Debates between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Purvis of Tweed during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 19th Feb 2024
Wed 5th Jul 2023
Wed 28th Jun 2023
Wed 14th Jun 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

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

Committee stage: Part 1
Thu 25th May 2023
Wed 1st Mar 2023
Wed 18th Jan 2023
National Security Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 2
Tue 17th Jan 2023
Mon 16th Jan 2023
Wed 11th Jan 2023
National Security Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 2
Mon 19th Dec 2022

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Purvis of Tweed
Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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It gave the decision that the ongoing domestic judicial review process should be concluded.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Of course it is right that NSK’s application for an interim injunction was heard by the High Court—by the lead judge of the Administrative Court—and the interim relief application was refused. That was appealed to the Court of Appeal, which agreed with the single judge that there should be no interim relief. Application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court was refused by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Reed. It was only the European court that decided to grant the interim relief. It appears that our own domestic courts at all levels and at great levels of distinction were satisfied with the Government’s statement that they would return NSK to the UK in the event that his judicial review challenge succeeded. Why does the noble Lord say it is right for the European court to form a view by way of press release when our own courts, in detailed judgments, had considered all the arguments and decided the other way?

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Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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Well, that is the deterrent effect. Assuming that of those who are coming, 50% on a regular basis are deterred, then over the long term there would still be 50% coming by boats. That is not my estimate, it is the Government’s estimate.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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Before I give way, presumably what the noble Lord wants to get to is a deterrent effect of 100%, so that the boats are stopped, which is what we all want. But so far I have not found anything in any government documentation of policy that says that anything they are going to do will bring about 100% deterrence. Has the noble Lord found it?

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Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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The Permanent Secretary at the Home Office was unable to do so. That is why he sought ministerial direction. Home Office civil servants sought ministerial direction because the Permanent Secretary said that the Government’s policy was not proven value for money.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Will the noble Lord give way?

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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I will address the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, and then happily give way to the noble Lord.

The valid question is, “If this Bill will not work, what would work?” We know that this Bill will not work, so the better deterrent effects are those policies such as relocation and resettlement agreements, which comply with international law and have policing mechanisms attached to them. That is called the Albania deal. I am sure that the noble Lord will agree that this has been a success.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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From a sedentary position. I agree with the noble Lord. I think Hansard picked it up: a successful 90% deterrent. The noble Lord heard me at Second Reading saying that we welcomed the Albania deal. An internationally legal, efficient, effective resettlement and relocation agreement is what works. This is not any of those. I happily give way to the noble Lord, Lord Murray.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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It is very interesting that the noble Lord should refer to the effectiveness of the Albania arrangement. The document that the noble Lord likes to refer to in relation to the ministerial direction on deterrence came before the Albania deal, the 90% drop and the tangible evidence that deterrence works that we saw as a result of the Albania deal. We can extrapolate from the experience of the Albania deal to say that deterrence will work more generally if we can be sure that a significant proportion of those crossing the channel in small boats are sent to Rwanda for third-country processing.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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Even for the noble Lord, it is a bit of a leap to say that a negotiated relocation agreement with Albania has been a deterrent because they may have thought we were going to send them to Rwanda. Even factually, I am afraid that he was incorrect. The noble Lord knows that the ministerial direction sought on the migration and economic development agreement with Rwanda was specifically for this Rwanda agreement. He also knows that when the Permanent Secretary was giving evidence in December, after the Albania agreement was agreed, he said that no circumstances had changed with regard to his view for value for money for this agreement. The Permanent Secretary still believes that the Rwanda agreement will not propose to be value for money. I agree with the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office.

The monitoring committee will have eight members, as the Minister said, and its terms of reference are online. The Minister said earlier that it would be independent of government, and that is true to an extent—if you think that four members being appointed by one party and four by another constitutes independence, because when it is being established, each party will appoint them. The key thing from our point of view is the ability of the monitoring committee to, as the Minister wrote in a letter to me,

“ensure all obligations under the treaty are adhered to”.

It will not, because it cannot—the monitoring committee has no powers of enforcement. It will be able to refer aspects it considers important to the joint committee, but it is under no duty to publish any of those recommendations or any of its findings, which can be significant. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart of Dirleton, said, the safeguards that must be in place as far the Government are concerned will be considered to be in place only if the monitoring committee has said that they are in place. We in Parliament will not know; but we are supposedly the decision-makers when it comes to whether Rwanda will be safe.

The joint committee, under Article 16, can make only non-binding recommendations to the parties. So, there is a monitoring committee that does not have a duty to publish its findings and cannot ensure adherence to the treaty. It can make only recommendations to a joint committee, which can make only non-binding recommendations, and which itself is not duty bound to report to the body that is apparently to be making the decisions: Parliament.

I asked how we would then change this if the circumstances changed. Even if we in Parliament found that out from a monitoring committee and joint committee that do not report to us, how would we change it? The noble and learned Lord rightly said that no Parliament can bind its successors. That seemed to imply that a future Parliament could change this arrangement. Well, it cannot, because, of course, no Parliament can bind its successors, but no Parliament can bind a Government on making or ending treaties—that is a prerogative function. How can we in Parliament change the treaty if we decide that Rwanda is no longer a safe country? I hope the Minister can explain that to me when he winds up.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Purvis of Tweed
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.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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Is the UK resettlement scheme that the Government currently operate capped?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Presently, no, but clearly it will be subject to the cap. The problem, as the noble Lord well knows, is that we cannot take as many people as we would like to from the UNHCR because of the numbers who are coming here, jumping the queue by crossing the channel. That is precisely what these measures in the Bill are designed to address.

Amendment 167 seeks significantly to increase the scope of the UK’s family reunion policy, with no consideration as to how these individuals are to be supported in the UK, which could lead of itself to safeguarding issues. The amendment would even allow individuals to sponsor non-relatives. The present family reunion policy provides a safe and legal route to bring families together. Through this route, we have granted over 46,000 visas since 2015. This is not an insignificant number.

Family reunion in the UK is generous, more so than in the case of some of our European neighbours. Sponsors do not have to be settled in the UK, there is no fee and no time limit for making an application, and there are no accommodation or minimum income requirements which applicants must meet. There is also discretion to grant visas outside the Immigration Rules, catering to wider family members when there are compelling and compassionate factors. Given this track record, I remain unpersuaded of the case for the significant expansion of the family reunion route, as proposed by this amendment.

Finally, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, that I still owe him a letter arising from the Committee stage debate. I shall ensure that it is with him this week.

