble Lords have heard me say before—I make no apologies for saying it again and again—in each of these situations, I imagine what I would want as an asylum seeker or refugee. I must imagine myself in that situation. Some who read our newspapers would believe that it is a picnic and a party; it is certainly not at the moment in the United Kingdom. I believe that the signal that we are sending out with the Bill and with these amendments is that asylum seekers and those seeking refuge are not welcome.

To reiterate the points made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, I remember that, when I was a Member of the European Parliament many years ago, I was approached by a person whose partner was a gay man from Belarus who was seeking asylum here. His asylum process was going through and, suddenly, in the very early hours of the morning, he was arrested and detained at a detention centre. Let us make no bones about it: Clause 12(9) introduces detention centres—they are called “accommodation” centres, but asylum seekers are detained and cannot leave them at will. This is why the minimum conditions that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham outlined are a basic and bare necessity to which we should adhere. This young gay man was placed in a detention centre for a number of weeks and had to sleep in shared accommodation; we managed to get him out because his partner could afford a rather brilliant lawyer to plead the case. While he was there, he contemplated suicide on an hourly basis. This young man is now in a senior job in the United Kingdom, paying his taxes, his dues and his national insurance and abiding by the same rules and laws as everyone else. But he still lives with that scar every single day, and I do not want any other person to experience that.

Placing vulnerable people back into these situations, as outlined by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, only increases stress and the damage to mental health. If LGBTQI people are put back into the communities from which they have fled, they face further oppression within places that should be safe, and it makes it much more difficult for them to prove their LGBTQI status to others.

Someone once said to me, “Oh, being trans is just a feeling, isn’t it?” Well, I cannot prove to anyone that I am a gay man; it is a feeling and one that I have when I look at another human being—although not every single man, interestingly enough. Therefore, we have to deal with these particular issues, not only of LGBTQI people but all of these vulnerable asylum seekers.

I will finish with this. In roughly 1600, Shakespeare co-wrote a play; it was the only play that he co-wrote and it is “Sir Thomas More”. Sir Thomas More is called to London because the citizens of London are rebelling—they had probably read the tabloids of the day—because “the strangers” had made their way from Calais via Dover to London. In a parenthesis to a speech, Thomas More comes out, and with one hand silences the crowd. In that silence, a voice shouts, “Remove them!” Thomas More replies: “You bid that they be removed, the stranger, with their children upon their back, their families at their side, their belongings at their feet. Imagine you are the stranger, with your children upon your back, your family at your side, your belongings at your feet. Imagine you are the stranger and bid that they be removed and show your mountanish inhumanity.” It is a great privilege and pleasure to support these amendments.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, I support all the amendments in this group and I ask the Minister to address in her response a couple of issues, particularly in relation to Amendments 57 and 61, about restricting the placing of vulnerable people in accommodation centres—military barracks. When a similar amendment to Amendment 57 was tabled in Committee in the other place, the Home Office Minister, Tom Pursglove, said it was

“unnecessary because there are no plans to place those with children in accommodation centres”.—[Official Report, Commons, Nationality and Borders Bill Committee, 21/10/21; col. 295.]

If the Home Office has no such plans, which is a welcome commitment, why will it not accept a statutory shield against placing at least children in those centres?

Wider than that, I am grateful to the British Red Cross, which has reminded us that there is a Home Office policy document, of which the latest update was in May 2021, called Allocation of Accommodation Policy. It has a section on “Asylum seekers considered unsuitable for Napier”, which starts with the statement:

“Women and dependent children are not suitable to be accommodated at Napier”,


before listing further cases, including potential survivors of modern slavery, people with a disability and those with complex health needs. The tablers of Amendment 57, which I support, say the list should be longer and should include those under Amendment 61. If the Home Office has these policy commitments, it is my contention that it ought to accept the amendments restricting the types of people who would be sent to these accommodation centres. I would be very pleased to hear the Minister agree and therefore accept at least Amendments 57 and 61.

Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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My Lords, noble Lords will not be surprised if I strike a somewhat different note; none the less, it is a note that needs to be heard. I think we need to stand back before addressing this group of amendments. We cannot and should not assume that everyone who claims asylum in this country has a case and is a genuine asylum seeker. The Home Secretary said recently that of those crossing the channel, 70% were more likely to be, and were in fact, economic migrants rather than genuine refugees. A historical view, I think, gives a figure of something like 50% of asylum seekers whose cases were rejected after very careful legal procedure. So, I think we have to stand back and not simply assume that all applicants have two wings and a halo.

