Debates between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 12th Feb 2024
Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage & Committee stage: Minutes of Proceedings & Committee stage: Minutes of Proceedings part one
Wed 20th Sep 2023
Mon 17th Jul 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

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

Consideration of Commons amendments
Mon 10th Jul 2023
Wed 5th Jul 2023
Mon 3rd Jul 2023
Mon 3rd Jul 2023
Wed 28th Jun 2023
Wed 28th Jun 2023
Wed 14th Jun 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 3
Mon 12th Jun 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 2
Mon 12th Jun 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Lords Handsard Part 1
Wed 7th Jun 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

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

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

Committee stage: Part 1
Thu 25th May 2023
Wed 24th May 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 2 & Committee stage: Minutes of Proceedings Part 2
Mon 27th Mar 2023
Wed 18th Jan 2023
National Security Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 2
Wed 18th Jan 2023
National Security Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 1
Tue 17th Jan 2023
Mon 16th Jan 2023
Wed 11th Jan 2023
National Security Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 2
Wed 21st Dec 2022
National Security Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 2
Mon 19th Dec 2022
Tue 29th Nov 2022
Wed 16th Nov 2022
Public Order Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 1

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is an interesting point, but you cannot pick and choose. You cannot simply decide that you do not agree with something at a particular time and abandon it. If we suddenly decided, because a new Government with a particular political ideology had been elected, to abandon a treaty with X and another with Y, we would have no case with respect to numerous countries around the world. As we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Patten, the new Chinese Government simply abandoned everything that they negotiated on the withdrawal from Hong Kong. That is a new circumstance, but it is not right in any sense of the word that they unilaterally abandoned the international treaty.

That is the fundamental point at the heart of what the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, is saying. The proud tradition of this country—not just his party—is to adhere to international agreements, to be able to walk into a room full of diplomats and for them to know that, when we say something, we mean it and it will be adhered to. Sometimes it is on the basis of trust built up over decades, and we play with it at our peril.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

A moment ago we heard the noble Lord read out the list of the international conventions set out in Clause 1(6), as though in some way it would disapply them domestically. That is clearly not the effect of the drafting. All Clause 1(6) does is define what the term “international law” means in other places in this statute. It is just a definition clause, so I am unsure why the noble Lord felt obliged to read it out as though it was of great importance, on the basis that were resiling from these conventions. As was clear from my noble friend’s speech, we are not in any way resiling from these obligations.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

If Clause 1(6) is completely purposeless and meaningless, it is worth the noble Lord asking the Minister why the Government have included it in the Bill. It obviously has to mean something if it is included in the Bill. All I am doing is reading from the Bill, which says that

“the validity of an Act is unaffected by international law”.

It then goes on to define “international law”. I am simply pointing out that there is a big list of international conventions and legal treaties that we have been members of for decades, in many cases, which we are now saying unilaterally do not apply with respect to this Bill. That is a very significant constitutional change and something to be regretted.

That is why I welcome the fact that the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, has tabled Amendments 9 and 13. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Jackson—I thank him for his nice remarks about me—that one of the ways the Labour Party can win at the next general election is to say that we are proud to stand up for the international law to which this country has traditionally adhered, and propounded across the world. That is why we take action in many areas of the world to reinforce those rules. The international rules-based order is something of which we can be proud. The Labour Party will stand—or indeed fall—on the basis of being proud to stand for that.

Asylum Seekers: Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Wednesday 25th October 2023

(7 months ago)

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

I am unsure what my noble friend has deduced from the Home Secretary’s speech. She merely observed that the European Court of Human Rights could be more transparent and accountable in how it interprets rights. The Government do not believe that it is necessary to leave the ECHR in order to deliver major priorities such as tackling illegal migration. I can only commend her speech to noble Lords. It repays careful reading.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, does this not go to the heart of the problem the noble Lord, Lord Duncan, has just outlined? The Minister gives us reassurances from the Dispatch Box and, as my noble friend Lord Cashman said, we had many reassurances during the passage of the Illegal Migration Act. However, it does not alter the fact that the Minister’s boss, the Home Secretary, stated that claiming asylum on the basis of persecution for being gay or a woman would not be sufficient. Who are we to believe? Is the Minister making up policy different from that of the Home Secretary, or will he now go back to her and say that this House demands an asylum system based on the principles we have always had—that where anybody faces persecution, this country offers a safe haven?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I fear that the noble Lord has not read the Home Secretary’s speech closely enough. She asserted that there exist interpretative shifts away from persecution in favour of discrimination, and from well-founded fear towards a credible or plausible fear, and there may be a need to tighten the definition of who qualifies for protection.

Family Migration (Justice and Home Affairs Committee Report)

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Wednesday 20th September 2023

(8 months ago)

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

Yes, and forgive me; I meant to say that. Of course I will.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can the Minister write to me with the current figures for applications outstanding and the average length of time spent waiting?

Migrants: Barges

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Wednesday 20th September 2023

(8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, what confidence can this House have in the Government’s efforts to contain the spread of infectious diseases on barges when the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, referred to by my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti, has had his contract terminated because he has been too critical of the Government’s policy? I will tell the Minister one thing: it is not the inspector’s contract that needs terminating.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

As I replied to the noble Baroness, that is a long way from the topic of infection on barges. The term of office of the chief inspector was time limited. It is clearly open to the Home Secretary not to renew the appointment.

Asylum Seekers: Channel Crossings

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Thursday 7th September 2023

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

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

Of asylum claims made in the 12-month period ending June 2023, 46% were made by those who were entering illegally via a small boat. The remainder were made up of other types of illegal entry—for example, in a lorry, or those who have come to Britain by a lawful route with their tourist, work or study visa and then claimed asylum when they were here, or overstayed a visa when they were here legally. I hope that explains to my noble friend how that figure was arrived at.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, further to previous questions from my noble friend Lord Blunkett and the noble Lord, Lord Howard, the Minister has spoken of doing more to disrupt the actual supply of small boats, which are often flimsy and extremely dangerous. The Minister facilitated a visit for me to see this first hand, which I was very grateful for. Last night, he said that the Home Office is speaking with the French about what to do about this, because it is a real problem. On a practical level, why is it that we cannot do more to disrupt the supply of these small boats, which are not manufactured in France? Can the Minister update the House on what is happening with that?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I agree with much of what the noble Lord says. Clearly, disruption upstream of the criminal gangs is really important. Minister Jenrick visited Turkey in the last few weeks and the Turks have agreed, with the UK Government, to facilitate work to disrupt the criminal gangs. I understand that a lot of the boats are made in Turkey and a lot of the parts come through there, so that will be a vital part of the battle against the gangs. My right honourable friend the Minister for Security visited Iraq with the same objective. This is an important part of the strategy in fighting the upstream element of the gangs. Working with the French is something that is ongoing, and is one of the benefits of the agreement that the Prime Minister made earlier in the year. I am very grateful for the question.

Asylum Applications Backlog

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Wednesday 6th September 2023

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

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

I rather agree with the noble Lord. The Government’s policy is to reduce expenditure on hotels, which will free up more government money to be spent on overseas aid. I can reassure the noble Lord, the House having passed the Illegal Migration Act, that one of its consequences is that those in the cohort covered by Section 2 will not be able to make asylum claims. As a result, they will not be in the asylum backlog.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, can the Minister confirm that since the Prime Minister pledged to clear the pre-June 2022 asylum backlog the Government are now withdrawing many more claims, meaning that they no longer count? Can he say how many such claims have been withdrawn and whether a Home Office official was right when reported in the press as saying:

“This is done to basically bring the backlog down”—


in other words, changing the way the Government count numbers to give them the result they want?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

No is the short answer. The Home Office is committed to ensuring that the asylum system is not open to abuse. By promptly withdrawing asylum claims from non-compliant individuals, we are ensuring that decision-making resources are concentrated on those who genuinely wish to continue with their asylum claims within the UK. Asylum seekers can withdraw their claim, should they no longer wish to claim asylum in the UK, and may do so for a variety of reasons, including that they want to leave the UK or have permission to stay on another basis. Asylum claims may also be withdrawn where the individual fails to comply with the asylum process or absconds before a decision is made on their claim.

Creative and Cultural Industries: Impact of Visa and Immigration Policies

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Tuesday 25th July 2023

(10 months ago)

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

I agree with virtually everything the noble Baroness said. I reassure her that we remain committed to expanding our YMSs—youth mobility schemes—to more nations, including, but not limited to, those within the EU. Those youth mobility schemes provide cultural exchange programmes, to allow a person aged between 18 and 30 from participating countries and territories to experience life in the United Kingdom for up to two years. As the noble Baroness says, it is subject to bilateral reciprocal agreements which benefit British citizens equally.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, can the Minister explain why so many people in the creative industries are complaining about the length of time it takes to get a visa and why they often cannot get their equipment here? From listening to what the Minister outlined, there does not seem to be any problem, but that is not the view of the creative industries, so what will he do to sort it out?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I reassure the noble Lord that the visa system is operating within the service standard in every sector, so there is no delay in creative visas being awarded to those who apply. The system works well. I simply do not recognise the account that he gives; if he has any particular cases, I would be grateful if he would write to me, and I can look into them.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I support my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti’s Motion A1. We believe it to be a very important Motion.

The only comment I will make in response to the Minister’s opening remarks on the passage of the Bill in the other place is this. We have always said that the Government have a right to get their legislation, but this place also has a right to put forward amendments and to ask for revisions and consideration. It does not help us to believe that this place receives proper consideration of its amendments when the Minister in the other place announced at the end of last week, even before proper consideration, that no concessions would be made with respect to what this House is proposing. That is not the way for business to be conducted. This place has a proper constitutional role to play, which includes sometimes saying to the Government that they should think again, and even sometimes saying it twice.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, I simply cannot accept the proposition advanced by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti. As the House will remember from the last occasion, a court always has regard, if possible, to the international treaties binding the United Kingdom, as was made clear by Lord Dyson in the Supreme Court in the Assange case.