It is worth repeating that the people of this country have been generous in offering sanctuary to over half a million people since 2015. But our willingness to help those fleeing war and persecution must be tied to our capacity to do so. Clauses 59 and 60 are designed to this end. We are committed to introducing safe and legal routes by the end of 2024, and we remain open to a debate about whether the cap provided for in the Bill covers the current schemes set out in the right reverend Prelate’s Amendment 162. I hope that, on this basis, he and other noble Lords will be content not to press their amendments to a Division. I commend the government amendments to the House and beg to move.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Purvis of Tweed
Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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Perhaps I might ask the Minister for clarification. He referred to the 16 agreements, and he knows I asked him specifically for the list of those 16 countries, because the House of Lords Library could not find them for me. The Minister obviously did not think it necessary to write to me between Committee and Report, so can he list those 16 countries now?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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As the noble Lord will recall, during our exchange I made clear that not all of those 16 agreements are in the public domain, so I am not going to provide him with the list he seeks.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Purvis of Tweed
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The right reverend Prelate is right to point to the fact that these things are always a joint effort. The Home Secretary of the day will consult, and consider input, so yes, all those words would be applicable in my view. Clearly, ultimately the scheme has to come from the Home Office, but it will be done following appropriate consultation with and the involvement of interested parties.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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Will the Minister give way on that point?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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If the noble Lord will forgive me, I should probably, in order to have a more coherent speech, take his more general points at the end. I am conscious that we need to make progress, not least because we do not wish to be here into the small hours.

As I say, the report described in Clause 59, which will be laid before Parliament within six months of the Bill achieving Royal Assent, will clearly set out the existing safe and legal routes that are offered, detail any proposed additional safe and legal routes, and explain how adults and children in need of sanctuary in the UK can access those routes. This clause is being introduced to provide clarity around the means by which those in need of protection can find sanctuary here.

Through the report, we will also set out any proposed additional safe and legal routes which are not yet in force. While a range of routes is offered at present, we believe it important to consider whether alternative routes are necessary and, if so, who would be eligible. In recognition of the different needs of children and adults in need of protection, the clause will require the report to set out which routes are accessible by adults or children.

It is against this backdrop of the Government’s approach to expanding the existing safe and legal routes that I now turn to the amendments in this group.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. My intervention is pertinent to that clause. Can he confirm, first, what I had indicated from the Independent Commission for Aid Impact: that it was the Home Office that asked for the UNHCR to direct the resettlement scheme to be focused on Afghans only, therefore closing it down for other countries; and, secondly, that when it comes to what the Government could consider to be new and safe and legal routes, they could simply be expanding some of the funding available for the UK resettlement scheme, because that is what the Government currently define as a safe and legal route, rather than it being new country routes?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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On the first point, I do not have that detail to hand so I will go away and find that out and write to the noble Lord. But on the second point, obviously, the UK resettlement scheme is a general scheme to take refugees who have been identified by the UNHCR and in that sense it is not geographically specified. Obviously, these are all issues which would be considered in the report provided for under Clause 59, so the noble Lord is right to identify that.

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I clearly recognise the points the noble Lord makes—that it is believed that not providing a visa route of the type described in the amendment will damage our international reputation—but no countries that I am aware of currently have a visa route of the type suggested. I am afraid that this is a consideration to be weighed in the balance. It would seem irresponsible not to consider the potential extreme cost of the proposal.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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The Minister should not be conflating the two amendments: they are distinct amendments with distinct mechanisms and purpose behind them, so it is a wee bit cheeky of him to do that. As for an estimate of some of the costs, can he do me a deal now in the Committee? I am not sure if this is able to be negotiated across the Committee, but I will show him mine if he shows me his before Report. He needs to present the impact assessment, which will be the Government’s estimate of the tariff costs for their UK resettlement scheme expansion, which he is proposing, to be part of a new safe and alternative or additional safe and legal route. I will use the basis of the central core estimates of what the Home Office is estimating to be the expansion necessary in the tariff funds available, which are scored against overseas development assistance, and I will use that on the threshold of what a humanitarian visa scheme might be. His scheme suggests to an Iranian woman that she has to flee to a neighbouring country to go to the UNHCR; then she is processed by the UNHCR, to be resettled in the UK. Our scheme allows that woman within Iran to go through a similar threshold to be able to access the UK. Which is most efficient?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I look forward to reading the noble Lord’s document when it arrives.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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In due course— I am very grateful. All these questions make it clear that bringing up legal migration is irrelevant to the Bill, a point that relates to comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. The issue for the Bill is that the UK Government and local authorities have limited capacity to provide or arrange accommodation, hence a sensible cap is needed. There are other questions we need answers to. Are these safe passage visas to be given to young single men at the expense of those in more pressing need of sanctuary in the UK?

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Purvis of Tweed
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Clearly, this Bill affects every person who falls within the four categories described in Clause 2, and that is all people who enter by any illegal method. Of course, at the moment, as we know, the majority of such entry is effected by small boats.

For any unaccompanied child who is removed while under 18, we will ensure that adequate reception arrangements are in place where the child is to be removed to. It is not simply a case of putting them on a plane back whence they came.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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I would be grateful for the Minister to respond to my point. I read from the factsheet, as he has just done. Where in the Bill is that made that a requirement?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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As I have already made clear, the answer is that the department has stated in both Houses that this is our position. The adequacy of reception arrangements is not something you would expect to see in the Bill, and it is consistent with the present regime that is operated in relation to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Forgive me. I must make progress. Doubtless, the noble Lord will have an opportunity at the end of my remarks.

Taking these measures will send a clear message that children cannot be exploited and cross the channel in small boats for the purpose of starting a new life in the UK. The clause provides the circumstances in which it may be appropriate to remove an unaccompanied child. However, the Government consider it necessary to be alert to the people smugglers changing their tactics to circumvent the Bill. As such, it is appropriate to have a power to extend the circumstances in which it would be possible to remove an unaccompanied child via regulations. This is very much a reserve power. We have to be mindful of changes in the modus operandi of the people smugglers. I cannot give the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, examples now of how the power might be exercised but I can assure her that such regulations will be subject to the affirmative procedure and therefore will need to be debated and approved by each House.

Clause 3 also sets out the power to make provisions for other exceptions to the duty to remove via regulations. This provision is important for providing the flexibility to make additional exceptions to the duty should we not want the measures in the Bill to apply to certain categories of persons. I will give one possible example of this: a person who is subject to the duty to make arrangements for removal may also be the subject for extradition proceedings and it would be appropriate for an extradition request, if approved, to take precedence over the duty to remove in Clause 2.

Amendments 14, 15 and 17 in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, seek either to exclude unaccompanied children altogether from the duty to remove or only permit the removal if it was in their best interests, even when they reach 18. Amendment 22 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, covers similar ground. It seeks to provide for asylum and human rights claims from unaccompanied children to continue to be admissible within the UK.

All these amendments would undermine the intent of the Bill. As I have indicated, if we fill it with exceptions and carve-outs it will not achieve its aims and will serve to put more children at risk as the people smugglers would seek to fill the boats with even more young people, putting further lives at risk and splitting up families. I can confirm that since January 2018 around one-sixth of arrivals on small boats have been children aged 17 and under. We do not want an increase in this proportion or in the absolute numbers. Our asylum system is under increasing pressure from illegal migration, and the Government must take action to undercut the routes that smuggling gangs exploit by facilitating children’s dangerous and illegal entry into the United Kingdom, including via dangerous routes such as small boats.