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Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, except that she dropped me into a group that I have never considered myself to be part of: that of post retirement. As to whether or not it is a pleasure to be working here, obviously it is an honour, and clearly it is better to be able to shout across the Chamber than at the television or radio. Is it good for my blood pressure? Probably not.

However, it is a pleasure to have signed the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and other eminent noble Lords in this Chamber. For me, banning people from working is just one of the many ways that the Government dehumanise and punish asylum seekers. I honestly cannot see the logic behind it. Why would we not want them to work? Why would we not want them to play a role in society? Why would we not want to engage them and get them out of the probably dreadful accommodation that they are living in? Where is the logic in not letting them work? It will leave them destitute, which is not healthy for them or for us—though I suppose it is slightly better than sending them back to face persecution in their home country.

This Government are not brave enough. They pander to the right-wing parts of their own party and the country, and constantly use nationalist rhetoric to divide and rule. The Conservative Members of the House of Lords are better than that—and some of them do argue against what the Government say. On this occasion, this side of the Chamber is absolutely right: asylum seekers should be allowed to work.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, the case for asylum seekers being able to work after a few months is compelling. I am sorry that we have not heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, but I perfectly understand why she is not able to be here. Amendment 65 was admirably moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister.

In the debate on Clause 11, several noble Lords invoked public opinion, saying that it was wary of immigration. I suggest that obliging asylum seekers to be idle, existing in some cases on taxpayer support, is a surefire way to prejudice public opinion against them, especially those apparently fit young men who have been demonised recently. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, reminded us that the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights has a provision of the right to work, and I thank him for reminding us of that.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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The noble Baroness made a very important point about public opinion. I draw her attention to a study by British Future which found that 71% of the public support the right to work after six months.

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Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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The noble Lord has taken the wind out of my sails; I was going to quote that statistic, though I must admit I did not know it came from there. I got it from the splendid Lift the Ban organisation.

If the majority of people who seek asylum are ultimately found to be entitled to stay here as refugees, after either an initial decision or an appeal, how demoralising and frustrating for them to then be excluded from employment, and be unable to help support their families or to deploy and develop their skills, possibly for several years, or even a decade, as we have heard, while knowing that the host society may regard them as freeloading layabouts. It is of course a waste of a resource.

This is not just a leftie, Liberal cause. Not only was Amendment 65 led by the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, from the Benches opposite, but everyone has already spoken about the Migration Advisory Committee report, and I assume it is not going to be accused of being some leftie, Liberal outfit. As has been said, the MAC has told the Home Secretary that there is clear evidence of harm being caused by the job ban, particularly in the context of a rising number of claimants waiting for more than six months for determination of their claim. The Government argue that the ability to work would be a pull factor, but the MAC says that Ministers have failed to provide clear evidence to support this contention, and that it would instead be good policy to assist asylum seekers to “integrate well into society” by letting them work while their cases are decided. I will not delay: I was going to give the same quote that the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, did—I jumped the gun and cited it the other day—about the Home Office needing to provide robust evidence because that is how good policy is made.

Amendment 65 has the advantage of requiring permission to work to be granted after a wait of six months. That is stronger than the drafting of Amendment 64, which empowers someone to apply. Ideally, I would like an Amendment 64.5, allowing someone to work after three months but with the drafting of Amendment 65 on requiring permission to be given. The second element in Amendment 65 is that it would not limit the type of work that asylum seekers could undertake, unlike the current policy of restricting them and then, after 12 months—which is too long—using the shortage occupation list. That list is narrow, and many asylum seekers would not have relevant experience or qualifications.

As other noble Lords have said, it is extremely odd—indeed illogical—that the Government want to keep asylum seekers in enforced welfare dependency while, as shown by this morning’s Answer from the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman-Scott, to the Oral Question from the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, defending imposing benefits sanctions after four weeks on unemployed jobseekers who failed to take a job. Why then not allow asylum seekers to work? Most of us would support people trying to get a job, although there can be argument about the policy of the Government.

