All 6 Baroness Scott of Bybrook debates involving the Ministry of Justice

Nationality and Borders Bill

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Excerpts
Tuesday 8th February 2022

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Etherton Portrait Lord Etherton (CB)
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My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 107 in my name, which relates to Clause 36 and provides that a refugee will have come directly to the United Kingdom for the purposes of Clause 11, notwithstanding that

“they have passed through the intermediate country on the refugee’s way to the United Kingdom by way of short-term stopover”.

Those words in the amendment reflect the reasoning and decision of the Administrative Court in Adimi, where my noble and learned friend Lord Brown presided. They also reflect the approval of Adimi by the Appellate Committee of this House in a case called Asfaw.

In this respect, Clause 36 is an important part of the Government’s policy. The reason for that is that it provides a definition of “directly” for the purposes of Clause 11 that makes a distinction between group 1 and group 2 refugees. Under the provisions of Clause 11, if the refugee does not come directly from the place of persecution, they inevitably cannot be in group 1.

Secondly, it is important because, as I pointed out in a previous debate on this Bill, the provisions for describing coming to the United Kingdom directly, as defined in Clause 36, also reflect the provision in the admissibility provision in Clause 15. Your Lordships will recall that, in Clause 15, if there is a connection with another state, the refugee’s claim is inadmissible; in fact, it is not recognised as a claim at all and there is no right of appeal. Clause 15 provides that, if you fall within one of the five conditions inserted in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 by the clause, you have a connection. One of those conditions, condition 4, is that

“the claimant was previously present in, and eligible to make a relevant claim to, the safe third State … it would have been reasonable to expect them to make such a claim, and … they failed to do so.”

So there are two essential elements of the policy behind the Government’s provisions for asylum, where the question of the meaning of coming “directly” is extremely important. I pointed out to the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, that there was a muddle here. If condition 4 in Clause 15, as I have described it, is satisfied, you never get to a distinction between group 1 and group 2 because your claim is inadmissible. The noble Baroness was going to look at that and let me know the position from the Government’s perspective, but I have not yet heard from her.

Before I address what coming “directly” means—as I said, my amendment reflects the reasoning and conclusion in Adimi, and the adoption of the decision in Adimi by the Appellate Committee of this House in Asfaw—I want to say a couple of things about what appears to be the approach of the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, to interpretation. I do not think you need to be a lawyer to appreciate that if, under the aegis of the United Nations, you agree with other states in the world that you will conduct yourself in a particular way and that an agency of the United Nations has a responsibility for overseeing both the implementation of that agreement and that disputes between member states in relation to the meaning and the application of the agreement—here, the refugee convention—will be referred to an international court, there must be a point in time when one has to identify core values. If there are no core values, there is nothing to adjudicate.

The noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, referred to Article 35, which requires member states to co-operate with the United Nations body responsible for oversight in relation to the implementation of the refugee convention. So what one has to do here is decide whether what the Government are doing in putting forward these proposals goes beyond the core principles in the refugee convention, which must be applicable generally to member states—otherwise, all the clauses I have referred to, Article 35, co-operation and adjudication by a court are totally meaningless and impracticable.

So I take issue with the broad statement of principle, as I understand it, put forward by the Minister. He said that it was perfectly acceptable for every member state signed up to the refugee convention to decide, from its perspective, what the convention meant. If that were correct and he was saying that it was for Parliament to decide what it meant for the United Kingdom, it would mean that changes could be made by each successive new Government as to what they felt would be appropriate to support their policy. Well, that is obviously nonsense, if I may respectfully say so.

What the courts have done—and this would be the approach of the all the courts of the countries signed up to the convention—is try to understand what the refugee convention was intended, by those who made it, to mean. The starting point is always the travaux préparatoires leading up to the convention—what was said and what was done—and then trying to understand whether there has been a deviation and, if so, why. That has been exactly the approach put forward and implemented in both Adimi and Asfaw.

