Debates between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 19th Feb 2024
Mon 17th Jul 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendmentsLords Handsard
Wed 12th Jul 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments
Wed 5th Jul 2023
Mon 3rd Jul 2023
Wed 28th Jun 2023
Wed 28th Jun 2023
Mon 12th Jun 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 2
Wed 7th Jun 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 2
Wed 7th Jun 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 1
Mon 5th Jun 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 1
Mon 16th Jan 2023
Wed 11th Jan 2023
National Security Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 2
Mon 19th Dec 2022
Tue 22nd Nov 2022

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Green. For my part, I agree with his assessment. However, it is one of the unfortunate features of the area that our more generous arrangements for handling unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are open to abuse and are abused. We needed to take steps to stop that. That is why, in the Illegal Migration Act, we put into force Sections 57 and 58. In the Nationality and Borders Act, authorisation was given for the utilisation of scientific methods of age assessment, all of which aim to prevent adults abusing our special arrangements for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

All these amendments, in particular Amendment 55, will not have the objective that the noble Baroness, Lady Lister of Burtersett, sought to persuade the Committee. She says in her Member’s explanatory statement that the amendment

“avoids a situation in which an unaccompanied child is erroneously relocated to the Republic of Rwanda”.

That is simply not the case. If one looks at the Illegal Migration Act, one will see that Section 57(1) makes it clear that it applies only if the

“relevant authority decides the age of a person … who meets the four conditions in section 2”—

ie, that they are an illegal entrant—and determines their age in accordance with Sections 50 and 51 of the Nationality and Borders Act, using scientific methods. The effect of the provision is to avoid the hazard that there will be repeated challenges which would be suspensive of removal. It does not take away someone’s opportunity to challenge completely the finding that they are, in fact, an adult. It simply says that they have to do that from Rwanda, and there is nothing wrong with that. For those reasons, I oppose these amendments.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, this group has been about children. We spoke at length during the passage of the then Illegal Migration Bill about the danger posed to children by the changes in that legislation. To open, I have a couple of questions for the Government. Can the Government give an update on the number of children who have previously been identified as adults but have later been identified as children? How many of them would have been on the list to be moved to Rwanda had the scheme been working?

It is clear that the asylum system is failing, and failing vulnerable children. Beyond the risk of children being sent to Rwanda before their age has been identified, there have been ongoing reports about missing children, children exposed to assault, and children waiting potentially years for a decision on their protections claims. Given this, how can we trust the Government to make the correct decisions for children when it comes to Rwanda?

My noble friend Lady Lister of Burtersett said that it was cruel for children who come in under the age of 18 and live here for a number of years to be sent to Rwanda when they get to 18. She rightly said that this provides an incentive for children to disappear when they know that birth date is arriving. The noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, talked about the age-old issue of age assessment. I know that very well because, as a youth magistrate, one of the first bits of training I did was on age assessment. Despite all the processes which are rightly in place, sometimes you are bounced into making those decisions, both as an adult magistrate and as a youth magistrate. I am very conscious of the difficulty in making those decisions. I think it was last week that somebody referred to Luke Littler, the darts player, and how he does not look like a 16 year-old boy.

All noble Lords have set out the case very well, and I will not go over the same points that they have raised. I will raise a different point, which I have raised in previous debates. This arises out of a trip with my noble friend Lord Coaker to RAF Manston about a year ago, facilitated by the noble Lord, Lord Murray. At that trip, it became evident to me from talking to the officials there that there is a reasonably large cohort of young people who identify as adults. I have debated this with the Minister—the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe—before, and he has written me a letter about it. They identify as adults because they want to work when they get here. They may well have been working in their own countries since they were about 14 years old. They identify as adults, they may look like adults, and they move into an economy—maybe an underground economy—because they want to work. It seems to me that by having the provisions within the Bill, they will have no incentive to identify as an adult. That will be taken away from them. They would prefer to identify as a youth. Have the Government made any assessment of the increase in people likely to identify as youths when they are coming irregularly into the country? I suspect it is not an insignificant figure and that it is actually quite a large figure.

Nevertheless, this is a very important group of amendments, and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I am afraid that the amendment still has no purpose. The point is, as I hope I demonstrated to your Lordships’ Committee, that the decision as to whether and how to act on a declaration of incompatibility is clearly set out in the Human Rights Act, and it rests with a Minister of the Crown. This Parliament does not have a role other than to consider, under the procedure for a remedial order, whether a decision is taken to lay one. That is the law as it stands and as it should be, so this amendment is unnecessary.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, this group of amendments focuses on Clause 3 and demonstrates the threat to the domestic rule of law posed by the Bill. The Bill proposes ripping up not only our international obligations but our existing domestic legal structure, and it sets a dangerous precedent. It is clear that, when taken in combination with the serious limitations put on our own courts to decide what is and is not true, the Bill shows no respect for our domestic structures. I ask again: what are we getting in return? Do the Government really believe that delivering this scheme as it is currently proposed is worth it?

The noble Lord, Lord Scriven, moved the first amendment in this group, and he said, quite rightly, that the Bill usurps the role of the domestic courts and disapplies the Human Rights Act. He emphasised that the domestic courts are usurped within the Bill.

There has been a lot of discussion about Amendment 33 from the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope, and there was some legal discussion just now between noble Lords about the best way that that amendment can prevent delay in considering making a remedial order. I will not comment further on that because it is above my pay grade as a magistrate rather than a lawyer who deals in this type of law.

More widely, there were very wide-ranging comments on the law, the theological principles underlying the Human Rights Act itself, and the principle of treating everybody equally, and an almost theological debate about whether this is a properly Conservative Bill. I am reluctant to trespass on theological or Conservative Party debates but, from the Opposition’s point of view, this group and the disapplication of a number of elements within the Human Rights Act go to the core of the objections to the Bill. I am sure we will come back to this in some form at a later stage. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Certificate of Sponsorship: Foreign Health and Care Workers

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Monday 13th November 2023

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The Home Office is aware that abuses exist. I reassure the noble Lord that the sponsor licence system places clear and binding requirements and obligations on employers looking to recruit. The Department of Health and Social Care has published guidance on applying for jobs from abroad, as part of a wider effort to address its concerns about exploitive recruitment and employment practices. That guidance helps prospective overseas candidates to make informed decisions when seeking health or social care jobs in the United Kingdom, including information on how to avoid exploitation and where to report concerns.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, the Minister has acknowledged that abuses exist in this sector. In a previous answer, he seemed sympathetic to a social care workforce plan and to agree that there should be some sort of fair pay agreement. What is his ministry doing to implement these things? Is he consulting his colleagues in the health and social care sectors to bring the workforce plan into being?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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There is no workforce plan in process. As I say, the communication between the Home Office and the Department of Health and Social Care and other relevant government departments is a close one. The function that the Home Office can perform is to set the minimum floor for the sum that these workers must be paid, which, as I said earlier, is £20,960, reflecting an hourly salary of more than the living wage. That is an important mechanism to achieve the objective that the noble Lord outlined.

Immigration and Nationality (Fees) (Amendment) Order 2023

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Monday 24th July 2023

(10 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, following the passage of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 and related changes to the Immigration Rules in March this year, this order is the next stage of a lengthy process to implement the Government’s planned ETA system. Ministers have set themselves a target to begin issuing ETAs to people from Qatar and other Gulf states this autumn and for the scheme to be fully operational by the end of next year.

With respect to the new ETA system, the scope of the order is limited to fees to be charged and requirements for applicants to submit biometric information. A number of the most important issues, about how the scheme will work and what impact it will have, are left for another day. The new ETA system is a major undertaking, and its effects will be wide-ranging.

Significant numbers of UK-bound travellers who do not need a visa will be required to obtain formal clearance to enter the UK for the first time. Whether or not the system will function as it should will depend to a substantial degree on the effectiveness of new technologies that are still in development. In this case, the ETA system will require applications to be made and, eventually, biometric information to be submitted, online or via a new app which is yet to see the light of day. The Government say that even the decision-making process may be automated. That will take highly sophisticated technologies, and robust testing will be essential before the new system comes online. Will the Minister therefore provide an update on what progress has been made in the development of those technologies to date, and tell us whether he believes that the Home Office is currently on track to meet the deadlines it has set for the rollout of those changes?

There is a series of questions about the potential impacts of the order, especially on the tourism sector and the wider economy, including how travel across the border with Ireland might be affected. I have yet to be convinced that Ministers are taking adequate steps to address the concerns raised by stakeholders and to mitigate the unintended consequences. With regard to tourism, the impact assessment published alongside the order recognised that it is reasonable to expect a fall in tourist numbers once the ETA has been implemented, and that revenues can be expected to decrease as a result.

Concerns about the implications for cross-border travel between Northern Ireland and the Republic are especially acute in this sector. However, the impact assessment fails to capture the different effects that the ETA may have across the UK’s different nations and regions. That is a significant oversight. Members of the Northern Ireland tourist board have expressed extreme concern about this issue. They feel that their marketing strategy is very much based on an all-Ireland approach and that the ETA might risk this. Will the Minister therefore set out what steps the Home Office plans to take to mitigate any adverse effects on the tourist trade that these changes may have across the UK, including but not limited to the effects on Northern Ireland?

Given that we are dealing with an order that addresses fees, can the Minister tell us what consideration the Government have given to the potential merits of ring-fencing some of the income generated from applicants’ fees as a means of providing financial support to any business that may find itself struggling with the transition?

Alongside the measures pertaining to ETAs, this order makes changes to the maximum fee level applicable to a range of UK visa routes. For the most part, the proposed increases are relatively modest. The notable exception is for student visas. At present, applicants cannot be charged more than £490, but the order would increase the maximum fee to £600, which equates to a more than 20% increase on the current level, with significant potential implications for international student numbers. As the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has noted, the scale of the increase is particularly striking when measured against the actual cost to the Home Office of processing those visas, which is less than half of what applicants have to pay. The Government’s impact assessment for the student visa fee increase acknowledges that this potential change is likely to have significant knock-on effects on the number of visas granted to international students and, as a result, on revenue from tuition fees, on which so many of our leading universities remain reliant.

Can the Government go some way to quantifying this? The noble Lord, Lord German, talked about quantifying these impacts and was disappointed by this lack of quantification, but, of course, this funding can be monitored as the system continues to roll out as there will be a number of stages in future. I seek reassurance from the Minister that the impact of the system as it is rolled out will be monitored in a quantitative way as far as possible.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, I am very grateful for this constructive short debate. Turning to the various points that have been raised, first, I confirm to my noble friend Lady Lawlor that the Home Office will continually monitor the suitability of a person to hold an ETA and will cancel an ETA once granted if that becomes appropriate. An ETA can be cancelled on a range of grounds, including criminality, exclusion or deportation and on non-conducive grounds. Clearly the whole point of having an ETA of limited duration—two years—is that when a further application is made, further checks are run on the applicant. The electronic travel authorisation scheme is designed in such a way that the security of our borders is paramount.

On the process point made by the noble Lord, Lord German, as the SI Minister for the Home Office, I am very familiar with the work of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and the content of its report. I reassure him that, as I said in my Written Ministerial Statement on 6 June, our intention is to charge a fee of £10, and this order allows for £15 as a potential maximum. As this order establishes only the chargeable function and the maximum chargeable fee, not the actual intended fee, the Explanatory Memorandum for this SI focused on the chargeable function and maximum rather than the intended fee, which will, as I said in my earlier remarks, be set out later this year in the immigration and nationality fees regulations.

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee raised concerns with the Home Office that the Explanatory Memorandum did not, as the noble Lord said, provide enough information about the bigger picture of the ETA policy and should have included the intended level of fees and the rationale for them. I have explained the logic behind the way we have set out the Explanatory Memorandum for this instrument, but of course I will bear in mind what the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee said when I prepare and review the Explanatory Memorandum for the fees regulations that will be introduced later this year, and of course I will reflect more generally on the point in relation to fees legislation in future. I thank the noble Lord for raising the point.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, has asked me to give a short commentary. He did not put an amendment down, but he wanted me to say, first, that the Government have never denied that the specified countries in the Bill are unsafe for LGBT people, and that includes Rwanda. He also asked me to say that it is reasonable that there should be no removals to Rwanda so long as there is litigation in process, and that prohibition on removal in the case of countries facing a proposal of proceedings under Article 7 is right in principle and mirrors the existing provisions regarding return under Section 80A. He wanted me to make those points even though he has chosen not to table a further amendment.