On Tuesday, the noble Lord, Lord Horam, and others impressed on us the need to take account of public opinion. To repeat, the ban on work makes asylum seekers the potential butt of ignorant jibes that they are lazy scroungers. Some 71% of the public support the right to work after six months. The right to work is a win-win policy. It would save the taxpayer £200 million a year. It would help remedy a labour shortage. I had in my notes that it is a no-brainer, so I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti. I very much hope that the Government will respond positively.

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Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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I am a bit puzzled. Although the precise numbers vary from year to year, it is quite clear that substantial numbers—30%, 40% or 50%, depending on which year you take—turn out not to have a case for asylum in this country. Surely that should be a factor. Surely the way forward is, as the noble Lord proposed when he first spoke, to speed this situation up so that we can get the answers within the six months, which would be much better for everybody. Surely that should be the centre of their policy.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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Can I intervene on an intervention? What is wrong if those people are allowed to work? If it is then determined that they have no right to stay, they would then have to leave—but, in the meantime, they are supporting themselves, perhaps using their skills and contributing tax. If they are then found not to have a legal claim to stay, so be it. I cannot see what the harm is in the meantime.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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I say to the noble Lord, Lord Green, that, at the end of the day, of course you want to speed the system up. No one does not want to speed up the asylum application process—to say that would be ridiculous, because of course everyone does. What I am saying is that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, has just said, at the same time, for the purposes of community cohesion and all the other things that we have heard, allowing asylum seekers to work while their application is being processed is actually a sensible thing to do. But the Government will not publish the evidence for why that is a pull factor, when the policy has been in place since 2001 or 2002 or whatever and has not made any significant difference at all. So all sorts of people and organisations support the right to work, which seems a sensible and reasonable thing to do.

I will finish by saying one simple policy to the Minister. I like to see people off benefits; I do not want to see people languishing on benefits. I thought that was a Conservative Government policy. One of the ways of doing that is allowing people to work: it aids community cohesion and is good for the individuals concerned. I simply do not understand why the Government are turning their face against what is a sensible policy initiative that would do a lot for community cohesion.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Baroness Ludford Excerpts
Moved by
34: After Clause 10, insert the following new Clause—
“Acquisition of British citizenship by birth or adoption: comprehensive sickness insurance
(1) The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 is amended as follows.(2) After section 15, insert—15A Comprehensive sickness insurance(1) For the purposes of any decision taken by a public authority under this Part after commencement of this section, a person is to be treated as having met a requirement to have held comprehensive sickness insurance, whenever they—(a) had access to the NHS in practice, or(b) held a comprehensive sickness insurance policy.(2) This section applies in particular to any decisions taken under residence scheme immigration rules.”(3) The British Nationality Act 1981 is amended as follows.(4) After section 1(3A) insert—“(3B) A person born in the United Kingdom after commencement who is not a British citizen is entitled, on application, to register as a British citizen if the person’s father or mother would have been settled in the United Kingdom at the time of the person’s birth, if Assumption A had applied.(3C) Assumption A is that, in assessing whether the person’s father or mother met a requirement to have held comprehensive sickness insurance, this is to be regarded as having been satisfied whenever they—(a) had access to the NHS in practice, or(b) held a comprehensive sickness insurance policy.(3D) Registration under subsection (3B) is free of charge.”(5) After section 50A insert—50B ExceptionsNotwithstanding any provision of section 50A, for the purposes of an application for naturalisation or registration made under this Act, a person—(a) is not to be treated as having been in the United Kingdom in breach of the immigration laws during a period of time that has been counted as part of a continuous qualifying period in a grant of leave to that person under Appendix EU of the Immigration Rules, and(b) is not to be treated as not being of good character on account of a failure to hold comprehensive sickness insurance during some period of residence in the UK.””Member’s explanatory statement
This new Clause provides that a person seeking to naturalise as a British citizen, seeking to exercise family reunion rights as a naturalised British citizen, or seeking to have their UK-born children recognised as British at birth, need not have had comprehensive sickness insurance prior to naturalising or prior to the birth of their child.
Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, I hope not to have to detain the Committee for too long on this admittedly complicated subject of the anomalous historical legacy of comprehensive sickness insurance—hereafter CSI—because I am hoping that the Minister will spring up, interrupt me and pledge that the Home Office will resolve all the left-over problems faced by some EU citizens today. She was kind enough to meet me virtually last week, and I detected a degree of thoughtfulness in her department on the subject. I cannot yet put it higher than that, but I am hopeful.

