Lord Murphy of Torfaen debates involving the Home Office during the 2019 Parliament

Thu 12th May 2022
Mon 4th Apr 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments & Consideration of Commons amendments
Tue 8th Mar 2022

Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill [HL]

Lord Murphy of Torfaen Excerpts
Lord Murphy of Torfaen Portrait Lord Murphy of Torfaen (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise very briefly to support my noble friend Lord West in his excellent speech regarding the Intelligence and Security Committee, which I had the honour of chairing for two years some years ago. I hope that the Government take great heed of my noble friend’s words. The ISC is probably the most important oversight committee in the world, and it is certainly held in great respect by countries throughout the western world. I have never known the committee to be in any way partisan, and it consists of Members of both Houses of Parliament of great distinction. Therefore, I support what my noble friend said.

However, I also support the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Coaker regarding the Prime Minister. Something has gone wrong in the last few years in relations between the Government and the Intelligence and Security Committee. It would seem that the Prime Minister, whoever it might be, has not met with the ISC—as he should do—for years. Perhaps the Minister will tell us when the ISC last had a formal meeting in the Cabinet Room of No. 10 Downing Street with an incumbent Prime Minister. It is hugely important because, inevitably, the work of the ISC is secret but may need to be discussed with the Prime Minister of the day. My noble friend’s amendment puts that obligation for the Prime Minister to meet with the committee in statute. I have no doubt that the Minister will dismiss this as impractical. However, it shows the strength of feeling of Members of this House and, I am sure, of the other place, regarding the importance of the ISC, the importance of the agencies reporting to it—especially since, as a result of this Bill, the agencies will have more power—and for there being a direct link between the Prime Minister and the committee on a regular basis.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his continued engagement with us on all aspects of this important Bill. I would be grateful if he could pass that on to his officials as well. I wish the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, well with her knee, and I hope she will soon be able to make do without the crutch.

I very much support what my noble friends Lord West and Lord Murphy said about the amendments moved by my noble friend Lord West regarding the ISC. I look forward to the Minister’s response. I will come to my amendments in a moment, but it goes to the heart of what many of us have been saying—that the Intelligence and Security Committee is extremely important. Part of the problem is that, when the Minister responds to us on these points, he often says, “Don’t worry: there’s ministerial oversight”. However, what my noble friends have talked about is that this is not the same as parliamentary oversight. There is an important distinction to be made. I hope that the Minister can respond to that.

I turn to the noble Lord, Lord Fox, and his amendments. Again, we thank the Government for the communication we have had regarding Amendments 1 and 7. As I have intimated before, we support the noble Lord, Lord Fox, on his Amendments 1 and 7. With the addition of the low/no datasets authorisation and third-party data warrants to the bulk personal datasets warrants regime, and the extension of powers that this represents, it seems appropriate that additional safeguards are put in place to ensure the judicial commissioner is informed as quickly as possible of the use of these urgent warrants. Importantly, that does not change how long the judicial commissioner has to consider the warrant, and to revoke access if necessary; it is just on the importance of notification as quickly as possible. If urgent powers, as the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, has pointed to, need to be used, nobody is suggesting that they are not used; the suggestion is that the notification to the judicial commissioner should be made as soon as possible and, with respect to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Fox, within 24 hours.

I turn to my Amendment 47. This amendment aims to try to get the Minister to put some of this on the record, rather than to seek to divide the House on it. Amendment 47 seeks to ensure that the Government report on the potential impact of the Bill on the requirement to maintain data adequacy decisions from the EU. The adequacy agreement is dependent on the overall landscape of UK data protections. Although the UK protections are currently considered adequate, deviations from this under this legislation could put our current status at risk. Losing this designation would have serious consequences for digitally intensive sectors, such as telecommunications and financial services as well as tech services. In his response, could the Minister provide some reassurances on this particular aspect of the legislation and say whether any specific analysis has been done on the impacts of the Bill on the data adequacy agreement?

I turn to my Amendment 5, which, just for clarity, is a probing amendment but is extremely important. The Minister will know that I have raised this point again and again on various pieces of legislation over the last year or two. To be fair, the Minister has said that he will raise it with the appropriate people, and I am sure that he has done that—I am not questioning that at all. As the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, said, and the Intelligence and Security Committee said in its report of 5 December 2023—hence my Amendment 5 to probe this—no meeting between the Prime Minister of our country and the Intelligence and Security Committee has taken place since December 2014. I am pleased that we have the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, here—not present in the Chamber now, but here within your Lordships’ House—because he was the last Prime Minister that met with the committee. I find it absolutely astonishing that that is the case.

We are informed by the committee that many invitations have been made to various Prime Ministers to attend the Intelligence and Security Committee. I do not want to go on about this—well, I will to an extent—but it is incredibly important. I cannot believe—people say that it cannot be right, and I show them the report—that it has been 10 years since a Prime Minister has gone to the body, which has been set up by Parliament to ensure there is liaison between Parliament and the intelligence and security services. Obviously, matters can be discussed in that committee. Some of those cannot be discussed in the open, but that is one way in which it is held to account.

Can the Minister explain what on earth is going on? Why is it so difficult for the Prime Minister to meet the committee? I am not intending to push this amendment to a vote, as I say, and I am sure the Minister will try to explain again, but it is simply unacceptable that the Prime Minister of this country has not met the ISC for 10 years. For the first 20 years of its existence, and my noble friend Lord West will correct me if I am wrong, I think it was an annual occurrence that the Prime Minister met the ISC—my noble friend Lord Murphy is nodding—yet that has not happened since 2014. That is unacceptable, and my Amendment 5 seeks to ask the Minister what on earth we are going to do to try to get the Prime Minister to attend. I would not have thought that was too much to ask.

Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill [HL]

Lord Murphy of Torfaen Excerpts
Lord Hogan-Howe Portrait Lord Hogan-Howe (CB)
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My Lords, I apologise that I did not speak at Second Reading, but I was here. Perhaps for the same reasons, I strongly support what the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, has just said. It is secret that telephone interception is in place. If someone is aware, directly or indirectly, that the only way the Security Service or the police will discover a certain piece of information is by a telephone call, then it could be revealed, so it would require the law to be changed.