The starting point, inevitably, for the interpretation of this particular convention is, as I think the Minister said, the Vienna convention on the interpretation of treaties. I do not think it has yet been said that we are entitled to change, and that we have changed, that treaty according to what we think it ought to say. It provides in Article 31.1:

“A treaty shall be interpreted in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to the terms of the treaty in their context and in the light of its object and purpose.”


That phrase, as has been noted by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, I think, was applied by the UK’s highest court, the Supreme Court, in a case called ST (Eritrea) in 2012 as meaning that there is a duty to give the refugee convention

“a generous and purposive interpretation, bearing in mind its humanitarian objects and the broad aims reflected in its preamble”.

I have to say as a starting point that I have seen nothing so far in this part of the Bill which is a “generous and purposive interpretation”, having regard to humanitarian objects and the broad aims reflected in the preamble of the 1951 convention. Every provision that people have addressed appears to be, as it has been put, a mean-spirited approach to refugee applications.

It is against that background that I now turn to the meaning of “directly”. I have already referred to the clear decision in Adimi on this point about stopping at intermediate countries by way of short-term stopover. Just to give this a bit of flesh, what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, said then was:

“I am persuaded by the applicants’ contrary submission, drawing as it does on the travaux préparatoires, various Conclusions adopted by UNHCR’s executive committee … and the writings of well respected academics and commentators … that some element of choice is indeed open to refugees as to where they may properly claim asylum. I conclude that any merely short term stopover en route to such intended sanctuary cannot forfeit the protection of the Article, and that the main touchstones by which exclusion from protection should be judged are the length of stay in the intermediate country, the reasons for delaying there (even a substantial delay in an unsafe third country would be reasonable were the time spent trying to acquire the means of travelling on), and whether or not the refugee sought or found there protection de jure or de facto from the persecution they were fleeing.”

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con)
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My Lords, can I remind the noble Lord of the Chief Whip’s reminder of brevity please? We are running extremely late at the moment.

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Lord Sentamu Portrait Lord Sentamu (CB)
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The Joint Committee on Human Rights recommended that this be amended. There must be good reasons for explaining why the Government do not want it amended and I have not heard them.

This is a true story; I can meet the Minister in camera and show him the evidence. A young man aged 17, whom we found in Kenya—

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con)
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My Lords, this should just be a short question.

Lord Sentamu Portrait Lord Sentamu (CB)
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I am giving an example of why Article 31, without the amendment, does not work.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Excerpts
Wednesday 12th January 2022

(7 months ago)

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Lord Davies of Stamford Portrait Lord Davies of Stamford (Lab)
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My Lords, I have listened to the debate this afternoon with great pleasure, and I must say with growing agreement with what was said—until I heard the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, who said that sentencing should be a matter for the Government of the day. That is a very dangerous approach, because it means that sentencing becomes a reflection of the political pressures on the Government of the day. Somebody used the term “auction”. You would get competition between people who were seeking votes from the public in projecting themselves as being tough on crime, and the resulting sentencing guidelines—

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con)
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I am sorry, but the Minister had already sat down. We can only take a question if it is very short.

Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames Portrait Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames (LD)
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My Lords, in those circumstances I think that it is for me to respond. I do not know whether the Minister wishes to respond to any question—although there has not really been a question.

Delivering Justice for Victims

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Excerpts
Thursday 16th December 2021

(8 months ago)

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Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
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I am grateful to the noble Baroness. This is an area, again, where we share the same aims. I do not recognise the precise statistics she mentioned, although I am not sure I was able to note them down quickly enough. I can say that the percentage of investigations closed because the victim does not support further police action is now at roughly 60%. That is a continuation of a longer-term trend.

The effect of the pandemic, which I am afraid has increased the delay in cases coming to trial, is probably part of the reason why more victims may have been withdrawing from the process. One brighter point in the statistics is that it seems there are more victims coming forward. There has been an increase in the number of recorded adult rape offences since 2019 and, indeed, since the first quarter of this year. The noble Baroness will understand what I am saying: I am not saying it is good that there has been an increase in rapes—of course I am not. The point is that it is good that victims feel able to come forward when there has been a crime. What we are very concerned about is victims suffering a crime who then do not feel able to come forward. So, somewhat counterintuitively, that is actually a brighter spot in the statistics—but there is plainly work to be done, and I hope I have been very candid about that.