Attentive listeners might recall that some of us— especially, perhaps, I—banged on about the obscure issue of CSI at various points in the debates on EU withdrawal and, in particular, on the UK’s EU settlement scheme. It is a long and, in my view, sorry history. I will recap as briefly as I can: in the EU citizens’ rights directive of nearly 20 years ago—which I worked on as a Member of the European Parliament, hence my long-standing interest—so-called free movers were required to have comprehensive sickness insurance; that was the term used. On the continent, health systems are often covered by state insurance systems. In the UK, we have the NHS or private health insurance. Although of course we have national insurance, people do not think of the NHS as an insured scheme. So there has been a long-running problem of EU citizens in Britain who are not employed, such as students, the self-employed and homemakers, being expected—although, crucially, not usually told—to have private insurance. This was a matter of legal dispute in Brussels, which rumbled on, and I do not think it ever got resolved.

Fast forward to Brexit and the acute issue of whether those lacking private health insurance were legally resident in the UK and could seek settled status under the withdrawal agreement. Fortunately, the UK Government wisely cut through that residual red tape and said, in an admirably pragmatic decision, that they would let everyone get settled status. However, often unbeknownst to individuals, they fell into one of two groups: the true cohort and the extra cohort. The significance of this distinction arises only—indeed only becomes known —when a settled person seeks to register a child’s birth, to naturalise themselves as British or to bring a family member to join them in this country. Then they face a veritable series of snakes and ladders, because any historical gap in CSI—private insurance—may make them slide down into a pit of reptilian problems. Only when they seek to register a child, bring in a spouse or become a British citizen might they be told: “Aha! Your historic lack of CSI is a bar.” Noble Lords will recall that it was not a bar to them getting settled status, but it raises its ugly head at this later stage. At the risk of mixing my metaphors, it is Kafkaesque.

Certainly, in the case of bids for naturalisation, caseworkers have—but only through guidance—been given discretion to waive this historic need for CSI to meet the lawful residence requirement. On Report in the other place, the Minister, Kevin Foster, said that

“no one has been refused British citizenship purely on the basis of the CSI requirement in free movement regulations.”

The trouble is that if an applicant has to stump up around £1,300, without the certainty of the outcome because of the discretion for the caseworker, that is a gamble—potentially an expensive one.

I am asking the Government to carry through the pragmatic logic whereby they decided to ignore the past lack of CSI for settled status and now to wipe the slate entirely clean for subsequent immigration applications and statuses. On 7 December, Minister Foster told the other place

“we are considering how the issues could be picked up as part of our work on simplification”.

He hoped that MPs would

“be pleased to hear that we are looking closely at that work.”—[Official Report, Commons, 7/12/21; col. 260.]

That was a bit encouraging.

Perhaps the Minister could give us a more solid basis of hope, in relation not just to naturalisation but to the other applications, such as the registration of a baby’s birth and family reunion. I am sure that millions of EU citizens, resident in and contributing to this country, would be immensely grateful for the peace of mind they would thereby secure. Who knows? Their gratitude might rebound on this Government. I hope for good news. I beg to move.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I hesitate to follow my noble friend, who is an expert on this issue. I declare an interest as a British citizen seeking a residence permit in Norway, where I have lived with my husband for the last 14 years. I have always had access to the Norwegian national health system. My application for a residence permit—the equivalent of settled status—has been outstanding for over 12 months because of issues with comprehensive health insurance.

I start by thanking the Government for their generous approach to EU and EEA citizens seeking settled status in the UK. The Government have taken the general approach that, if someone has been living here for years and was legally accessing the NHS when the UK was part of the EU, they do not need to have, to have had or acquire comprehensive health insurance, even if—as with me in Norway—they are not working or studying. This goes beyond the Brexit agreement, but is entirely consistent with the principle that EU and EEA citizens living in the UK prior to Brexit should be able to continue to live here on the same terms after Brexit. It is the right thing to do. I am grateful to the Government for taking such an approach. I wish Norway would do the same.