I have four worries about this amendment. First, at the point at which an interception is stopped, it is very difficult to predict whether the investigation will continue and/or be resumed. If the suspect is advised of the existence of the investigation, it gives them the potential to destroy evidence, which may frustrate the investigation in the long run, so I do not think it is wise to advise any suspect that they have been under investigation.

Secondly, there are two types of investigation: overt ones, where the person knows they are under investigation, and covert ones, where they do not. There is a general convention whereby if an investigation concludes without a charge, we have never told the person that they were under investigation. I am not sure why we would breach that principle merely because intrusive surveillance was in place.

Thirdly, as the noble Baroness mentioned, why would we do that only for Members of the legislature? It could be put in place, but there have to be some strong reasons. I do not think Members of a legislature can just say, “We deserve extra protection”. There has to be a stronger reason, because, otherwise, the rest of the public could rightly say, “Well, why can’t we have that protection?” For that reason alone, you would have to think very seriously about it.

Finally, sometimes Members of the legislature might be under investigation for things in their private capacity and sometimes for a mixture of the two; it might overlap into their legislative acts. Before anything like this was considered, I would take an awful lot of persuasion and I do not think the argument was made for why this needed to happen only for Members of the legislature.

Lord Murphy of Torfaen Portrait Lord Murphy of Torfaen (Lab)
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My Lords, I support the points the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, made about Amendment 50 regarding the revelation of whether someone who is in a legislature has been tapped. I do not think that is possible. I think it has all sorts of practical difficulties which she rightly outlined, and that situation is something that I could not in any way support.

I want to come back to the issue of “unable” or “unavailable” with regard to the Prime Minister. I think that it is right that it should be “unable”, because of the gravity of the business of tapping the phone of a Member of Parliament or a devolved legislature. I suspect that such a possibility is hugely remote; it might not happen for years and years. However, when it does happen, it is exceptionally serious, because you are not only depriving that Member of Parliament of liberty—you are in many ways saying that the person who has been elected by his or her constituents as a Member of Parliament or of the Senedd, or whatever it may be, is now in some doubt as a public representative. That is hugely serious, so the triple lock is important, but the word “unable” is more serious a word than “unavailable”, and I support changing the word in the Bill.

I also very much agree with the noble Lords, Lord West and Lord Coaker, about the nature of the Secretaries of State who should be the substitute for the Prime Minister if the Prime Minister was unable to perform his or her duty with regard to tapping the phone of a parliamentarian. I tapped phones for three or four years almost every day, except at weekends—occasionally at the weekend, but mainly on weekdays—and I took it very seriously. I knew that I was depriving someone of their liberty and privacy; generally speaking, they deserved to be deprived of their liberty because of the horrible things that they might do. Sometimes, although very rarely, I would not sign them, because I was not convinced of the argument put to me.

Someone who has the experience over the years of dealing with warrants has an idea of the nature of the act of signing the warrant and how important it is. It is not simply about reading it and putting your name at the bottom—you have to think about it very seriously. Your experience develops as time goes by. In fact, when I was unable or, more likely, unavailable to sign warrants as Northern Ireland Secretary—if I was on the beach somewhere in the Vendée, as I occasionally was—somebody else would sign the warrants that I would normally have signed. It was generally the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, who was then the Home Secretary—and when he went on holiday somewhere, I signed his. The point about that was that, technically, almost every member of the Cabinet—because by then nearly every member was a Secretary of State—could have signed. But I knew, when the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, signed mine, that he knew what he was doing—and vice versa, I hope. Therefore, there should be some way in which we designate Secretaries of State who are used to signing warrants to be a substitute for the Prime Minister.

The other issue, on which I shall conclude, is that the debate so far is evidence of why it is so important that the Intelligence and Security Committee puts its views to this House, through the noble Lord, Lord West, and that the committee should look carefully at these matters.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, which was fascinating. I shall start by addressing the amendments and points raised on the circumstances in which the alternative approvals process would be used—that is, for urgent warrants when the Prime Minister is not available. First, it is worth reminding noble Lords that we have set out a non-exhaustive list of such circumstances in the draft excerpt of the relevant code of practice published last week. I shall come back to that in a moment.

I start with Amendments 44 and 51A, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, and spoken to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, which seek to widen the situations in which the alternative approvals process could be used to include situations where the Prime Minister is “unable” to consider a warrant—not only when they are “unavailable”. As the noble and learned Lord indicated, the amendments would extend the circumstances where the alternative approvals process could be utilised to expressly include instances where the Prime Minister has a conflict of interest in considering a warrant application.

I remind noble Lords that the Prime Minister, like all Ministers, is expected to maintain conduct in line with the Nolan principles in public life: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, and leadership. When a Prime Minister has a conflict of interest in approving a warrant, due to any personal or professional connection to the subject of the warrant, they are expected to continue to act in the public interest. Therefore, in these situations, the Government consider that the alternative approvals process is not required.

When drafting the Bill, the Government considered at some length whether to make further provision for conflict of interest, along the lines of the noble Lord’s amendment, and concluded that they should not. The primary reason is that, in order for a conflict of interest provision to function, a Secretary of State or unelected official involved in the warrantry process would have to be granted the ability, in certain situations, to take from the Prime Minister a personal power given to them alone by Parliament. Unlike the provisions in Clause 21, which permit the Prime Minister to delegate their power to approve these warrants if they are unavailable, this would require a subjective decision to be made on whether the Prime Minister could, in theory, be judged able to approve the warrant. A conflict of interest provision would also have significant implications for Cabinet hierarchy and the constitution. This is because a Secretary of State or an unelected official would have to determine that the Prime Minister had a conflict in approving the warrant and was therefore “unable” to be made aware of the warrant request. It is for these reasons that the Government decided that a conflict of interest provision should not be included in the Bill.

I have referred to the draft code of practice, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, referred to my letter. I can confirm that many of the words in that letter appear to have reappeared in the code. Paragraphs 5, 5.1 and 5.2 state that:

“Prime Ministerial unavailability should be understood to mean situations in which the Prime Minister is genuinely unavailable to consider the application. For example (non-exhaustive) … The Prime Minister is overseas in a location where they are unable to receive the warrant application due to the security requirements and classification of the documents … The Prime Minister is medically incapacitated and therefore unable to consider the warrant”.


