Operation Conifer

Lord Dholakia Excerpts
Monday 11th March 2024

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Well, as I have said, and I say again to my noble friend, I have heard the strength of feeling in the House on a number of occasions, which is why I asked the Home Secretary to review the Hansard of our recent debate in some detail. He replied to that debate on 7 February, and I really cannot improve on what he said.

Lord Dholakia Portrait Lord Dholakia (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, is right to be disappointed with the reply that he received from the Minister. No police service has a right to review its own special operation. In this country, we have what we commonly call the police conduct authority. Would the Minister recommend to the authority that it looks at the results of the Conifer investigation to see whether the decision that it reached was legal, honest, decent and true?

Police Uplift Programme

Lord Dholakia Excerpts
Tuesday 2nd May 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am glad that the noble Viscount has raised the subject of the Metropolitan Police. It is a little disappointing that it is one of the only forces—in fact, the only force—that did not meet its targets in police uplift, with only an additional 3,468 officers recruited, whereas the target was for 4,557, and the funding was there to do that. As for the probationary statistics that the noble Viscount asked for, as I said in answer to an earlier question, I am afraid that I do not have them to hand, but I shall endeavour to find them and communicate them to the noble Viscount.

Lord Dholakia Portrait Lord Dholakia (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, the composition of police forces should reflect the community that they represent. Why has recruitment of those from ethnic-minority and diverse communities been so low in the Metropolitan Police?

Passports: Strike Action and Voter ID

Lord Dholakia Excerpts
Monday 20th March 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord is perhaps fortunate in that I received notice last week, together with my council tax bill for the coming year. I understand that that is fairly wide practice.

Lord Dholakia Portrait Lord Dholakia (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

Is the Minister prepared to instruct those conducting elections to monitor those people who have been refused the right to vote, and publish those figures?

50th Anniversary of the Expulsion of Asians from Uganda

Lord Dholakia Excerpts
Thursday 27th October 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Dholakia Portrait Lord Dholakia (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Popat, for this very important debate on the expulsion of Asians from Uganda 50 years ago. This comes at a time when we are celebrating, this week, the momentous day of Diwali in the lives of all Indians in India and throughout the Indian diaspora across the world. I wish all your Lordships a happy Diwali and a joyous new year.

This is an event I wish to celebrate for another reason. We have, for the first time in Britain, elected a person of Indian origin as Prime Minister; he now occupies the deserved place in Downing Street. Of course, as I explained to John Pienaar on Times Radio, I would have preferred a general election, not just a coronation arranged by the Conservative Party. It is time we considered proper electoral reforms that would update our democracy.

I wish to draw attention to the contribution of the Indian community in Britain. I make no apology for picking up the statistics produced by Alpesh Patel, chairman of City Hindus Network. He had this to say:

“The British Indian diaspora is one of the largest migrant communities in this country, numbering more than 1.5 million. Many British Indians have contributed to their local communities and the national economy by starting businesses in a range of sectors, including hospitality, energy, healthcare, engineering and property.


Data from 2020 shows that 654 businesses owned by British Indians had an annual turnover in excess of £100,000. Together, these companies generated £36.84 billion and contributed more than £1 billion in corporation tax. The top five businesses owned by British Indians have created more than 100,000 jobs in the UK.


As Britain faces skills gaps, Home Office figures show that Indian nationals account for 46 per cent of all skilled worker visas issued this year. Looking back to 2020, data from Oxford University’s Migration Observatory found that almost half (47 per cent) of Indian nationals who migrated to this country filled high-skilled jobs in sectors including science, engineering, technology, healthcare and education.”


I was born in Tanzania, next door to Uganda. I came to the UK in 1956, before we faced the issues affecting the east African Asians from 1971 onwards. Idi Amin forced thousands of Asians to leave Uganda, which brought panic, heartache and fear to the community there, who regarded Uganda as their particular home. In 1972, there were around 80,000 Ugandans of Indian descent in the country and it is estimated that close to 30,000 were accepted for settlement in the United Kingdom.