On the backlog, in addition to what I said earlier, we have to be a little careful with statistics. For example, there are cases when a trial date will be given some time in the future, maybe even in 2023, because trial B may be a follow-on trial from trial A, and it cannot be listed until trial A has concluded. I am not suggesting that all cases fall into that category—I am saying only that we have to be a little careful with looking at the mere listing of a trial as necessarily an indication that the system could not accommodate that trial earlier. Sometimes that might be the case, but sometimes it will not. There are also issues of counsel availability, and some courts have a practice of giving two dates for a trial: an earlier date, which may not take place, and then a hard later date.

I accept that we certainly want to bring on rape trials, and indeed all trials, more quickly than happens at the moment. However, it is not just the time from first court appearance to trial that is important—we must also look at the time from reporting the offence to charge and then from charge to first appearance in court. The time when a victim feels most vulnerable and lost in the system is when the victim does not even know when there is going to be a charge. Focusing on that initial period from when the victim goes into the police station to when a charge is brought is also a very important element of the system.

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con)
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I beg to move that the House do now adjourn—and I wish you all a very happy Christmas.

House adjourned at 7.16 pm.

End-to-end Rape Review

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Excerpts
Tuesday 22nd June 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Gale Portrait Baroness Gale (Lab)
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My Peers, while I welcome the publication of this rape review and the Government’s apology for the failings on rape—and an apology from the Government is to be welcomed—there is very little consolation for the women who have been failed, including the many victims whose cases have not been progressed by the Crown Prosecution Service.

A few days ago, I heard on Woman’s Hour about the case of a woman who had been raped and went to the police, who dealt with her case very well—but the CPS refused to prosecute, as it said that the recording from the CCTV had shown her holding hands with her rapist. Can anyone imagine what this woman felt after all she had been through? Would the Minister agree with me that this should never have happened and that cases like this do nothing to encourage rape victims to come forward?

The review mentioned £70 million spent over the past 18 months on domestic abuse and rape services. Can the Minister say how much of that £70 million is to support victims of rape and how much is allocated to victims of domestic abuse—which is vital but has nothing to do with improving victims’ experience of the criminal justice system or improving rape convictions? Can the Minister explain how much of this funding is to support rape victims in getting justice?

The charity Refuge has called for a total overhaul of the rape criminal justice system—both the police and the CPS—and has said that it cannot accept such monumental failings any more.

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con)
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Perhaps the noble Baroness could conclude.

Baroness Gale Portrait Baroness Gale (Lab)
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Thank you. So could the Government urgently provide adequate sustainable funding for specialist rape services, which have been very seriously eroded in the last few years?

I do hope this review will produce positive results for victims and ensure that rapists are answerable for their crime.

Queen’s Speech

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Excerpts
Tuesday 18th May 2021

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con)
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I remind my noble friend of the four-minute advisory speaking time.

Lord Black of Brentwood Portrait Lord Black of Brentwood (Con) [V]
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My Lords, the UK’s media is in jeopardy. Time is not on our side. Let us make sure that the legislation we pass this Session helps and does not hinder.

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Baroness Lister of Burtersett Portrait Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the new plan for immigration will, we are told, increase the asylum system’s “fairness and efficacy”. We certainly need more fairness and efficacy, but the Law Society and refugee and human rights groups warn that this plan spells the opposite, with

“dire consequences for children and young people”,

according to the Children’s Society.

I can do no better than to cite the UNHCR’s devastating critique. This

“discriminatory two-tiered approach … will undermine the 1951 Convention and international protection system, not just in the UK, but globally.”

A commitment to resettlement and improved safe and legal pathways, which are urgently needed but for which there is no detail, cannot,

“substitute for or absolve a State of its obligations towards persons seeking asylum at its borders”.