The noble Baroness’s amendment is simply unnecessary, and, in addition, it would have the effect of changing the constitutional relationship of our law and international law. I am afraid, therefore, that I cannot accept her proposed Motion. I invite noble Lords to vote against it in the event that it is not withdrawn.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, as I indicated in my opening remarks, I agree with my noble friend Lord Randall—from his speeches in earlier stages of the Bill—and much of what the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said, that we are of a similar mind as to the support offered to victims of exploitation that takes place in the United Kingdom. It remains the Government’s view that statutory guidance is the appropriate way to achieve this aim, and for that reason the Government resist the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker.

Moving on to deal with the revised Amendment 103D, to which the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, spoke, he seeks to confer an explicit statutory duty on the NCA director-general to produce a report within a period of three months, beginning with the day on which the Act is passed and every three months thereafter. I am sure that noble Lords will join me in thanking the officers of the National Crime Agency, who consistently bring their expertise and dedication to combating serious and organised crime and making the UK a safer place. With regard to publishing reports, surely noble Lords can agree that the NCA’s time is better spent focusing on reducing serious and organised immigration crime and arresting the criminals behind it rather than producing reports. One has only to read the NCA’s annual report to appreciate the range of activities it is already engaged in to help tackle the cross-channel people-smuggling gangs. The NCA has also published its annual plan for 2022-23, which sets out priorities for the year ahead and how it will deliver them. I commend it to noble Lords.

On Amendment 107E, proposed by the most reverend Primate, I welcome the fact that he has put forward a new amendment which no longer seeks to provide for a 10-year strategy but rather a one-off debate. However, I am afraid that the Government remain unpersuaded of the case for his new amendment, and it is not accepted by the Government. It is not for the United Kingdom in isolation to assess the effectiveness of the refugee convention, as the amendment appears to suggest.

For all those reasons, I invite the House, in the event that any of these matters are put to a Division, to oppose them.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, for the reasons that I outlined earlier, and for the reasons that I gave with regard to the Modern Slavery Act, I beg to move my Motion F1 and wish to test the opinion of the House.

Electronic Travel Authorisation

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Monday 17th July 2023

(10 months, 1 week ago)

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

I thank the noble Viscount for that question. He makes an important point. As I have said before in this House, we endeavour to operate our e-gates policy on the most welcoming basis we can, and this includes allowing EEA nationals to use our e-gates. It is perhaps unfortunate that the same privilege has not been extended reciprocally so far, but this is something officials continue to work on. I reassure the noble Viscount that my understanding is that the Schengen border area negotiations resulted in an agreement that there would be exemptions for residents and family members of EU citizens from ETIAS, although it is a little unclear what those are and how they will be affected at this stage.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, is it not the case that, whatever systems are used at the border, staff are needed to oversee the border and the e-gates? Can the Minister comment on the recent Daily Mail article, which said that the Defence Secretary

“has refused the Home Secretary's request for 750 troops to be deployed to plug gaps in the UK’s Border Force—claiming that Ms Braverman should have made contingency plans for the shortages, rather than expecting him to act as a last-minute stop-gap”?

The Home Secretary has said that, without those 750 members of the Armed Forces

“to help man immigration posts to cover for striking or absent Border Force officers, then British travellers could face long queues”.

What does the Minister say to that?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I thank the noble Lord for that question. It is quite a long way from comparing ETIAS and ETAs, of course, but the short answer is that the figures that appeared in the Daily Mail article relate to the military aid to civilian authority application, which was made in order to make up for shortfalls in Border Force staff during strike action. I am glad to confirm for the House that there is no strike action planned during the peak of the summer season. I can also confirm that the Border Force strikes at Christmastime saw the effective deployment of soldiers; I am sure that Members of this House are grateful to them for their excellent work on that occasion.

I can assure the noble Lord that we have trained and are ready to deal with situations relating to a shortage of Border Force staff. We have recruited more staff, cancelled some leave and trained staff to address more front-line roles, so the noble Lord should be satisfied with that.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I support my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti’s Motion A1 and the various provisions that follow from it. Without getting into the legal arguments that have just been articulated by the noble and learned Lords, Lord Hope and Lord Etherton, I support the fact that the key words are the first few words, in particular to try to deal with the criticism that was made of the previous amendment.

The only point I would add is that it is important for us to have something like this in the Bill given the criticism, concern and questions that have been raised about the Bill by many well-respected international organisations, bodies and individuals. We all expect something to be done about the challenge that we face, but we want it done in a way which enhances our international reputation and conforms to the various international treaties and our responsibilities. That is why Motion A1 is particularly important and should be supported.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank the House for the dispatch this group has been dealt with and for the contributions from across the Chamber. It will come as no surprise to the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, that I disagree with her interpretation and agree with that of my noble friend Lord Wolfson. Frankly, if one looks at Amendment 1B, one can see that “regard” must be read alongside “intended to comply”, so this revised amendment is equally problematic. The point my noble friend Lord Wolfson made is entirely right: it amounts to an acceptance that the earlier version of the amendment would also have been a very significant constitutional innovation, predicated on the back of an amendment to the Bill and a massive change to our constitutional framework. I am afraid that I therefore disagree with the noble Baroness and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, on Amendment 1B.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Hunt for moving his amendments in a concise and informed way and for putting before the House the importance of the Modern Slavery Act and defending its principles.

I draw attention to Motion P1, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Randall, which is particularly important as it seeks to protect victims of modern slavery exploited in the UK. Although the Minister pointed to the protection the Government may give to British citizens, some of the exploited people the noble Lord, Lord Randall, referred to would not be British citizens and would therefore be out of scope.

It is worth spending a minute considering that we as a Parliament are here tonight reflecting on what was one of the finest achievements of the last Conservative Government and one of the proudest achievements of a former Conservative Prime Minister. I stand here as a proud Labour politician saying that. It was one of the reasons why our country was regarded as a world leader by countries across the world, and it was brought about by the actions of a Conservative Government.

When you read the speeches of not only a former leader, Iain Duncan Smith MP, but a former Prime Minister, it is no wonder that the latter is incredulous that her own party and Government would seek, as she says, to undermine completely an Act of which everyone was proud, including most Conservatives. I find it astonishing that the Government Front Benches of this House and the other place should simply sweep her views aside, almost as though they are the rantings of a failed person who is no longer relevant. She deserves greater respect than that, and to be recognised for what she achieved. I think I am right in saying that it was the first such legislation in the world. It was blown away not by a vindictive Labour Government but by her own Conservative Government, who have somehow just brushed it aside.

The noble Lord, Lord Randall, does us a huge service in bringing forward an amendment that I hope has the support of many of your Lordships, from all sides, and which tries to protect something of that achievement, that triumph, of a previous Conservative Government. In doing that, he gives us the opportunity to mark with great respect that achievement and work of a previous Conservative Government and Prime Minister.

I hope that the noble Lord will test the opinion of the House and that noble Lords will see fit to support the amendment in very large numbers, so that when it goes back to the other place they will think again about what they have done.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank the House for the dispatch with which the speeches on this group have been dealt with. To respond to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, on just one point, clearly, we do not agree and I am afraid that I cannot accept his amendment. On the statistic that he cited, I simply say that that statistic demonstrates the problem we face when we seek to remove people. Such statistics relate to people who were in detention and it was those in detention who, at a massively increased rate, sought to claim to be victims of modern slavery in order, I suggest to Members of this House, to defer their removal.

For that reason, I must stress to the House that the proposed amendment would blow a hole in this scheme, and I am afraid we cannot accept my noble friend Lord Randall’s amendment, as supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. There are too many opportunities to misuse the provisions in the Modern Slavery Act, with allegations of modern slavery being made by those entering the country illegally. I entirely take on board what the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has said about the triumph of the Modern Slavery Act, and I remind the House that it remains in force in relation to victims of modern slavery who are within Britain and are British citizens. These provisions are protected in Clause 21 by a sunset provision. These are emergency measures to deal with an emergency, and for those reasons I cannot accept the amendments.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I start on a sombre note and join other noble Lords and the Minister in paying tribute to Lord Brown, who will be sorely missed by us all. He spent many an hour in the tearoom and elsewhere trying to explain various legal niceties to me in a very calm and dignified way, always treating me with a respect and courtesy I am not sure I deserved. He was a truly remarkable man and a pleasant individual. He will be missed by us all, and it is very sad that he has left us.

I will start with some usual courtesies before I make a couple of comments. I thank the Minister for the briefings he gave us. We have fundamentally disagreed on certain things. We were not pleased about the lateness of the impact assessments, as my noble friend Lady Lister made clear. To be fair to the Minister, even when we have fundamentally disagreed, he has always tried to brief me with respect to the Bill, and I am grateful for that. I thank his colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, for being similarly available whenever needed with respect to the Bill. Again, we disagreed on various things, but I appreciated his courtesy and help. I would be grateful if he could pass on my thanks to the noble and learned Lords, Lord Bellamy and Lord Stewart, who at different times contributed to the Bill. I have to mention the Government Whip, who sat there all the way through with his normal face, which was always interested and agreeable. It was a pleasure to talk to him, if no one else at times. I also thank the Minister’s officials, who have been really helpful.

My noble friend Lord Ponsonby is always a welcome contrast to my calm and unexcitable demeanour. He generates the rhetoric, drive and passion that I sometimes lack, and I am grateful for him encouraging me to have a bit more zeal at times—but seriously, it is good to have him alongside me. I am grateful to the officials in our office, Dan Stevens and Clare Scally, who have been very helpful, and my Back-Bench colleagues—I am always a bit nervous about this; it is like being at a wedding when you forget the aunt at the back—particularly my noble friends Lady Chakrabarti, Lord Dubs, Lady Lister, Lord Bach, Lord Cashman and Lord Hunt, and many others, for their support and help as the Bill has gone through. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and his team for their co-operation, and Peers from across the House, some from unexpected quarters, who rang me to ask about different things. It has been a pleasure to work with them.

I want to start with some related points, including the comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Deben. Having said what I said about the Minister, a couple of the things he said at the beginning were disappointing. There may have been times when some have thought it the right thing to do but, generally speaking, this House has not sought to block the Bill. It has recognised that the Commons has a right to pass its legislation. However, many in this House feel that the payback for that—for want of a better way of putting it—is that the other place has to respect that this place has a constitutional role to play as well. We will not be intimidated or made to back off from passing amendments that we think are important, or from saying where we think the Government have got it wrong.