I am very happy to share the code of practice further with all noble Lords, if they would like to see a copy.

I have noted that this conflict of interest provision is specifically not included in the similar Amendments 43 and 51, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord West, which seek to limit the circumstances in which the alternative approvals process can be used due to

“incapacity (ill-health) or lack of access to secure communications”.

As the code of practice sets out, these are two of the key scenarios for which the measure is required, but an amendment of this nature would not cater for unforeseeable events and would leave an unacceptable level of vulnerability in the system. Given that the aim is to increase the resilience of the process, these amendments feel opposite in intent. The moment that a circumstance arises in which the Prime Minister is unable, for a reason other than the two given, to authorise an urgent warrant application, the system would provide a blocker to the intelligence agencies being able to conduct their vital work, which is of course keeping parliamentarians and the public at large safe and secure. I therefore ask noble Lords not to press their amendments. However, I note the views expressed today and am very happy to continue discussions and to meet the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, again to discuss this further.

I turn to Amendments 48 and 53, also tabled by the noble Lord, Lord West. These would introduce a review by the Prime Minister of warrants authorised via the alternative approvals process for interception and equipment interference. Clauses 21 and 22 are set up in such a way that the Prime Minister’s power is afforded to the Secretary of State for the purposes of triple-locked warrantry in specific circumstances; in effect, they are acting as the Prime Minister for the purposes of the Act, not as a deputy. As such, including a requirement for the Prime Minister to review the decision after the fact would not provide additional meaningful oversight beyond that which is provided by the alternative approver on their behalf. The decisions made by the initial Secretary of State and the alternative approver would still be subject to review by the judicial commissioner, so would have already been subject to significant scrutiny. The Government therefore cannot support these amendments.

I turn to the issue of to whom the Prime Minister can delegate this process. Amendments 47 and 49, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and Amendments 46 and 52, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord West, all seek to limit the Secretaries of State whom the Prime Minister can designate as alternative approvers. Directing the actions of the current and any future Prime Minister by limiting the Secretaries of State to only those mentioned in statute is short-sighted, in that it does not consider potential changes to the machinery of government, as the noble Lord, Lord West, noted.

Furthermore, I invite noble Lords to consider the scenario where, for example, the Home Secretary has provided the initial approval for the application before it is considered as part of the alternative approvals process. The Home Secretary should not then consider the application on behalf of the Prime Minister; this is because it would remove a stage of scrutiny in the triple lock process. Additionally, given the potential for there to be concurrent overseas travel of the Prime Minister and at least one other relevant Secretary of State, limiting the process in this way could fail to provide the necessary resilience. While there should not be an unlimited number of designates, it is important that there are enough alternative approvers to be prepared for these scenarios.

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Baroness Manningham-Buller Portrait Baroness Manningham-Buller (CB)
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My Lords, I want to make a couple of comments in response to what the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has just said. I can speak only for MI5, but, for many years, it certainly has been a desire of the organisation that, as far as safely possible, the British public—it needs their support every day of the week to do operations—have an understanding of what is done in their name to protect democracy.

I want to counter slightly the comment—I cannot now remember who made it—that there was much suspicion of this sort of activity. I may have misheard, because I am rather deaf. In my experience, when members of the public are approached by MI5 for help—such as, “Can I sit in your bedroom with a camera?”; something I would have deep suspicion of—they nearly always say yes and agree to co-operate. In my experience, when we are talking about transparency in this area, the public who I have encountered completely understand the role of secrecy. They do not want their role exposed, and, in particular, the identities of those brave men and women who we now clunkily call covert human intelligence sources need to be protected for ever. I want to counter the idea about public opinion. Of course there are concerns, but a lot of people are extremely supportive and deserve our thanks on a day-to-day basis.

Lord Murphy of Torfaen Portrait Lord Murphy of Torfaen (Lab)
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My Lords, when I started life in politics a long time ago—50 years or so ago—when the general public, or people who had political ideas, thought about the security services they were generally criticised because they were spying on people who should not be spied on, such as political activists and all the rest of it. By the time the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, and myself worked together with the intelligence and security agencies, the criticism that would come was whether the intelligence services had not done enough to protect us. That is the way in which things have changed over the last 40 or 50 years, so we have to be very careful how we balance this idea of accountability on the one hand and inevitable secrecy on the other. How do we do it?

There are reports by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner and the intercept commissioners. When I had to intercept, I was overseen by a commissioner every year. I had a meeting with him—a former judge—on whether I did this or that right, and on whether this or that was important. I come back to the point I have made in the last two days of Committee about the Intelligence and Security Committee itself. That is the vehicle by which Parliament holds the security services accountable. My noble friend Lord Coaker has been making that distinction all the time: the services being accountable to Government for what they do is very different from being available to Parliament.

Of course, details of who has been tapped and details of intelligence operations cannot come here, to this House or the other House—of course not. However, they can go through the committee which both Houses have set up, which meets in private, is non-partisan, and which has Members of both Houses who have great experience on it, to deal with these issues. That is why I appeal to the Minister—we had the debate on the issue on Tuesday—to think again about using the ISC to answer some of the issues that my noble friend Lord Coaker quite rightly raised.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, I shall be brief. Just on the subject of suspicion, which I think I raised it, I was thinking—perhaps I did not articulate it well—that it was at the political-class level. It is not hard to construct a suspicious scenario where a Westminster-based Executive are hacking an Edinburgh-based politician—I am sure that suspicion would apply there. However, the noble Baroness is right about the public.

The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, is important, not because this sort of thing needs to go into primary legislation, but because his point around emphasising public understanding and support which has come out is really important. He picked out the fact that a number of officeholders have worked hard at generating a positive profile for the services, and for that they should be thanked and congratulated. I would add GCHQ, the public profile of which probably did not even exist a decade or so ago. I have several very sad friends who can hardly wait with excitement for the annual GCHQ quiz to arrive. Things like that essentially draw attention to the nature of the work that such organisations do. I laugh at those friends but then I cannot solve it and they can, so perhaps they are the winners there. Those sorts of things do not shed light and throw open the doors on the things the noble Baroness and others fear should not be public, but they create an ambience around those services which is important.