Stopping the boats is in the best interests of small children who might otherwise make these dangerous and unnecessary journeys. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, who raised the issue of a lack of safe and legal routes, I remind the Committee that the safest course for children and adults alike is to seek sanctuary in the first safe country they reach. These amendments would undermine the central premise of the Bill that if one comes to the UK via an illegal route, one will be removed and not permitted to remain in the UK and build a life here. The amendments will increase the incentive for adults 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 and split up more families. It is, I say again, in the best interests of children to enact these provisions and stop the boats. It is these amendments that will encourage the people smugglers, not the provisions in the Bill.

The noble Lords, Lord German, Lord Purvis and Lord Coaker, pressed me to set out the evidence underlying the purpose of the Bill. It is the Government’s view that if a person arriving illegally in the UK is faced with the prospect of being detained on arrival and swiftly returned to their home country, or removed to a safe third country, they will not pay the people smugglers thousands of pounds to provide them with passage across the channel.

We recognise the particular vulnerabilities in relation to unaccompanied children. That is why the Bill provides that the duty to make arrangements for removal does not apply until they reach adulthood. However, as I have explained, the Bill confers a power to remove unaccompanied children. This is not new but reflects current policy. This will be exercised, as I have said, in very limited circumstances, taking into consideration the best interests of the child. Following amendments brought by the Government at Report in the Commons, this clause now expressly sets out the circumstances in which the power to remove unaccompanied children may be exercised.

Turning to Amendment 16A, I first comment that the noble and learned Baroness set out what is likely to be an exceptional scenario. That said, she has a point in that an unaccompanied child who is subsequently adopted in the UK by a British citizen has an automatic route to British citizenship. They would therefore not be subject to the citizenship bans in Clauses 30 to 36. In this scenario, we agree that it would not be appropriate for the duty to remove to be applied to that child. We can address this by using the regulation-making power in Clause 3(7) to provide for exceptions to the duty to remove. An amendment to the Bill is, therefore, not required. In addition to adopted unaccompanied children, such regulations would also cover any other cohorts to whom the duty would apply but who exceptionally obtain British citizenship following their arrival in the UK. I hope that the noble and learned Baroness and my noble friend Lord Cormack will be reassured by this.

Amendment 18 from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, is on one level unnecessary in that the regulation-making power in Clause 3(7) could be used to deliver the desired outcome. However, I come back to the aim of the Bill: namely, promptly to remove from the UK those who meet the conditions in Clause 2. We have brought forward a robust legal scheme that will enable us to do just that and I urge your Lordships not to add caveats, exceptions and exemptions to the Bill such as to make the scheme unworkable.

In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, I should add that I very much value the continued dialogue we are having with the Children’s Commissioner for England. She recently met the Immigration Minister and me, and I am due to meet her again soon to discuss the Bill.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Clearly there are other provisions in relation to the standards of detention in the detained estate in relation to children. In the event that they are not detained, the usual prevailing regulations will apply and I am happy to write to the noble Lord with more detail in relation to that.

The noble Lord, Lord German, referred to the recommendation of the Delegated Powers Committee in relation to the regulation-making power in Clause 3(7). We are studying that committee’s report carefully and aim to respond before Report.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked about the use of force. We will address that point when we reach Amendment 70 on Wednesday.

In conclusion, Clause 3 adopts an appropriate balance in respect of unaccompanied children and, in those circumstances, I invite the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, to withdraw her amendment.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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The Committee noted the Minister confirming that there would be no duty on Ministers to ensure that adequate reception arrangements are in place for an unaccompanied minor to be received. That is tragic. Can he also answer my question with regard to the fact that the only place at the moment with which the Government have an MOU is Rwanda? Are there any facilities for children in Rwanda that the Government have agreed-?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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As I say, the occasions when a child will be removed will be very exceptional and the two cases that are envisaged are for family reunion, therefore reception facilities will not be required, or if it was a return to a safe country, and that of course would not arise unless it was a Rwandan child. In those circumstances, I do not see the particular purpose of the noble Lord’s question.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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The other category does apply. If it cannot be to the safe country of origin, it applies to the schedule countries. The only scheme that we have at the moment, if it is not a safe country, would be Rwanda, so it is a simple question: are there any facilities for children in Kigali which the Government have agreed?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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As I said, the power will be exercised very exceptionally. I am happy to go away and look into that point, and I will write to the noble Lord on it.

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Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister. I am listening very carefully to what he is saying regarding the loophole. My understanding is that a referral to the NRM can be made only by a first responder authorised by the Home Office; that first responders have to be certified for their professionalism by the Home Office; and that the referral mechanism goes to a dedicated individual within the Home Office. Why is the Home Office so incompetent that it is allowing this system to abuse itself, given the fact that only the Home Office and first responders can refer?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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It is not the Home Office abusing itself—to use the noble Lord’s phrase. The reality is that it is the large number of claims made by people advised to make claims, often at the last minute, in order to delay removal. When people are referred to the national referral mechanism, they give an account of slavery that then requires investigation. A threshold is applied that means that the allegations are looked into, and the number of people making applications now has given rise to the length of time to determine those claims.

If I may, I will respond to points raised by the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Morrow.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I will come back to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, at the end. I can confirm that removing this incentive is compliant with our international obligations under the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings—ECAT. Indeed, ECAT envisages that the recovery period should be withheld from potential victims of trafficking on grounds of public order. There is a clear and unprecedented threat to public order through the loss of lives and the pressure on public services that illegal entry to the UK is causing. I again remind noble Lords that the number of small boat crossings has risen from 8,500 in 2020 to over 45,000 last year. We will have a fuller debate in respect of the modern slavery provisions when we reach Clauses 21 to 28 in Committee, but I cannot agree to the noble Lord’s proposition that the foundation of those provisions in subsection (1)(c) be removed from the Bill.

Amendment 20, spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, seeks to strike out subsection (1)(d), the effect of which would be to enable any judicial review to put a block on removal until the legal proceedings had been concluded. It seems to me that the key words—and perhaps I could invite the noble Lord to refer to the Bill—are in Clause 4(1)(d), which relates to an application for judicial review in relation to their removal. As my noble friend Lord Horam indicated, such an amendment would again undermine a key feature of the scheme provided for in the Bill. We must stop the endless cycle of late and repeated challenges that frustrate removal under the current law. Of course, it is right to say, too, that there is no general block on non-suspensive judicial review provided for in the Bill.

The Bill provides for two types of claims that would suspend removal, and we will come on to those in due course in Committee. Those provisions provide sufficient remedies to challenge a removal notice and afford the necessary protection to a person suffering serious and irreversible harm were they to be removed to the specified third country. All other legal challenges, whether on ECHR grounds or otherwise, should be non-suspensive. Therefore, Clause 4(1)(d), read with Clause 52, does not oust judicial reviews; those provisions are simply making it clear that any judicial review cannot block removal.

As regards Amendment 21, tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, and spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, I have already indicated that inadmissibility is not a new concept. It has been a feature of the UK asylum system for some time and is already enshrined in the Nationality and Borders Act 2022. While I welcome the Constitution Committee’s scrutiny of the Bill, I cannot accept its characterisation of the provisions as having significant rule of law implications. What does have significant implications for the rule of law, I suggest, is tens of thousands of people arriving on our shores each year in defiance of immigration laws. These individuals should be claiming asylum in the first safe country they reach, and, in these circumstances, it is legitimate to declare any protection claims inadmissible to the UK system.