Here lies an important story that I hope Suella Braverman takes note of. In my early days in your Lordships’ House, I met Lord Carr of Hadley, who had been Home Secretary at that time. He said that it took less than five minutes of Cabinet meeting time to agree to the admission of Uganda Asians to the UK. There is a lesson for all of us to understand about how an important decision can be taken by the Cabinet without referring to all the prejudices that go with it. This was at a time when adverse comments about immigrants were rife in this country.

Many have argued that it is important to articulate a shared sense of national identity in contemporary conditions of flux and change. It is difficult to reconcile this with diversity, openness, and pluralism of belief and practice. What we forget is that those fixed notions of shared identity, even if they could be agreed on, are less necessary now than they were at that time.

Someone who was most effective and a real heavyweight was the then Colonial Secretary, Iain Macleod. He was adamant that we had given a right of British citizenship to Commonwealth citizens, and that we had a duty to honour this pledge. Where are the people of this stature in the Tory party today? Someone should have an open word with Suella Braverman about handling complex matters of asylum and immigration in a purposeful way.

There is another matter that I wish to draw to your Lordships’ attention. We did not deal with the settlement of migrants systematically until we set up the Uganda Resettlement Board. Until then, migrants came and relied for settlement on the contacts they had made in this country and the help they had received from a number of colleagues around.

The time allocated is very limited. In conclusion, I thank the thousands of volunteers who gave so much of their time to help in the process of settlement. I support the mention of the names of Sir Peter Bottomley and the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, for the contribution they made in accommodating new arrivals in this country.

Recent events in Leicester clearly indicate the success—

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Could I ask the noble Lord to bring it to a conclusion now, please?

Lord Dholakia Portrait Lord Dholakia (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, thank you.

Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda

Lord Dholakia Excerpts
Wednesday 15th June 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The question of tearing up treaties probably goes slightly beyond the purview of today’s Statement. As for going against all Christian and other faith teaching, as I said on the question of morality, watching people die because they are paying traffickers and drown in the channel is the most tragic point of all of this. We should do everything that we can to stop it.

Lord Dholakia Portrait Lord Dholakia (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, Rwanda has been mentioned on a number of occasions and we now know the cost involved in detaining people there. Which other countries have been approached for similar arrangements and what has been the refusal rate?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord will understand that I cannot talk about other countries, but I know that other countries are interested in the scheme we have agreed with Rwanda.

HM Passport Office: Backlogs

Lord Dholakia Excerpts
Thursday 12th May 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In relation to this issue, I know that HMPO has sent nearly 5 million text messages to UK customers who hold an expired or soon-to-expire passport to advise them to allow up to 10 weeks when next applying—so communications are going out from our side. I do not know about other countries.

Lord Dholakia Portrait Lord Dholakia (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, how many additional civil servants have been taken on to deal with the backlog? Is Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who criticised the Passport Office so bitterly, now satisfied with the work of this organisation?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

HMPO’s staffing numbers have increased by 500 since last April, and it is in the process of recruiting a further 700 people. In total, as of 1 April this year, there were more than 4,000 staff in passport production roles.

Queen’s Speech

Lord Dholakia Excerpts
Thursday 12th May 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Dholakia Portrait Lord Dholakia (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the Government have pronounced that they will level up opportunities in all parts of the country. The need is most obvious in the criminal justice system yet the provisions for reforms are very scarce. Where is the provision for crime prevention and schemes for diverting as many young offenders and others from the prison system? It is not being soft, but we have to accept the low level of realistic contribution which the courts and prisons can make in reducing crime.

I draw attention once again to this country’s overuse of imprisonment, as was so ably done by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester. The prison population of England and Wales currently stands at nearly 80,000. It is projected to increase to over 98,000 in 2026. We have 132 people in prison for every 100,000 people in our general population, compared with 100 in France and 70 in Germany, two of our closest European neighbours. The British people are not twice as criminal as the German people, yet our sentencing is twice as punitive.