I have been in government; it is hugely irritating to a Government to have this happen, but it sometimes works, in that better legislation is passed. If two and two does not make four, there is a problem. On a Bill as controversial and difficult as this, it is only right that large numbers of amendments be passed. It is only right to ask the other place—as a number of Peers have done—to give due consideration, in proper time, to the amendments we have passed and to adapt and make changes.

To be frank, it is difficult to know exactly what we should think about what will happen tomorrow, given that the only briefing we have had has gone to the newspapers and the media, telling us what to expect in the amendments to be published tomorrow or later today. Some may be things that we could agree to. Many in this place, including me, and a number of Members in the other place, will say that it cannot be right that journalists are ringing to ask your opinion, when you have no idea about it. They ask why you cannot comment and you have to say, “Well, I don’t know what the Government are suggesting”. That cannot be right, and it needs to be looked at.

The noble Lord, Lord Deben, made a passionate point. Sometimes, if a Government get something wrong, as they have with the murals at the detention centre, the right thing to do is to stand up and say that it should not have happened and they will make sure it does not happen again.

As part of our co-operation and work together, the Minister organised a trip to Dover and to Western Jet Foil for my noble friend Lord Ponsonby and myself. My noble friend and I went to the facility with the mural, where Mickey Mouse was painted on the wall. There was nothing offensive about it—nothing at all that anybody could take offence at. All it did was provide comfort and a sense of belonging to children in a desperate situation, which, presumably, is why somebody painted it. They did not paint it out of badness, or to make a political point or embarrass the Government. This was simply a human being, no doubt as an act of kindness, painting something on the wall to comfort children in a desperate situation.

In addition to the Minister’s response being wrong and disappointing, the noble Lord, Lord Deben, made the point he made—he will correct me if I am wrong—in order to show that that attitude cannot prevail when considering the other amendments we have sent to another place, where they are generally dismissed out of hand. The Government may have given way on four, five or six—we do not know—but the 20 or so amendments sent there deserve proper consideration. If the Government object to them, they will need to give a proper explanation. Underlying what the noble Lord, Lord Deben, said, that is what we are asking for.

This place deserves its proper position within the functioning of the constitution of this country. If it does not have that, the consequence will be poorer legislation. In respect of an Illegal Migration Bill that is so controversial, the impact will be on innocent people, including children, who do not deserve it.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, I will not address all the speeches, but I can certainly say that I agree with parts of almost all of them. Of course, noble Lords are entirely right that I and the department should think deeply about the amendments proposed, and we will. It is clear that there will be some changes, and I hope to work with noble Lords on that in due course.

Without Lord Brown, this House is very much a lesser place, and I am glad that we had an opportunity to reflect on that today.

Missing Asylum Seeking Unaccompanied Children

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Monday 10th July 2023

(10 months, 2 weeks ago)

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

As I say, the decoration of these facilities is a matter for the Home Office. It is a detention facility for those who have entered the country unlawfully and it is appropriate that it is decorated in a manner that reflects its purpose.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can I ask the Minister to reflect again on what his noble friend and my noble friend Lord Dubs have just said? Is it really the Government’s position that it was perfectly justified to paint over these murals in a detention centre for children? Can the Minister not see how frankly astonished and, to use the noble Lord’s phrase, ashamed we are that this has happened? The least we would have expected is that the Government are sorry that it has happened, are looking into it and are going to make sure that it never happens again. Will the Minister reflect on his answer and see how appalled the Chamber was by what he said?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I reassure the noble Lord that we take the welfare of children in our care very seriously. The point is that those children are held at the Kent intake unit for only as short a time as possible. Of course, the age of the children held at that unit can be anything up to 18 years old and, as this House knows from repeated answers, the majority of those passing through that unit are in the upper end of the available age bracket.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher for her last comments; I am sure all of us agree with them.

I support Amendment 156A in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham. It is a very important amendment. Of course, when people come forward with sensible and constructive suggestions which would improve an amendment that has been put forward, I have no problem with that, and I know the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham has no problem with that either. In line with the remarks made by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, were the noble and learned Lord to move Amendment 158A, we would be minded to support that too, because it seeks to improve the Bill in the way that he said. It would be silly not to do so. I thank him for tabling it and hope he will spare me a heart attack from running around to make sure that it is all is in order.

The serious point is that the amendment would improve the Bill. As has been said, rather than restricting this to areas of law only, it opens it up to grounds of fact. It is a much more sensible, improved amendment, and it would be silly not to accept it. We will see what the House has to say should the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, be minded to move his amendment after Amendment 156A.

Nobody doubts the difficulties that can arise in respect of age assessments, particularly as many of the disputes for unaccompanied children arise around the claimed age of 16 or 17. The Nationality and Borders Act 2022 had relevant provisions, but those have been superseded by the Illegal Migration Bill. The Bill specifically allows for an individual, where there is a disputed age assessment, to be removed—in other words, an individual’s challenge to a decision by way of judicial review is non-suspensive. Amendment 156A, in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham and others, seeks to address that injustice.

The Government will quote evidence saying that large numbers of individuals claiming to be children are not, and that the system is open to abuse. I point out that in the JCHR report the Helen Bamber Foundation states that, in 2022, 70 local authorities had 1,386 referrals to their children’s services of young people sent to adult accommodation or detention, but 63% were then found to be children. It is therefore deeply concerning that judicial oversight of these decisions is being ousted, and that they will then be removed from the UK while decisions are confirmed or not. As the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, says, how can that possibly be in the best interests of the child—something that has driven public policy in this country for decades?

Others have raised the child’s rights impact assessment. Since we got it only at 5 pm yesterday, it has been difficult to go through it, so I apologise for asking questions that would really be more appropriate in Committee. On the deportation of children—were the Bill to go through unamended—it may interest noble Lords for the Minister to explain why there has been a change of public policy with respect to the use of reasonable force. On the use of force by the Home Office under the Bill, page 4 of the impact assessment says:

“While this is technically not age restricted, use of force against minors is not permitted under current policy except where in the rare circumstances there is a risk of harm”.


I think we all accept that; if a child is going to hurt themselves, you necessarily expect someone to try to intervene in that circumstance. It goes on to say:

“Use of force is not currently used against minors for compliance/removal purposes. We do not envisage the use of reasonable force being used for such purposes under the auspices of the new bill”—


this is the important phrase—

“unless it is necessary as a last resort where other methods to ensure compliance have failed”.

That is a major change of public policy, included in a document that we are being asked to consider at the last stages of Report. The Government are saying that reasonable force can be used in the deportation and removal of children under the auspices of the Bill, rather than it just being used in the circumstances of preventing harm. Nobody would disagree that if you are preventing a child hurting themselves, of course you have to use force and intervene appropriately, but this does not say that. I repeat: it says

“as a last resort where other methods to ensure compliance have failed”.

The House deserves an explanation of why the Government not only have changed public policy with respect to the lack of judicial oversight of age assessment but are now proposing, to ensure that children can be removed under the Bill, to allow reasonable force to be used.

I will not do this but, if this were Committee, noble Lords can imagine all the questions we would ask about training, about what “reasonable force” means and so on. That is not available to us, which makes it even more important that we support the amendment from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham—with the improvement suggested by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, if he moves his amendment as well—to protect children, some of the most vulnerable people who come to our shores.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Migration and Borders (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, as we have heard, these amendments take us on to the provisions regarding age assessments. Given that, under Clause 3, unaccompanied children will be treated differently from adults, and given the obvious safeguarding risks of adults purporting to be children being placed within the care system, it is important that we take steps to deter adults from claiming to be children and to avoid lengthy legal challenges to age-assessment decisions preventing the removal of those who have been assessed to be adults. Receiving care and services reserved for children also incurs costs and reduces the accessibility of these services for genuine children who need them.

Assessing age is inherently difficult, but it is crucial that we disincentivise adults from knowingly misrepresenting themselves as children. Our published data shows that, between 2016 and March 2023, there were 8,611 asylum cases in which an age assessment was required and subsequently resolved. Of those cases, nearly half— 47%, or 4,088 individuals—were found to be adults. This percentage aggregates initial decisions on age taken upon arrival, comprehensive assessments and the outcomes of legal challenges. I make clear that only those assessed to be adults will fall within the duty.

Accordingly, Clause 56 disapplies the right of appeal for age assessments, which is yet to be commenced and was established in Section 54 of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, for those who meet the four conditions in the Bill. Instead, those wishing to challenge a decision on age will be able to do so through judicial review, which will not suspend removal, and can continue from outside the UK after they have been removed. In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, I say that we are keeping the commencement of Section 54 under review, but I am unable to provide a further update at this stage.

Clause 56(5) provides the basis on which a court can consider a decision relating to a person’s age in judicial review proceedings. It provides that a court can grant relief

“only on the basis that it was wrong in law”,

and must not do so on the basis that it

“was wrong as a matter of fact”.

This distinguishes the position that the Supreme Court adopted in its judgment in the 2009 case of the Crown on the application of A v London Borough of Croydon, page eight. The intention is to ensure that the court cannot make its own determination on age—which should properly be reserved for those qualified and trained to assess age—but instead can consider a decision on age only on conventional judicial review principles.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, our approach to the Bill has always been to respect the fact that the other place has a right to have its legislation passed. As the noble Baroness, Lady Lawlor, mentioned, we have a right to revise, scrutinise and pass amendments seeking to improve or change aspects of the Bill. It is my view and that of His Majesty’s Opposition that this Chamber has done its job—not blocking the Bill, however much we oppose it, but improving it. Numerous improved protections and safeguards have been passed, with requirements to uphold traditional judicial oversight and conform to domestic and international laws. In pursuing this, the proper constitutional function of the Lords, I ask of the other place only that sufficient time is given to allow proper scrutiny and thought to be given to our proposals.