We have heard all the movers of amendments give a full explanation of their amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, spoke about common humanity—I of course agree with that—and about trying to support people who will potentially be kept in limbo through this Bill. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, gave four examples of why she will be moving her amendment. The one that resonated most with me was her second point about needing to get an emergency protection order for a medical intervention for a child. As a family magistrate, I occasionally do those orders. I find it really quite shocking that, even for relatively routine orders, the Home Office would have to go to court to get a medical intervention. She made other points as well but that is the one that particularly resonated with me.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol introduced her amendment about a time limit of 120 hours, or up to seven days when authorised by a Minister; we will support the right reverend Prelate should she choose to move to a vote.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, His Majesty’s Government cannot accept any of the proposed amendments. I shall deal first with the matter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, in relation to his Motion B1 and his amendment concerning a proposed subsection (3C) where subsection (3) would not apply

“if the reason that the person has not been removed from the United Kingdom can be attributed to the actions of that person”.

I suggest that that phrase would generate a tidal wave of litigation were this amendment to be accepted. It would make the statute wholly uncertain and, I suggest, open a very large loophole in the scheme of the Bill.

I turn to the points raised by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol in relation to the provisions concerning the responsibility in respect of children. I can reassure both the noble and learned Baroness and the right reverend Prelate that we are working closely with DfE on the implementation of this Bill, but I am afraid that I cannot accept the other propositions that they advanced.

Finally, in response to the noble Lord, Lord German, it is not our intention to “lock up children”, as he put it, under this Bill. It is our intention to have the power to do so should that be necessary in very rare circumstances. For those reasons, I invite the House to reject these amendments in the event that they are not withdrawn.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, this has been an interesting debate and I thank my noble friend Lord Dubs for the way that he introduced his amendment to Motion E. He has been extremely practical and political, if I may use that word, in the way that he proposes to deal with the suite of amendments in this group. I agree with him that the two Motions in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, Motions J1 and K1, stand the best chance of making the House of Commons think again. On that basis, from these Benches we will be supporting the noble Baroness and the right reverend Prelate if they choose to put their Motions to a vote.

I want to comment briefly on the contributions of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, and on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Scriven. In a sense, they are talking from a local authority point of view. I too got the email from the Children’s Commissioner today; she is absolutely right to point to the jigsaw of child protection, which is very much overseen by local authorities. As she rightly pointed out, retrospectivity will apply to those children because that is the point which the Government did not concede on.

Responsibility is key to trying to resolve this as clearly as possible. We hope that the Minister will be able to say something clearer, but the real point is that if it is not, it will be resolved in the courts. The noble Lord, Lord Scriven, made that point and it is a very fair one. I understand that the noble and learned Baroness will not be pressing her amendment to a vote. Nevertheless, the Minister should give as clear an explanation as possible of how this matter will be looked at. For the purposes of this group, we will support Motions J1 and K1.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the House for the contributions to this debate. I will focus, if I may, on three points and address first the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, on aggregating detention periods. Noble Lords will recall that a question was asked whether the 72-hour limit for pregnant women could be evaded by detaining a pregnant woman first under the powers in the Bill, and then under the powers in the Immigration Act, or vice versa. From a practical point of view, any pregnant women subject to the Clause 2 duty would be detained under the new detention powers provided for in Clause 10. I assure the noble Baroness that we would not detain pregnant women under existing powers then switch to new detention powers, or vice versa, in order to double the detention period.

I thank my noble friend Lady Sugg for her kind remarks. I am gratified for the receipt from Members of the House for the position which we have arrived at in relation to pregnant women.

I turn to the issues raised by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, for whom I have very great admiration. They were raised also by the noble Lords, Lord Scriven and Lord Ponsonby, and my noble friend Lady Berridge in relation to Motion N1.

Amendment 50B would afford local authorities influence over whether the Home Secretary can utilise her powers. I am afraid we do not agree that her powers should be fettered in this way if a local authority simply does not consent. It would also create additional decision-making burdens for local authorities and could have unintended consequences—for example, if local authorities faced legal challenges in respect of their decisions. The Home Office, of course, already works closely with local authorities on matters concerning unaccompanied children and will continue to do so.

I turn to the question raised by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester and Motion N2. The Home Office considers that Amendment 50C, tabled by the right reverend Prelate, is unnecessary. That is so because of Section 55 of the 2009 Act, which already requires the Secretary of State to have regard to the interests of children as a primary factor in immigration decisions affecting them. I assure the House that, in making decisions and in devising policy guidance under the Bill, the Home Office will continue to comply with the Section 55 duty.

In answer to the noble Lord, Lord German, and my noble friend Lady Berridge, the Home Office does not have, and therefore, for clarity, cannot discharge, duties under Part III of the Children Act 1989. It is for the local authority where an unaccompanied child is located to consider its duties under the Children Act 1989. There is nothing in the Bill which changes this position and local authorities will be expected to meet their statutory obligations to unaccompanied children from the date of arrival. The relevant duties under the Children Act 1989 sit with the local authority in which the young person is physically present. Accommodation of unaccompanied children by the Home Office does not change the obligations of any local authority in respect of assessment and the provision of services and support, including, where appropriate, suitable accommodation.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, this has been a wide-ranging debate on a number of issues of substance. I speak briefly to say that, on these Benches, we will be supporting the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, on her amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope, talked about his time in the Foreign Office and the mixing up of UN and national schemes. My noble friend Lord Triesman, who had a similar position to the noble Lord, said he was absolutely right in the way he summed up the position. So, we are happy to support the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, on her amendment.

There have been a number of speeches that have reflected on the extremity of the situation for many people who want to come here. I thought the noble Lord, Lord Kamall, was very fair in the way he summed up his position in supporting Amendment 164. He introduced his speech by saying he wants to fix little bits of the system to make it work better. I agree with that point, and that can be done through Amendment 164.

I say to my noble friend Lady Kennedy that I too met Anna Politkovskaya when I was a member of the OSCE in the early 2000s, and she was killed just a couple of months after I met her. There are people in absolutely extreme and desperate situations and there are many pressures on the Government—we understand that—but the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, is doing no more than asking the Government to put what they have promised from the Dispatch Box on the face of the Bill.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, this has been an interesting debate. My noble friends Lord Hodgson and Lord Lilley and the noble Lord, Lord Green, made some powerful points, in particular on the presumed impact of some of these amendments on our ability to stop the boats. They also again highlighted the need to link the numbers admitted to the UK through safe and legal routes to our capacity to accommodate and support those who arrive through those routes.

Amendment 162, put forward by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, seeks to exclude certain existing schemes from the safe and legal routes cap provision in this Bill. Exempting routes from the cap is not in keeping with the purpose of the policy, which is to manage the capacity on local areas of those arriving through our safe and legal routes. That said, I would remind the House that the cap does not automatically apply to all current or any future routes. Each route will be considered for inclusion on a case-by-case basis. This is due to the individual impact of the routes and the way they interact with the immigration system. This is why my officials are currently considering which routes should be within the cap and this work should not be pre-empted by excluding certain routes from the cap at this stage. I also point the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, to the power to vary the cap, set out in the Bill, in cases of emergency.

Amendment 163 would see the United Kingdom establish a new route for those who are persecuted on the basis of an individual’s protected characteristics—advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Alton. This would be a completely new approach to international protection that goes far beyond the terms of the refugee convention. At present, all asylum claims admitted to the UK system, irrespective of any protected characteristic, are considered on their individual merits in accordance with our international obligations under the refugee convention and the European Convention on Human Rights. For each claim, an assessment is made of the risk to the individual owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. Critically, we also consider the latest available country of origin information.

Under the scheme proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, there would be no assessment of whether, for the individual concerned, there exists the possibility of safe internal relocation, or whether the state in which an individual faces persecution by a non-state actor could suitably protect them. As well as extending beyond our obligations under the refugee convention, this amendment runs counter to our long-held position that those who need international protection should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach—that remains the fastest route to safety.

Amendment 164, tabled by my noble friend Lady Stroud, seeks to enshrine in law a requirement to bring in new safe and legal routes within two months of the publication of the report required by Clause 60 of the Bill. This puts the deadline sometime next spring. I entirely understand my noble friend’s desire to make early progress with establishing new safe and legal routes, but it is important to follow proper process.

We are rightly introducing, as a number of noble Lords have observed, a requirement to consult on local authority capacity to understand the numbers we can effectively welcome, integrate and support arriving through safe and legal routes. We have committed to launching such a consultation within three months of Royal Assent of this Bill, but we need to allow local authorities and others time to respond and for us to consider those responses. We also, fundamentally, need to make progress with stopping the boats— stopping the dangerous crossings—to free up capacity to welcome those arriving by safe and legal routes.

Having said all that, I gladly repeat the commitment given by my right honourable friend the Minister for Immigration that we will implement any proposed additional safe and legal routes set out in the Clause 60 report as soon as practicable and in any event by the end of 2024. In order to do something well, in an appropriate manner, we must have time in which to do so. We are therefore only a few months apart. I hope my noble friend will accept this commitment has been made in good faith and we intend to abide by it and, on that basis, she will be content to withdraw her amendment.

Amendment 165, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, would enable those seeking protection to apply from abroad for entry clearance into the UK to pursue their protection claim. Again, such an approach is fundamentally at odds with the principle that a person seeking protection should seek asylum in the first safe country they reach. We also need to be alive to the costs of this and indeed the other amendments proposed here. I note the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, on the costs of Amendment 165, but I have to say that I disagree. Our economic impact assessment estimates a stream of asylum system costs of £106,000 per person supported in the UK.

The noble Lord’s scheme is uncapped; under it, there is a duty to issue an entry clearance to qualifying persons. Let us say for the sake of argument that 5,000 entry clearances are issued in accordance with that amendment each year, under his scheme. That could lead to a liability of half a billion pounds in asylum support each year. What is more, as my noble friend Lord Lilley so eloquently pointed out, it would not stop the boats. Those who did not qualify under the scheme would simply arrive on the French beaches and turn to the people smugglers to jump the queue.

Amendment 166 seeks to create an emergency visa route for human rights defenders at particular risk and to provide temporary accommodation for these individuals. This Government recognise that many brave individuals put their lives at risk by fighting for human rights in their countries. These individuals are doing what they believe to be right, at great personal cost. However, when their lives are at risk, I say again that those in need of international protection should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach. That is the fastest route to safety. Such a scheme would also be open to abuse, given the status of human rights defenders, and that anyone can claim to be a human rights defender.

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Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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I do not question the most reverend Primate’s motives in putting down this amendment. It is a shame that we are ending like this, because it has been a wide-ranging debate about aspirations beyond the Bill. I have certainly never seen an archbishop move an amendment at any stage of a Bill, let alone the latter stages of such a contentious Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, said, this has been a passionate and fractious debate; nevertheless, people have raised their eyes—if I can put it like that —to talk about the wider issues we are trying to address through the Bill and into the future. The most reverend Primate’s amendment is about strategy.

My colleague quickly checked on the phone, and I cannot help noting that the noble Lords, Lord Horam, Lord Waldegrave and Lord Green, all voted for the Government in the previous vote and have all indicated that they will be supporting the most reverend Primate in the forthcoming vote. The noble Lord, Lord Horam, is shaking his head; I beg his pardon.

Nevertheless, this has been a remarkable debate, partly for the reason that it has been initiated, and also because it is ending a Bill which has really caught the attention of the wider public. We are dealing with fundamental issues concerning the way we manage our asylum system. The Government and the Opposition acknowledge that there are fundamental problems with the way we deal with these very vulnerable people.

There has been a number of speeches in this debate about Britain taking a leading role in trying to come up with a migration system which addresses these fundamental problems. I have been in this place a long time—some 33 years—and in that time I have been on the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the relevant committees dealing with migration issues. These are fundamentally problematic issues. Here, we are addressing an amendment moved by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury that tries to put a strategy in place, and I invite the Minister to accept it.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, I am very grateful to all noble Lords, but particularly the most reverend Primate, for clearly setting out the rationale behind his amendment. Let me say again from the outset, as I did in Committee, that I entirely understand the sentiment behind the proposed 10-year strategy for tackling refugee crises and human trafficking.

The Government recognise the interconnected nature of migration and the need to work collectively. That is why we are already engaged and working tirelessly with international and domestic partners to tackle human trafficking. As I set out in Committee, we continue to support overseas programmes to fight modern slavery and human trafficking, including through the modern slavery fund, through which more than £37 million of funding has been provided by the Home Office since 2016. The work includes projects across Europe, Africa and Asia, a joint communiqué with Albania and a signed joint action plan with Romania, which reinforce our commitment to working collaboratively to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking in both the short and long term. We also engage with the international community on a global scale by working with multilateral fora such as the G7, the G20, the Commonwealth and the United Nations.

Moreover, while I understand the desire for a published strategy, I would not want this to detract from the work already being done to deliver in this way. This Bill is part of the Government’s strategic and interconnected approach to tackling human trafficking and illegal migration. It is the aim of this Bill to tackle the threat to life arising from dangerous, illegal and unnecessary channel crossings and the pressure that places on our public services.