The inferior temporary protection status offered to irregular entrants who stay in the UK is incompatible with international refugee law. We are told that the

“human consequences …will be very serious’.

The UNHCR has offered to work with the Government

“to adopt a more sensible, humane and legally sound”

approach. Could the Minister tell us the Government’s response to this offer, how their plan will work, given the reported refusal of all EU countries to co-operate, and what are the plans to open up safe routes?

More positive is the commitment to correct what is described as

“historical anomalies in British Nationality law which have long prevented individuals from gaining British citizenship or registering for citizenship, through no fault of their own.”

This is a real injustice suffered by the children of British Overseas Territory citizens of a certain age, denied citizenship simply because their parents were not married. It should have been rectified years ago.

With regard to registering for citizenship, there has been a long-standing concern across the House about the barriers faced by children who were born or have grown up in the UK who have to register their entitlement to citizenship because of their parents’ immigration status. In February, the Court of Appeal ruled that the exorbitant fee is unlawful because it was set without consideration of the best interests of the child. Can the Minister assure us that the consequent Section 55 best interests assessment will be published, and say when?

This shameful policy reflects the failure to put children’s best interests at the heart of policy-making. Twice during the Queen’s Speech debate, ministerial responses have ignored calls for a Cabinet-level Minister for children. I trust this will not happen today. Among other things, such a Minister would help to ensure that children are treated as a priority for the levelling-up agenda.

Given the prominence of that agenda, it is incomprehensible, as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has commented, that there is no sign of the employment Bill, which we were promised would protect and enhance workers’ rights. The Government have responded that the Bill will be introduced when the time is right. But surely, if we are to “build back better” from the pandemic, this parliamentary Session is exactly the right time: the right time to address endemic insecurity, especially among the lower paid; the right time to introduce promised leave, which needs to be paid, for around 5 million informal carers who juggle paid work and care and who have borne such a heavy burden during the pandemic; and the right time to reform shared parental leave, so as to ensure greater paternal involvement, as mothers have paid the price during the pandemic due to increased childcare responsibilities. When will the responses to the long-standing consultations on both carers’ and parental leave finally be published?

The briefing note on the speech includes a welcome acknowledgement that levelling up involves living standards. This means that it must address poverty and in particular child poverty, which is worsening in terms of both numbers and depth. We need investment in what the Biden Administration term the “human infrastructure” of financial support. At a minimum, the Government should now commit to maintaining the £20 UC uplift and its extension to legacy and related benefits, and to improving support for children, given the mounting evidence of how families with children have suffered disproportionately over the past year. The forthcoming levelling up White Paper must address these issues—

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con)
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My Lords, I remind noble Lords that the advisory time limit for this debate is four minutes.

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Baroness Kennedy of Shaws Portrait Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Lab)
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My Lords, I welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Fullbrook. As a woman of Glasgow heritage, that alone should undoubtedly make her a great asset to this House.

It is hard to select which pieces of the Government’s legislative programme are the most dispiriting, but let me start with the Lord Chancellor’s plan to ratchet up sentences of imprisonment. This is mere populist posturing. It has already been mentioned—I mention it again because it is about wider Europe—that we have the highest prison population in Europe, surpassed only by Russia and Turkey. We are not talking just about western Europe but about the wider Europe of members of the Council of Europe. We are up there at the top of the league table, and it should be no source of pride to us.

I was rather saddened by the Minister’s woeful slogan, “Tough on crime, tough on the perpetrators of crime”. I know that he seemed proud of it. However, while it may be a little jibe at the Labour aphorism, “Tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime”, the difference between a slogan and an aphorism, which is why I choose the word “aphorism”, is that there is a nugget of truth in an aphorism. The truth in that aphorism about having to deal with and look to the causes of crime is because there one has a real sophisticated project on trying to drive down crime.

At the moment, our prisons are crammed full, with there being virtually no skills training, rehabilitation or education. Yet the level of illiteracy is high among our prison population. It means, therefore, that their ability to survive in society is harder. There are no anger management courses. It is truly abysmal that there is such an absence of courses to address drug addiction, alcohol addiction and misogyny, which is the backdrop to so much crime against women. We also have a depleted probation service, as was described by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. Probation officers are so hard-pressed that they have no capacity to carry out the risk assessments that are key to the prevention of reoffending.