In this context, we cannot support Amendment 168AB and the other amendments spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord German. Of course, we understand the motivation and agree with him about Rwanda and his other points, but it appears that the amendment would block, or at the very least significantly delay, the Bill. In the context of what I have said on a number of occasions, and of what my noble friend Lord Ponsonby has said from the Dispatch Box, we do not support that approach.

My Amendment 168BAA says that Schedule 1 cannot come into force for a country not found to be safe until a decision has been overturned on appeal to the Supreme Court. In other words, I ask the Government to confirm that there is no legislative mechanism that they can or will use to avoid or bypass the judgment of the Court of Appeal and deport people to Rwanda before the Supreme Court makes its decision. I am looking for the Minister to confirm the Government’s approach with respect to this, so that we have it on the record.

The Government may say that this is all unnecessary, and many of us thought that to be the case. However, in the media over the weekend, there were reports that the former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has urged the current Prime Minister to fast-track the implementation of the Rwanda migrant policy by changing the law to designate it a safe country. He said that the Government should use their majority in Parliament to use provisions in the Asylum and Immigration Act that would allow them to designate countries as safe. Were the Government to adopt that recommendation from the former Prime Minister, the implications would be clear. Can the Minister categorically rule that out? Presumably, were this to be done, it could be done by secondary legislation—the Minister will be aware of the debate about this on another matter.

Subject to such assurances, I will not press my amendment to a vote—but it would be helpful for the Minister to outline, alongside this, what happens if the government appeal to the Supreme Court fails. Why would this not throw the Government’s policy off course? Do the Government have a plan B, or are they simply ploughing on, in the expectation of a successful appeal? Given the dependence of the Illegal Migration Bill on detention and then deportation, and given the importance of Rwanda to the Government’s policy, it would be interesting to hear what, if anything, the Government plan for that.

Even today, we read that the Border Force’s own forecasts suggest that the boats pledge will fail. As we have said on numerous occasions, we all want to see this challenge met and dealt with—but efficiently and effectively, in a way that is consistent with our domestic and international laws and requirements.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, it will come as no surprise to the noble Lords, Lord German and Lord Coaker, that the Government cannot support these amendments, not least as they are, simply, unnecessary. It may be that they were tabled as a hook to have a further debate about the judgment handed down by the Court of Appeal last week.

As noble Lords will recall, on Thursday afternoon last week, I repeated the Oral Statement that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary had delivered earlier in the day in the Commons; we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, then. To repeat what my right honourable friend said last Thursday, we respect the Court of Appeal’s judgment and welcome the fact that it unanimously found in the Government’s favour on the vast majority of the appeals brought against the policy. In particular, the Court of Appeal unanimously confirmed that removing asylum seekers to a safe country is entirely consistent with the refugee convention, including Article 31. Indeed, the court found that it is lawful in principle for the Government to relocate people who come to the United Kingdom illegally to a safe third country; that the Government can designate countries as safe; and that our processes for determining eligibility for relocation were fair. Members of this House contended that these issues were not the case in Committee and on Report, and we are glad that that feature has been confirmed by the Court of Appeal. That aspect of the judgment reaffirms the core principles underpinning the Bill and, on that basis, there is absolutely no reason why we should not continue with the scrutiny of the Bill and see it on to the statute book as quickly as possible.

On the finding of the court, by a majority decision—the Lord Chief Justice dissenting—on whether Rwanda is a safe third country, we have indicated that we will seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. The intention is for this application to be determined promptly. If leave to appeal is granted, it is then properly a matter for the Supreme Court to determine when the case will be heard. The Government are disappointed by the judgment, and it is also disappointing for the majority of the British public who have repeatedly voted for controlled migration, and for all those who want to see us deliver on our moral and democratic imperative to stop the boats.

Turning to the amendments, what does the judgment mean for the commencement of the Bill? I will make two points. First, on the core scheme provided for in the Bill—the duty to make arrangements for removal in Clause 2 and the other provisions directly tied to it—our position has always been that we will seek to implement these provisions as soon as practicable. The decision of the Supreme Court and the operation of our ground-breaking partnership with the Rwandan Government are important factors relating to that question of practicality. Clause 67 already provides for Clause 2 and the other elements of the core scheme to be commenced by regulations, so we are not bound to any particular date, and it remains the Government’s position that we will commence these provisions as soon as practical.

Secondly, there are a number of free-standing provisions in the Bill not directly tied to the duty in Clause 2. These include provisions in Clauses 11, 15 to 20, 29 to 36 and 57 to 61. There is no good reason why the commencement of these provisions should be tied to the outcome in the Supreme Court. Indeed, in relation to Clauses 29 to 36, which provide for the bans on re-entry, settlement and citizenship, the Bill provides for these clauses to come into force on Royal Assent.

In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, I do not propose to comment on the recent article written by the former Prime Minister in the Mail; the views expressed in it are a matter for him. Having had this further opportunity to debate this important judgment, I hope that the noble Lord will be content to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for his response. You can understand the concern that was raised by having a former Prime Minister ask the Government to consider bypassing the court judgment by using secondary regulations to give them the power to do that under the Asylum and Immigration Act. All I was asking for is a comment on that. I take heart from what the Minister said because it seemed that, despite what he said about the former Prime Minister, the important part of it was that the Government would of course abide by the consequences of the Court of Appeal judgment, subject to the further appeal, if granted, to the Supreme Court.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

As I have already said, I am afraid that I cannot comment further—tempted though I am—on what the former Prime Minister said. The noble Lord has the sense of the Government’s response.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we support my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti in her defence of the rule of law and interim relief in cases involving the alleged expulsion of people to unsafe places. The Government were happy to support the court’s decision not to grant such relief in the current Rwanda cases, but now they want to take away this jurisdiction, forcing more applicants to Strasbourg pending a final UK judicial determination. If the Government are right that Strasbourg interim measures are not binding, Clause 54 is unnecessary. If the European Court of Human Rights is correct that they are binding, our amended Clause 1 should be enough to safeguard international law. With respect to those comments, I urge my noble friend if she is so minded to test the opinion of the House on her Amendment 152, which we would support rather than Amendment 153.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Migration and Borders (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, the Bill establishes a bespoke claims and appeals process which provides for a person subject to the duty to remove to challenge their removal to a safe third country. The duty to remove will be temporarily suspended while consideration is given to any suspensive claim or appeal resulting from the refusal of that suspensive claim. That is of itself an effective remedy for those subject to the duty to remove, and these measures will ensure that all suspensive claims raised in response to a removal notice under the Bill will receive full judicial scrutiny.

Clause 53 is critical to the success of the Bill in preventing the United Kingdom’s domestic courts from granting interim remedies in relation to legal challenges which would prevent or delay the removal of a person who meets the removal conditions under Clause 2. Were other human rights claims and legal challenges to be made, they would be considered after a person has been removed. Clause 53 provides a necessary and effective safeguard against the endless merry-go-round of legal challenges that those with no right to be here use to thwart their removal.

Amendment 152 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, would incentivise people to obtain injunctions or submit judicial reviews to delay or prevent removal, negating the carefully crafted and balanced provisions we have set out in the Bill, which I have just described. We cannot allow that to happen. The amendment would substantially undermine the Government’s ability promptly to remove those who enter the UK illegally, and our overall objective of stopping the dangerous small-boat crossings.

Amendment 153 similarly seeks to weaken the Bill by striking out Clause 54, which relates to interim measures of the European Court of Human Rights. Let me be clear: it is not the Government’s intention to ignore a Rule 39 interim measure. Indeed, Clause 54 provides a clear framework for a Minister to exercise discretion where a Rule 39 interim measure is indicated. That will mean that a Minister may suspend removal in response to a Rule 39 interim measure but, crucially, is not bound by UK law so to do. This will be dependent on the facts of each case.

As I have said before, the Government take their international obligations very seriously. Nothing in the clause requires the Government to act in breach of international law. I reassure the noble Baroness that reflections within the Strasbourg court are ongoing, and we are closely following the process. We are confident that they will lead to meaningful change.

The inclusion of Clause 54 in the Bill reflects our concerns about the interim measures process. We believe that there needs to be greater transparency and fairness in the process to ensure the proper administration of justice. We cannot allow our ability to control our borders to be undermined by an opaque process which does not give the United Kingdom Government a formal opportunity to make representations or appeal the decision. This process risks derailing our efforts to tackle the people smugglers and stop people from making the dangerous, illegal and unnecessary journeys across the channel.

For the reasons I have set out, I therefore invite the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment and, if she is minded to test the opinion of the House on Amendment 152 or 153, I strongly urge noble Lords to reject the amendment.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Lister and the others who have signed these amendments, which we fully support. At its heart, there may be debate and disagreement with respect to this Bill. It is certainly contentious and sometimes we have large disagreements. Despite that, however, whatever the disagreements, we should do the right thing. That is why we support the amendments from my noble friend Lady Lister—because they seek to do the right thing by pregnant women.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Migration and Borders (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, as we have heard, with these amendments we return to the issue of detention time limits in relation to pregnant women. As I explained last Wednesday, holding people in detention is necessary to ensure that they are successfully removed from the United Kingdom under the scheme provided for in the Bill, which is designed to operate quickly and fairly.

However, our aim is to ensure that no one is held in detention for longer than is absolutely necessary to effect their removal. The duty on the Home Secretary to make arrangements for the removal of all illegal entrants back to their home country or to a safe third country will send a clear message that vulnerable individuals, including pregnant women, cannot be exploited by the people-smuggling gangs facilitating their passage across the channel in small boats on the false promise of starting a new life in the UK.

Under the Bill, detention is not automatic. The Bill confers powers to detain, and the appropriateness of detention will be considered on a case-by-case basis. As regards pregnant women, we expect that anyone who is in the later stages of pregnancy and who cannot be removed in the short term will not be detained but would instead be released on immigration bail.

For women who are detained in the earlier stages of pregnancy, we already operate our adults at risk policy, where pregnant women are recognised as a particular vulnerable group. In all cases in which a pregnant woman is detained for removal, the fact of her pregnancy will automatically be regarded as amounting to level 3 evidence under the adults at risk policy, and thus the pregnancy will be afforded significant weight when assessing the risk of harm in continued detention. This means a woman known to be pregnant should be detained only where the immigration control factors that apply in her case outweigh the evidence of her vulnerability—in this case, the evidence of her pregnancy. Such control factors at level 3 are where removal has been set for a date in the immediate future or where there are public protection concerns.