Of the 41,000 people sent to prison in the 12 months to June 2021, 40% were sentenced to serve terms of six months or less. These short sentences do little to reduce crime. They are too short for any serious rehabilitative work to take place, yet they can result in offenders losing jobs and accommodation, which increases rather than reduces their likelihood of reoffending. Community sentences have significantly lower reoffending rates than short prison sentences for comparable offenders, yet their use has more than halved in the last decade. Sentences have become significantly longer for almost all categories of offence. The average prison sentence for an indictable offence is now 55 months, nearly two years longer than in 2008, when it was around 32 months. The average minimum term imposed on offenders receiving life sentences for murder rose from 13 years in 2001 to 20 years in 2020.

Offenders from minority-ethnic groups are disproportionately likely to receive custodial sentences. Estimates published by the Ministry of Justice in 2017 indicated that black people were over 50% more likely to be sent to prison for indictable offences at the Crown Court, even when higher not guilty plea rates were factored in. The same Ministry of Justice publication estimated that if the prison population reflected the ethnic composition of the general population, we would have over 9,000 fewer people in prison, the equivalent of 12 average-sized prisons. One recent survey found that only 7% of people thought that imprisoning more people would be effective in cutting crime.

Inspectorate ratings of purposeful activity in custody have seen a marked decline over the last decade, and were declining significantly even before Covid-19 restrictions were imposed throughout the prison system. Following the recent Root and Branch Review of the Parole System, the Government have come up with the astonishing proposal that the Secretary of State should be empowered in certain cases to overrule release decisions by the Parole Board. The Parole Board is a judicial body which makes judicial decisions. The proposal would line us up with dictatorships around the world in which politicians interfere with judicial decisions. It is difficult to see any serious argument for such a change. The proportion of prisoners released on parole who commit a further offence is less than 0.5%. No system based on human judgment could produce a significantly better result and there is certainly no reason to believe that the Secretary of State’s judgment would be more accurate than the accumulated experience and expertise of the Parole Board.

In conclusion, I shall talk about how we should look seriously at ways of reducing crime. The Government should legislate for a presumption against short custodial sentences. They should take steps to increase the use of community sentences, which research has shown have significantly lower reoffending rates than short periods in custody. They should require the Sentencing Council to take the capacity of the prison system into account when it produces sentencing guidelines. Instead of devoting resources to expanding the prison system, they should plough them into the prevention of crime, support for victims and the rehabilitation of offenders. This approach would do far more to increase public safety than maintaining and reinforcing this country’s reputation as the most punitive outpost in western Europe.

Police and Crime Commissioners: Budget

Lord Dholakia Excerpts
Monday 28th March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I think all PCCs got the memo. The funding and the precept capability are there for police to not just get the numbers through the police uplift programme but to add to them through the precept, if they see fit in their area.

Lord Dholakia Portrait Lord Dholakia (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, there is serious concern about the recruitment of police officers from the diverse communities in this country. If the number is cut, how will we improve on this record?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the numbers will not be cut; they are going up quite significantly—I think they went up 9% in the last year. On the point about diversity, the noble Lord is absolutely right; we talked about this last year in relation to the HMICFRS report on the back of the Daniel Morgan inquiry. Over the last four years, numbers have gone steadily up in terms of BME representation in the Metropolitan Police.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Lord Dholakia Excerpts
Monday 28th February 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is not about just willingness to help them; we will help them.

Lord Dholakia Portrait Lord Dholakia (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, is the Minister able to indicate how many visas or entry clearances have been refused to Ukrainian citizens since the crisis started?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The crisis is about 72 hours old, so I cannot say. I really do not know the answer so I will not pretend, but I am sure that, as the hours and days go on, the Government will have in place a system for helping refugees here and, do not forget, back in their home country. Ukrainians want to go back to Ukraine, and the best thing we can do for the whole global effort is to ensure that the war in Ukraine comes to an abrupt end.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Lord Dholakia Excerpts
Lord Dholakia Portrait Lord Dholakia (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I value the valuable contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, particularly his time as Home Secretary in a previous Government.