My understanding of this amendment is that it goes a step beyond settled status—where EU and EEA citizens who have qualified for settled status seek to be naturalised as British citizens, to exercise family reunion rights as a naturalised British citizen, or to have their UK-born children recognised as British at birth. Even though they do not have to have comprehensive sickness insurance for settled status, it currently appears that they may have to have it for citizenship purposes. This amendment seeks to rectify that anomaly between settled status and citizenship. I am getting a nod, so that is okay.

What this amendment seeks to achieve follows on logically from the generous and welcome stance of the British Government on settled status in relation to comprehensive sickness insurance. We support the amendment.

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Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, I certainly welcome a great deal of what the Minister had to say, and I thank her for it. I will have to read Hansard just to make sure that I have mastered every detail of her response. This is an incredibly complicated subject; I think I have forgotten almost everything I thought I knew about settled status. It is one of those things that has become a bit of a blur over the last six years. Certainly, she said some very positive things, and was very clear, in particular, about family reunion rights. I was not entirely sure about the registration of a birth. The Minister maintained the need for discretion and the caseworker guidance for naturalisation. I was not really sure why that was necessary.

With the slight caveat that I will want to read in detail what she said on this complex subject, there is, indeed, room for considerable congratulations and gratitude that the Minister has grasped this issue by the horns. I had better stop the metaphor there. She has made progress, and there is cause for considerable rejoicing. On that note, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 34 withdrawn.
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Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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My Lords, I rise first of all, briefly, to support Amendment 129, in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe. It is clear, necessary and relatively simple, at least in principle, so I trust that the Government will consider it very carefully.

Our asylum system is already overwhelmed, with a backlog of cases approaching 125,000, which is, I think, rather more than the British Army. So we have to do everything we can to reduce the inflow of those entering by illegal means. In brackets, I say to the Minister that I hope he will take this opportunity to deny that the Government now intend to bury the statistics and emerge only every three months to tell us what is happening.

That said, I would like to speak briefly about the points that have just been made by other noble Lords about the need for safe routes for asylum seekers wishing to come here. I think we need to be a lot more careful about how we address this. My noble friend has just referred to the 80 million refugees in the world. The numbers are huge, even if these are only a third of those who are actually going to move from one country to another. Is it really being suggested that we have a system whereby any who would like to leave his own country has only to purchase a ticket to London and will then be accommodated, et cetera, and his case will be heard? Is that really what is proposed? What about those who fail? Some 70% of the people now arriving across the Channel are young males. I suspect that they are not, in most cases, the ones who are most in need. If this is not to fly completely out of control and reach a level at which the public will react rather strongly against the sheer size of the inflow, we have to be a lot more careful.

It has been suggested that one way to tackle this would be to have missions overseas to take the applications. I am sure that is being considered very carefully, but I am sure that the outcome of that consideration will be that it just will not work. Those posts—whether embassies or some special posts set up in the third world—would be overwhelmed in a matter of weeks. Then you have to ask the Governments of the countries concerned what will happen to those who turned up, quite often from neighbouring countries, did not get the permission that they were hoping for, and are hanging around the embassy or wherever it is in ever-growing numbers. The host Governments would not care for that at all, and it would not achieve anything as far as we are concerned; it would simply mean that the inflow would become, in principle, pretty unmanageable. I really think we have to be careful about this talk of “safe routes”. We keep hearing it all the time; we never hear what is actually meant. I would like to hear from colleagues in this Committee how they propose to organise 30 million people who would like to come here. It cannot be done; there is no public support for it on that scale, and we really need some clear and logical thought.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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Can I just ask the noble Lord about his assumption—it seemed to be a stereotype—that young single men are not at risk? I do not claim to be an expert on the profile of asylum seekers, but one can imagine that, because a young man might be seen to be less vulnerable than a young woman in a dangerous journey towards safety and, perhaps, also vulnerable to recruitment into ISIS, for instance, actually it is not that surprising that it may be young single men who are arriving on our shores in greater numbers than young single women. I just think that it is probably important to avoid prejudicial stereotypes that, somehow, young men are not at any risk and therefore can be locked up—I just looked at the Times article that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, mentioned. It sometimes seems to me that we are at risk of demonising young men.

Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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My Lords, it is not demonising; it is common sense. The routes that now exist are dangerous and difficult, and the people who are capable of getting through them are the young. But they are by no means the only people, nor necessarily the most deserving of our help. This is why I ask that we have a little more logic and thinking before we simply rattle off about safe routes for asylum seekers.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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But that is why we need family reunion routes.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett Portrait Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab)
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Can I just point out that the Refugee Council, for example, has made the point that cutting back and restricting family reunion rights, which the Bill will do—this is one of the key safe and legal routes—will particularly affect women and children? Plenty has been written about what safe and legal routes might look like—it is family reunion; it is humanitarian visas. Is the noble Lord really suggesting that we have no responsibility to the kind of people that my noble friend talked about? No one is suggesting that everyone comes over here, but much poorer countries than this country are taking responsibility for asylum seekers, and we will not take any responsibility.

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Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I think the House would be grateful if somebody, in one sentence, expressed appreciation for the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Clarke of Nottingham. No one doubts that, over the past 50 years or so, he has been a beacon of liberalism within his party. The point he made in this connection is that there is a great dilemma facing us all. Apart from climate change, the dilemma is that, for governance systems in parts of the world—Africa is the continent that springs to mind—we will have to have a new arrangement for crossing the Mediterranean whereby we do not get into all these problems, which are getting worse. That speech is not easy to make, but I just want to say that the honesty and the examination of the dilemmas we all face has been a credit to this House.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, I remind everyone that Clause 11 is not only not about immigration, let alone illegal immigration; it is not even about asylum seekers. It is titled “Differential treatment of refugees”—people who have been recognised and accepted as entitled to asylum in this country. What Clause 11 means is that the Government want to penalise a certain category of people who have been accepted as refugees. On the one hand, we accept them as refugees, but then we are going to turn round and penalise them in various ways for how they arrived. I have agreed with all the critics of Clause 11, and I agree that Clause 11 as a whole needs to get the chop.

Clause 11 wants to penalise people with a much-reduced permission to stay; by requiring several frequent applications for further permission to stay; by keeping them in uncertainty for many years; by excluding them from public funds; and by delaying or denying altogether a visa for family reunion. I suggest that this is not only pernicious, as everyone has said, but costly. It is costly to that individual and it is costly to society, because it is not good for society when you have people who are unable to integrate and living with instability, isolation, possible destitution, homelessness and separation from family. They have been recognised as refugees, which means that we expect these people to be part of our society. I cannot see that it is good for society.

I had the opportunity, when the Minister was kind enough to meet me, to receive the great news on CSI. I come at this with an approach of both principle and practicality. As I say, I cannot see that it is in the interests of either society or the Home Office to have people living in this constant fear of what their futures are going to hold. We are told that the asylum system is broken. We know about the 125,000 unresolved applications. We know about the time and delays; on average, it now takes a year to decide a case. When I was an MEP, I had people who had been waiting three and a half years for an initial application, with the harm it did to them physically and mentally and to their status within their family as well. How is it going to help the Home Office to have more administration in constantly having to review these applications to decide whether it is going to deny public funds or renew the permission to stay?

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Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Portrait Lord Kerr of Kinlochard (CB)
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If I understand the noble Baroness aright, there is nothing to stop this sovereign Parliament setting out how it interprets the refugee convention in future. She enumerated four Members of the Committee who had spoken supportively. I think it is the case that none of them argued that the Bill was not a breach of the convention. We had some powerful legal advice that it was a clear breach of the convention. I ask her to remember that the last time this House was asked to pass a Bill that broke an international commitment was on the internal market Bill, and it took the very clear view that pacta sunt servanda mattered and that we should stick to our word.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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I was not clear about the noble Baroness’s reference to me. The fact that I did not actually say that I believed Clause 11 breaks the refugee convention does not mean that I do not think that it does, because everybody else had said it. I was not quite clear what she meant.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I think what I was trying to say, maybe clumsily, was that the noble Baroness was trying to get back to the amendments.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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The clause breaches the refugee convention, in my opinion. I agree with many people who said that.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I was not making that point, but I accept the noble Baroness’s point.