The detention of a pregnant woman must be reviewed promptly if there is any change in circumstances, especially if related to her pregnancy or to her welfare more generally. Examples of specific welfare considerations that may need to be taken into account include the stage of pregnancy, whether there have been complications in the pregnancy, any known appointments for scans, care or treatment, and whether particular arrangements may be needed to facilitate safe removal. While in detention, pregnant women will receive appropriate healthcare.

I assure the House that, as now, the enforced removal of a pregnant woman must be pursued only where it can be achieved safely and there is no suggestion that her baby is due before the planned removal date. Additionally, pregnant women will not be removed from the UK if they are not fit to travel based on medical assessments.

Given the safeguards we have already built into the arrangements for the detention of pregnant women, the Government remain of the view that these amendments, however well-meaning, are not necessary. I am very grateful to those who have spoken in this debate for outlining their—I am sure—well-held concerns and for their thoughtful contributions. However, in light of what I have just said, I ask the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, to withdraw her Amendment 64. If, however, she is minded to test the opinion of the House, I invite noble Lords to reject the amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Lawlor. The amendments before us do not seek to punish children who are in a situation that many of them have no choice in. We have a duty to them as a humanitarian country with proud traditions. We have a duty to protect children, and that is what we seek to do. We need to remember that we are talking about children here. Whatever we do, I do not want to punish children for however they may have arrived here.

We fully support the amendments of the noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, particularly Amendments 87 and 89. Amendment 89, of course, is in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham and it is one to which I have added my name, along with the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, and the noble Lord, Lord German.

I do not want to speak for long, but the point that was made is significant, especially when one looks at Clause 16. The Secretary of State can decide on the transfer date that an unaccompanied child be moved away from the local authority. The point made by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, goes right to the heart of the issue: the local authority acts as the parent. If you move a child away from that situation, you are effectively making them an orphan. There is nobody responsible for them by law. Is that really what we want? Is that really what we are trying to achieve? We all agree that there is a problem, but we should not make children pay the price of trying to resolve it. That is not the right way of going about it.

As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham pointed out, the Secretary of State can direct the local authority to cease providing accommodation. There is no discussion between the Secretary of State and the local authority to view what is in the best interests of the child. The Secretary of State can compel the local authority—as the parent—to cease providing accommodation for a child, which will then take them into Home Office-provided accommodation. Within that Home Office accommodation, as the right reverend Prelate pointed out, we still have 186 children lost. They are missing. We have no idea where they are. I say it time and again but if the Home Office was a human being and a parent, that human being—the parent known as the Home Office—would be prosecuted. We would not tolerate losing children. We would not say that we are doing all we can. We would ask what on earth is happening that children are being lost. The local authority provides the best solution to looking after unaccompanied children in these circumstances.

The Home Office can demand that of the local authority with no justification. It can demand it with no idea of where these children are going to go and with no idea of the standards to be provided for them. They are simply to be housed in Home Office accommodation or wherever. That is not acceptable to the people of this country, irrespective of the fact that they understand there is a problem with the boats, and irrespective of the fact they understand that something needs to be done. They do not want is to see migrant children, or any child, having to pay the price for that. The Government need to sort it out in another way and ensure that all children in this country are properly protected.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, Amendment 87 put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, seeks to ensure that all children covered by the duty in Clause 2 have the protections afforded to children under the Children Act 1989. No one can disagree with the sentiment behind his amendment. However, in a sense, it misses its intended target, as the 1989 Act does not impose obligations, duties or responsibilities on the Secretary of State but rather on local authorities. There is nothing in this Bill that alters those duties or responsibilities, particularly as regards an unaccompanied child—a point well made by my noble friend Lady Berridge.

That said, Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 already requires that the Home Secretary carry out her functions in a way that takes into account the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in the United Kingdom, and I can assure noble Lords that this will continue to be the case.

Subsection (3) of the proposed new clause brings me to the provisions in Clauses 15 and 16 which were referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher. She seeks to remove those clauses; the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham seeks to amend them with Amendments 88A, 89 and 89A.

Clause 15 makes provision for the accommodation of unaccompanied migrant children in scope of this Bill. This clause confers on the Secretary of State a power to provide, or to arrange for the provision of, accommodation and other support to unaccompanied migrant children in England. While the clause contains no time limit on how long any child spends in Home Office accommodation, as I have said previously on a number of occasions, our clear intention is that their stay be a temporary one until they transfer to a local authority for a permanent placement. This is not detained accommodation, and the support that will be provided will be appropriate to the needs of these young people during their short stay.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, as we have heard, these amendments relate to the bans on re-entry, settlement and citizenship which are a key part of the deterrent effect of the Bill and send an important message that, if you enter the country illegally, you will not be able to build a life here.

Amendments 114 and 116, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, and spoken to so eloquently by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, seek to remove from the scope of the bans those who meet the duty in Clause 2 but who are under the age of 18.

As the Bill is currently constructed, anyone, including children, who meets the criteria of the duty also becomes subject to permanent bans on obtaining leave to remain, settlement, citizenship and re-entry. The application of the bans is irrespective of whether the child was complicit in the act of entering illegally. I hope that addresses the points noble Lords have raised in that regard.

The inclusion of children is to ensure that there is no perverse incentive for parents or others to put children in harm’s way by forcing them on to small boats or other dangerous methods in an attempt to gain entry to the UK. We want to send a clear message that children cannot be exploited and forced into making dangerous attempts to gain entry into the UK for the purpose of starting a new life here. Instead, the only way to come to the UK for protection will be through safe and legal routes. This will take the power out of the hands of criminal gangs and protect vulnerable people, including children.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the noble Lord for allowing me to intervene. Could he update the House, in light of what my noble friend Lady Lister said, on where we are with the child rights impact assessment?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

I was saving that until the end of my remarks, which I will do, if I may.

Under our proposals, anyone who has entered illegally will be removed, so it is unlikely that they will qualify for settlement or citizenship on the basis of long and lawful residence. I therefore take my noble friend Lord Moylan’s point, in that regard. However, the powers in the Bill provide the Secretary of State with the discretion to waive the bans in specific circumstances, as we discussed in Committee. In practice, these powers mean that the Secretary of State retains the discretion to waive the bans on obtaining settlement as well as to consider an application for citizenship where they consider that failure to do so would result in a breach of the United Kingdom’s obligations under the ECHR.

The Bill also provides additional discretionary powers to waive the bans on limited leave to remain and re-entry. The Secretary of State may waive the ban on re-entry if they consider that other exceptional circumstances make it appropriate to allow someone to return; these would include to ensure compliance with international agreements to which the UK is a party. Similarly, in the limited leave to remain area, there is a power allowing the Secretary of State to waive the ban where it is appropriate to ensure compliance with the ECHR or other international agreements to which the UK is a party, as well as where an individual who is seeking to remain in the UK has been allowed to return on the basis of other exceptional circumstances.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Moylan for again raising these interesting issues in the amendments he has tabled. They seek to change provisions in Clauses 30 to 36 so that the citizenship ban applies only to naturalisation and not registration routes. I am grateful to my noble friend for meeting me to talk about this. We had a useful discussion, although we did not quite reach agreement on these topics.

Our view is that registration is not just about recognising a person’s claim to British citizenship that they do not have the documents to demonstrate. Instead, a number of the registration routes within the British Nationality Act have requirements based on residence and many have good character requirements. It is not a case, as my noble friend has suggested, of merely acknowledging a status that a person already holds, but an opportunity for a person to demonstrate their suitability to become British.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is clearly not the case. I accept that the Government Chief Whip did not exactly say that it would be put before your Lordships’ House today, but the expectation was that it would be. We have reached 7 pm; we are debating children’s issues and have done so all the way through Report, and we have not got the children’s impact assessment. It is utterly unacceptable for the Government to run a contentious Bill in this way. All the impact assessments were late, by and large. This is particularly late; it is no way to carry on. I can understand my noble friend Lady Lister’s upset and anger at this, and my noble friend Lord Kennedy raised it last week. The Minister knows, frankly, the anger and disappointment there is about this. I do not know what else to say, other than: what does “tomorrow” mean? Is it first thing tomorrow morning, or will it turn up at 8 or 9 pm, just before Report finishes? Perhaps the Minister can clarify what tomorrow means, and register the deep anger and upset in this House.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we support the comments made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and, in particular, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton. Were the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, minded to test the opinion of the House, he would certainly find us supporting him on Amendment 130.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, it was remiss of me not to say a little about Amendment 126 and the other government amendments in this group, so I will do so now. These amendments, as I am sure Members of the House have realised, replace a “factual suspensive claim” with a “removal conditions suspensive claim”. Clearly, I and the department listened carefully to the contributions from noble Lords in Committee on these topics about these suspensive claims, in particular those helpful contributions from the Cross Benches. The changes in the category of suspensive claim are a direct reflection of what was said during those debates.

Currently, a factual suspensive claim can be raised where a mistake of fact has been made in deciding that a person meets the four removal conditions in Clause 2. This definition would prevent a claim being raised where a person had been incorrectly identified as meeting the four removal conditions due to a mistake of law. A removal conditions suspensive claim will instead provide for a claim to be raised where a person who has been given a removal notice informing them that they are subject to the duty to remove does not consider that they meet the removal conditions in Clause 2. The Secretary of State’s or Upper Tribunal’s consideration of a removal conditions suspensive claim will be on whether or not the removal conditions were met. I trust these amendments will be welcome, in particular to the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, who queried the scope of these claims in Committee.