Nobody has mentioned the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, which I guess is exactly what he wanted, and I have nothing to add to them either.

Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill [HL]

Lord Murphy of Torfaen Excerpts
Lord Murphy of Torfaen Portrait Lord Murphy of Torfaen (Lab)
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My Lords, I support my noble friends Lord Coaker and Lord West with regard to the Intelligence and Security Committee amendments. In 2005, when I became the chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, nearly two decades had passed since the committee originally started life, when people did not really understand what it was all about. It had not been accepted, particularly, by agencies or by the Government, but over those 20 years, it became accepted. After I left, in 2007, even more changes to the powers and responsibilities of the committee were made, to such an extent that the ISC is now a significant and serious part of our constitutional landscape. But I fear that, over the last number of years, that has slightly declined.

I understand, for example, that the ISC has not met a Prime Minister—there have been lots of them, of course—over the last number of years, nearly a decade. Certainly, when I chaired it, we met the Prime Minister every year or so. It is an indication, I suspect, of what the Government think about it if they do not see it as so important as to meet the head of the Government now and again. I hope that is wrong, but I am sure the Minister will enlighten the House later as to what he and the Government think about the importance of the ISC. It is hugely significant; it is serious.

I shall move briefly on to the significance of the ISC with regard to the passage of the original Investigatory Powers Act, some years ago now, in 2015-16. I had the privilege of chairing the Joint Committee of both Houses on that Bill, and the ISC simultaneously was taking a huge interest in what it contained. For example, I met the then chair of the ISC, Dominic Grieve KC, and the committee itself produced a report on how it thought the original Act could be improved. I just hope that this small but important Bill—which I entirely support, by the way—mirrors what happened to the original Bill, so that the Government can indeed meet the ISC, at a ministerial level and at an official level, and have a proper dialogue as to how they see the ISC working after the Bill goes into law. I hope I can get some assurances from the Minister that that will happen.

It is an important Bill, the ISC is an important body, and they should operate together in a very special way. I wholly support the Bill, but I support the amendments from my two noble friends.

Lord Carlile of Berriew Portrait Lord Carlile of Berriew (CB)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, who has served with such distinction on the issues we are discussing this afternoon. I do not want to repeat what I said at Second Reading; I spoke in support of the Bill in general terms, and I remain in support of it. The only additional thing I would say is that we should not allow unnecessary amendment of the Bill to create a sort of legislative game of Dungeons and Dragons in which a bureaucratic labyrinth would be created which can be met in a much more practical way. On the whole, the Bill is pretty practical about a modern problem—a more modern problem than existed, say, 10 years ago—which has to be addressed in real time and sometimes with great urgency in that real time.

I want to say something that follows from what the noble Lords, Lord Murphy and Lord West, said about the ISC. I hope that we can tease a little more information out of the Minister, who has been extremely helpful to all of us who are interested in the Bill. I can see, and I would be grateful if the Minister would tell us, that there might be some practical problems relating to national security in the way in which the ISC was informed about problems arising under the provisions in the Bill when it becomes an Act. It would be helpful to the Committee if the Minister were to say from the Dispatch Box that the Government certainly do not exclude the involvement of the ISC in the consideration of the Bill. I should also be very grateful if he would say that the Home Secretary would regard it as a duty to inform the ISC on his personal responsibility if issues arose which ought, in the national interest, to be the subject of information to the ISC. Thus, the ISC might be able to report on these issues without too much bureaucracy being involved and any arguments about what is or is not disclosable in a wider way concerning national security.

Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill [HL]

Lord Murphy of Torfaen Excerpts
Lord Murphy of Torfaen Portrait Lord Murphy of Torfaen (Lab)
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That was an interesting speech by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, because he put his finger on the dilemma of any legislation like this: the balance between liberty as a subject on the one hand and the security of our citizens on the other. That has become increasingly complicated as the years have gone by.

As the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, has mentioned, I was asked by the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, to chair a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament to deal with the original Investigatory Powers Bill exactly eight years ago this week. She asked me because I had been chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee. We met for about three months and made 86 recommendations, nearly all of which were accepted by the Government. Those recommendations were nearly all about the balance between liberty and security, which the right reverend Prelate referred to. The committee had 57 witnesses, including the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, and 148 written submissions. The process that took place all those years ago was vital for this sort of Bill. For various reasons we have not had that, and perhaps we will come to that in Committee.

That balance is also reflected in the work of government. For example, when I was Northern Ireland Secretary I had to sign warrant after warrant to deprive our own citizens of their liberty. They did not know it, of course, but that is what we were doing. If we had not done so, the chances are that many hundreds if not thousands of people would have perished in Northern Ireland, and indeed in Britain, because of the way in which the intelligence services were able to infiltrate the IRA and the loyalist paramilitaries.

Of course, a major recommendation of that committee was to have a review of the legislation five years after the legislation had been finished in Parliament. We have been very fortunate that the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, has actually conducted that review. I read it on the weekend. It is a lot to read on a weekend—138 pages—but it is, although on a very difficult subject, a relatively easy read for lay people such as myself. It is thorough; it is full of common sense, and it is practical. In the absence of a pre-legislative committee of both Houses, the review has, in a way, replaced that. Without the noble Lord’s review, we might not have the same Bill in front of us as we do now.

I agree with every single one of the noble Lord’s recommendations and, indeed, in Committee, there may well be more recommendations that this House can put before the Government. I hope that we do not get into a situation where we have to vote on those, but that we can have proper discussions between Members of this House and the Government on what those might be. They could cover internet communications records, bulk personal datasets, the issue of telecommunications companies and their notification of changes in the way they operate—all these things are significant. I just want to touch on one, which is of interest to all of us in here, and that is how we deal with parliamentarians.

The Wilson doctrine is as old as Harold Wilson, of course: it was a long time ago that that happened. I understand that, because we now need three people, including the Prime Minister, to consider these matters, but if the Prime Minister is incapacitated—as Boris Johnson was when he had Covid at that time—what do you do? Presumably, you go to the Secretary of State to be able to deal with that issue. I think that is sensible, but I take my noble friend Lord Coaker’s point that it should not be just any Secretary of State. It should be confined to either the Foreign Secretary, the Home Secretary, the Defence Secretary or the Northern Ireland Secretary; in other words, Secretaries of State who have experience of dealing with warrants, because these are such hugely important matters.