Furthermore, the view of this Government—one which I believe is eminently sensible—is not to create a siloed refugee strategy. As has been highlighted by many noble Lords throughout Committee and Report, refugee crises are complex and something for the entire international community to address. Indeed, migration by irregular routes to the United Kingdom would usually involve individuals travelling through multiple countries, so it follows that, and I agree with many noble Lords that, the United Kingdom cannot tackle this alone. I certainly also agree with the most reverend Primate’s challenge: that the best way to address displacement on this scale is through a holistic approach, utilising, where appropriate, developmental, diplomatic, military and humanitarian interventions. This is what we are already doing, working with our international partners.

During the debate on the previous amendments, I also detailed the United Kingdom’s work in developing the Global Compact on Refugees and our substantial engagement with the World Bank, which I shall not repeat here. However, I wish to stress that we already engage with our international partners through proper channels and will continue to do so.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, we will support the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, when he presses Amendment 66, and we would expect the subsequent amendments he mentioned to be consequential to that. He clearly and helpfully set out the four Hardial Singh principles and gave their legal basis and history, and I thank him for doing so. As he pointed out, the Government themselves recently cited those principles in a High Court case. I also thank the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, who succinctly summed up the Opposition’s view on the Bill. He said that there is little prospect of unilateral action succeeding, and we agree. He deplored the Secretary of State’s using the power of detention to reinforce the message of deterrence, rather than speaking of the need to implement the Bill, and we agree with that as well. He said that the power should not go to the Secretary of State rather than the courts, and he cited the Explanatory Memorandum. We agree with that too, so I thank the noble Viscount for summarising our view of the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Green, said that what the Government have done so far has not had much had effect. The Government are asking us again to support them to do more, yet they have been unsuccessful in the various Bills they have introduced in recent years to try to address this problem. It is a real problem, and there needs to be a different approach to reduce the numbers. Of course, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord German, as well. For all those reasons, we will be happy to support the noble Lord, Lord Carlile.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, as we have just heard, Clause 11 clarifies the time period for which the Secretary of State may detain individuals by placing two of the common law Hardial Singh principles on to a statutory footing. As we have also heard, the principles provide that a person may be detained only for a period that is reasonable in all the circumstances, and if it becomes apparent before the expiry of the reasonable period that the Home Secretary will not be able to examine, effect removal or grant leave within a reasonable period, the Home Secretary should not seek to continue the detention.

As my noble friend Lord Hailsham noted, the Explanatory Notes published with the Bill make it clear that it is the Bill’s intention expressly to overturn the common law principle established in R on the application of A v the Secretary of State for the Home Department, 2007, and that henceforth it will be for the Secretary of the State rather than the courts to determine what constitutes a reasonable time period to detain an individual for the specific statutory purpose. In this regard, these amendments seek to preserve the status quo and leave it to the courts to determine the reasonableness of the period of detention. I put it to your Lordships that it is properly a matter for the Home Secretary rather than the courts to decide such matters, as the Home Office will be in full possession of all the relevant facts and best placed to decide whether continued detention is reasonable in the circumstances.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, we on the Labour Benches strongly support the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, and if she presses them to a vote on Monday, we will be supporting her. Her amendments address the removal of safeguards for children put in place when a Conservative Prime Minister sat in No. 10, and it is clear that potentially thousands of children could be detained, some potentially indefinitely. This would undoubtedly cause long-term damage to their health, well-being and development. We are happy to support those amendments, and we are very interested to hear about the ongoing discussions which noble Baronesses on the other side of the House have mentioned.

Regarding the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord German, I interpret them as probing amendments into the rules concerning detention and, particularly in the case of barges with the quite astonishing figures he gave today, the cost and where there will be areas for people to walk around and exercise in the vicinity of the barges. I will be interested to hear what the Minister has to say about that in response to the amendments from the noble Lord, Lord German. We are happy to support the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, with these amendments we return to the issue of detention time limits in relation to unaccompanied children and the limiting of places of detention. Amendments 49, 53, 56 and 61, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord German, limit the “place of detention” in the Bill to those that are presently authorised for detention. We detain persons for immigration purposes only in places that are listed in the Immigration (Places of Detention) Direction 2021. As I set out in Committee, following Royal Assent we will update the direction in line with the new detention powers.

For more than 50 years we have operated a framework where the Home Secretary sets out the places where persons may be detained for immigration purposes in an administrative direction. The provisions in paragraph 18 of Schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971 have operated perfectly satisfactorily. I see no case now to change to a position whereby places of detention are to be set out in primary legislation.

I assure noble Lords that the welfare of detained individuals is of paramount importance. Any place of detention must be suitable for the persons we are detaining there, and adequate provision will be made for the safety and welfare of the detained person. The Detention Centre Rules 2001 make provision for the regulation and management of immigration removal centres. These rules set out:

“The purpose of detention centres shall be to provide for the secure but humane accommodation of detained persons in a relaxed regime with as much freedom of movement and association as possible, consistent with maintaining a safe and secure environment”.


The rules also set out the specific requirements which an immigration removal centre must comply with, including, but not limited to, provision for maintenance, general security, healthcare, access and welfare. These rules will continue to apply to detention in immigration removal centres under this Bill. I hope that is a complete answer to the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord German. I add that, as their name suggests, these rules apply to detention accommodation, not to non-detained accommodation such as the Bibby Stockholm barge, from which of course people may come and go.

Moreover, we already have robust statutory oversight of immigration detention, including inspection by the Inspectorate of Prisons and independent monitoring boards at every detention facility, and effective safeguards within the detention process which, I would suggest, are efficient.

I turn to the issue of detention time limits. Amendments 51, 57, 59 and 63, tabled by my noble friend Lady Mobarik, seek to retain the existing time limits on the detention of children. It is an unavoidable fact that holding people in detention is necessary to ensure that they can successfully be removed from the United Kingdom under the scheme provided for in the Bill, which is designed to operate quickly and fairly. However, our aim is to ensure that no one is held in detention for any longer than is absolutely necessary to effect their removal.

The duty on the Home Secretary to make arrangements for the removal of all illegal entrants back to their home country or to a safe third country will send a clear message that vulnerable individuals, including children, cannot be exploited by the people smugglers facilitating their passage across the channel in small boats on the false promise of starting a new life in the United Kingdom. The detention powers are an integral part of ensuring the success of this Bill, both as a deterrent and as a means of ensuring that the Home Secretary can comply with the duty to make arrangements for removal.

We must not create incentives for people-smuggling gangs to target children or provide opportunities for people to exploit any loopholes. Children may be put at further risk by adults seeking to pass off unaccompanied children as their own. I know this is not my noble friend’s intention, but that is what these amendments would, perversely, achieve.

Under the Bill, detention is not automatic. The Bill provides powers to detain, and the appropriateness of detention will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Moreover, recognising their vulnerability, I remind my noble friend that the Bill makes particular provision for the detention of unaccompanied children.

It is important to recognise that unaccompanied children would be detained only for the purposes of removal in a minority of cases. They are not subject to the duty to remove, and our expectation is that they will generally be transferred to the care of a local authority until they turn 18. Where they are to be detained, the powers in the Bill may be exercised in respect of unaccompanied children only in circumstances to be prescribed in regulations, as we have already discussed during today’s debate. This would be, for example, for the purposes of an initial examination or, where necessary, in the limited cases where they are to be removed to effect a reunion with the child’s parent or to return them to a safe country of origin. As we have already debated, such regulations are now to be subject to the affirmative procedure, as a result of the government amendments to Clause 10.

The Bill also includes a power to place a time limit on the detention of unaccompanied children where that detention is for the purposes of removal. We will keep the operation of these provisions under review, and should it be necessary to introduce a time limit, we have the means to do so.

Given the safeguards we have already built into the arrangements for the detention of unaccompanied children, the Government remain of the view that these amendments, however well-meaning, are not necessary. I therefore ask my noble friend not to press her Amendment 51. However, if she is minded to test the opinion of the House, I ask noble Lords, if and when the Division occurs, to reject the amendment.

Ahead of that, I hope that I have been able to satisfy the noble Lord, Lord German, and that he will be content to withdraw his Amendment 49.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, the second group of amendments centres on the major changes this Bill creates, particularly the duty to remove. We tabled Amendment 9, in the name of my noble friend Lord Coaker, in Committee and hoped to hear from the Government, but since we last discussed this issue significant progress has been made on putting in place returns agreements. That is the answer to the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Clarke, and the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann: putting in place returns agreements and negotiating them vigorously, so that people can be deported as they are now. Nobody on this side of the House has said that should not happen, but greater effort needs to be made to put them in place.

Turning to Amendment, 6 on retrospection, which the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, spoke to, I hope he will get the response he is looking for from the Minister; we are behind him in seeking that response. As he said, retrospectivity is the enemy of legal certainty. He quoted some powerful figures showing that the threat of stopping the boats is not having any effect on the number of people crossing the channel. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that brevity does not mean half-heartedness, and I will carry on being brief in addressing the points raised.

My noble friend Lady Lister challenged the Minister again on the child rights impact assessment; I look forward to discovering whether he can give a more convincing answer than he managed yesterday. The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, who I would count as a friend outside this Chamber, gave a speech he has given on a number of occasions, concerning the overall figures, which are indeed very serious. As he fairly pointed out, illegal migrants, who are the subject of the Bill before us, account for roughly 10% of the overall figures. Everyone on this side of the Chamber—indeed, throughout the House—acknowledges that there is a very serious issue. The focus right now is illegal migration, although I acknowledge the point he made about the wider context.

The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, spoke compellingly, as ever, about the rights of the child. I find it mind-boggling that she was having breakfast with my noble friend Lord Coaker this morning in Warsaw. Both gave compelling speeches this afternoon. My noble friend Lord Hacking also spoke with passion, and I am glad that he will not be putting his amendment to the vote today.

This has been a relatively brief debate and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, Clause 2 is the centrepiece of the scheme provided for in this Bill. Without it, the Bill as a whole would be fundamentally undermined. It therefore follows that I cannot entertain Amendment 8 proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, who frankly conceded its wrecking effect in his speech. At its heart, this Bill seeks to change the existing legal framework so that those who arrive in the UK illegally can be detained and then promptly removed, either to their home country or to a safe third country. As my noble friends Lord Clarke and Lord Howard, both fellow lawyers, so powerfully put it, we cannot sit by and do nothing.

As the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, has set out, Amendments 6, 17, 22, 23 and 88 address the retrospective effect of the Bill. The second condition set out in Clause 2 is that the individual must have entered the UK on or after 7 March 2023—the day of this Bill’s introduction in the House of Commons. In effect, the noble Lord’s amendments seek to do away with the backdating of the duty to remove, as well as of other provisions in the Bill, so that they apply only to those who illegally enter the country from the date of commencement rather than from 7 March.

As I set out in response to the same amendments in Committee, the retrospective nature of these provisions is critical. Without it, we risk organised criminals and people smugglers seeking to exploit this, with an increase in the number of illegal arrivals ahead of commencement of the Bill. This would likely lead to an increase in these unnecessary and dangerous small boat crossings and could place even more pressure on not only our asylum system but our health, housing, education and welfare services. This risk will only grow as we get closer to Royal Assent and implementation. We must take action to prioritise support for those who are most in need and not encourage people smugglers to change their tactics to circumvent the intent of this Bill. I recognise that the retrospective application of legislation is not the norm and should be embarked upon only when there is good reason. I submit to the House that there is very good reason in this instance, given the scale of the challenge we face in stopping the boats.

Amendment 7 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, deals with entry into the United Kingdom via the Irish land border. As is currently the case, tourists from countries which require visas for them to come to the UK as visitors should obtain these before they travel. That said, I recognise the issue and accept that some individuals may inadvertently enter the UK without leave via the Irish land border. We are examining this issue further. I point the noble Baroness to the regulation-making power in Clause 3, which would enable us to provide for exceptions to the duty to remove where it would be appropriate to do so.

Amendment 10, spoken to by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, relates to the removal of an unaccompanied child once they reach the age of 18. To permit their removal only if it was in their best interests, even when they reach 18, would undermine the intent of this Bill. The Government must take action to undercut the routes that smuggling gangs are exploiting by facilitating children’s dangerous and illegal entry into the United Kingdom. As my noble friend Lady Lawlor indicated, this amendment would increase the incentive for an adult to claim to be a child and encourage people smugglers to pivot and focus on bringing over more unaccompanied children via dangerous journeys. The effect would be to put more young lives at risk. That said, where a person enters the UK illegally as a young child, Clause 29 affords discretion to grant them limited or indefinite leave to remain if a failure to do so would contravene the UK’s obligations under the ECHR, which would, among other things, take in any Article 8 claims. I hope that provides some reassurance to the noble and learned Baroness.

With regard to Amendment 9, as I indicated in Committee, formal returns agreements are not required to carry out removals, although I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, that returns agreements can be useful to improve returns co-operation. We will seek to negotiate these where appropriate.

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Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, in the spirit of reciprocity, we wholeheartedly support Amendment 15 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord German, as well as my noble friend Lord Dubs’s amendment.