I am grateful to the noble and learned Lords, Lord Etherton and Lord Hope, for setting out the case for the other amendments in this group. A serious harm suspensive claim is a claim that a person would, before the end of the relevant period, face a real, imminent and foreseeable risk of serious and irreversible harm if they were removed from the United Kingdom to a country other than their country of origin. The serious and irreversible harm test is designed to be a high threshold and reflects the test applied by the European Court of Human Rights when considering whether to indicate an interim measure under Rule 39 of the rules of court. “Serious” indicates that the harm must meet a minimum level of severity, and “irreversible” means the harm would have a permanent or very long-lasting effect. These amendments seek to change how Clause 38 of the Bill defines the risk of harm, lowering the threshold for a serious harm claim to succeed.

Amendment 130 would remove the requirement for the harm to occur in the period it will take for any human rights claim or judicial review to be determined from the safe third country. I suggest it is reasonable to expect the harm to occur over a defined period. The very purpose of the suspensive claim process is to prevent those persons subject to the duty to remove suffering serious and irreversible harm during the same period that their human rights claims are considered. Without this requirement, it would be difficult for decision-makers properly to assess the likelihood of any risk materialising. It would also risk abusive suspensive claims being made on the basis of a risk of harm that does not currently exist or that may not materialise until months or even years after a person has been removed from the United Kingdom.

Amendment 130 would also remove the requirement for the risk of harm to be irreversible. This would significantly lower the threshold for a serious harm suspensive claim to succeed and undermine the purpose of the Bill to deter illegal entry to the United Kingdom. Again, I would point out that the test applied by the Strasbourg court when considering applications for Rule 39 interim measures is one of serious and irreversible harm. So, the serious harm condition and requirement for the risk of harm to be both serious and irreversible reflects that test.

Lastly, Amendment 130 would also remove specific examples of harm that do not or are unlikely to constitute serious and irreversible harm. Setting out a clear approach regarding the interpretation of serious harm on the face of the Bill will, I suggest to noble Lords, ensure that decision-makers and the courts take a consistent approach in their consideration of what amounts to a risk of serious and irreversible harm. The examples in Clause 38(5) reflect existing case law and go no further than how we currently approach the consideration of these issues when raised in protection claims.

Amendment 131 would prevent amendments to the examples of harm that constitute serious and irreversible harm set out in Clause 38(4), as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, so eloquently set out. I assure the House that the Government do not intend to diminish or remove the examples of harm listed in Clause 38(4).

Amendment 132 would remove the regulation-making power in Clause 39 to amend the meaning of “serious and irreversible harm”. This would result in the Secretary of State being unable to make amendments which reflect developments in case law. It is worth again pointing out that the Delegated Powers Committee raised no issue with this power in its report on the Bill.

Amendment 133 would alter the requirement for a serious harm suspensive claim to include “compelling” evidence of the risk of harm that a person would face if removed to a third country and replace it with a requirement to provide evidence that is “reliable, substantial and material”. I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his remarks on the clarity of those three words, which, of course, will be available in Hansard should any questions arise as to what might amount to “compelling”.

However, although evidence that is compelling may also be defined as evidence that is reliable, substantial and material, a requirement for evidence to be compelling is more appropriate and succinct, given that it is the overall impact of the evidence provided, not any particular element or feature of it, that is relevant. The term “compelling” is sufficiently clear and well understood by decision-makers, and should remain unaltered. It is a term that has use in this area of the law. For example, evidence provided by people raising suspensive claims may differ dramatically in terms of volume and substance, but it is the overall impact of such evidence that is crucial when determining whether any claim has merit. For those reasons, the term “compelling” is more appropriate, providing decision-makers and the courts with the right degree of flexibility when making decisions on suspensive claims and appeals.

Finally, the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, seek to extend the claim and decision periods provided for in Clauses 41 and 45. We consider the periods specified in the Bill to be fair and equitable, affording sufficient time to submit and determine claims, commensurate with the Bill’s objective to remove people swiftly from the United Kingdom. However, I remind the noble Baroness that, where the Secretary of State considers it appropriate to do so, it will be possible to extend both the claim period and the decision period.

For the reasons I have outlined, I respectfully ask that the noble Lords do not press their amendments.

Migration and Economic Development Partnership

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Thursday 29th June 2023

(10 months, 4 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Secretary of State’s Statement made earlier today.

We have said throughout the discussions on the Illegal Migration Bill that the Government need to accept reality. The Bill ignores many of our international obligations, abandons many of our long-held traditions and principles, and is unworkable. The costs are enormous and growing, stretching into the billions of pounds, and are based on a theory of deterrence that even its own impact statement, published at last on Monday this week, says may not work.

Of course there is a problem that needs dealing with. We have said that should be done by speeding up decision-making, clearing the asylum backlog, getting proper international agreements, including returns agreements, and tackling the problem at source and cracking down on the criminal gangs. But the Government seem to say that we just have to carry on—an “It will be all right on the night” approach, flying in the face of reality, the evidence and the facts.

The number of people crossing the channel in small boats in June 2023 is already more than crossed in June 2022, despite the fact that measures in the Bill apply to them because of its retrospective start date. Then we have today’s Court of Appeal judgment, which shows that the Government’s Rwanda policy regarding small boats is unravelling before our own eyes. There is chaos regarding small boats, and one of its main policy planks is falling apart.

What are the Government going to do? What are the implications of the Court of Appeal judgment for the Illegal Migration Bill? What are the Government going to do in light of that decision that the Rwanda policy is unlawful? It cannot just be wished away, can it? Will they bring forward amendments? What does it actually mean for those to be detained under the Bill? Is it not now even more unworkable, as detained asylum seekers are supposed to be sent to Rwanda or to other safe countries but, as I say, will be left in limbo. Ministers were forced to admit this week that it will cost up to £169,000 to send each person to Rwanda, on top of the £140 million already spent. Now this judgment has said that Ministers did not even do the basic work to make sure that the scheme was either legal or safe. Why not?

As we have learned, the Government are to appeal, and the Home Secretary has said that we need to deal with the challenge of small boats. I repeat that we all agree with that, but it has to be done lawfully. Does the Minister agree with that statement? If he does, are the Government still prepared to deliver their policy based on the assumption that they will be able to do so? In other words, if they receive permission to appeal to the Supreme Court and the decision of the Court of Appeal is upheld, what then? Is there a plan B, and what changes are the Government proposing to take account of today’s ruling? As one of the judges said:

“Our conclusion on the safety of Rwanda issue means that the Rwanda policy must be declared unlawful”.


How on earth has it come to this? Appeal and carry on regardless—is that the Minister’s policy?

Is it not the stark reality that carrying on regardless will mean a huge backlog of people on top of those we have already, as I said, left in limbo? Thousands upon thousands will be waiting to be deported in detention centres or other government accommodation, such as military camps, barges, ex-liners or even, as we have read this week, big marquees. Time and again Ministers have chased headlines and slogans instead of getting a grip in the way that I outlined earlier.

The Court of Appeal judgment today is just the latest blow. The Rwanda scheme is unworkable, unethical and extortionate. It is a costly diversion from the urgent action the Government should be taking to deal with this issue. As my noble friend Lady Hayter’s International Agreements Committee said, much of this could have been avoided if it had been done by a treaty not a memorandum of understanding.

Finally, does the Minister, as a barrister, agree with me that we must have no talk—as I expect we are bound to hear—that judges are the enemies of the people or that the Government are being thwarted by trendy lawyers or tofu-eaters? We all want the challenge of the boats dealt with, but done so practically and lawfully. That is not too much to ask, is it?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I am afraid that however eloquent the address and questions of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, the reality is that the Labour Party still has no answer to the difficulty of the boats crossing the channel. The five-point plan that the Labour Party propose would not stop people crossing the channel.

The programme set out in the Illegal Migration Bill will continue—I reassure the noble Lord that we are 100% behind the Bill. The decision of the Court of Appeal was not that the procedure in the Bill was unlawful; the very opposite is the case. The Court of Appeal has endorsed the key principle of the scheme: that a signatory of the refugee convention can remove people to a safe third country for the determination of their asylum claims.

The only point on which the Court of Appeal found against the Government was on whether Rwanda would be a safe country. Even that, of itself, was not a finding that Rwanda was unsafe for refugees; it was a finding that there was a potential risk that Rwanda would allow those refugees to be returned to their original country, and even that decision was disagreed with by the Lord Chief Justice himself. I suggest that this is no indication that this scheme is unlawful in itself. I reassure the noble Lord that the Government will very much be continuing with the Bill.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Migration and Borders (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, for moving the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Brixton, which seeks to protect transport providers. I understand the concern that this is causing.

To answer the points of the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Coaker, Clauses 7 and 9 simply reflect the current position, corresponding to the long-standing requirement set out in Schedule 2 to the 1971 Act. As now, risk assessments must be made before directions are given to a carrier, and escorts will be provided where this is assessed to be necessary.

All the practical issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, apply equally under existing powers, and there are established protocols for dealing with them. We are not putting any additional burdens on the transport sector; in fact, we are providing for the costs of complying with directions under the Bill, but they will be paid for by the Secretary of State and will not be at the carrier’s expense. The amendment would therefore put the powers surrounding the giving of removal directions at odds with existing provisions and would effectively turn a requirement to remove people into a request, which would then impact on the number of illegal immigrants being removed.

Government Amendments 46 and 47 are prompted by a question posed in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, who asked how transport workers could deal with a non-compliant person. Again, the answer lies in the Immigration Act 1971. It is already an offence under Section 24(1)(f) of that Act for a person subject to removal to disembark, and these amendments simply apply that offence to removals under the Bill. This then engages Section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967, which enables a person to use reasonable force to prevent a crime—a provision that I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, in particular, will be very familiar with.

Finally, returning to the amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Davies, Amendment 85 seeks to amend the definition of “vehicle” to limit the power in Schedule 2 to search vehicles to only those hired by the Secretary of State to remove persons pursuant to Clauses 2 and 3. We would not want to limit the power to search vehicles in this way; doing so would prevent immigration officers being able to search small boats, for example.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sure the Minister answered this in Committee, but can he just confirm that vehicles are lorries, van and cars? Does “a vehicle” mean all types of vehicle?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

I seem to remember —I am sure the Bill team will correct me if I am wrong—that it does not include private cars and camper-vans. I hope that clarifies the point; if am wrong, I will be sent a message, I am sure.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it is a pleasure to rise to support many of the amendments in this group, but in particular Amendment 12. I thank my noble friend Lord Hunt, the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for moving such an important amendment.