I also want to take up the point that my noble friend made about the Intelligence and Security Committee itself. The Minister will answer whether the committee has been consulted on these proposals: if it has not, it should have been and if it has, it would be useful for us as parliamentarians to know what it said. That is of vital importance to us.

Clearly, we need to update how we deal with the evil and unpleasant people who threaten our security and our lives. The technological innovation in the past eight years has been absolutely dramatic and will get even more dramatic as the years go by. My noble friend mentioned China, the war in Ukraine and Russia, and all those other authoritarian countries that exist on our planet. That is going to get worse. He also mentioned how much more sophisticated criminals now are, so we have to keep up with all this. What struck me in the last six or seven weeks, in the horrific and terrible war that we now see in the Middle East, was that the intelligence services of Israel, which were notably good, obviously failed. It could have been that if they had worked, we might not have had the horror that we now see in the Holy Land. I support this Bill, but I also support it on the basis that it has had immense scrutiny from the noble Lord, Lord Anderson; but there is still work to be done and I look forward to debating it in Committee.

Immigration (Electronic Travel Authorisations) (Consequential Amendment) Regulations 2023

Lord Murphy of Torfaen Excerpts
Tuesday 23rd May 2023

(1 year ago)

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With that, I would be grateful if the Minister could provide those answers and I am grateful again for the opportunity to debate this matter.
Lord Murphy of Torfaen Portrait Lord Murphy of Torfaen (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise very briefly to support my noble friend Lady Ritchie and, indeed, everything that the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, has just said. This is a classic example of where Brexit completely hits the Good Friday agreement because the agreement was negotiated on the basis in strand 2 of having north-south bodies on the island of Ireland. The most obvious and the least controversial of those bodies was, of course, tourism. People come to Ireland to go to north and to south and there were never any barriers. Now, of course, if you are one of the 70% of tourists who come to visit north and south—mainly from America but elsewhere too—you are now saddled with this bureaucratic business of having to apply for a sort of semi-visa to go across the border. That goes completely against the sense of what the border meant when the Good Friday agreement was negotiated a quarter of a century ago. There was a hard border, of course, then, but the idea was that within the European Union that would become more and more vague—the border almost disappears.

Now, of course, because of what has happened with Brexit, we have the difficulty with the border in the Irish Sea, but we also have this difficulty of the land border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. As my noble friend said, it is over 300 miles of border. That cannot conceivably be policed in the traditional way. I too would be grateful if the Minister could tell the House how this system will be policed. It seems virtually impossible for that to happen. They say it can be done electronically, but, frankly, that is pie in the sky. If the idea is to stop terrorists, drug dealers, gangs or criminals, I do not think that this will do anything to stop those people at all. There are other ways in which that can be dealt with. What the regulations will do is seriously impact the tourist industry, north and south. Hundreds of thousands of people travel that border for the purposes of tourism only. Millions of pounds go into the Northern Ireland economy as a consequence of Tourism Ireland—this north-south body that was created 25 years ago.

I do not see the necessity for this. I am glad the Government dropped the idea of citizens who legally live in the Republic of Ireland having to have one of these authorisations to go across the border and work either side. That has gone. It was bonkers. However, this scheme will still be very difficult for the tourist industry in Northern Ireland. Indeed, it goes against the spirit of what we negotiated a quarter of a century ago.

Baroness Suttie Portrait Baroness Suttie (LD)
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My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, for her regret Motion, which has allowed a very interesting debate on a very important matter. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, for his very relevant questions from the other perspective, which I hope the Minister will be able to give full answers to.

I pretty much agreed with everything the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, and the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, said so I will keep my remarks very brief. I commend the noble Baroness for the very clear and detailed way in which she introduced the problems facing the Northern Ireland tourist industry as a result of these measures. Unfortunately, I believe this is an example of unjoined-up government. The Home Office made these measures without giving due consideration to the very particular circumstances of the island of Ireland and without perhaps fully understanding the consequences on tourism—a sector which, as others have said, is of huge economic importance across the island of Ireland. For my own curiosity, can the Minister say what consultations the Home Office had with the Northern Ireland Office, the Northern Ireland tourist sector or, indeed, the Irish embassy in advance of drawing up these proposals?

The Minister will no doubt say that these proposals will be very light touch and should not cause any kind of bureaucratic obstacle, but it is still very unclear, as the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, said, how they can be enforced in reality when there are—thank goodness—no proposals to introduce checks on the north-south border. Perhaps he can provide an explanation on this point and say how enforcement will actually take place. Can he also say how, in enforcing these measures, the Government will be able to determine whether people travelled knowingly, or indeed unknowingly, into Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland?

One of the other concerns about these measures, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, said, is that they might deter the spontaneous traveller. This is not just a hypothetical point. A great many tourists who fly into Dublin from the United States or Australia, for example, will spontaneously decide to go to Northern Ireland to visit friends and family. Given that, as others have again said, approximately two-thirds of international visitors to Northern Ireland arrive via Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, does the Minister not accept that these measures are likely to act as a deterrent, given the additional bureaucracy, delay and cost?

Will the Minister undertake to meet representatives from the Northern Ireland tourist sector or, better still, as the noble Baroness suggested, travel to Northern Ireland to meet representatives of Tourism Ireland, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, said, operates on an all-Ireland basis, and see for himself the realities and the potential impact of this scheme, as well as the complexities involved? To repeat the request made by the noble Baroness, even at this late stage in the process, can he commit to giving clear exemptions on criminal sanctions for non-visa nationals crossing the land border?

Finally, will the Government agree to publish the impact assessment of these measures on the Northern Ireland tourism industry, including an analysis of the possible deterrence effect that the introduction of the ETA might cause?

Queen’s Speech

Lord Murphy of Torfaen Excerpts
Thursday 12th May 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Murphy of Torfaen Portrait Lord Murphy of Torfaen (Lab)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hastings.