The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, asked what would happen to an asylum or human rights claim that had been declared inadmissible, but where the person had had their factual or suspensive claim accepted. In such a case, the person’s claim would be considered under the existing law. That might include existing inadmissibility provisions. I again remind the Committee that inadmissibility is a long-standing process intended to support the first safe country principle. It is an established part of the international asylum procedures applied across the EU and specifically provided for in UK law, most recently in the strengthened provisions introduced in the Nationality and Borders Act 2022.

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Forgive me; I intended to address the noble Lord’s point in relation to that. Obviously, the provisions in Clause 4 make specific reference to the power to remove children, which is contained in Clause 3. That in itself is a safeguard to protect the welfare of children. It operates in a way that promotes the interests of children, I suggest, but I am happy to look further at that point and will take it away.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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Can I clarify the point that I was making? The Minister alluded to maybe coming back to me. He implied that the problem arose with those who claim, when arriving here under what the Government say is an illegal route, that they are victims of trafficking. The review of that happens only after a referral is made, and there cannot be a self-referral. He seemed to blame the threshold on which that assessment is made as to whether a first responder then submits that person to the NRM. That threshold is the Home Office threshold and the first responders are Home Office- licensed. Why does the Minister think that the Home Office is getting it so wrong?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I am afraid that I disagree. The Home Office is not getting it wrong. As I already set out in my remarks, the numbers of people claiming to have been modern slaves in this scenario indicates that there is extensive abuse. I do not think that the noble Lord could say anything else, looking at the very persuasive statistics of people in detention. I simply do not agree with him on that point.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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If we have found that there is no loophole in the system, that is good—so it is just the numbers. Therefore if the number of those who are trafficked goes up, that is the problem. It is not that there is a loophole in the system meaning that a higher proportion are falsely claiming that they are being trafficked. What message does that say around the world? The UK is now blind to the individual merit of a young woman being trafficked if there are many young women being trafficked—that is when we close our doors.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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That is not the case. Much as we might wish it to be, the simple reality, I am afraid, is that our modern slavery protections are being abused. The measures in the Bill directly address that.

Student Visas

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Purvis of Tweed
Thursday 25th May 2023

(12 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I refer the noble Lord to the answer I gave some moments ago. It is worth saying, in relation to the first part of his question, that these changes will ensure that the UK’s higher education establishments are focused on recruiting students based on economic value and not on dependants, whose value in terms of student fees and wages is minimal. We have been successful in delivering our international educational goal of hosting up to 600,000 students per year by 2030 almost a decade earlier than planned and expect universities to be able to adapt to reduce dependant numbers.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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Will the Minister answer my noble friend’s question about the two countries? Also, the current rules, which the Government are going to end, supported by the Labour Party, state:

“If you have a child while you’re in the UK, they do not automatically become a British citizen. You must apply for your child’s dependant visa”.


Can the Minister please reassure me that, under the Government’s plans, babies are not going to be separated from their parents?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The two countries that send the most students with dependants are Nigeria and India. Our points-based immigration system prioritises skills and talent over where a person comes from, in any event. We consider any impact of our changes proportionate in achieving the overall aim of reducing net migration and allowing dependants only for a specific cohort of students with the types of skills the UK is specifically seeking to attract to assist economic growth. In answer to the second part of the noble Lord’s question, on whether one would separate a mother from a child, obviously every case is fact-specific but the principle remains that if you apply for a student visa for a course other than a research graduate study course, you are not entitled to bring a dependant.

National Security Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Purvis of Tweed
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The Government take the view that it is necessary to have the matter protected in UK law in addition to SBA law, and that, I am afraid, is the answer.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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The Minister was careful when he said that the SBAs and the FCDO were consulted by the Home Office on bringing forward this decision. I would assume that one department would consult another in its own Government with regards to a Bill—I think we can take it as read that the Home Office should have consulted the FCDO. The point that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, made was that there was no consultation with the Government of Cyprus, which is embedded in the principles of the establishment treaty in 1960. That is why there is a problem with it.

With regards to the further point from the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, if it is only a UK constable, and only within UK domestic law, who enforces it within the SBA area? Who enforces it within the adjacent area to the SBAs, given that the measures are much wider than simply activities here in the UK? Who enforces it there?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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As I hope I have already made clear, it is only Clause 4 that applies. Clause 6 does not apply in this context.

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, I thank noble Lords for those contributions. There has been plenty of discussion throughout the passage of this Bill about the need for oversight of the state threats provisions in the Bill. The Government have welcomed this debate and agree on the need for the Bill to go further in this regard. The new provisions proposed by the Government do just that. I am very grateful for the remarks made by the noble Lords, Lord Ponsonby and Lord Purvis, on the Government’s movements in that regard.

I will not spend too long on this group but will set out briefly the provisions and how we expect the government provisions to work in practice. The amendments made by the Government create a single reviewer of state threats legislation to oversee the operation of the measures in Parts 1 and 2 of the Bill. This means that the reviewer will oversee not just the STPIM regime but the criminal offences and the exercise of police powers to ensure that their use is appropriate and proportionate.

The Government are also bringing oversight of the provisions of the state threats port stops power—Schedule 3 to the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019—within the remit of the new reviewer, meaning that all dedicated state threats legislation will be considered as part of a single reviewer’s role.

The Government have heard the argument that this role should in practice be carried out by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation and can see the potential benefits this could bring. However, the Government are also conscious that the role will be of public interest and will therefore run an open competition for it, rather than appointing someone directly. Given the synergy between the roles, the Government will align the appointment cycle of this post with that of the terrorism reviewer. This will allow the role-holders to work closely together, but also provide the option of having one individual fill both roles, should that be beneficial.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for his proposed amendment on this topic, which would achieve the same effect but also add Parts 4 and 5 to the remit of the reviewer. As mentioned in previous debates on this topic, an explicit commitment to oversight of Part 4 in the Bill is unnecessary, given it is already in the remit of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. I therefore suggest that there is nothing lacking from the present proposal. The provisions in Part 5 are supplementary to the rest of the Bill. The reviewer will be able to look at how Parts 1 and 2 operate in terms of commencement, regulation-making powers and territorial extent without the need explicitly to mention Part 5 in the powers for the reviewer. For those reasons, the Government cannot accept Amendment 80 as tabled by Labour, and hope that colleagues across the House will welcome the government amendments.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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Before the Minister sits down, I wonder if he might be able to address my point—which I remind him is the only point that I made?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I certainly addressed the point which he generously made praising the Government for our amendments. The point that he raised in relation to the Labour amendment, on the basis that there is no timeframe in the present amendments, is not valid in the Government’s submission, because the Labour amendment itself does not contain any binding requirement on the laying of reports. In our submission, that would remove a level of flexibility. In the area of national security, it is important not to hedge about these kinds of provisions with time requirements. For those reasons, we do not believe that the amendment is necessary. I hope that answers the noble Lord’s question.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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I know that this is Report and we do not have to and fro, but I was making the point that it was an omission in the Government’s amendment. It is utterly open-ended as to whether the Secretary of State will lay the report from the independent reviewer before Parliament. I was seeking clarification from the Minister that that would not be the case.