I start by saying that, as a proud Labour politician, I am the first to recognise the phenomenal achievement, as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, pointed out, of the Conservative Government in passing the Modern Slavery Act. That is important, and he pointed out the cross-party nature of that. That is why it is so bewildering that we have a Conservative Government driving forward this legislation.

Notwithstanding that, Amendment 12 goes to the heart of the various amendments. It is important to reiterate the explanatory note to my noble friend’s amendment, which simply seeks

“to amend the Bill so that potential and recognised victims of trafficking will not be detained or removed before they get the opportunity to submit an application to the NRM and have it duly considered”.

That seems a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but of course, under this Bill, everybody who arrives irregularly —primarily by small boat, as far as the Government are concerned—is automatically excluded. That inevitably means that victims or potential victims of modern slavery and trafficking will be caught by the legislation and their needs will not be met.

We have talked about evidence. Helpfully, on Monday the impact assessment was at last published. The Government recognise the draconian nature of these provisions, as they have put in their own sunset clause, and they say they are doing this because the system is being gamed. On page 24, the impact assessment states:

“For context, of the 83,236 people that arrived in the UK on small boats between 1 January 2018 and 31 December 2022, 7 per cent (6,210 people) were referred to the NRM”.


Of course, as was made clear, that 7% of those 83,000 were referred by government-approved officials. They were not necessarily then deemed to have conclusive grounds; they were referred in order to have their situation considered.

That is the issue Amendment 12 seeks to address. It does not say there are not sometimes people who apply who should not, but that the purpose of the Modern Slavery Act is to ensure that victims have the right to have their case heard, to be supported where necessary, and to not be removed from the country during that process. Amendment 12 is therefore perfectly reasonable and if my noble friend chooses to test the opinion of the House, I hope that many of us will support it, because it is a simple but very important amendment.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, has explained, his amendments would prevent the detention and removal of any person who meets the conditions in Clause 4 and who is the subject of a NRM referral until a conclusive grounds decision and any appeal has been determined. The current average time taken from referral to conclusive grounds decisions, made in January to March 2023, across the competent authorities, was 566 days. Against that backdrop, these are wrecking amendments. They would profoundly undermine the Government’s ability to tackle the threat to life arising from the dangerous, illegal and unnecessary channel crossings and the pressure they place on our public services.

Amendments 95, 99, 101 and 104 in the name of my noble friend Lord Randall seek to mitigate the effect of the provisions in the Bill in a more targeted way, but here too I have concerns that the amendments would undermine what we seek to do in these provisions. As I set out in Committee, the NRM presents clear opportunities for abuse by those who would seek to frustrate removal. It is worth repeating the statistics relating to NRM referrals of people arriving in small boats, which demonstrate how the NRM could be open to abuse.

In 2021, 404 people were detained for return after arriving in the United Kingdom on a small boat, 73% of whom were referred to the NRM while in detention. The latest published figure, for the period January to September 2022, is only slightly lower, at 65%. This is a large increase on earlier years; just 6% of those detained for return in 2019 were referred to the NRM while in detention. So far, only a minority of people who arrived on small boats have been detained for return, but if enforcement activity is greatly expanded, as it would be under the terms of the Bill, and if this rate of referral continues, the number of referrals could be substantially higher. These figures cannot be ignored.

I can provide some assurance to my noble friend and other noble Lords. The Bill does not impact NRM referrals of British citizens or persons who are in the UK without valid leave, having overstayed, and who are therefore, I suggest, more susceptible to exploitation in the UK; nor will unaccompanied children arriving on small boats be affected while they remain under 18. They are not subject to the duty to remove until they turn 18. Finally, the Bill provides for an exception to the application of the public order disqualification where it is necessary for someone to remain in the United Kingdom to co-operate with an investigation or prosecution related to their exploitation.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can the Minister explain whether the figures he has given us are in the impact assessment? It would have helped us if they were; I apologise if I have missed them. Has the Minister changed the way he is coming to the percentage figure? Are the Government now saying that it is not the percentage of the number of people who arrive by small boats but the percentage of those who arrived by small boats and are detained? The percentages are going to be significantly higher because the numbers who are detained are not the sort of numbers I was talking about. The number I quoted is from the Government’s own figures. What figures are the Government using and how are they coming to them? Perhaps he can explain to the Chamber how many of the 83,236 people who arrived by small boats were detained, so we can get some idea of the percentages he is talking about.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it is a privilege to make a short contribution on an amendment that we very much support. Before I make general remarks, I ask the Minister to reflect again on the importance of a strategy and why strategies can move between Governments, as I know from having seen Governments change. That does not mean that they stay exactly the same, and a strategic framework may not bind another Government, but that does not stop Governments producing strategies for themselves. I ask the Minister to reflect on that—I am sure that others who have had experience in government would bear that out.

I was reflecting more generally about the references to the 1951 refugee convention. I mention that because the world faced a global crisis in 1951, and what did it do? Visionary people came together to sort the problem out as best they could and to deal with the challenges that they faced. As the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, said, it was more than regional; it was global, affecting the global institutions and world powers, which had major conflicting differences—poverty and goodness only knows what else was going on, with countless millions of people displaced.

I am not saying that the world is currently in a post-World War II situation, but I agree with the most reverend Primate that we face a global crisis that cannot be solved by one country on its own—it just cannot. The world will be driven by a common interest, in some ways, to sort this out. Whatever we think of other countries, their own self-interest will drive them to sort it out. Countries will try to sort it out on their own, but they will not be able to.

Without being a prophet of doom about this, I say that things are going to get more difficult. I do not mean that we are at the edge of the end of the world, or anything like that, but you can see the impacts of regional and ethnic conflict as well as overpopulation, failing crops, the changing climate, water and energy competition and the food crisis, as well as millions of people moving—in fact, countless millions. I know that figures have been arrived at. Many noble Lords have been to parts of the world where it is unbelievable to see some of the poorest countries in the world dealing with millions of people. If those people came into some of the richest countries, I am not sure how they would deal with it. I went to Angola 20 years ago, after the civil war, and you just could not believe it. I went to one refugee camp and there were 1 million people in it—and that was internationally supported, so it was fantastic. I went to Jordan and the number of people who had flooded across the border from Syria into temporary camps there was unbelievable. There were huge numbers of people—and you can replicate that. I do not think that it is going to stop any time soon, and we need to understand how we are going to deal with that and cope with it. The noble Lord, Lord Deben, was quite right to point out the various impacts.

The most reverend Primate is not trying to say that therefore that means that the UK should just allow in anybody who wants to come—that is just trivialising the argument. Of course you have to have control and manage the situation. The point that the amendment seeks to make is that, if this is going to be sorted out—over and above the problem of the boats, which we accept needs to be dealt with—the UK is still a significant power. It is challenged at the moment through some of its attitudes to international conferences, conventions and treaties, but we are still a member of the United Nations Security Council, NATO and the Commonwealth, which we have not mentioned. When you travel, you recognise, understand and see the influence that the UK still has.

In backing the amendment proposed by the most reverend Primate, though the initiatives that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham has mentioned—with the Clewer Initiative and the Anglican community across the world—I say that in the end people are going to have to come together to sort this out. Somewhere along the line, it will need big, visionary people to stand up and say, “We’re going to do that”.

I am going to make this point—and I am going to take a minute on this issue. The argument in this country, which those of us who stood for election know is difficult, and the conflation between immigration, migration, refugees and asylum makes things actually really difficult, because it is all lumped together as one problem. Somewhere along the line, part of what a strategy does is to get people to step back and reflect. The British public, along with all the publics in the world, can do that. If people are presented even with difficult choices that they may not wish to confront, they are not stupid—they know that sometimes things have to be dealt with.

This is a really important point: people are decent. I know that sometimes they will rant and rave about how this is happening and they cannot believe that everybody is coming here, but I have seen myself, and I am sure that everyone has seen it in their own communities, that if you try to deport one family that has lived in community for a considerable period of time, there will be a campaign in that community to stop them being removed. That is because people are decent. If you look at it as individual children and grandparents, individual men and women, we all know from our own personal experiences that people look at it in a different way. All that the amendment proposed by the most reverend Primate is doing is to say that we should harness that and bring it together into a way of addressing a problem that we have as a country but which we have globally as well. If we do not try to sort it out globally, we will have a problem, because the problem will not go away—but it is a challenge that we can meet. This gives us an opportunity to develop a strategy that has at its heart using the privileged position that our country has as a world leader to be an agent for change in a way that would bring about a better world and offer hope to millions of the poorest people in the world.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

As before, I am grateful to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for explaining so clearly the case for a 10-year strategy for tackling refugee crises. I agree with him that an assessment of the root causes of refugee migration to the UK, and indeed any country, is a worthwhile endeavour. However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, by extension from his remarks, in questioning whether the British Government, or indeed any one national Government, are the appropriate body to develop such a strategy.

Indeed, the most reverend Primate also acknowledged in his speech on Amendment 139C that developing global solutions to such issues cannot be done by one country alone. None the less, I assure my noble friend Lord Bourne that this Government are strongly committed to international action and collaboration in this area. Indeed, as many have noted, we have a strong track record of international collaboration with both state and non-state actors, such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Bank, non-governmental organisations and other donors, and through our direct engagement with major refugee-hosting countries.

The UNHCR has a global mandate to protect and safeguard the rights of refugees and to support internally displaced populations and people who are stateless or whose nationality is disputed. We will of course continue to work with the UNHCR, as we have done many times before, to respond to displacement crises globally and offer safe routes to protection in the UK.

I understand the most reverend Primate’s reasoning for introducing his amendment; after all, the UNHCR estimated that, as of mid-2022, the number of forcibly displaced persons exceeded 100 million. We heard earlier today that the figure is now said to be in excess of 110 million. That figure results from armed conflict, violence, persecution, climate change, economic uncertainty and food insecurity—all of which are on the rise.