Last week’s elections for local government and for the Northern Ireland Assembly reflected the way in which the landscape of British politics has changed dramatically over the last 10 or 20 years. In Northern Ireland, it is a mess. In Scotland, the SNP still dominates, despite not having as many seats as before. In England, the electoral outcome in different parts of the country is now totally unpredictable compared with many years ago. The only place where there is any stability is of course Wales.

The problem that many people have is that the devolved Administrations—our devolved country—have not been accepted by many people in government across the country. The Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee, of which I am a member, has pointed out that there are many departments in Whitehall, of the British Government, that not only do not understand devolution but have not even accepted it yet. That has become a problem. However, the noble Lord, Lord Dunlop, and Michael Gove, have suggested in recent reports excellent ways in which the Governments of our islands can work together much more effectively, through an intergovernmental commission and so on.

In the time that I have left, I turn to the issue of Northern Ireland and the difficulties now faced there. A new Assembly has been elected. Sinn Féin, for the first time, now has the right to nominate the First Minister, and the DUP, although not gravely damaged, has been damaged sufficiently, but is entitled to nominate the Deputy First Minister. However, behind all this is what the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, and others referred to earlier: the issue of the Northern Ireland protocol. I do not agree with the noble Lord for one second about it. The people of Northern Ireland voted to stay in the European Union. Anybody would have thought that the protocol suddenly came down from the heavens and landed across the Irish Sea in Northern Ireland. It did not. The Northern Ireland protocol was devised, negotiated and created by the British Government. It really makes you wonder why they now propose, as I understand it, to bring in a Bill to deal with the Northern Ireland protocol and probably abolish it. It is the first time ever that a Government have brought in a Bill to abolish their own negotiated settlement.

I do not think that is the answer. I do not think that blunderbuss diplomacy and the heavy hand of an Act of Parliament which is doubtful in international law—despite today’s pronouncement by the Attorney-General—will be the answer. What will it do? It will divide the West, when we are all supposed to be united against what is happening in Ukraine. The last thing that we want is some sort of international trade war with the European Union. This is the wrong way to establish a solution in Northern Ireland. There is only one way to solve the problems of Northern Ireland, and that is by intense negotiation, and not by the nonsense that we have seen over the last few weeks.

The noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, and I played some part in the formation of the Good Friday agreement. Indeed, he was the first Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and I am sure that he and others would agree that the problems we faced in bringing about that agreement were immense. The solutions to be found through negotiation were earth-shattering, so it is not really the case that people cannot resolve by negotiation the issue of the protocol. If we could resolve all those things—from prisoner release to the police to the establishment of the institutions, or whatever it might be—it is not beyond the wit of men and women to be able to do that.

Instead of going into international disagreements with the European Union, the Government should negotiate. For example, they should suggest to the Irish Government that perhaps the time has come for the European Union to ask the Irish Government to negotiate on behalf of the European Union. After all, Ireland and Britain are joint guarantors of the Good Friday agreement. They know the detail and the intricacies of Northern Ireland politics.

The other thing is to have a proper, intense negotiation, a round table, of all the parties in Northern Ireland, not by going to talk to individual leaders privately in separate rooms—it never works like that. It was not that long ago that the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Julian Smith, did an excellent job in doing just that; he was able to bring people together. Why can that not happen again? I have no idea, but it is something they should certainly try.

The other issue is that the Good Friday agreement itself can be changed. The principles must always remain the same, but it is written into the Good Friday agreement itself that the detail can be changed. There is therefore an opportunity that we must not miss, because if we end up with direct rule and the collapse of the institutions again, we are in serious trouble.

Nationality and Borders Bill

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Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D'Souza (CB)
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My Lords, my Motion B1 also falls in this group. I start by saying how welcome the safeguarding concessions that have been or will be incorporated into the Bill are. But there is still unfinished business. Very simply, my Motion seeks to delete the retained subsections (5) to (7) on the grounds that these clauses maintain a legal fiction that deprivation orders issued without notice continue to be valid, despite court rulings to the contrary. It is accepted by the courts that it is unjust to strip a person of his or her citizenship and all the associated rights without ever providing notice. Retaining subsections (5) to (7) seeks to overturn that ruling by legislative fiat. Instead of invalidating previous deprivation orders that were made unlawfully, the Government appear to wish to apply retrospectively these earlier orders.

The Minister, who was kind enough to write to me at an earlier stage of the Bill, justified these orders by pointing out that the proper functioning of the immigration system cannot be hijacked because an individual chooses to remove himself or herself from contact—or where to make contact might reveal sensitive intelligence. The Minister said that we cannot be in a position where we can never deprive someone of citizenship simply because it is impractical. Since then, the Government have accepted in principle amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, which the Government assert achieve the right balance between safeguards and security.

I respectfully suggest that this is not what my amendment is about; rather, it is about holding to decisions and actions on orders to deprive citizenship without notice that have subsequently been declared unlawful. Thus the safeguards now included, or to be included, in the Bill will not affect deprivation orders made before commencement. This appears to be unjust. It is also puzzling. If the Government accept that safeguards are necessary, why not apply them to all deprivation orders? Section 40 of the British Nationality Act 1981 sets out individuals’ statutory right to be notified when being deprived of citizenship. The Government’s disregard for this right led to legal rulings, including from the Court of Appeal. Therefore, the retention of subsections (5) to (7), which we are discussing today, could be seen as bringing the rule of law into question. It most certainly creates two tiers of citizens subject to deprivation orders: those who benefit from the so-called Anderson safeguards and those who do not—namely, those still under pre-commencement orders.

I am not arguing, and have never argued, against deprivation orders, which may be acutely necessary. Process is the issue. Excluding the subsections in my amendments would not deny the Government the right to reconsider their earlier decisions together, in some cases, with the benefit of new evidence, particularly that which involves evidence of human trafficking, and to remake deprivation orders where necessary.

Removal of subsections (5) to (7) would immediately achieve two desirable and extremely important outcomes: it would bring the Government into conformity with the rule of law and it would extend proper safeguards to those who continue to be at risk from previous unlawful actions.