Rwanda: Memorandum of Understanding

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Purvis of Tweed
Monday 6th February 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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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 am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, for securing this debate. I must apologise that I will not be able to address all noble Lords’ contributions during this response. I am delighted to provide the clarity the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, rightly asked me to provide as to the reasons why a memorandum of understanding was chosen in this regard.

The proposal to relocate asylum seekers to Rwanda has been, and continues to be, the subject of considerable public debate. The number of people crossing the channel in small boats has increased exponentially, placing our asylum system under severe pressure as well as the extent to which services can be provided to those coming to our shores. Not only is every crossing attempt a potential tragedy, as we have seen far too often, but the people arriving via these small boats have travelled through and then left safe countries with fully functioning asylum systems.

Tackling the global migration crisis requires global solutions, and the United Kingdom’s ground-breaking partnership with Rwanda is an essential part of that approach. This policy will help to disrupt the business model of people smugglers, those gangs putting lives at risk using dangerous, unnecessary and illegal routes into the UK. The long-term strategic bilateral partnership that we intend to deliver through the migration and economic development partnership between the UK and Rwanda is built on the shared understanding that the current conventions for dealing with refugees and migration no longer work. I agree with my noble friend Lord Udny-Lister that bilateral agreements are also important, but we need new approaches at scale to ensure that immigration is orderly and controlled. Noble Lords will appreciate that there is an urgency and considerable public interest in deterring unnecessary, illegal and dangerous journeys to the UK.

I will now turn to the Question posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, on the decision to use a memorandum of understanding for the migration and economic development partnership. As indicated in the Government’s response to the International Agreements Committee’s report, the Government’s decision to use a memorandum of understanding—a non-legally binding instrument—has the benefit of allowing the detail of the partnership to be flexible. The technical details may be adjusted quickly if needed with the approval of both partners.

The UK and Rwanda have a well-established relationship. There is a significant history of our two Governments working together, as the noble Earl observed. Most importantly, the Rwandan Government have reason to know that the United Kingdom places the utmost importance on Rwanda’s compliance in good faith with the terms of the memorandum. The obligations placed on Rwanda under this partnership are laid out clearly in the memorandum, and they ensure that both countries have the same understanding of these obligations.

Indeed, in its judgment, the Divisional Court of the High Court at paragraph 65 found:

“The terms of the MOU and Notes Verbales are specific and detailed. The obligations that Rwanda has undertaken are clear. All, in one sense or another, concern Rwanda’s compliance with obligations it already accepts as a signatory to the Refugee Convention.”


I can therefore confirm to the House that we are confident that Rwanda will honour its commitments. This position was also considered by the High Court at paragraphs 70 to 71 of its judgment, where it stated that

“the conclusion that Rwanda will act in accordance with the terms of the MOU and the Note Verbales rests on HM Government’s experience of bilateral relations extending over almost 25 years and the specific experience of negotiating the MOU over a number of months in 2022”.

Furthermore, the court found that

“the Home Secretary did not act unlawfully when reaching the conclusion that the assurances provided Rwanda in the MOU and Notes Verbales could be relied on”.

I should also note that adopting a treaty, rather than using memoranda as suggested by the noble Baroness, would not necessarily have afforded individuals the right to raise disputes in the way some noble Lords have suggested.

While the Government cannot comment on ongoing legal proceedings, no court has ruled that this partnership is unlawful. In fact, the High Court, in the 19 December ruling, said that the arrangements entered into for the relocation of asylum seekers to Rwanda is consistent with the refugee convention, the European Convention on Human Rights and the statutory and other legal obligations on this Government.

I am therefore disappointed by the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Sahota, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and others on the safety of Rwanda, which appear to be ill-informed and contrary to the High Court’s judgment. In paragraph 71, the court found that the Home Secretary’s assessment that

“Rwanda is a safe third country, was neither irrational, nor a breach of article 3 of the ECHR”.

The domestic legal framework that gives effect to removals under this partnership is backed by legislation which has already faced parliamentary scrutiny.

I welcome the court’s judgment that this policy is lawful, as we have maintained throughout. We will, of course, pay extremely close attention to the individual circumstances of those considered for relocation. Decisions will be taken on a case-by-case basis, and nobody will be relocated if it is unsafe or inappropriate for them.

The arrangement requires Rwanda to process claims in accordance with international standards, as I previously mentioned, and it ensures protection from inhumane and degrading treatment and from refoulement. We have assessed Rwanda to be a fundamentally safe and secure country, with respect for the rule of law and a strong track record of helping those in need. In paragraph 51 of its judgment, the High Court itself said that

“Rwanda has a significant history of providing asylum to refugees”.

This session concerned an important political arrangement underpinning our partnership. The Government carefully considered the report from the House’s committee which the noble Baroness chairs. As noted in our response to the report, we published the memorandum of understanding in full transparency in April last year, very shortly after it was concluded. The MoU was negotiated with utmost care and attention by both Governments.

It is not at all fair to suggest that His Majesty’s Government have avoided scrutiny. Ministers have engaged fully with Parliament regarding this arrangement, including via Oral Statements, Parliamentary Questions and written correspondence. Ministers and senior officials have made numerous appearances before committees, and we are here today discussing the issue. Of course, all of this is on top of the High Court’s very detailed consideration of this document.

The Government take the view that the constitutional convention known as the Ponsonby rule, as it existed and was practised, was in its entirety put on a statutory footing by the CRaG Act. We do not accept that there has ever been any convention whereby non-legally binding arrangements are routinely submitted to parliamentary scrutiny, and this is borne out by the consistent practice of successive Governments. Parliament did not consider disclosure of non-legally binding arrangements to be part of the Ponsonby rule when it looked to put the convention on to a statutory footing in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act.

With that said, while we responded to the urgency and exceptional public interest in deterring these dangerous crossings to the United Kingdom, it is not at all right to say that this was rushed or that scrutiny was evaded. We have been clear that the memorandum of understanding between the UK and Rwanda is a non-legally binding instrument. Such instruments are common mechanisms for recording political commitments and arrangements between states and—as I have already said—allow for flexibility.

A decision on whether to use a treaty or non-legally binding instrument will depend on various factors. Ultimately, the decision will be based on whether there is a need for legal enforceability or whether a non-legally binding commitment would be appropriate. While we have never claimed that the terms of the memorandum are to be legally binding under international law, the arrangements we have put in place provide sufficient assurances to us—and indeed have satisfied the High Court—that the arrangement will be operated in line with international obligations and in a manner which ensures the welfare and safety of those people relocated under it. I am sure that the noble Baroness will be aware of the means by which the delivery of the scheme will be overseen and assessed against the assurances in the memorandum.