The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, just said that the four Members did not argue that the clause is not a breach of the convention. The four Members I singled out for mention were trying to explain public opinion in the round and the need to take note and do something about their concerns, notwithstanding the fact that the British public are warm and welcoming. We are a nation of immigrants. I think my noble and learned friend wants to intervene.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I was at pains to say that this is under national resettlement schemes. I have not tried to mask the figures. I have been very clear about how many people we have taken under national resettlement schemes.

I was about to hold up a prop, although I know that is not done in your Lordships’ House. I wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, who had to go, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Fox; she apologised for that. I wrote to noble Lords about the safe and legal routes, and I think the reason that some noble Lords do not want to acknowledge it is that they do not accept what we have done. I have looked at how many different family reunion schemes we have. We have four, including refugee family reunion. I will spend a moment to really spell this out, because some noble Lords just seem to not want to hear it. We have granted over 39,000 refugee family reunion visas since 2015, of which more than half were granted to children. Comparing that to the Dublin scheme, under the Dublin regulation, we transferred 714 people to the UK in 2019. In the same year, we issued 7,456 visas under our family reunion rules. It does not take a genius to work out that is 10 times the amount. Part 8 of the Immigration Rules—paragraph 319X—allows relatives to sponsor. We also have paragraph 297 and Appendix FM. Under Appendix FM, in 2020 there were 40,255 family-related visas granted. Please do not keep talking about us undermining family reunion, because we just have not. It is not true. I ask noble Lords to refer back to the letter that I sent to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs—I think that was last week.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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I hope the Minister would acknowledge that—speaking only for myself—what I was doing was objecting to the restriction. I did not criticise the existing record, although my proposed Private Member’s Bill would expand the scope. The objection is to the poor proposed treatment of group 2 refugees under family reunion. I was not talking about the numbers to date.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I would because I am getting thoroughly confused, which is something I perhaps do quite frequently, I accept. I will read out again from the JCHR report. It says:

“The policy paper that preceded the Bill, the Government’s ‘New Plan for Immigration’, gave a more detailed indication of what different treatment may look like, as it proposed that instead of fully fledged refugee status, Group 2 refugees would be granted ‘temporary protection’ for a period of no longer than 30 months ‘after which individuals [would] be reassessed for return to their country of origin or removal to a safe third country.’ Temporary protection status ‘will not include an automatic right to settle in the UK, family reunion rights will be restricted and there will be no recourse to public funds except in cases of destitution.’”


Those are quotations from the Government’s New Plan for Immigration policy statement. In relation to group 2 refugees, who are being created by Clause 11 —that is the new bit and what the Bill is doing—it quite clearly states:

“family reunion rights will be restricted”.

I ask again: is that correct or incorrect? If it is not, why is it written in the JCHR report? If the Minister is going to tell me that the JCHR has got it wrong, please say so clearly now.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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Before the noble Baroness responds, I add that I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, is confused: I fear that the Minister is being mildly disingenuous with us. Can she confirm that there is a difference in the intended treatment of group 1 and group 2 refugees as concerns family reunion? Otherwise, what is the point of Clause 11(6):

“The Secretary of State or an immigration officer may … treat the family members of Group 1 and Group 2 refugees differently, for example in respect of … whether to give the person leave to enter or remain”


et cetera? What is the point of this being in the Bill if there is no intention to treat group 2 refugees differently? The Minister told us about how this will not breach the refugee convention and so on. I asked specifically about the comments on Article 8, and I look forward to her replying specifically on that. But can she confirm whether their intention is to treat group 1 and group 2 refugees differently in terms of rights to family reunion?

Baroness Lister of Burtersett Portrait Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab)
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May I just add to that? Clause 11(5) says:

“The Secretary of State or an immigration officer may treat Group 1 and Group 2 refugees differently, for example in respect of … whether leave to enter or remain is given to members of the refugee’s family.”

Nationality and Borders Bill

Baroness Ludford Excerpts
Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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My Lords, this will not be the last time we talk about the need for a trauma-informed approach. I think the expression “necessary delay”, used by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, is very useful and applies much better to this situation than “without delay”, which is what we are faced with.