My great friend, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester, spoke of women in the criminal justice system, about which I, too, am concerned. In 2018, 62% of women in prison were serving sentences of less than six months. Since then, it is believed that that figure has increased. We have the extraordinary business of women being in prison, the vast majority of whom are serving sentences of under six months. Think about the consequences of that. A woman’s children are taken away from her and put into care; she loses her accommodation because the contract is terminated and she is evicted; and of course in prison, as I have mentioned, she is not able to avail herself of much in the way of support. Women in prison have usually been the victims of domestic violence, child abuse and all those things that we know often lead to people committing offences at the behest of controlling men.

It saddened me that, when the Attorney-General was asked on “Woman’s Hour” why we were creating 500 new places for women when the majority of women do not commit violent or serious offences, the response was that 50,000 new police officers were being created so that there would be many more arrests and therefore there was a need for many more prison places. That does not seem like a very imaginative way of dealing with criminal justice or preventing crime.

I turn to the other Bill that is an absolute travesty, the asylum reforms, which my noble friend Lord Blunkett made the arguments about very clearly. It is a shameful rejection of our obligations in international law. It should be remembered by everyone in this House—we are the last generation that really remembers this stuff; I remember my father, having coming back from the Second World War, telling us stories of the horrors—that the reason why the 1951 refugee convention was created was the problems that many had in getting out of Nazi Germany and away from persecution. The drafters of the convention made it very clear—

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con)
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I remind the noble Baroness of the time.

Baroness Kennedy of Shaws Portrait Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Lab)
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Sorry. They made it clear that we have to treat a person as a refugee, not simply according to the way in which they made their way to another country.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Smith: we cannot delay the business of dealing with the persecution and misery faced by homosexual people in conversion therapy. That is a promise that was made, and I hope the Government stick to it. This is not about a failure to protect religion; it is about preventing people from being treated horribly—exorcised and so on—in ways that are inhumane and do not recognise their essential sexuality and humanity. Please proceed with that Bill.

Whiplash Injury Regulations 2021

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Excerpts
Monday 26th April 2021

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Bhatia Portrait Lord Bhatia (Non-Afl) [V]
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My Lords, this SI has been prepared by the Treasury. The Civil Liability Act 2018 gave powers to the Financial Conduct Authority to enforce the ban on the making and requesting of offers to settle road traffic accident whiplash-related injury claims without a medical report, as set out in Sections 6 and 8 of the 2018 Act. The SI applies to England and Wales only and is a financial instrument for the purposes of Standing Orders of the House of Commons relating to public business.

As set out in Section 6 of the Act, all low-value RTA whiplash-related claims will need to be supported by a medical report provided by a MedCo-accredited medical expert, otherwise known as a ban on pre-medical offers. As the Explanatory Memorandum states:

“MedCo is a system for accrediting medical experts and for sourcing initial fixed cost soft tissue injury medical reports mandated by the Pre-Action Protocol for Low Value Personal Injury Claims in Road Traffic Accidents.”


The requirement to make sure that a medical report is completed before any RTA whiplash-related claim can be settled will provide more certainty regarding the costs of the settlement process and provide both parties with information on the severity of the injury and an accurate assessment of the treatment required and the duration of the injury, so as to be able to assess the position regarding the tariff and identify the compensation payable to settle the claim.

This SI will bring an end to the practice of pre-medical offers to settle, which can lead to unmeritorious minor or exaggerated claims being made by some claimants, including fraudulent claims by uninjured claimants. This will also reduce the risk of under-settlement, as the policy will ensure that claimants with genuine injuries are properly assessed by accredited medical experts—

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con)
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My Lord, can I ask you to finish now, please?

Lord Bhatia Portrait Lord Bhatia (Non-Afl) [V]
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—and receive compensation appropriate to the level of pain and suffering they have endured.