I particularly highlight the fact that a monitoring committee has been appointed, as was referred to during the debate, whose members are independent from both the Rwandan and United Kingdom Governments, and who will be able to look at every part of the relocation process and will independently assess all conditions. The monitoring committee will produce a summary report for publication yearly for all to see.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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The Minister has only a few moments left. This is the second time that a Front-Bencher has asked specific questions which the Minister has refused even to acknowledge. I regret that I am going to have to escalate this up through the usual channels. It is just not acceptable that the Minister at the Dispatch Box does not even acknowledge valid questions from a Front Bench.

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I think the noble Lord’s question related to the legal basis for the agreement in domestic law; I have addressed that in detail in the course of my speech to the House.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Well, I am sure that we can discuss this on another occasion.

National Security Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Purvis of Tweed
Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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I am grateful to the Minister. He is aware of the point I raised earlier in Committee, which, as he correctly pointed out, pertained more to the Official Secrets Act in respect of the authorised disclosure of information. The Law Commission’s recommendation is clear—that there should be an independent statutory commissioner, to which individuals can go, who has investigatory powers—but the Minister says that there are no plans to reform the 1989 legislation.

We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Evans, and earlier from the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, that they do not recognise this culture, but the Law Commission came to its own view and its own recommendation. Do the Government accept that recommendation but then say that they are not going to do anything about it, or will we have to find a way to bring together the disclosure of information and the points that my noble friend raised? The Law Commission’s recommendation was perfectly clear, and it was not besmirching the culture within the agencies. It was a very clear recommendation.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Indeed, the Law Commission made a recommendation about a potential reform to the 1989 Act. As I have already said, that is not the purpose of this Bill and will be a matter for a future reform, which will not be conducted immediately, as I already explained in answer to the point from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. The Law Commission’s recommendation will have considerable weight but, at this stage, I cannot prejudge any government decision in relation to the 1989 Act.

In last week’s debate, the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked about the Government’s plans to update internal whistleblowing guidance. I can confirm that the Government regularly keep this guidance under review and, last year, they updated it to include specific reference to how to raise an issue that would require disclosure without breaching the Official Secrets Act 1989. The updated internal guidance has been shared across departments and agencies, with confirmation from all Whitehall departments that a review of their own processes and procedures has been undertaken or is planned.

Across government, organisations have also continued to undertake activities further to develop a safe and supportive culture for raising concerns. Over the last year, the majority, including all 17 Whitehall departments, have undertaken communications through awareness-raising events and campaigns, including an annual “Speak Up” campaign.

We of course understand that journalists have a specific and important role to play in holding government to account in our democratic society. We also understand that responsible journalists do not want unwittingly to put lives at risk or compromise national security. That is why we have robust processes in place which enable journalists to mitigate the harm caused when considering the publication of potentially damaging information.

For example, during the Government’s public consultation on the Bill, several media stakeholders commented on the value of the Defence and Security Media Advisory Committee—the DSMA—which alerts the media to the consequences of disclosing certain types of information and provides advice on how to mitigate damage, while leaving editors to judge whether to publish or broadcast. A number of editors already engage with this valuable process when considering the publication of sensitive information, and we encourage them, and others, to continue to do so.

The Government are committed to ensuring that these channels are safe, effective, and accessible. Accordingly, for the reasons I have just set out, the Government, with regret, cannot accept the tabled amendments and invite their withdrawal.

Asylum Seekers

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Purvis of Tweed
Tuesday 17th 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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The Home Office currently employs about 1,280 asylum decision-makers and will double the number of caseworkers to help to clear the asylum backlog by the end of next year. Recruitment and retention strategies are in place, with the aim of increasing staffing, reducing the output in the number of cases awaiting a decision and increasing outputs of decisions. We have increased the number of asylum caseworkers by 112%, from 597 staff in 2019-20. We will recruit more decision-makers, which will take our expected number of decision-makers to 1,800 by summer 2023 and to 2,500 by September. We have implemented a recruitment and retention allowance, which has reduced decision-maker attrition rates by 30%, helping us to retain experienced asylum decision-makers.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, at the end of October, 222 unaccompanied minors were unaccounted for in the system. In November, I asked the Minister what the figure was, and he said that he did not know. The Government have presumably made major progress on unaccompanied children in the system, so how many are currently unaccounted for?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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As the noble Lord knows, local authorities have a statutory duty to protect all children, regardless of where they go missing from. On the concerning occasion when a child goes missing, those local authorities work closely with local agencies, including the police, urgently to establish their whereabouts and ensure that they are safe. Ending the use of hotels for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children is an absolute priority for the Government. We will have robust safe- guarding procedures in place to ensure that all children in our care are as safe and supported as possible, as we seek urgent placements with a local authority.

National Security Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Purvis of Tweed
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.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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With a glance at the impact assessment on this part of the Bill, the Government’s estimate is that there will be between four and 12 cases a year for the independent reviewer. Just for the sake of efficiency alone, it would make sense to extend a structure which is already in existence and operating well, rather than creating a new system which would have potentially a miniscule role—especially since the impact assessment says that it would be down to the discretion of the reviewer

“how much time they spend reviewing the STPIMs”.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Obviously, the noble Lord makes a valid point, and I am sure it will feed into the department’s consideration about extending the oversight.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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I am grateful to the Minister, but it may assist the Committee to know what will happen next. It is welcome that the department will be thinking about this, but it would be good to have a bit of a steer as to what the Government intend to do before Report.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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We invite the proposers of the amendments not to press them; further information will follow.

National Security Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Purvis of Tweed
Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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The Minister knows that, on previous days in Committee, we have discussed the issue of how the interests of the United Kingdom are defined and how broad that is. Whom does he believe should be the final arbiter in defining what is in the interests of the country and in the public interest?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The noble Lord’s question as I understand it is whether the decision about public interest is one for the police or for the prosecutor because, in reality, that is where the decisions would lie. Ultimately, if both those bodies were satisfied and a prosecution were brought, the issue would be one for the court.

It is our position that a public interest defence is neither necessary nor appropriate. However, it is important to point out that, even if the Government were to accept the case that the offences risked criminalising such legitimate activity, a public interest defence would not be an appropriate way to address this issue. As crafted, the proposed defence puts the onus on the Government to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that the defence did not apply. This defence would therefore act as an open invitation to those who seek to conduct espionage against the United Kingdom, and disproving this defence would likely require the disclosure of further sensitive material and only serve to compound the original harm.

The consequence of this is that those who intend to harm the United Kingdom will be able to exploit this defence to continue conducting harmful activities in the knowledge of the prosecution difficulties that would be faced by the authorities. This would limit the effectiveness of the legislation in enhancing our ability to deter and disrupt harmful activity.