Even without the background and experiences referred to in this amendment, I cannot imagine undertaking the sort of journey that most people fleeing from the situations they are in will have undertaken. Any asylum seeker will be in a pretty awful state. Many will be anxious about authority figures. It is incumbent on us to ensure that they are not retraumatised. We should not require them to present a coherent explanation and make a claim so quickly.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, talked about the possible survival of Clause 11. I would add Clause 36 to that. I do not think this provision can be read without looking at Clause 36, which deals with Article 31 of the convention. Clause 36(2) says:

“A refugee is not to be taken to have presented themselves without delay”—


“presented themselves” is the phrase used in Clause 11—

“unless … they made a claim for asylum as soon as reasonably practicable after their arrival in the United Kingdom.”

I do not think it is necessary to read the whole clause.

I hope the Minister can explain how, in practical terms, given the life experiences that we are suggesting, “present” and “make a claim” relate to one another. Does making a claim

“as soon as reasonably practicable”

mean presenting the substance of a claim? If I read these two clauses correctly, we now have “presenting oneself” and “making a claim”. Failure, under Clause 11, to present not just oneself but one’s claim takes one straight into the territory of late evidence and all the horrors of criminality and second-class status.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, I will speak very briefly. The remarks by the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, made me reflect. She was talking about how it takes a year, 18 months or two years for the people whom she has met in the course of her admirable-sounding charity, to be able to fully open up and explain themselves. This makes me think how similar this is to grief. For asylum seekers who have been forced to flee everything that is familiar to them—their home, country, family and links—and arrive in a strange place, this is a form of grief and bereavement.

I am not the only person in this Chamber who has suffered a relatively recent bereavement. I would not say that I have fully recovered after a year, 18 months, two years—even two and a half years. Indeed, I never will be. Given the disorientation and the inability to fully function, a year, 18 months or two years is not wide of the mark for how long you need to get your act together to handle an asylum claim.

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Lord Hunt of Wirral Portrait Lord Hunt of Wirral (Con)
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It is the principle that I am seeking to deal with. The noble Lord is quite right to ask the question, and perhaps my noble friend the Minister can do some comparisons, but there is no doubt that our colleagues in France feel that one of the key perceived pull factors causing people to get involved in these very dangerous crossings is this subject of no recourse to public funds. That is the only question I am raising. We are being heavily criticised by our French colleagues for allowing ourselves to encourage pull factors to grow and escalate, and that is causing the problem to be much more serious than it was.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My recollection of the French criticism is that they were criticising the ability of asylum seekers to work in the black economy—not the ability to be idle and live off the taxpayer. I imagine that any welfare possibilities in the UK would be less than in France. What they are criticising is the relative unregulated state of our employment market. Some of that criticism is valid; some is not, but we are all sometimes worried by illegal employment. That is what the French were talking about.

Lord Hunt of Wirral Portrait Lord Hunt of Wirral (Con)
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When I look into the detail of the criticism, it is much wider than the noble Baroness is suggesting. Part of it must be NRPF—I am not saying it is the whole problem—and I just wish that we would address—

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Baroness Stroud Portrait Baroness Stroud (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for giving way. I would like to clarify one point. I think she is saying that the removal or application of, or access to, public funds is discretionary. If that is the case, who has the discretion to apply or withdraw them? It is unusual for the welfare state to be quite so discretionary and, in effect, subject to subjective judgment. It would help to have clarity as to who can say this person will have access to public funds and that person will not.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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Before the Minister answers—I am sorry to prolong the debate; I was going to leave this point until group 8 on the right to work—she talked about pull factors being an absolute fact, but the Migration Advisory Committee said in its annual report in December:

“To the extent that the Home Office has robust evidence to support a link between the employment ban and a pull factor, they should of course make this evidence publicly available for scrutiny and review. That is how good policy is made.”

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness, but I disagree.

To answer my noble friend’s intervention about who decides, it is caseworkers.

Intelligence: Russia

Baroness Ludford Excerpts
Monday 31st January 2022

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I most certainly can reassure noble Lords that we will be looking at all legislative possibilities to deal with the various issues that the noble Lord, the noble Baroness and other noble Lords have raised today.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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The Foreign Secretary pledges “nowhere to hide” for Putin’s oligarchs, but they are “hiding in plain sight” in their London mansions. In 2018, the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said that the London laundromat of corrupt, Kremlin-connected assets

“has implications for national security.”

That was nearly four years ago. Do we have to wait until its chairman, Tom Tugendhat, becomes Prime Minister, as he wants to do, before action is taken?