Lord Murphy of Torfaen Portrait Lord Murphy of Torfaen (Lab)
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My Lords, I shall speak to my Motion T1, which refers to the electronic travel authorisations to which the Minister referred. The amendment would make anyone who was legally resident in the Republic of Ireland able to travel to Northern Ireland without such an ETA. This issue was discussed both in Committee and on Report. The House agreed with those of us who argued that this was wrong, but of course the House of Commons has not. The arguments remain the same. I was hopeful that the Minister, who I am sure will have spoken to her colleagues at the Northern Ireland Office, would make some concessions on this matter. However, the dead hand of the Home Office is there again.

This troubles me for a number of reasons. First, it jeopardises strand 2 of the Good Friday agreement, which refers to north/south co-operation between the two parts of the island, which was vital when the agreement was negotiated. It affects tourism, as the Minister referred to. She said that tourism was a good thing. We all agree with that, as do all the stakeholders, but the Government have to do something to ensure that it remains a good thing. If we charge €14 for an ETA—with the bulk of American tourists, for example, coming from Dublin to go to the north of Ireland to enjoy the great pleasures of tourism there—that is going to be a question of jeopardy as well.

In addition to that, and perhaps more significantly for those who live in both the north and the south of the island, there is the issue of health. Many people in Northern Ireland and in the Republic travel the border to go to the best place for the particular ailment or disease from which they are suffering. Particularly up in the north-west of Ireland, the co-operation between the two Governments is immense. I would be troubled if someone who was not necessarily an Irish or British citizen but was legally resident in the Republic was not able to take advantage of those co-operation decisions by both Governments.

The other issue here is work. It is quite possible that someone could work in the Republic and live in the north, or vice versa, who was not an Irish or British citizen but was legally in the Republic because of their membership of the European Union .

Secondly, there is an issue with regard to the spirit of the Good Friday agreement, which in my view has been jeopardised by this government decision. The border is different in Ireland; it is not like any other border in the European Union. Although I do not normally read tweets, I read one the other day from the noble Lord, Lord Frost, who had got worked up about this issue and was talking about the fact that the Irish Government did not seem to think this was an international border between two countries. What does he think we were doing for year after year when we negotiated the Good Friday agreement and the St Andrews agreement? We were dealing with the border as part of the peace process. There are 300 crossings along that border with no apparatus to check people, yet now we get a completely different way in which people must apply to the bureaucrats in order to cross it.

The border is a great symbol on both sides of the community in Northern Ireland, which is why the border being put down east/west has caused such a fuss. But the reason why this proposal by the Government is simply daft is that it is unenforceable. The Minister has told us what the Marshalled List states and says the reason why these ETAs are essential is to stop people of interest or people who are risky, whether they be spies, terrorists, criminals or other ne’er-do-wells, from crossing the border. Does she really think that those people are likely to pay €14, fill in an ETA form and then cross the border? Of course not. It is nonsense because it cannot be enforced. If the border had apparatus at all 300 crossings then that might be possible, but it does not.

Some of your Lordships who are as old as me will remember Gilbert Harding. He once had to fill in a form to apply for a visa to go to America, and on the visa form was the question: “Is it your intention to undermine the Government of the United States?” His answer was “Sole purpose of my journey”. That is in a way similar to this. At the end of the day, it is unenforceable, impractical and unnecessary, and it jeopardises the relationship between two countries. Ireland and the United Kingdom are the joint guarantors in international law with regard to the Good Friday agreement. The noble Baroness knows that the Irish Government are very upset about this for all sorts of reasons; there have been discussions between Ministers even at the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, set up by the Good Friday agreement. Is it really worth jeopardising our relationship—which has been bad enough as it is over the last number of years—with this petty and silly proposal by the Government? I would like the Government to change their mind, but I am not hopeful.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I have Motion M1, Amendment 20B, in this group but I will speak to the other Motions in order so that I speak only once.

As we have heard, this group deals with Chagos Islanders, stripping a person of their citizenship without notice, criminalising anyone arriving in the UK who claims asylum other than through a safe and legal route, criminalising those who rescue migrants from the sea, electronic travel authorisations in relation to the border on the island of Ireland and pushbacks in the Channel. We support Motion A in relation to the Chagos Islanders, but we are disappointed that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, has said, a fee will still be charged before their right to British Overseas Territories citizenship or British Dependent Territories citizenship is officially recognised. Is that wrong?

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Motion T1 (as an amendment to Motion T)
Lord Murphy of Torfaen Portrait Lord Murphy of Torfaen
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Moved by

At end insert “and do propose Amendment 40B in lieu—

40B: Page 74, line 16, at end insert— “(c) the individual is legally resident in the Republic of Ireland.””
Lord Murphy of Torfaen Portrait Lord Murphy of Torfaen (Lab)
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My Lords, in view of the lateness of the night, I do not intend to burden the House by insisting on a vote on this issue, but I ask the Minister to liaise with his counterparts in the Northern Ireland Office to see whether a compromise can be reached on an issue that is extremely important, not just for the people of Northern Ireland but with regard to relations with the Irish Government. I therefore beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Lord Stewart of Dirleton Portrait Lord Stewart of Dirleton (Con)
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I am grateful to the noble Lord for his observations. I was not present in the Chamber but I listened to his submission to your Lordships via the TV link earlier and will make sure that the points he raised are taken up by the Bill team and passed on, as he proposes.

Nationality and Borders Bill

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Lord Dodds of Duncairn Portrait Lord Dodds of Duncairn (DUP)
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My Lords, I did not intend to take part in this debate, but, given the description of life in County Fermanagh of the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, I have been tempted to participate, because I too was brought up there, just a few miles from the border. As someone who now lives about 20 miles from the border, I am always interested in hearing descriptions of life on the border from those who are not often in Northern Ireland or, indeed, the Irish Republic. But we should take very seriously indeed those who comment with real experience of living there—I am talking about not just myself but the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, who also does not live very far from the border.

Noble Lords have raised a number of practical issues that affect the common travel area. We need to remember that this has been of immense value and benefit to the people of the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic over many years, predating the European Union. It has existed for many decades, and we should cherish it and do everything possible to remove any travel friction within it, regardless of our position on Brexit—certainly that was always our view.

It is also clear that there should not be any kind of barrier or checks along the border with the Irish Republic in relation to the movement of people—or goods, for that matter. That has always been very clear from the standpoint of my party and those who come from Northern Ireland.