Amendment 120B, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, would require the Minister to publish an assessment of the potential merits of introducing a public interest defence. As I have just laid out, the Government have extensively considered the merits, or otherwise, of such a defence, and this renders a review after the Bill’s passage unnecessary, for the reasons I have already set out. Thus, for all these reasons, the Government cannot accept the tabled amendments.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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Before the Minister sits down, I am conscious that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, mentioned, we will come on to the whistleblowing aspect, but the Minister was at pains to quote liberally from the Law Commission’s evidence to the Public Bill Committee in the Commons on this. I of course have read the evidence, as others will have done. I was interested when it came to the disclosure of information element, because Professor Penney Lewis told the Public Bill Committee:

“Indeed, we recommended a mechanism for authorised disclosures to an independent statutory commissioner, which would have appropriate investigatory powers to look into, for example, disclosures that might be embarrassing to the Government.”—[Official Report, Commons, National Security Bill Committee, 7/7/22; col. 52.]


Why are we not legislating for that in the Bill? The Minister seemed to have accepted everything that the Law Commission had said, but not this.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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It is clear, in the view of the Government, that those issues relate to the provisions found in the 1989 Act, which are not addressed in the Bill. While I note that evidence, it is not relevant to this amendment. As I have already said, I therefore invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Purvis of Tweed
Tuesday 20th December 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, I read the judgment this morning; it is a very comprehensive judgment and I respect it. However, it is astonishing to me that, on such a flagship issue, in which the Government have invested so much capital, judicial review has been awarded for all those claimants and, therefore, it is at the moment inoperable.

The Government chose to bring this arrangement through a memorandum of understanding, not a treaty, to avoid scrutiny and a proper ratification process by Parliament. We did our best in this House, through the International Agreements Committee chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, to scrutinise this—but the Government chose a route to put this into place to avoid proper scrutiny. So can the Minister be clear today about what the legal, binding basis is on the commitments that have been provided by both parties to this MoU? What is the legal basis for the data-sharing arrangements that are in place?

In June, I visited the Hope Hostel in Kigali, the reception centre. A large banner at the entrance says, “Come as a Guest, Leave as a Friend”. That banner is adjacent to armoured gates with machine-gunned guards. The contract is awarded to a private company on an annual basis. That will run out in March, so will the Minister confirm that that private arrangement will continue from next March, and will he place a copy of the contract for the operation of the Hope Hostel in the Library of this House?

Some £20 million has been given to provide this centre. I saw nothing like £20 million-worth of facilities when I visited it in June. It had no suitable areas for those vulnerable to suicide risk or those who had come through routes of great danger. This is on top of the £120 million provided to the Government of Rwanda. That £140 million is totally inappropriate, given the desperate plight of those here at home, including those dying of diphtheria—which we thought we had got rid of in the Victorian age. As the Minister was unable to confirm it to me, I have an inaccurate understanding of how many unaccounted-for children there are. If he could update me on that, I would be very grateful. There is no guarantee on the timeframe, so when will the centre that we have paid £20 million for be operational?

When I asked the officials in Rwanda about the processing time for those seeking asylum, those in Rwanda for camps because of other conflicts said that the average time was up to 10 years. What commitment has been provided for the process time of those who will be received at the Hope Hostel? I hope that the Minister can be very clear with regards to that.

Finally, we cannot put a price on immorality, but £140 million is a dear price to pay for our reputation being so tarnished. On a previous question, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, referred to the Government’s moral compass. It is pointing in the wrong direction. The UK supported the people of Rwanda, some of the most vulnerable in the world, who are suffering from extreme poverty, with £73.5 million of assistance in 2019-20. This has been slashed by 69% to just £23 million this year—so we are paying £140 million to cover for failed policies at home while denying those most vulnerable in the world and Rwanda UK support. Is this not an immoral, unworkable and inappropriate scheme which, at the very least, should be put to a vote in this House?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
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I thank both noble Lords for their questions. I identified nine specific questions from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and I shall address those first.

I was asked about the first flight—I think the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, mentioned this as well. As both noble Lords will know from their careful study of the news reports, there is a hearing to determine remedies in relation to the challenges against the Secretary of State for the Home Department on 16 January. At that hearing, the claimants’ counsel and the Home Office will make representations regarding, among other matters, any applications to appeal, and the court will decide the next steps, if any, in the UK litigation. We know that more legal challenges are likely and we will continue vigorously to defend this action in the courts. Of course, we do not routinely comment on operational matters and will not be giving a running commentary on the numbers of people or those in scope to be relocated to Rwanda on the first flight. The Home Office’s focus remains on moving ahead with the policy as soon as possible and we stand ready to defend against any further legal challenge.

I was also asked about the potential capacity of the Rwanda scheme. The volumes envisaged under the MEDP memorandum of understanding are uncapped. The numbers of persons to be relocated to Rwanda under the terms of the memorandum of understanding will take account of Rwanda’s capacity to receive them, and will comply with its obligations and our obligations under the MoU in respect of that group. Resources are being provided under the MoU to develop the capacity of the Rwandan asylum system. We have already provided £20 million up front to support set-up costs, for example, and we anticipate the numbers being relocated ramping up quickly once the partnership starts to operate, and in line with Rwanda’s growing capacity.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked about Hope Hostel and its capacity of 200 people. The Government of Rwanda have addressed this explicitly and made clear that, while the first accommodation site, Hope Hostel, has a capacity of 200, the partnership itself is uncapped. In any case, individuals being relocated will be accommodated in these facilities only as a temporary measure, before being moved into regular housing for the long term.

I was then asked about the potential cost of the scheme. As part of the partnership—and it is, after all, a migration and economic development partnership agreement—the United Kingdom has invested an initial £120 million into the economic development and growth of Rwanda. This must be set in the context of the fact that the Home Department is currently spending in the region of £7 million a day on hotel accommodation for asylum seekers. Funding will also be provided to Rwanda to support the delivery of asylum operations, accommodation and people’s integration. Every individual’s needs are different, and funding will be provided only while an individual remains in Rwanda.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked about the cost per person. This is a long-term policy which is expected to last for five years. Costs and payments will depend on the number of people relocated, when this happens and the outcomes of individual cases. As the noble Lord noted, a full value for money assessment was undertaken as part of the accounting officer’s advice provided to Ministers in respect of the partnership agreement. Needless to say, actual spend will be reported as part of the annual Home Office reports and accounts in the usual way.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, also mentioned that part of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary’s Statement yesterday in which she stated:

“A myth still persists that the Home Office’s Permanent Secretary opposed this agreement. For the record, he did not. Nor did he assert that it is definitely poor value for money. He stated, in his role as accounting officer, that the policy is regular, proper and feasible, but that there is not currently sufficient evidence to demonstrate value for money. As he would be the first to agree, it is for Ministers to take decisions having received officials’ advice.”—


I was also asked whether the decision of the court demonstrated some failure on the part of the Home Office to consider evidence of modern slavery. The Home Office will take on board the comments made about its decision-making process; as my right honourable friend the Home Secretary said, it has already taken steps to improve relevant decision-making. In light of the judgment handed down yesterday, it will continue to improve and strengthen the decision-making process in line with the court’s recommendations to ensure that decisions are as robust as possible.