My noble friend’s amendment points out that we should absolutely not rule out unaccompanied children from being admissible if they come via an illegal route. As we have heard from a number of noble Lords, this would not be in keeping with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The amendment from the noble Lord, Lord German, is a practical amendment on granting re-entry into the asylum system for those the Government are not able to remove, and we are happy to support it. It would avoid potentially thousands of children, as well as other asylum seekers, being kept in limbo. As he very fairly pointed out, this is a backstop for the Government because, if they are true to their aspirations for the Bill, they will never have to use the noble Lord’s amendment. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, as the noble Lords, Lord Dubs and Lord German, have explained, these amendments relate to the provision in Clause 4(2), which provides for protection claims and relevant human rights claims made by persons who meet the conditions in Clause 2 to be declared inadmissible.

On Amendment 14, we recognise the particular vulnerability of unaccompanied children, as observed by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, which is why we need to prevent them making unnecessary and life-threatening journeys to the UK. If we are serious about wanting to prevent and deter these journeys, it is crucial that we maintain the position currently set out in the Bill. We must avoid creating a perverse incentive to put unaccompanied children on small boats and make dangerous journeys.

In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, I point out that the Bill provides for a wholly new scheme. We are in a different position from the one we were in in the last Session, when the Nationality and Borders Bill, as it then was, was debated.

As I have said before, the Secretary of State is not required to make arrangements to remove an unaccompanied child from the UK, but there is a power to do so. The Bill sets out that this power will be exercised only in limited circumstances ahead of them reaching adulthood, such as for the purposes of reunion with a parent or where removal is to a safe country of origin. Where an unaccompanied child is not removed, pursuant to the power in Clause 3, we continue to believe that it is appropriate for the Bill to provide for the duty to remove to apply once they turn 18. To provide otherwise will, as I have already said, put more young lives at risk and split up more families by encouraging the people smugglers to put more and more unaccompanied children on to the small boats. In answer to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Bill is very much about protecting children.

Illegal Migration Bill: Economic Impact Assessment

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Tuesday 27th June 2023

(11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, yesterday the Government released an impact assessment on the Illegal Migration Bill, two days before the first day of Report on the Bill, contrary to the principles of HM Treasury’s Green Book and the Better Regulation Framework guidance to departments. The impact assessment does not contain an explanation of the costs and benefits, does not outline alternative policy options and was not published on the same day that the Bill was introduced.

The impact assessment quite literally states that it has

“not attempted to estimate the total costs or benefits of the proposal”.

It also does not consider anything other than either implementing the Bill as a whole or not implementing the Bill at all. Do the Government believe there are any other options?

The timing of the impact assessment’s arrival has prevented the other place from improving it with its scrutiny. A significant proportion of the time set aside in this House has been taken up discussing the arrival of the impact assessment. Does the Minister think this is good policy-making procedure?

If this House is to perform its critical function of scrutinising legislation, it is necessary for us to have complete, comprehensive and timely information about the basis on which policy choices are made and the reasons alternative options have been rejected. Can the Government now explain why an impact assessment for such a significant Bill does not conform to government guidance on policy communication with Parliament?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord. The answer is that there are no other options. The option before the House tomorrow and on succeeding days is the Bill; the alternative is the present scenario, which is not tolerable, in the Government’s view. On the questions about the timing and context of the impact assessment, it was drafted, obviously, in the context of the need urgently to address the dangerous and illegal crossings of the channel. Accordingly, the legislation and the IA were prepared in order to address that problem at speed. It is also the case that the Rwanda scheme was the subject of a legal challenge in the courts, and clearly it was appropriate to take that into account in preparing the impact assessment.

On the question about whether the impact assessment complies with government guidance, I suggest that, in the context of the Bill, it does. It sets out, so far as can be ascertained, the likely impact. But this Bill, like others, is predicated on a strong theory of deterrence, and it is therefore important to note that it is hard empirically to provide detailed statistics, because the purpose of the Bill is to deter the illegal crossings, as the noble Lord acknowledges.

Asylum: Channel Crossings

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Tuesday 27th June 2023

(11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My noble friend is right that intelligence exists suggesting that people smugglers give information to those they smuggle. I am aware that allegations have been made against lawyers, but I would not like to say any more at this stage.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I first thank the noble Lord for facilitating my visit to RAF Manston and to Western Jet Foil a few weeks ago. During that trip, I was made aware of a cohort of youths who initially identify as adults because they want to work. Indeed, they may have been working in their home country since they were 13 or 14. Does the Home Office keep any record of whether this group is more likely to go missing or abscond, so that they can perhaps be identified earlier in the process, before they go missing?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for that question, which is clearly important and I will find out the answer. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, has a Question about missing asylum-seeking children in the next fortnight, so I will report back to the House then and will of course write to the noble Lord.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, as we have just heard, Clauses 29 to 36 place a permanent bar on those who fall within the scheme outlined in Clause 2 from lawfully travelling to the UK or securing settlement or British citizenship through naturalisation or registration; this is subject only to exceptions to comply with international agreements or where there are compelling circumstances. If the Bill fails to succeed in its aim of removing people, there will likely be a whole class of people stuck in the UK for extended periods without access to a system through which they can obtain lawful status. Therefore, they will be unable to work or rent a home. The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, expanded on this point eloquently. To sum up the noble Baroness’s speech: she wants compliance with international law. We support her Amendment 98EA.

The noble Lord, Lord Moylan, gave a clear exposition of the Government’s intentions with this Bill, and on the different statuses on the second step, as he put it—the ban on acquiring citizenship by naturalisation but also by registration. As he said eloquently, registration is not a concession or a reward for good behaviour but an entitlement. His amendment seeks to address that point, with particular examples given in his speech.

The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, also spoke about the specific cases of Hong Kongers and BNOs, and how this Bill could cut across—or seems to cut across—their potential rights. My noble friend Lady Lister, who added her name to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, attacked the problem from the perspective of concern for children who could be subject to this ban because of the actions of their parents. As she rightly argued, this is not fair on those children; she wants to revert to the original wording of Clause 35.

We support the amendments in this group. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Migration and Borders (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this short debate. It has been particularly illuminating; I have noted the quality of the speeches and hope that I can answer the questions that have been put in relation to these clauses.

Clauses 29 to 36 prevent a person who has entered the United Kingdom unlawfully, and meets the conditions in Clause 2, being able to lawfully re-enter the UK, secure settlement or become a British national through naturalisation or most registration routes. A person who arrives in the UK illegally should not be able to make the UK their home and eventually settle here. Settlement in the UK confers significant benefits, such as the freedom to study, work and access healthcare and public funds; of course, it is also a pathway to British citizenship which, in turn, confers further benefits.

Allowing someone who arrives in the UK illegally to settle clearly creates an incentive for people to make those dangerous journeys. It is a vital part of the deterrent effect that those categories should be included. This is because people taking advantage in that way is unfair. It is unfair on those who play by the rules and come here legally, it is unfair on those who are genuinely in need, as it constrains our capacity to help, and it is unfair on the British public.

Clause 29 precludes people who meet the conditions in Clause 2 from ever settling here and, once removed, being able to re-enter. This is achieved by preventing them from being granted any form of permission through the immigration system. We do, however, recognise there will be occasions when we will need to waive the bans and grant permission; for example, as the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, noted, where not granting permission would contravene our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. Clause 29 balances our need to disincentivise people from making dangerous journeys to the UK by ensuring that there is no benefit to be gained from entering the UK illegally, while recognising there may be a limited number of scenarios in which it is appropriate to grant permission. I put it to the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, that this is a proportionate and balanced provision. Therefore, I do not recognise her description of the Bill as “wielding a sledgehammer”.

Clause 30 sets out that a person will not be eligible for British citizenship, British Overseas Territories citizenship, British overseas citizenship and British subject status if they enter the UK unlawfully and meet the criteria in Clause 2. The ban will also apply to someone who enters a Crown dependency or British Overseas Territory unlawfully in a similar way. We have included the other types of British nationality as we do not think it is right that illegal entry should allow a person to acquire any form of British nationality, but also to prevent a person using it as a stepping stone to register as a British citizen. Illegal entry into the UK, a Crown dependency or an overseas territory will have the same effect. We do not want people to be able to enter illegally in any of those locations and use that as a way to acquire citizenship and, ultimately, a right to enter and live in the UK.

Clauses 31 to 34 set out the routes to which the citizenship ban will apply. The key citizenship route which will be affected is naturalisation, as my noble friend Lord Moylan noted. This is the main way in which adults born outside the UK can acquire British citizenship and British Overseas Territories citizenship. The ban will also apply to certain registration routes. However, those applying under provisions that address historical inequalities in British nationality law will not be affected. This includes people born before 1983 to British mothers, those who missed out on citizenship because their parents were not married or those applying on the route for descendants of Chagossians.

Clause 35 allows us to exempt a person from the citizenship ban if treating them as ineligible for citizenship would contravene our obligations under the human rights convention. This means that if a person can demonstrate that, for example, their right to a family or private life can be met only by us considering a grant of citizenship, we will not exclude them from applying. We do not think that acquiring citizenship will usually be essential to allow a person to have a private or family life in the UK; other options, such as leave to enter or remain, may satisfy that. However, in very exceptional cases where considering a grant of citizenship is needed to prevent us breaching our ECHR obligations, Clause 35 may apply. We will publish guidance for nationality caseworkers setting out how to assess human rights in the nationality context.

The amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Moylan would remove registration routes for British citizenship and British Overseas Territories citizenship from the ban so that it applies only to naturalisation. They would also remove the bans on becoming a British overseas citizen and British subject through registration. My noble friend Lord Moylan has described registration as an “evidence-based process”, with decisions not based on the Secretary of State exercising discretion. I am afraid to say that I disagree with my noble friend as this is not universally the case: some registration routes are dependent on ministerial discretion and there is no automatic entitlement.

Let me explain this further. As my noble friend Lord Moylan said, not all registration routes are included in the ban. Those that allow people to acquire British nationality they missed out on because of previous unfairness are not included; nor are the specific routes for children born in the UK or stateless persons. However, registration routes that rely on residence or specifically for children born outside the UK are included in the ban, as we expect people who want to become citizens to have followed a compliant pathway, including having entered lawfully.

For example, Section 4(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981 allows people who already hold another form of British nationality to register as a British citizen on the basis of five years’ lawful residence in the UK. The residence requirements mirror those for naturalisation: the only significant difference between the routes is that other British nationals wanting to register under that route do not need to meet the knowledge of English and life in the UK requirements. Given that the residence requirements are the same as for naturalisation, it would be appropriate for them to be subject to the ban in the same way as naturalisation applicants. This is the route that BNOs can use if they come to the UK under our scheme and become settled: they can go on to apply for citizenship. It is right that those who apply and come through legal routes should have the right to become citizens, but we do not think it is right that those who enter unlawfully should benefit.

The registration routes for children who are subject to the ban include two routes for children born abroad to British citizens by descent. Both have a residence element: either that the parent lived in the UK for a period of three years before the child was born or the family lived in the UK for the three-year period before applying to register the child. We do not anticipate that children of British citizens would be brought to the UK on a small boat when there are routes available to them as family members, but should that happen, the child will not be able to register as a citizen.

The other child route that is included in the ban is registration of children at the Home Secretary’s discretion. The only statutory requirements are that the child is under 18 and is of good character if over 10. However, guidance sets out expectations about when a child will be registered. The normal expectation is that the child will be settled in the UK, and that the parents will be British, or at least settled. It is unlikely that children who enter the UK unlawfully would be able to meet the normal expectations of having a British or settled parent, being lawfully present and having completed a period of residence, as under the Government’s proposals, children who have entered illegally will be removed. The citizenship ban will, however, prevent a child being registered under this provision unless there are ECHR grounds. This fits with the Government’s intention to discourage parents from bringing children to the UK via dangerous methods, including crossing the channel in a small boat, and that such a child cannot become a British citizen and create a means for the family to stay.

My noble friend raised, quite rightly, the issue of compassionate cases. As I have said the ECHR exemption will allow us to consider registering, in rare and exceptional cases, where a person meets the statutory requirements and granting citizenship would be essential to allow them to exercise their family or private life.

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Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I think everybody is really waiting to hear what the Minister has to say about this. It has been a fascinating debate and, as the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, said, it appears that Government, whatever the rights and wrongs, accept Rule 39—the Minister made that very clear in what he read out—and yet we have had the silence about Clause 52. I do not think I can add anything of substance to the debate at this stage and I look forward to what the Minister has to say.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, Clause 52 underpins the suspensive claims and appeals process by prohibiting the courts from granting interim remedies in relation to any other proceedings which would prevent or delay the removal of an illegal entrant subject to the duty. Amendments 116 and 117 would require the Home Secretary to provide a statement to Parliament, on a case-by-case basis, explaining why the courts should prevent the granting of an interim remedy and for this to be approved by the other place—and only the other place, I note—before the restrictions set out in Clause 52 could come into effect.