Some people have said that there cannot be checks on the border for the practical reason of the 300 crossings, and all the rest of it—that has always been clear. Never mind the principle; the reality is that you cannot have that kind of checking along the border. No one wants that, and it cannot be done. For that reason, no one was ever advocating that there should be any kind of checks along the frontier between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

There is of course a border; sometimes there is not a visible sign of it, but in other parts of the Province there are visible signs of the border. I recently noticed that, on the road from Dublin up to Belfast, as you cross the border, there is now a sign saying, “Welcome to Northern Ireland”. It has thankfully not been defaced—many years ago such signs were constantly defaced. Maybe after reading this debate somebody might decide to go out and do that, but I hope not. Indeed, there is a camera at that part of the border. We were told at one stage there could not be any infrastructure along the border, but there has been a security camera there for many years, without any controversy.

We have a different fiscal regime, excise regime and currency, as well as different tax laws. There is a whole range of differences between north and south, and they are all managed not by checking anything at the border but by intelligence-led investigation at the destination that people or goods are travelling to. That has been the case for decades. For instance, when it comes to the investigation of fuel laundering, the authorities on both sides of the border co-operate very well and share intelligence. They do not do that along the border but they do investigate these matters. That is the way these things should be done.

The only thing I want to say to the House tonight is that all that having been said and accepted, we would say that exactly the same principles should apply between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. If all of this is correct about checks and there being no friction between north and south, that should equally apply between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and vice versa—east-west. You cannot have one principle for the north-south relationship and a completely different set of principles for the east-west relationship.

For instance, if the protocol was being properly and fully implemented today, and we did not have the grace periods—that were opposed by some Members of this House and the other House—people would be getting their luggage checked when they travelled between Northern Ireland and Great Britain or Great Britain and Northern Ireland in relation to some SPS and customs regulations. Pets cannot be brought from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland to Great Britain under EU laws—this is for British citizens travelling from one part of the United Kingdom to the other.

Therefore, all I say in relation to this matter is that of course we need to keep the border open and frictionless, with free movement and the rest, but let the same principles and passion for freedom of movement and no checks apply east-west as well as north-south. That is what is in the Belfast agreement, which the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, referred to. It is a three-stranded approach. The first strand is the internal Northern Ireland arrangement and strand 2 is the north-south arrangement. But we also have strand 3, which deals with east-west, and that has to be protected and preserved. The fact that it is not is at the root of the problems we are having with devolution in Northern Ireland at the current time.

I want to put that matter of principle, as it were, on the record, because it is important. I do not disagree with what has been said about the matter under consideration in this amendment but we must also consider ensuring that the principles of the Belfast agreement, as amended by the St Andrews agreement, are preserved and upheld in their entirety.

Lord Murphy of Torfaen Portrait Lord Murphy of Torfaen (Lab)
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My Lords, it is always a tremendous pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Dodds—I have been doing so for 20 years. I do not always agree with him but we agree on lots of things, and I agreed with much of what he said this evening: there is a special difference between dealing with these issues about Northern Ireland and dealing with things generally in the Bill.

The proposal by the Government is daft and it could be dangerous, and it is also utterly unnecessary. It has clearly been drawn up by people who know nothing about Northern Ireland—that is the difficulty. If only the architects of this proposal had talked to the Governments in Belfast or Dublin, or even to the Northern Ireland Office. And I absolutely agree, with great respect to the Minister who is winding up, that it should have been the noble Lord, Lord Caine, doing so—he is the one who knows a huge amount about Northern Ireland and presumably he would have been able to answer these questions with the experience of someone who has spent many years dealing with these issues.

The practical problems have been outlined well by my noble friends, such as the problem with tourism. One of the very first north-south bodies to be established was an all-Ireland tourist body. People come from all over the world to Ireland and want to see both ends. To impose this unnecessary restriction on them will jeopardise an industry that has been severely hit because of Covid over the last number of years. There are thousands of Lithuanians working in the Republic of Ireland, and probably a number in Northern Ireland, whose lives could easily be overturned by this—particularly those who work near the border, of course. They rely on common health facilities, as well as common shopping facilities.

As the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, and my noble friends have said, the border does not exist in the ordinary sense. It is not like a border anywhere else. One of the great issues which has been ignored in drawing up this silly proposal is that it ignores entirely what has been agreed for the last quarter of a century. In drawing up the Good Friday agreement, in which I played some part a long time ago, we believed that the border was crucial to the success of our talks. The border has hundreds of crossings; there is no apparatus checking on people going back and forth. The principle lying behind that lack of the border being a border, if you see what I mean, and the fact that it is invisible in many ways, was an integral part of the agreement. I shall not talk this evening about the protocol but that is another disaster, in the sense that it has caused difficulties in Northern Ireland, and we will come to it on another occasion. The resolution on the border was a hugely important and significant factor in the success of the Good Friday agreement, and this provision strikes at the heart of it.

The problem is not simply what is in this particular proposal—it is how the proposal was arrived at, how it was structured, and how people drew it up. That has been disastrous, because it has been done with no knowledge of how it could affect the Good Friday agreement or future proposals on the border itself.

The relations between the Republic of Ireland and our Government are at rock bottom at the moment, and this does not help; it makes it worse—and I bet your bottom dollar that there have been no real discussions between the two Governments, in the way that there should be.

This should be dealt with in the British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference—the agreement set that up. The noble Lord, Lord Dodds referred to strand 3 of the agreement—that is to say, the relationship between east and west. I chaired the talks, along with the Irish Minister, on setting that up, and one result of it was the British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference: a body including both Governments to deal with tricky issues. If this is not a tricky issue, I do not know what is. I bet your bottom dollar, too, that there has not been much discussion with the parties in Northern Ireland either, or with the Northern Ireland Executive or the Northern Ireland Assembly. No—it is a disaster.

The sooner that this provision is removed from this Bill, the better. I doubt that the Government will do it but, if they do not, it will just fall into a pattern, whereby Northern Ireland is put on the side and seen as a peripheral business. It will come back to bite them, and I urge the Government to withdraw the provision or accept this amendment.