Decisions on whether to relocate individuals to Rwanda are made on a case-by-case basis, depending on individuals’ circumstances at the time and in accordance with the inadmissibility guidance. For every stage in the process, from initial arrival to any potential relocations, our approach is to ensure that the needs and vulnerabilities of asylum seekers are identified and taken into consideration where appropriate. We will only ever act in line with our commitments under our international legal obligations, including those that pertain to potential and confirmed victims of modern slavery.

I was asked about the provision for families in the scheme. Families with children are potentially eligible for relocation but, as my right honourable friend made clear, the initial process will focus on adults. A further assessment of Rwanda’s capacity to accommodate children will be undertaken before this occurs. Everyone considered for relocation will be screened and interviewed and have access to legal advice. Decisions will be taken on a case-by-case basis. Nobody will be removed if it is unsafe or inappropriate for them.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked about the contents of the new legislation. I am afraid that he will have to wait and see. As the Prime Minister promised in the other place two weeks ago, a Bill can be expected in January, when the noble Lord will be able to see how that new legislation facilitates and assists the implementation of this scheme.

I was asked about the Rwanda-Israel agreement. As Lord Justice Lewis made clear at paragraph 67 of the judgment of the Divisional Court, it did not consider the nature and terms of that agreement to be critical for its purposes. It was clear to the court, as is clear from the judgment, that it is a different agreement and there are no parallels to be drawn from the Rwanda-Israel agreement.

While the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, may suggest that this is an unworkable and expensive plan, we on these Benches notice that the Labour Party has failed to provide any viable alternative—simply saying that one will tackle the criminal gangs and potentially provide more safe and legal routes will not serve the purpose of reducing the allurement to people of crossing the channel.

The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, asked about the legal basis for the memorandum of understanding. That is a well-known basis for an understanding in international law, and its lawfulness was upheld by the Divisional Court in its judgment yesterday. I simply do not agree that there is anything immoral about this policy. Protecting people and avoiding them considering that it is worth taking their lives into their hands by crossing the channel in small boats must be the moral thing to do.

National Security Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Purvis of Tweed
Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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The “foreign power” test, which we will come on to later in the Bill, is extremely broad. Under Clauses 29 and 30, the “foreign power” test can cover the public service broadcaster of Canada. So, if someone who believes that our Government are committing wrongdoing provides a document to the public broadcaster in Canada because they believe that our Government are doing wrong, which is in the global interest, would that be covered, with potential life imprisonment, under this Bill?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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It would be the case only if those three tests that I have just described are met for the purposes of the offence in the Bill. So it would have to be that the information was protected, that the person ought reasonably to know that, and that its disclosure was prejudicial to the safety or interests of the UK. I imagine that will be the topic of some debate in the context of the hypothetical example that the noble Lord mentioned. It also has to be done with the intention to benefit a foreign power. I cannot see that, in the hypothetical situation the noble Lord mentioned, that issue realistically would arise because the combination of these tests means not only is the proposed offence proportionate but an appropriately high bar has to be met to bring a prosecution under this clause. The Government therefore consider that the definition of protected information is justified and cannot accept the proposed amendments. I invite the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, to withdraw her amendment.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I find the hypothetical example that the noble Lord postulates hard to follow, because it seems difficult to envisage a situation where a prosecutor could conclude in those circumstances that there was a prejudice to the Government of the United Kingdom and a benefit to the Government of Canada, and that the other elements were present. It seems a most unlikely scenario.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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I would just like to make sure the Minister is very clear with the Committee. All the decisions that would take place would have to have an objective view that that foreign power benefits. But in my reading, the Bill does not state that. It is simply that providing information to an authority of a foreign Government, which could be a public sector broadcaster such as CBC, is under this Bill. No one has to make the decision that that public broadcaster is then seeking to benefit the Canadian Government. That is not in this Bill.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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It is the intention to benefit that foreign power that is in this Bill, and it seems to me that that is a sufficiently clear and adequate definition to afford protection under the proposed section.

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I will endeavour to make sure that that letter goes to the noble Lord as soon as it is prepared.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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I have a genuine query. The Minister referenced a number of times, as I think was cited, that if a foreign intelligence body is operating in the UK unauthorised, it is now considered to be prejudicial to the safety and interests of the United Kingdom. Why is that activity not unlawful?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The activity itself is made unlawful in the provisions of the Bill. Is that the point that the noble Lord is making?

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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So it is unlawful for a foreign intelligence service to carry out any activities within the UK if they have not been prior approved by UK intelligence services. Is that correct?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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As the noble Lord is aware, it is the effect of Clause 2 to prohibit the offences of espionage and assisting a foreign intelligence service. Therefore, those offences in Clauses 1 and 3 of the Bill would have the effect of criminalising activity of the type described by the noble Lord.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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I am grateful to the Minister; I am purely seeking clarification for the benefit of my own ignorance. I am concerned that it is not very clear. If a friendly intelligence service is carrying out UK activities, which is not espionage against the United Kingdom, the Government are saying that this is prejudicial against the safety and interests of the United Kingdom but it is not unlawful, but a UK citizen advising on that basis is unlawful. Would it not be clearer to state that that activity is unlawful?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I note the noble Lord’s remarks. I am not entirely sure that I follow the logic, but I will study Hansard carefully and take it back to the department.

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Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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I have two quick questions for the Minister. I was grateful for his response to me with regard to local authorities. Can he clarify which lands will be categorised under the Crown interest? Under Clause 7(4)(b), they are

“an interest belonging to a government department or held in trust for His Majesty for the purposes of a government department”.

It is not singled out, so is my assumption correct that these government departments include devolved Administration departments—the Scottish Government, et cetera?

Similarly, I was grateful for the Minister’s reference to the College of Policing, which was also referenced in Committee by his counterpart in the House of Commons. I have heard no reference to the Government working with the Scottish Police College, which is the relevant body north of the border because the College of Policing is only for England and Wales. This is important, because many of these lands are north of the border, where I live. If the Government are consulting, they need to consult with the Scottish Police College as well. I would be grateful for that assurance.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Yes. My suspicion is that both answers are in the affirmative, but I am afraid I do not know for sure. I will find out from my officials and write to the noble Lord. I thank him for raising that.

Hotel Asylum Accommodation: Local Authority Consultation

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Purvis of Tweed
Thursday 24th November 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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No, it is absolutely to the contrary. Safe and legal routes, such as the ones we operate in Afghanistan, and in Iraq and Jordan in the past, were designed to provide an opportunity for genuine refugees to make asylum claims to come to the UK. The idea that people can promote their own claims over those of others and cross themselves into the country in order to claim asylum is simply not a sensible way of running an asylum system. It is clearly contrary to the public interest that those able to afford to pay people smugglers are able to come here and claim asylum. That is why the safe and legal routes are the only proper way of delivering asylum sanctuary.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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It is now a month since the report that there were 222 unaccounted-for children, as the noble Lord. Lord Coaker estimated. These children have come from a traumatic experience. How many, as of today, are unaccounted for in their location?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I do not have that information to hand. The positive news, as I am sure the noble Lord will agree, is that there are still no people at Manston. Everyone has been transferred into hotel accommodation. As I say, those who are unaccompanied minors are cared for separately in specially provided accommodation with special support.