These amendments seriously risk undermining our efforts swiftly to remove illegal entrants from the UK. To prevent the courts granting an interim remedy and delaying removal, it would be necessary to seek parliamentary approval in every case subject to the duty to remove. This, I am sure the Committee will agree, is simply not practicable; nor is it necessary or appropriate.

These amendments are fundamentally misconceived. They proceed on the basis that there is an individual rationale for barring interim remedies in each case, but the rationale is universal; namely, that the Bill itself provides for a mechanism for a person subject to the duty to remove to challenge their removal and for removal to be suspended while the claim and any appeal to the Upper Tribunal have yet to be determined. That being the case, it is the Government’s contention that there is no case for the courts separately to grant interim remedies. The blanket approach taken by Clause 52 is therefore entirely appropriate, and I suggest to the Committee that that is an entire answer to the second point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti.

Clause 52 will encourage compliance with the suspensive claims process. It also provides an effective safeguard against other types of legal challenges being brought in an attempt to thwart removal. This will ensure that our ability promptly to remove those with no legal right to be in the UK is not undermined.

Turning then to what may be seen as the main event, Clause 53, I want to make it clear from the outset that the UK is fundamentally committed to the international rules-based order and there is nothing in this clause which requires us to act incompatibly with our international obligations. Under Rule 39, an interim measure may be indicated by the European Court of Human Rights where there is an imminent risk of irreparable harm. The inclusion of Clause 53 reflects the concerns we have raised with the Strasbourg court about its interim measures process, as identified by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti.

We want the interim measures process to have greater transparency and fairness to ensure the proper administration of justice, reflecting what we would apply in a domestic scenario, as identified by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. This includes clear and reasoned decisions and an opportunity to make meaningful representations before and after a decision is made. It cannot be right that our ability to control our borders is undermined by an opaque process conducted at the last minute, with no formal chance to put forward our case or to appeal that decision. This process risks derailing our efforts to tackle the people smugglers and prevent people making dangerous, illegal and unnecessary journeys across the channel.

Clause 53 affords the Home Secretary, or other Minister of the Crown, personal discretion to suspend the duty where an interim measure has been indicated. This will mean that a Minister may suspend removal in response to a Rule 39 interim measure but, crucially, is not bound by UK law to do so. This will be dependent upon the individual facts of each case. For broader context, I direct noble Lords to the recent and well substantiated paper by Professor Ekins of Policy Exchange, already discussed by the Committee, together with its valuable forewords written by Lord Sumption and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hoffmann. The key arguments made by Professor Ekins were helpfully summarised and powerfully expanded upon by my noble friends Lord Sandhurst and Lord Wolfson, who I know will have given great consideration to the Strasbourg court’s jurisdiction and procedural rules in their preparation for the Committee.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Lister for introducing this group of amendments, which concern the duty to remove those who are not detained, and their access to support because they would be otherwise destitute.

Clause 8 amends relevant legislation to provide support on the same basis as for those whose claims are declared inadmissible under Section 80A or 80B of the 2002 Act. My noble friend introduced her amendments in great detail. They would allow for appeals to be made on decisions around support. They would allow financial support to be provided where accommodation support is not needed. They would allow people awaiting decisions on accommodation support to be provided with interim accommodation. They make it clearer that if someone has not yet been removed from the UK, despite the duty from the Secretary of State to do so, they face a genuine obstacle. As my noble friend said, the Government must ensure that no one awaiting deportation faces destitution and danger.

Given the questions about the Government’s ability to actually remove people given the lack of returns agreements, what assessment have the Government made of the support that will be needed? We read in the newspapers that the Government are renting two more barges. Of course, the numbers the barges can accommodate will not touch the sides of the amount of accommodation that will be needed.

My noble friend Lady Lister and the noble Lord, Lord German, asked a number of detailed questions, as did the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, who I suspect is getting his train as we speak. As the right reverend Prelate said, in practice it will be local authorities, faith groups and voluntary organisations which will be picking up the pieces if there is not adequate government support for people who find themselves in this position. I will listen to the Minister’s response with interest.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Migration and Borders (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
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My Lords, Clause 8 ensures that there is support available to individuals who would otherwise be destitute where their asylum claims have been declared inadmissible, pending their removal from the United Kingdom. It also seeks to incentivise those whose asylum claims have been declared inadmissible to comply with the arrangements to remove them from the UK, whether that be to their country of origin—where it is safe to do so—or to a safe third country. These provisions will support the overall objective of the Bill and ensure that those who come to the UK illegally will not be able to stay. Pending their removal, we will ensure that we support those who are complying with arrangements for removal. I make no apology for introducing these measures to protect and preserve the integrity of our asylum and migration system.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, for setting out her amendments to Clause 8. Amendments 57C and 57F seek to create a right of appeal against a decision to refuse an application for support under Section 95A of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, which would take effect only if supporting provisions in the Immigration Act 2016 are brought into force. The Government keep these matters under review but I can answer the noble Baroness’s question directly: there are no current plans to bring those measures into force, and so we consider these amendments unnecessary. Therefore, those who are refused support under Section 4 of the 1999 Act will still be able to appeal the decision.

Similarly, we do not consider Amendment 57D necessary. As I have told noble Lords frequently throughout Committee, our intention is to detain and swiftly remove people. We expect that the overwhelming majority of those who fall within the scope of the duty to remove will need accommodation as well as financial support. These individuals will therefore be provided with financial support to meet their essential living needs, pending their removal from the UK.

Although I recognise the intention behind Amendment 57E, the Government do not consider it necessary to provide a statutory basis on which to provide temporary support. As I have said, our intention is to detain and swiftly remove those who enter illegally and meet the conditions in Clause 2. The details of how the scheme will work in practice, including the support provided during this interim period, are currently under active consideration. We are confident that there is sufficient scope to be able to provide adequate support to individuals pending a determination of their application under Section 4 of the 1999 Act. Obviously, we will bear in mind the contributions made during this short debate.

Finally, Amendment 57G seeks to amend uncommenced provisions in the Immigration Act 2016 and, in so doing, alter the long-standing position that Section 4 support would be available only to people who face a genuine obstacle in leaving the UK. The Government have no plans to implement the 2016 Act provisions in the immediate future; even if we were to do so, we see no need to alter the existing approach to eligibility under Section 4 for this group of people. Eligibility for Section 4 support is a long-standing position. As long as individuals whom we support pending their removal co-operate with the process, they will remain eligible for support.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, the noble Lord, Lord German, and the train-bound right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham asked about the Section 4 application form. We are working on the arrangements for implementing these provisions. As part of that, we will consider what changes, if any, are required to the Section 4 application form.

Where necessary, the Government will provide accommodation and basic support for those who are subject to the duty to make arrangements for removal and who are not being detained pending their removal. In answer to the right reverend Prelate, I can assure him that, with the changes made by Clause 8, we consider that there is sufficient legislative cover to provide such support where a person would otherwise be left destitute. On that basis, I invite the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, to withdraw her amendment.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, this group centres around Clause 7, as we have heard, and seeks clarification on procedures which outline the provisions about removal. There are several smaller amendments by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord German, on the details of removal. Probably the most important amendment is Amendment 55, in the name of the noble Baroness, which would ensure that the Government produce guidance on the criteria by which individuals will be prioritised for full removal.

In her very extensive introduction, the noble Baroness asked who P’s representative can be when going through this process. Should the representative be a lawyer, someone from an NGO or some other status of representative? If I might be allowed a short recollection, I sat in on an immigration tribunal at Hatton Cross as a member of the public. I was astonished that neither the applicant going through the immigration tribunal process, nor their representative, spoke English. That was the reality of the situation that I witnessed. I very much hope that, in the sorts of examples that we are talking about in this Bill, P will be properly informed about the processes that they are going through, that they know what their rights are and that they can make their decisions as appropriate.

Amendment 57, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord German, is about the requisition of services by private actors and companies. He explained his amendment very fully. It may be unfortunate that this overlaps a lot with group 3, as my noble friend Lord Davies has just said, but nevertheless that is where we are. My noble friend asked about representations and what consultation has been done with the trade union movement about who will be asked to play their part in working in these companies. I would be very interested to hear the Minister’s answer to my noble friend’s questions.

On the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Coaker and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones—I will not even attempt the rhetoric of the noble Baroness; it is just not my style—the point, nevertheless, is that the recipient needs to understand what is being said to them and the language must be appropriate. This is a common-sense amendment. It is a simple amendment. I hope that the Minister can indicate that some form of wording can be found in this Bill to ensure that P, who is the subject concerned, understands what is happening to them. We support the amendments in this group.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Migration and Borders (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
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My Lords, Clause 7 makes provision for a removal notice to be given to a person and specifies what information this must contain. Each notice must specify that the individual is to be removed under the duty, be clear on their destination and set out a claim period in which to make a factual suspensive claim or a serious harm suspensive claim. That is, of course, suspensive of removal.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, described her Amendment 55 as a probing amendment, seeking to elicit our intentions as to the order in which individuals will be removed from the UK under the duty to remove in Clause 2. The whole purpose of the Bill is to remove persons who satisfy the conditions as soon as practicable. On the day of commencement, we will be dealing with two separate cohorts. First, there will be those who enter the UK illegally on or after the commencement date. Putting unaccompanied children to one side, as we already have debated how they will be considered, our aim will be to process new arrivals as quickly as possible as they arrive. Clearly, the speed with which individuals are removed will depend on whether they consent to a voluntary departure or, if not, whether they make a suspensive claim. Secondly, as we have discussed, the Bill will have a retrospective effect and the duty to remove will apply to those who entered illegally on or after 7 March this year. Where, in the case of this cohort, any asylum or human rights claim has not been decided by the commencement date, we will commence removal action in accordance with the duty in Clause 2, in parallel with the enforcement action that is being taken against new arrivals.

I assure the Committee that the necessary planning is under way to support the effective and efficient implementation of the Bill, which will ensure that we have an integrated and robust end-to-end process from arrival through to removal. This will cover the use of detention, case-working operation, management of appeals and the logistics associated with the returns themselves. I agree with the noble Baroness that development of robust guidance and training will be a key component across all of this. However, while work on implementation is well under way, we should not get ahead of ourselves. First, we must get the Bill on to the statute book in a form that is operable. We cannot be legislating for a scheme that is so full of holes that it is unworkable.

Amendment 55A seeks to probe how the process will operate, should an individual indicate that they do not wish to make a suspensive claim. If an individual notifies the Secretary of State that they do not intend to make a suspensive claim, the person may be removed to the country or territory which they have been given notice of. As the noble Baroness suggests, such notification may be to an immigration officer or a Home Office official. Where it is given orally, it will be duly recorded. I hope that affords an answer to her point.

Amendment 56, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, would set out in statute two additional requirements to the notice, which must be given to the person before they may be removed—that it is provided in a language which they understand and provides information on how to access legal advice. It would be prohibitively expensive to provide translations of decision notices in all possible languages and dialects up front, and there would be a time delay in doing this on an individual basis. It is therefore more efficient to work with interpreters. It is already our current policy to ensure, when serving notices in person, that the contents are explained to the individual in a language which they understand, using interpretation services where required. We also provide information on how to access legal services where relevant.

On the question of legal advice, I reassure the Committee and the noble Lord that, in giving this notice, we will ensure that we also provide information on how to access any legal advice which individuals are entitled to and on how to make a voluntary departure. We will discuss this further in relation to the legal aid provisions, which will come before the Committee in the next few days. Therefore, it is unnecessary to put these additional requirements into the statute.

Amendment 57, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord German, deals with the legal obligations that these provisions place on transport operators. The noble Lords, Lord Davies and Lord Paddick, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and my noble friend Lord Balfe raised the same point. This amendment, as the noble Lord, Lord Davies, pointed out, overlaps with his own group of amendments, which we are debating in the next group. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord German, will be content if I deal with the substance of his Amendment 57 when we reach Amendment 57B.

Amendment 57A seeks to test the drafting of Clause 7(8), where it refers to a vehicle being

“specified or indicated in the direction”.

A direction “specifying” a ship, train, aircraft or vehicle may refer to a particular ship et cetera scheduled to depart at a specified date and time, whereas a direction “indicating” a ship may be a more generic item, for example, specifically or simply referring to a flight to depart that day rather than to a particular flight. Moreover, I point out that the drafting here is drawn from and reflects long-established terminology used in Schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971.

I will deal briefly with Clause 9. It simply makes a number of consequential amendments to existing immigration legislation to ensure that it works smoothly. There is no contradiction alongside the new provisions for removal in the Bill.

To respond to the noble Lord, Lord German, persons served with a removal notice will have eight days to submit a suspensive claim beginning from the day that they were given such a notice. We will come on to Clause 54 in due course; as I have already said, it provides for free legal advice for those issued with a removal notice. To answer the noble Lord, Lord Bach, persons subject to the duty to remove will have access to advice.