Between 1949 and to date, nationality, immigration and asylum laws in the United Kingdom have come full circle, from complete freedom for all British subjects to enter and live in this country to a strict limitation of that right to British citizens and a small number of people with a residual claim arising from past commitments. I was privileged to enter Britain in 1956 and have witnessed all the changes that have taken place since then. The questions I have asked each time are: are all these changes necessary, and are they governed by political expediency or the reality of the situation we face?

Despite the nature and effect of legislation, the circumstances surrounding it remain contentious. One main reason for this is that despite a series of reports from the House of Commons Select Committees and other authoritative sources, it is still not widely known that large-scale immigration to the United Kingdom is a thing of the past. Immigration has been a prominent issue during the past few general elections. We have seen prominent politicians dealing positively with it in areas where migrants have settled, only to find the same politicians adopting a different stance in areas of predominantly white settlement. Such double talk does more damage to good race relations in the country.

A little while ago, writing in the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland noted

“a kind of drumbeat of hysteria in which both politicians and media have turned again and again on a … small minority, first prodding them, then pounding them as if they represented the single biggest problem in national life.”

This is a difficult time to have a calm and reasoned discussion about migrants, which political leaders claim to want.

Let us look at the figures that were bandied about during the Brexit referendum— stirring up emotions at this crucial time was a good way to make political gains. We need to examine changing patterns within all our communities. We need to take into account post-war migration and the process of globalisation which crosses the geographical boundaries of all nations. Where is the leadership pronouncement on such issues? Where do we speak up for our NHS, our transport system or the contributions of minorities to our economy? Instead, we continue to harp on about the numbers in this complex game. We hear about the harshness surrounding migrants entering the country through the English Channel. We blame France for its inability to control the flow of migrants to UK.

Every piece of legislation since 1962 indicates that there is no such thing as total protection of our borders. We must find a different way for migrants to apply for asylum. The present method of returning them to French shores does not work. It is time for a rethink.

The rot set in in the 1950s and has continued ever since. As early as then, the Government set up an interdepartmental committee to consider legislative and administrative methods to deal with migrants. This continues even to the present time within the Home Office. So preoccupied were Ministers in the 1950s with the numbers entering the UK that the welfare and integration of newcomers was not even discussed. In fact, the key recommendation was:

“Any solution depending on apparent or concealed test would be so invidious as to be impossible for adoption.”


What did they recommend? They continued:

“Nevertheless, the use of any powers taken to restrict the free entry of British subjects to this country would, as a general rule, be more or less confined to coloured persons.


Each piece of legislation since 1962 will confirm this.

Almost 70 years ago, the steamship “Empire Windrush” docked at Tilbury, carrying with it the hopes and dreams of hundreds of young black men and women from the Caribbean. Nothing like this had happened before. Ever since then, if you look at the independence of Commonwealth countries and the end of the master and servant relationship that Britain had enjoyed, a new way of thinking of ourselves had to evolve and is still in process. The current debate is not new: there was little consideration of a genuine migration policy and the settlement of new arrivals.

The present legislation is described as “Priti hostile” in many quarters. Following the scathing criticism by Wendy Williams, we still have not resolved the Windrush issue. We are now proceeding with harsher issues which will have substantial impact on those who wish to settle in this country.

Following the correspondence with my noble friend Lady Hamwee, I have studied the response from Victoria Atkins MP on Afghan refugees. While I welcome her comments, I am still concerned about the way we left Afghanistan. Over 400 lives were lost—

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I remind everybody again that it is a five-minute Back-Bench speaking limit.

Lord Dholakia Portrait Lord Dholakia (LD)
- Hansard - -

We are now working to deprive people of their British citizenship, thus creating a community of refugees with nowhere to go. We are paying scant regard to the 1951 convention on refugees and we are involved in not giving due regard to the rights of children. Overall, we are succumbing to political expediency rather than having a genuine desire to help.