Electronic Passport Control Systems

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Wednesday 7th June 2023

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for that question. The Home Office is not responsible for security facilities at the airports beyond those provided by Border Force. I reassure her that Border Force takes seriously maintaining the operation of the e-gates during peak periods. As I have said, we have certainly learned lessons from what happened last week.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, the noble Lord said that 95.9% of travellers go through the e-gate system within the published wait times. What is the position during half terms, when people are travelling with children and there are many more people travelling? Are extra staff put on during half terms?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I do not have those statistics to hand—I will of course find them and write to the noble Lord in respect of them—but, as your Lordships will recall, there was an SI approved by this House to lower the age at which children could use e-gates from 12 to 10. I am pleased to report that the pilot was incredibly effective and that it will now be rolled out across the e-gates by the end of July, so 10 year-olds across the country will be able to use them. This will increase the flow through airports, particularly during peak periods of half term and holidays.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, this group focuses on the disregarding of protection claims, trafficking claims, human rights claims and judicial review, as outlined first in Clause 4. This is quite a large group, with different strategies to remove or edit Clause 4 to remove the duty on the Secretary of State to declare human rights claims and other claims inadmissible if the person arrives into the UK illegally.

My noble friend Lord Dubs has tabled Amendment 23, which would mean that a protection or human rights claim must be considered if the person has not been removed within six months. In his very eloquent speech he said that it would have the effect of trying to reduce the number of people who are effectively in a permanent limbo—he gave the figure of 160,000 who are stuck in this status. As he said, the amendment goes a little way to ameliorating this position. I am glad that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry supports my noble friend.

My other noble friend Lord Hunt’s series of amendments beginning with Amendment 19A would ensure that potential and recognised victims of trafficking would not be removed before they got the opportunity to submit an application to the national referral mechanism and have it considered. His amendments would remove trafficking from the list of claims that the Secretary of State can ignore, so although they would help trafficking victims, they would not help others making claims under different legislation, which would remain on the list. In my noble friend’s speech he referred to the Liberty brief, which I also found extremely helpful, and to the statistics there about the increase in the NRM claims we have seen over recent years, to which the Home Office makes particular reference. My noble friend made the point that the Bill as currently drafted would dissuade victims of modern slavery from coming forward.

As a youth magistrate, I very much recognise the point about the modern slavery system and the national referral system getting completely overwhelmed by the number of referrals into that method of checking for modern slavery. Certainly, in my experience as a youth magistrate, it almost logjammed the system of reviewing what I might call normal criminal cases referred into the NRM, which were sometimes stuck in that system for literally one or two years.

The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, gave a couple of very appropriate anecdotes. He did not particularly explain the amendments in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, but, as he said, they were fully explained by the noble and learned Lord himself. I think the central point that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, was making was that the people who find themselves making appeals are not an unworthy cohort. They very often win their claims, so surely we should be reinforcing and backing up the systems we have signed up to in international law for protecting claims of legitimate claimants.

I think all other noble Lords supported my noble friend Lord Hunt’s amendments; in fact, most noble Lords supported all the amendments in this group. I just want to make a particular aside to the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, who also supported my noble friend Lord Hunt. As he will know, he facilitated a trip for me to Ballymena district court, where I sat in on a youth court. I found it very interesting that the Modern Slavery Act has not been enacted in Northern Ireland. I have tried to get an explanation for that but, as far as I know, I have not received one. Although I am sure that the noble Lord supports the Modern Slavery Act, I find it surprising that the Act has not been enacted for young people in Northern Ireland.

As I said, I think all noble Lords who have spoken on this group of amendments have supported them. In many ways they go to the heart of the Bill, because it is where the Government are seeking to step away from some of the commitments they have made in a number of treaties and in a number of different forums over many decades. It is for the Government to justify why they should take such a radical step.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, Clause 4 provides that if a person meets any of the four conditions set out in Clause 2, regardless of any claim made by an individual, including a protection claim, a human rights claim against their country of nationality or citizenship, a claim as a victim of modern slavery or human trafficking, or an application for judicial review in relation to their removal, they will still fall under the duty to remove.

As such, if a protection or human rights claim is made, this will be declared as inadmissible. Inadmissibility is a long-standing process and is explicitly provided for in UK law, most recently in the strengthened provisions in the Nationality and Borders Act. So although the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, was praising the innovation of the Home Office, the concept of inadmissibility is indeed a long-standing one that appeared in immigration legislation from the turn of the millennium.

As the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, correctly identified, Clause 4 is critical to the Bill. By expanding the scope of existing inadmissibility provisions to apply to anyone who has arrived illegally to the UK, the Government’s intention is made clear: namely, that those who fear persecution should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach and not put their lives at risk by making unnecessary and dangerous journeys to the UK.

We know that some people make spurious claims in a conscious attempt to frustrate their removal. Provisions in Clause 4 will restrict the right to challenge the decision to remove those who enter the UK illegally. In doing so, it will put a stop to the endless merry-go-round of legal challenges that those with no right to be here use to thwart their removal. In 2022 there were 60% more small boat arrivals—45,755—than in 2021, when there were 28,526. Our asylum system is consequently under significant pressure, and with this inexorable rise in the number of illegal arrivals adding more pressures to our health, housing, educational and welfare services, the Government must take action and prioritise support for those who are most in need.

We remain committed to working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to identify those who are most in need so that the UK remains a safe haven for the most vulnerable. Once illegal migration is under control, we will create more safe and legal routes following consultation with local authorities, and that will be subject to an annual cap set by Parliament—we will come on to debate those provisions later in Committee.

The Bill will send an unequivocal message that if you come to the UK on a small boat or via another illegal route, you will never be able to return to the UK or build a life here. It is only right that we prioritise people who come here safely and legally, and it is unfair that those who enter illegally should benefit over those who play by the rules. If people know that there is no way for them to stay in the UK, they will not risk their lives and pay criminals thousands of pounds to get here.

Having set out the purpose of Clause 4, I turn to the specific amendments. First, Amendment 19A and the other amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, effectively seek to exclude all potential victims of modern slavery from the duty to remove and the associated detention powers until a conclusive grounds decision has been made following a referral to the national referral mechanism, or NRM.

There is no escaping that, regrettably, the NRM affords opportunities for those who enter the UK unlawfully to frustrate their removal. In 2022, there were around 17,000 referrals to the NRM—the highest annual number to date and a 33% increase on 2021, when there were 12,706, and a 625% increase on 2014, when there were 2,337. The average time taken from referral to conclusive grounds decisions made in 2022 across the competent authorities was 543 days. Given these decision times, it is self-evident that, were the noble Lord’s amendments to be made, the intentions of this Bill—namely, to deter illegal entry and to allow for the swift removal of those who do enter illegally—would be undermined.

Short-term Holding Facility (Amendment) Rules 2022

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Tuesday 18th April 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I too thank my noble friend for bringing this regret Motion. She set out the reasons for doing so in her characteristically thorough way, and I will try not to repeat her points—but she has been so thorough. Nevertheless, I will set out the case as quickly as I can.

This SI creates a new category of STHF called the “residential holding room”. It appears that this has been created specifically for Manston detention centre, for which, as a non-residential STHF, the previous time limit was 24 hours. This SI changes the time limit to 96 hours, or four days. Additionally, the Secretary of State can extend this. Despite this being close to the five-day limit for residential STHFs, there are significant differences in the minimum conditions, which it is worth setting out. There is no requirement to allow migrants to have access to the internet or to send and receive correspondence, and there is no requirement to fund migrants to correspond with legal advisers, the court system or the UN Refugee Council. It is also unclear whether face-to-face visits are provided for, or whether detainees have the right to meet their legal advisers. There is also no requirement to have separate sleeping quarters for men and women—this was mentioned—or for minors to be housed in separate sleeping quarters, away from unrelated detainees. There are also reduced requirements for health-risk reporting by health staff.

The Government have defended the new rules, stating that the new category of STHF is needed because Manston is a “unique” facility that requires “bespoke” time limits and arrangements. Can the Minister confirm that it is indeed unique, in that there are no plans to extend RHRs to other sites in the future? Both my noble friend Lady Lister and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, raised this question, and I look forward to the Minister’s confirmation that this will not be extended.

We heard that stays in Manston have been confirmed to be much longer than the 24-hour limit—up to a month, according to the Home Office. I understand that there are exceptional circumstances and that the Government are in a difficult situation in many ways. I have a couple of questions for the Minister. Will some of the detainees at Manston who are being accommodated there for up to a month be entitled to phone calls, internet and gender-separated sleeping quarters, as they are in other facilities in which they are allowed to stay for only five days?

Also, given the reports of dozens of cases of diphtheria in Manston last year, and warnings from health officials that cases were spreading within migrant facilities, do the Government believe that the new requirements for health reporting in Manston will be enough to protect detainees’ health? The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, raised this question at Oral Questions today, and clearly there is concern about this matter. I note that the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, compared the rhetoric of the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, in another Oral Question today, about the ideals of the Council of Europe and the ECHR—and here we are, talking about the practicalities of dealing with a difficult situation.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, mentioned Eric, Lord Avebury, whom I am proud to claim as a noble kinsman. I remember many years in this House when he unremittingly raised the concerns of refugees—he may well be looking down on us in this debate now.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds raised an interesting idea, pointing out that quite soon we will deal with the Illegal Migration Bill, which may be an opportunity for this House, or perhaps the opposition parties, to investigate this SI and similar ones and to give them more thorough scrutiny. I was interested in that suggestion, and I will consider whether my party wants to take that further.

The questions have been set out thoroughly by my noble friend and other noble Lords, and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords for their contributions, and particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, for bringing this debate before the House. Clearly, these are important rules, and it is important that they get an airing and that the views of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee are considered in this forum. The debate obviously follows concerns about the new rules expressed in that report by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, and I will endeavour to answer them in the course of my speech and to address the questions of the previous contributors.

I will first put these new rules into context. Since 2018 we have, sadly, seen an enormous increase in the numbers of people choosing to put their lives into the hands of people smugglers and enter the UK unlawfully, after crossing the channel in small boats. We will all be aware that last year some 45,755 people crossed the channel, seeking to enter the country illegally. That figure was 60% higher than in 2021. We know that the estimates for this year range between 65,000 and 85,000. We also know that 51% of those 45,755 who arrived last year arrived in August, September and October, with 8,631 in August alone. The Manston facility in Kent was opened specifically to provide secure processing and security checks for those small-boat arrivals.

Passports: Strike Action and Voter ID

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Monday 20th March 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for that suggestion. Great efforts are made to advertise the availability of the voter authority certificate. Anyone concerned that a document that they intend to use will not be available by polling day may also apply to appoint a proxy up to 5 pm on polling day itself—so considerable steps have been taken to address my noble friend’s point.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, has come up with a very practical solution to this potential problem. Can the noble Lord undertake to the House and the noble Baroness that he will look at her suggestion and come up with a more considered answer?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I can certainly indicate that careful consideration is given to these issues. As always, we will consider all the recommendations and advice given to this House, including from my noble friend.

EU Settlement Scheme

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Monday 13th March 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Yes, indeed. It is in that spirit of co-operation that the Government have determined that the appropriate method of resolving this case is to accept the present position—notwithstanding that permission to appeal was granted—to accept the judgment of the court and to make arrangements so that the scheme matches the findings of the court.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, the High Court’s decision affects about 2.6 million people granted pre-settled status. Will the Government now ensure that the plan to be put in place will be quick and that settled EU citizens do not risk having their right to live here put in any jeopardy? Can the Minister say what he means by “in due course”?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I can confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, that we will certainly not put in jeopardy any such residence rights. I am afraid that I am unable to confirm at this stage what “in due course” might mean, but I hope to return to the House fairly shortly to confirm the position.

Authority to Carry Scheme and Civil Penalties Regulations 2023

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Tuesday 21st February 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing this statutory instrument. The SI replaces the 2021 no-fly scheme that prevents terrorists, serious criminals and others travelling into the UK via aircraft, ships or trains. The scheme was introduced in 2012 and was updated by statutory instrument in 2015 and 2021.

The 2023 scheme extends the range of people who carriers can be refused authority to carry to those refused an ETA or those travelling without a valid document or travelling on the document of another person. Penalties of up to £50,000 were put in place on carriers that breached the terms of the scheme. The maximum penalty has not increased since the original scheme in 2015. Is there any scope for increasing this maximum, along the lines of inflation or something like that? This question was asked in 2021, but I am not sure that my noble friend who asked it got a reply.

The ETA scheme has not been introduced, nor have details been released on how it would work, who would need to apply for it, how much it would cost or on what grounds it would be revoked. As we have heard, the Government have stated that it will be in place by the end of 2024. Can the Minister confirm that that is still the case for when it will be introduced?

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked a number of pertinent questions about the alignment of the ETA with EU regulations and how it will work with the wider carrier network, if I can put it like that.

In response to questions raised in the Commons this month, the Minister stated that 23 penalties have been imposed over the seven years of the scheme and that the number of people prevented from travelling has stayed consistent over this time. The figures given were that 1,702 people were prevented from boarding in 2016-17 and 1,700 in 2022-23. In the 2021 Lords debate, the Minister did not respond to questions about whether some carriers had been repeat offenders. I do not know whether the Minister has any information on whether particular carriers are repeat offenders when fines are given to them.

The Explanatory Memorandum states:

“Updated guidance will be provided to industry”,


but no detail has been provided on when that will take place. Can the Minister tell us when that updated guidance may be available?

Finally, there is the status of transit passengers. How are they brought into the scope of these regulations and will they be affected? Having said that, we support the statutory instrument.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I thank noble Lords for their contributions and questions. I think I have answers to them all, and I will take them in turn.

I turn first to matters raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, who asked when the 2023 scheme will come into effect. Regulation 2 of the draft instrument provides that:

“The Authority to Carry Scheme … comes into force on the day on which these Regulations come into force.”


That is mirrored in paragraph 28 of the scheme, which observes that it will come into force on the day the authority to carry scheme regulations come into force. Obviously, that is the date on which the new scheme will be in force. I can put the noble Baroness’s mind at rest. If she were to compare the 2021 scheme and the 2023 scheme, a lot of the text is the same. The changes introduced by the new scheme are simply to effect the changes that I outlined in my earlier remarks. There will not be any gap that will affect the implementation of the scheme or proceedings brought under the earlier scheme, because they will then simply be under the new scheme that is in force.

The noble Baroness asked whether the scheme has to align with broader issues. I hope I have already addressed that; it is making only minor changes, so it should align and there should not be any difficulties. The provisions about ETAs are there in readiness for the implementation of ETAs along the lines of the timetable suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby.

National Security Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I do not have anything more to add other than to say that we support Amendments 80 and 81. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, summed it up in his closing comments: the current Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Jonathan Hall, has been consulted on this amendment and agrees that it would be a suitable way forward. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, Amendments 80 and 81 propose having an independent reviewer to cover more than Part 2 of the Bill. The Government have committed to consider this idea in the other place, and the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, was compelling on this point.

The Government have been considering whether extending the oversight of the independent reviewer could be done in a way that does not duplicate or unhelpfully interfere with the responsibilities and functions of the existing oversight mechanisms governing both the UK intelligence agencies and the police. For example, we must consider how extending oversight of the Bill would interact with the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s role in overseeing the powers referred to in Clause 27. Should we decide to extend oversight of the Bill beyond Part 2, it is important that we do not create any confusion or uncertainty as to the appropriate reviewer.

It is proposed that Part 4 of the Bill should be reviewed by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. Of course, Part 4 contains measures to freeze civil damages awarded to claimants seen as representing a real risk of using their award to fund acts of terror, and measures to restrict access to civil legal aid for convicted terrorists. As a result, these matters are already in the IRTL’s remit to review. An explicit commitment to oversight of Part 4 of the Bill is therefore unnecessary and would duplicate the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation’s existing discretion to review and report on terrorism-related legislation.

As a point of clarification on a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, the Government are not extending the purview of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation to cover Part 2 of the Bill—rather, they are creating a new independent reviewer role entirely.

With these points in mind, while the Government cannot accept these amendments, we are committed to making a decision on extending oversight of the Bill at the next stage of its passage.

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Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, has raised an interesting but complicated question to answer. He has given various examples of the complications involved in trying to identify the owners of companies. From my own experience as a part company owner and director, I did not know who the shareholders in my own company were, once the ownership was traced back. This is a very difficult and involved question, and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I thank both noble Lords for their contributions; it is indeed a complex issue. Amendment 83 seeks to provide that, where an entity receives 25% or more of its revenue from a foreign power, it can be considered as subject to control from a foreign power and eligible to be specified under the enhanced tier of the scheme. I commend the spirit with which this amendment has been made. The noble Lord’s aim of increasing transparency supports the objectives of the scheme, but it is vital that we strike the balance of proportionality.

It is important that we maintain a distinction between funding, or donations, and control. However, I hope the noble Lord will be reassured that where, in practice, funding does result in a foreign power directing or controlling the activities of the entity, a condition for foreign power control already given in Schedule 13 will still be met. Where this condition is met, it will be possible to specify the entity under the enhanced tier.

We recognise that it is imperative that this scheme maintains the flexibility to adapt, should a foreign power seek to take action to evade the scheme’s scope and requirements. Part 3 of Schedule 13 provides this necessary flexibility by allowing for the conditions of control to be amended for permitted purposes by regulation. For these reasons, the Government cannot accept the proposed amendment and invite its withdrawal.

Asylum Seekers: Local Authority Accommodation

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Monday 16th January 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Clearly, the coalition policy to allow private providers of accommodation to perform that service is working well, and the Government have no intention of revising that policy.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, at the end of last year, the Prime Minister pledged more staff to clear the asylum backlog, when it emerged that the Home Office had failed to process 98% of channel crossing cases in the last 12 months. Can the Minister confirm whether recruitment has begun?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Clearly, there was such a commitment. I do not wish to reveal any great secrets, but it is a very high priority for the department and I anticipate that good news will be making its way to this House shortly.

National Security Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I was not planning to speak on this fairly narrow amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Marks, made all the points relative to the amendment itself. However, it is worth just endorsing his closing comments about the view of the Opposition and Liberal Democrat Benches that the Government are paying too little attention to the recommendations of the JCHR. It appears to be a hurdle to overcome to get over those recommendations. This is a good example; many of the recommendations made are very minor. I just wanted to endorse the point the noble Lord made about the importance of this committee’s work.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
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I thank the noble Lords, Lord Marks and Lord Ponsonby, for their remarks. Turning first to the subsidiary point in respect of the importance of the reports of the JCHR, I can certainly assure all in the House that the JCHR reports are taken very seriously by the Government and all the recommendations are appropriately considered. I can say that, as a human rights lawyer myself, I fully appreciate the importance of the human rights considerations and the very valuable work done by the committee. I hope my remarks go some way to assuage the concerns that were outlined.

I turn now to the substantive amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford. This clause replaces Section 8(4) of the Official Secrets Act 1920 and in so doing makes it more explicit that the exclusion of the public from proceedings must be necessary in the interests of national security. The Government consider that the approach taken in the drafting is appropriate given the highly sensitive nature of the material that may be required to be considered during court proceedings in relation to offences under the Bill. It is important to note that the decision to exclude the public from proceedings is taken by the court on application by the Executive, who are well placed to set out the risk to the courts. We consider that the judiciary is already well placed to assess the impact of any such decision on the administration of justice.

The words that this amendment seeks to add are, with respect, unnecessary. In England and Wales, for example, the Criminal Procedure Rules 2020 would apply in such proceedings which already have as their overriding objective that criminal cases are dealt with justly. Therefore, those rules require a court to have regard to the importance of dealing with criminal cases in public and the overriding interests of the administration of justice when determining whether to exclude the public from any part of proceedings. It is clearly right that this clause notes and provides the court with a clear basis upon which to exclude the public on grounds of national security, and that is all that this clause does. For those reasons, the Government cannot therefore accept the proposed amendment and I therefore invite the noble Lord to withdraw it.

National Security Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, this group relates to the new offence of obtaining or disclosing protected information. Both amendments pertain to what information should be included in this offence. While the offence currently applies to all restricted information, Amendment 4, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, would confine the offence to “secret” or “top secret” information. This amendment reflects recommendations by the JCHR.

His Majesty’s information assets may be classified into three types: “official”, “secret”, and “top secret”. The practical effect of the amendment is therefore to exclude the disclosure of “official” information from the offence. However, according to a 2018 Cabinet Office paper, official information could have

“damaging consequences if lost, stolen or published in the media”

but is

“not subject to a heightened threat profile.”

The Official Secrets Act 1989 includes offences on the disclosure of each classification of information. Amendment 6, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Marks, and which the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, put his name to, leaves out part of the definition of protected information, which states that

“it is reasonable to expect that access to the information, document or other article would be restricted in any way”.

As noted by the noble Lord, Lord Marks, and in the Explanatory Notes, this is a subjective view of the information.

Given that security officials and civil servants would likely have knowledge of whether or not information is restricted, the inclusion of this line, which would create an offence for when a person should reasonably expect it to be restricted, could impact journalists and civil society. I therefore think that this is an opportunity for the Minister to clarify how he expects that people should be able to reasonably expect that information is restricted or not. I look forward to his response.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords, and the noble Baroness, for their contributions to this short debate. I also thank the Joint Committee on Human Rights for its report and its close scrutiny of the Bill. I take the opportunity to confirm that the Government’s response has been published today, and I have asked for a copy to be placed in the Library of the House.

The Government consider that limiting what can be captured under “protected information” to specific security classifications, as the noble Baroness’s amendment seeks to, risks creating loopholes within the provision that could significantly undermine the operational utility of the offence. There are already limits to what “protected information” covers: protected information is any information, document or other article, where, for the purpose of protecting the UK’s safety or interests, access to it is restricted, or it is reasonable to expect that access would be restricted. I therefore suggest that there lies the answer to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby. Moreover, the current definition of protected information would cover instances where information may have been misclassified but would still be extremely harmful if shared widely.

In contrast to the proposed amendment, the current definition of protected information also includes instances where seemingly less sensitive unclassified information or lower-classification information from within a government building or on a government computer system was obtained but could undermine the safety of the United Kingdom if disclosed to a hostile actor.

To answer the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Marks, this could include the floor plans of a government building or even an organisational chart of a team working within that building. There are many examples of official documents at lower classification levels that may also be harmful if disclosed, such as information about a UK trade deal with another country. It is imperative that this breadth of information is also covered within the definition.

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Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, the amendments in this group span Clauses 6 to 11 and cover the new offences of

“Entering and inspecting places used for defence etc”.

These clauses are intended to update the prohibited places provisions which fall within the century-old Official Secrets Act 1911. Given that technological developments, such as the use of drones, are providing new methods of accessing protected sites, it is right that the Government are evolving the offences, and it is right that this Committee is probing how these new offences will be implemented.

The 12 amendments in this group are probing and were recommended by the JCHR. They seek to tighten or narrow the offences and definitions. Amendment 34 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, raises the unintended consequences of these provisions on the right to protest and on journalism. This will be a common theme throughout Committee stage, and my Amendment 88, which will be debated at a later date, will consider the implications of later clauses for journalists and civil society.

Amendment 26 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, and Amendments 27, 28 and 30 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, raise questions about where prohibited places may be located and probe why they may include any MoD land and why Crown dependencies and overseas territories are excluded. Given the sentences which offences may carry, it is important that the Minister clarifies the type of locations which will be included. As the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford said, the purpose of this group of amendments is to give greater certainty and narrow definitions. She asked the rhetorical question—perhaps it is not a rhetorical question; it is a literal question—of how people will know whether they are in prohibited places.

The noble Lords, Lord Wallace and Lord Purvis, explored quite interestingly why overseas territories are not included within the definitions, and I look forward to the Minister’s answer on that point. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, asked other questions about who will be informed. If it will not be the general public, will it be local authorities or police forces, and which police forces will it be? The purpose of this suite of amendments is to look at the limits on the extension of prohibited places and at who should expect to be informed about any such extension. I look forward to the Minister’s answer.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I thank noble Lords for their contributions to this short debate. I will first speak to Amendments 23 and 33 at the same time, given the argument is much the same for both. I am happy to provide the clarity sought by noble Lords and, in particular, the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby.

Harmful activity relating to prohibited places or cordoned areas around military aircraft can take place directly outside the boundaries of a place or cordon. This could include conducting surveillance, such as taking video or photographs of the sensitive place or aircraft, monitoring the activities of staff located at the site or conducting close-range information technology attacks from outside the place. It is therefore imperative that, where the police believe a person to be conducting such activity, they should be able to order them to move away. None the less, recognising that a cordon may be imposed at short notice, it is a defence provided for in the Bill for a person to prove that they had a reasonable excuse for failing to comply with a cordon under Clause 11. The effect of these amendments would be to reduce significantly the ability of the police proactively to stop damaging activity from taking place.

The police guidance that is being developed in collaboration with the College of Policing will provide further advice to forces on the use of powers in respect of an area adjacent to a prohibited place or cordoned area. I can confirm that this is addressed directly in the Government’s response to the JCHR’s report at paragraph 52 and onwards, and I again thank the committee for its close consideration of this Bill.

Amendment 24 adds a requirement that a police officer obtain authorisation before exercising a Clause 6 power. Due to the inherently sensitive nature of prohibited places, and the threats that they face, it is likely that the Clause 6 powers will be used rapidly to prevent serious and harmful activity from taking place—activity that could well jeopardise the safety of those working within the site itself. Policing often requires the judgment of officers to take quick and decisive action to prevent harm and keep the public safe. It is important that we continue to empower our officers to make these decisions where appropriate. Introducing a requirement for a constable to seek approval from a senior officer may add an extra layer of confusion as to when constables may or may not use their powers, potentially allowing harmful activity to be completed before the police can respond. We recognise that every effort should be made to help ensure that these powers are not used in a disproportionate manner, and, as such, we are working closely with the College of Policing to develop guidance that the police should use before exercising the powers granted under Clause 6.

Amendment 25 seeks to provide that it is an offence to fail to comply with a Clause 6 order only if the order was necessary and proportionate to protect the safety or interests of the United Kingdom. The legislation is clear that a constable may exercise a power under Clause 6 only if they reasonably believe that doing so would be necessary to protect the safety or interests of the UK. The Government therefore consider that this amendment is unnecessary. As with any such situation, where it is alleged that a constable has acted outside the scope of their powers, a decision to give the order is rightly open to challenge. As it is an important point, I will stress again that the Government are working closely with the College of Policing on the guidance which should be used prior to making any decision to exercise powers under Clause 6.

On Amendment 26, it is crucial for national security that the UK continues to protect all areas used for defence purposes and by the UK intelligence community. Carving out certain places over others within these categories in the way this amendment proposes risks creating gaps that hostile actors could exploit. It could require the Government to pinpoint their most valuable defence and intelligence sites in order to establish that they are indeed prohibited places and so put these places even more at risk of harmful activity—the very opposite of what the prohibited places regime is setting out to achieve. Moreover, the proposed amendment focuses only on the risk posed by entry to such sites, which fundamentally undermines the protection being given to these sites against a range of harmful activity. It also, in inserting this condition around potential risk, significantly reduces clarity on the face of the legislation as to what constitutes a prohibited place.

I understand the intention behind this amendment, which is to ensure that land that might already be accessible, or where there is not perceived to be a significant risk, is not covered by the provision. I want to assure noble Lords that Ministry of Defence land that can be lawfully accessed by the public and such areas of the British countryside with public footpaths do not need to be excluded, nor do the public need to be given authorisation to be in that area. Therefore, they will not commit an offence under Clause 5. They will be committing an offence under Clause 4 only if the conduct is a specified activity with a purpose that they know, or reasonably ought to know, is prejudicial to the safety or interests of the United Kingdom. It is important we are able to catch such harmful activity, even on publicly accessible land. Ministry of Defence land that can lawfully be accessed by the public is still used by our Armed Forces, often for purposes that are sensitive in nature, and it is critical they should be afforded the protections granted by the prohibited places provisions.

I will address Amendments 27, 28 and 30 together, given they all seek to extend the prohibited places provisions to the Crown dependencies and the wider British Overseas Territories. The Crown dependencies and British Overseas Territories are not a part of the United Kingdom, of course, but self-governing territories with democratic Assemblies able to legislate for themselves, including on national security. Should any British Overseas Territory or Crown dependency consider it necessary to designate prohibited places within their territory, they may make similar provisions in their own legislation.

It is of note that the Government consulted with the Crown dependencies on their inclusion within the prohibited places regime, and they have advised it would be preferred if they looked towards mirroring these provisions under their own law and legislation. It is only right and proper that the United Kingdom respects these decisions. I hope that addresses the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. I am sure the Bailiwick of Guernsey will think long and hard about the Alderney breakwater. As the grandson of an Alderney girl, I can tell noble Lords how much that breakwater is a feature of conversation.

It is important to address why the Government have chosen to include land or buildings within sovereign base areas—particularly those of Akrotiri and Dhekelia—in the prohibited places regime. Sovereign base areas are critical for UK defence and have special constitutional status among the British Overseas Territories in that their administrator, who also holds the title of “Commander British Forces Cyprus”, is vested with all the executive and legislative authority. This unique context of the sovereign base areas is precisely why, at their request, we are also including the option to extend the provisions in the Bill to the sovereign base areas. As such, it is right that the UK continues to afford protections specifically to the sovereign base areas through the National Security Bill.

Amendment 29 creates a legislative requirement to inform the public of prohibited places. The safeguards in place within Clauses 4 and 5—namely, that a person must either have a purpose that they know, or ought reasonably to know, is prejudicial to the safety or interests of the United Kingdom or know, or ought reasonably to know, that their conduct is unauthorised—protect those who have entered, or are in the vicinity of, a sensitive site without having any knowledge that they have done so.

The Government agree that, where it is reasonably practicable, every effort should be made appropriately to notify the public of areas designated as prohibited places through the use of signage surrounding these places. However, the Government consider that making it a legislative obligation to notify the public of the location of every site designated a prohibited place is not proportionate, given that Clause 7 already makes public the types of sites that will be prohibited places. Equally, any designation under Clause 8 will set out in law any further types of sites that will be prohibited places. Furthermore, and crucially, there will be a number of sites which, due to their highly sensitive nature, it would be harmful to UK national security if they were publicly declared as prohibited places.

Albanian Asylum Seekers

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Tuesday 13th December 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Dubs said, the Labour Party supports the fast-track approach, but I would like to ask about an appeals process. The Minister quoted the Prime Minister saying that there will be protection for modern slavery claims. What about people who are fleeing domestic violence? Will youths be treated the same way as adults through this appeals process?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The Home Office is increasing the number of staff making asylum decisions in relation to these areas. We have increased the number of asylum case workers by 112%, from 597 staff in 2019 to 1,276 as of this month, and we propose to increase that again next year with a further 500 in March 2023, up to 1,800 by the summer. In terms of the appeal mechanism, as the noble Lord will be aware, Albania is a certified safe country and the mechanism for inadmissibility will apply. Plainly, there is an appeal right out of country and judicial review opportunities in relation to certification decisions.

UK Asylum and Refugee Policy

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Friday 9th December 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I am afraid not.

This country has shown time and again—from those who arrived on the Kindertransport, which the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, raised, and the Ugandan Asians expelled by Idi Amin, to those fleeing the present dreadful conflict in Ukraine—that when people are suffering and they need sanctuary, we step up. We extend the hand of friendship and provide a welcome born of our natural compassion. As the Government have demonstrated, we are committed to maintaining that long and proud tradition through safe and legal routes, and we will continue to do what is right and help those who are in most need.

As my noble friend Lord Cormack referenced in this debate, I completely agree that refugees enrich both our history and our present. At the same time, the public expect us to control migration, uphold our immigration laws and discourage those who would risk their lives by making unsafe and unnecessary journeys to the UK across the channel. As I hope I have made clear today, the Government approach these responsibilities with the greatest seriousness, and that will continue to be the case.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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Before the Minister sits down, will he undertake to write to the noble Lords who have spoken in this debate in order to answer the questions that he has been unable to answer because of the length of time he had available?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I invite noble Lords to ask Written Questions in relation to those points instead.

X-Rays: Child Refugees

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Tuesday 6th December 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Plainly they will be formally approved by the advisory committee to the Home Secretary, and one suggests that the views of relevant professional bodies will be of great weight in making such a decision.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, as a sitting magistrate I occasionally have to do age deeming, both in youth court and in adult court. Sometimes we have reports from social workers and sometimes—although rarely—we get expert reports. In the training I received, maybe 10 or 12 years ago, the central message I got was that it was ultimately a judicial decision and that all forms of report, be they from social workers or scientific reports, have quite large elements of doubt within them and the decision is ultimately a judicial one. Does the noble Lord agree?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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In the context of decisions made in magistrates’ courts, I agree that it is a judicial decision. In the context of asylum-seeking people who say that they are minors, the question then falls to the Secretary of State to determine whether they should be treated as a minor—and sadly, as I say, experience suggests that a large number of people have suggested that they are minors in order to take advantage of the perhaps more beneficial regime. It is very important that those people, for the reasons that I have already given the House, are weeded out by such a fair system as we can determine.

Public Order Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, Amendment 145 in the name of my noble friend Lord Coaker is a probing amendment which would require the Secretary of State to review the use of injunctions for protest-related activity. This is to probe how injunctions are used, what their effects are, how they interact with police powers and responsibilities, and the problems facing their use, such as securing them within a reasonable timescale. The purpose of the amendment is for the Secretary of State to set out a review of injunctions in the widest sense.

We also heard from my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti about her Amendments 114 and 115, which would create safeguards against corruption and abuse. They would require the Secretary of State to publish the reasons for any decision not to consult, the results of any consultation, any representations made to the Secretary of State as to a proposed exercise of the power, an assessment of why other parties should not finance their own proceedings and assessments of why any proceedings have been brought by the Secretary of State at public expense rather than by private companies. Such publication would occur each time an exercise of the power is considered and annually on an aggregate basis so that we can look at the overall effect.

My noble friend Lady Blower, who like me is not a lawyer, expressed incredulity about the situation, which I share. As a layman, it seems to me that the Clause 17 provisions give the Home Secretary powers to bring civil proceedings against protesters at public expense. This is a surprising set of circumstances, and my noble friend’s amendments are trying to get the Government to justify that on a continual basis, which seems entirely reasonable.

Amendments 110, 111 and 112 are also in this group. This clause provides that the Secretary of State can use new injunction powers where they reasonably believe the conditions under the clause are met. These amendments would delete “reasonably believes” and strengthen it to

“has reasonable grounds for suspecting”.

Amendment 113 would provide that the Secretary of State may bring civil proceedings under this clause only if it is not reasonable or practicable for a party directly impacted by the activity to do so.

I move on to Amendment 114. The clause provides that, before bringing proceedings under it, the Secretary of State must consult “such persons (if any)” that they consider appropriate. This amendment would require the Secretary of State to publish the reasons if they do not consult, the outcome of any consultation, representations made to the Secretary of State and a reason why the Secretary of State should bring the proceedings at public expense, rather than another party.

As the Minister has heard, there is substantial scepticism about many aspects of Clause 17. There are a number of amendments here seeking to probe the Government’s intentions, and we may well return to this at a later stage. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
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My Lords, recently we have seen protestors blocking key national infrastructure, potentially causing delays to the supply of goods and services. Clause 17 provides a Secretary of State with a specific mechanism to apply for an injunction in civil proceedings where it is in the public interest to do so, and where the effect of the activity is to cause serious disruption to key national infrastructure, or to access to essential goods or services, or to have a serious, adverse impact on the public.

Contrary to the speeches that we have heard from noble Lords opposite, there is no constitutional dubiety about such a measure. This provision will support better co-ordination between government, law enforcement, local authorities and private landowners in responding to serious disruptive behaviour. You may say, contrary to that which the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, said earlier, that these provisions mean that the hypothetical man on the Clapham omnibus might actually make it to Clapham, rather than being delayed by roadblocks caused impermissibly by protestors.

The proposal does not affect the right of local authorities or private landowners to apply for an injunction themselves, but gives a Secretary of State an additional route to act—urgently in some cases—where the potential impact is serious and widespread, and where there is a clear public interest to intervene. I seek to reassure noble Lords who have raised concerns regarding this measure that it will ultimately be a matter for the courts and our judges to consider whether or not to grant an injunction application. All that this provision does is simply to allow a Secretary of State to bring a claim and to apply for an injunction; ultimately, the decision on whether or not the injunction is made is one for the judge. As we always would, there would be careful consideration of any such application made by a Secretary of State, and that would involve careful consideration of the evidence provided by the Secretary of State in support of an application for an injunction. This is the ultimate legal safeguard on the use of the powers in Clauses 17 and 18.

As to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, I again reiterate that this measure provides an additional mechanism for a Secretary of State to intervene. This device would be most beneficial where protest activity targets multiple sites, and transcends local boundaries and the property of multiple entities. In such circumstances the potential impact would clearly be widespread, and the clear public interest would therefore be that injunctive proceedings are taken by the Secretary of State, rather than a series of separate private entities. It is not in every scenario that the Secretary of State’s power to seek an injunction would be utilised, and there is no doubt that the prevailing situation would remain, and businesses would have a major role to play in obtaining their own injunctions.

Turning to Clause 18, where an injunction has been granted by a court, with a power of arrest attached, the powers will support the police in taking action earlier to respond to those who engage in disruptive and dangerous forms of protest. Enabling the court to attach a power of arrest to such injunctions is key to allowing the police to act more quickly to prevent the disruption escalating. Where there is no ability for a power of arrest to be attached to the injunction, the applicant may be able to apply to the court for an arrest warrant where they believe that the perpetrator has breached the provisions of an injunction, as is the case for injunctions secured by private entities and natural persons. However, this creates an additional step in the process of enforcement which can affect the pace at which disruptive behaviour can be curtailed. As such, the power of arrest provision in Clause 18 can prove to be a highly important tool in the available responses to prevent serious disruption happening in the first place.