As the most reverend Primate and my noble friend Lord Bourne indicated, the international community can address displacement on this scale only collectively, through a holistic approach, utilising, where appropriate, developmental, diplomatic, military and humanitarian interventions. I also acknowledge our work with faith groups, not least the Anglican community, in furthering our policy objectives in this area. That is the approach that the UK has taken. Recognising the need for a holistic approach in our own strategy, rather than creating a siloed refugee strategy, the UK Government have already embedded actions to tackle refugee crises throughout existing cross-government strategies, including the Integrated Review Refresh, as well as the international development strategy and the humanitarian framework.

We already take a long-term approach to tackling refugee crises. The UK has been one of the largest donors to the agencies working on the front line over many years. We have also played a key role in intergovernmental processes that have shaped the way in which the international community responds to displacement crises, such as through the development of the Global Compact on Refugees—mentioned earlier by the right reverend Prelate—which was adopted by the international community in 2018, and, before that, through the World Humanitarian Summit, as well as through our engagement with major development actors such as the World Bank. In particular, the Global Compact on Refugees provides the international community with a shared strategy for tackling refugee crises, and a shared vision and strategy for how to operationalise the principles of predictable and equitable burden and responsibility sharing—principles that underpin refugee protection.

In response to the point raised by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, the Home Office continues to work closely with the FCDO in preparation for the next Global Refugee Forum in December.

The Government are constantly considering the longer-term drivers, impacts and policy implications of migration, alongside delivering more immediate improvements to the system. Our approach is cross-government: we work with a wide range of departments on diplomacy and development, and with law enforcement agencies, in developing this. I believe that this is the most appropriate means by which to do so.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

I do not recognise those statistics, but I will of course look at the Helen Bamber Foundation report that the noble Baroness identifies. The facts are stark. As I have already identified, a large proportion of disputed age-assessment cases result in the applicant being found to be over 18.

Clause 55(5), as commented upon by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, seeks to ensure that age assessment judicial reviews will be considered by the courts on normal public law principles such as rationality, public law unreasonableness and procedural fairness. Such a challenge on these grounds is not as restrictive as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, has suggested. However, Clause 55(5) will seek to ensure that the court does not consider age as a matter of fact and will not substitute its own decision on age, distinguishing itself from the position of the Supreme Court in the judgment of R (on the application of A) v London Borough of Croydon 2009.

Amendments 121 to 123, tabled by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, seek to negate these provisions by omitting Clause 55(2), (4) and (5). They are not amendments which I can commend to the Committee. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham asked whether a person would be returned to the UK if a judicial review was successful. This would depend on the nature of the court’s judgment and any associated order. We will, of course, comply with any order of the court.

Amendments 124 to 126, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, would similarly have the effect of neutering Clause 56. Clause 56 again seeks to disincentivise adults from knowingly misrepresenting themselves as children by making use of scientific age-assessment methods already employed in many other European countries, including the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Specifically, Clause 56 will enable us to bring forward regulations to provide that a person is to be treated as an adult if they refuse to consent to specified scientific methods for the purpose of age assessment, and the clause already provides that this would be the case only if the refusal was without good reason. I assure the noble Baronesses, Lady Lister and Lady Brinton, and other noble Lords that the regulation-making power will not be exercised until the science is sufficiently accurate to support providing for an automatic assumption of adulthood.

Given this, it would be premature to provide draft regulations as to the level of parliamentary scrutiny to apply to those regulations. We note the Constitution Committee’s recommendation that the affirmative procedure should apply—a point raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope—and we will respond in advance of the next stage.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can I just pick up something before the Minister leaves this point? If I understood the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, correctly, she wanted to know how a child could consent to a scientific assessment that assesses their age.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

They participate in the particular type of medical scan that is utilised. That is the practice adopted by our European partners.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

The provisions in the Bill are clear, and, as I say, in due course draft regulations will be provided, and they will be subject to scrutiny by this House. I am afraid there is little point speculating in the abstract on questions of Gillick competence in the absence of the regulations. But the point is clear that it would be contrary to the purpose of these provisions if an applicant was able simply to refuse to participate in scientific age assessment and that were to have no consequences; that would rob such provisions of efficacy, as the noble Baroness would have to concede, I suggest.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is quite astonishing to hear a Minister of the Crown say, from what I can understand, that a child can therefore be forced to comply with some scientific method of age assessment. In every area of public life in this country, the competence of a child to make a decision is structured in a way that takes into account the fact that they are children, even if, as in this case, they are potentially children. What the Minister is saying is quite astonishing. I have no idea what it means regarding how you assess the age of a child and ensure that that child in some way gives consent. Is there a social worker? Is there someone acting in loco parentis? Is there some sort of structure that means that you cannot just force a child to take part in some sort of scientific method that looks into their age?

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I will be interested to hear what the Minister has to say to many of the questions raised. We will then consider what to do between now and Report.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken: the noble Baronesses, Lady Lister and Lady Ludford, and the noble Lord, Lord Hacking.

The measures in Clause 57 aim to deter claims from nationals from safe countries who seek to abuse our asylum system and do not need to seek protection in the UK. It will consequently reduce pressure on our asylum system and allow us to focus on those most in need of our protection.

Treating asylum claims from EU nationals in this way is not new, as I think all noble Lords recognised. It has been a long-standing process in the UK asylum system and is also employed by EU states. However, EU states are not the only safe countries. It is right that we expand these provisions so that they apply not only to nationals of the EU but to other safe countries that we have assessed as generally safe. At this time, the list has been expanded to include the other European Economic Area countries, Switzerland and Albania. This clause also includes powers that would allow us to expand this list further to other safe countries of origin in future.

Furthermore, these provisions will expand this approach to include human rights claims. If a country is generally safe, it stands to reason not only that asylum claims should be declared inadmissible but that any related human rights claims should be treated likewise. If a person has other reasons for wishing to come to the UK, they should apply through the appropriate routes. People should not seek to use our asylum system to circumnavigate those routes.

However, even if a country is generally considered safe, it is acknowledged that there could be exceptional circumstances in which it may not be appropriate to return an individual. If the person does not meet the conditions of the duty and makes an asylum or human rights claim, and there are exceptional circumstances as a result of which the Secretary of State considers that a claim ought to be considered, then their claims will be considered in the UK. If a person meets the conditions of the duty and makes a protection and human rights claim, and the Secretary of State accepts that there are exceptional circumstances which prevent removal to their country of origin, they will instead be removed to a safe third country. Therefore, it is considered that these provisions incorporate appropriate safeguards to ensure that we will not return an individual where it would not be safe to do so.

Amendment 128A in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Lister of Burtersett, seeks to remove Albania from the list of safe states for the purposes of Section 80A. For a country to be added to the list of safe countries of origin, it must be assessed as safe, as per the test set out in new Section 80AA of the 2002 Act. We are satisfied that, in general, Albania—a NATO member, an ECAT signatory and an EU accession country—meets that test. Indeed, the cross-party Home Affairs Committee, chaired by Dame Diana Johnson, said in its report published just yesterday:

“Albania is a safe country and we have seen little evidence that its citizens should ordinarily require asylum”.


Furthermore, as already set out, the provisions incorporate appropriate safeguards, should it be accepted that there are exceptional circumstances why an Albanian national should not be returned there.

As I have indicated, these sensible extensions to the inadmissibility arrangements which currently apply to EU nationals will help to reduce the pressures on our asylum system and enable us better to focus on those most in need of protection. I commend the clause to the Committee and invite the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

I am afraid I cannot comment on what might or might not be in the impact assessment.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, rather than make a lot of different remarks, let me just say this: in my honest opinion, this is no way to do a Bill, particularly one as contentious as this. Numerous questions have been put by Members of your Lordships’ Committee, which the Minister has failed to address. How can we do our job if the Minister fails to engage with what is being said?

For the Government to turn around and say, in light of what the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and many other noble Lords have said, that it may be that the impact assessment is available on the first day of Report, is totally and utterly unacceptable. It is simply not good enough for all of us who are considering amendments. Rather than dealing with many of the points put forward, I will say that it is clear that there will be a considerable number—to say the least—of amendments on Report. How can we judge those amendments—how they should be phrased and determined, and which ones are more important—if we have no impact assessment? It is frankly unbelievable to be left in that situation and it is no way to do a Bill.

I read—I did read much of it; my noble friend Lady Kennedy will be pleased—an excellent report by the JCHR. I am going to quote from the summary on the “Role of the JCHR”, because I could not believe it:

“We would have liked the opportunity to have questioned the Home Secretary about this. We invited the Home Secretary to give evidence on the Bill and she was unable to do so”.


This is a flagship Government Bill dealing with something which, as we have just been told, allows derogation from Article 13 of the European convention because the continued small boat migration is a threat to public order. Yet the Home Secretary cannot be bothered to go to the JCHR.

The report goes on to say:

“We also wrote to the Home Secretary with detailed legal questions on the Bill in order to inform our report and requested a response by 24 April 2023. The Home Secretary belatedly responded to us by letter dated 2 June 2023. We therefore did not receive her response before the Bill commenced Committee Stage in the House of Lords. The Home Secretary did not give any explanation for her undue delay in responding to our letter and many of the questions remain unanswered”.


To pick up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, the report then says:

“We consider both the delay and her lack of explanation for the delay to be discourteous not just to this Committee but to both Houses of Parliament”.


I could not agree more with that.

We are supposed to be the revising Chamber. The Government lecture us and will say that the elected Government of the day have a right to get their legislation through. Many of us, including me, try to protect that convention, but it is based on a two-way process. That two-way process involves the Government giving all of us the proper information to make our decisions. It depends on Ministers answering questions; it depends on impact assessments being made available so that we can make our judgments. It does not depend on Ministers saying that they think a noble Lord is wrong; that somebody does not get it; somebody is misreading the information; somebody does not understand the statistics. It depends on detailed, logical argument and debate.

I will tell you what that leads to: it leads to better policy. It means that you do not have the ridiculous situation of the Government abandoning a key part of a Bill they only passed a few months ago by Written Statement a couple of days ago. That is where we will get to with this Bill if it is not properly considered. Even under the Government’s own terms it will not work. I say to the Minister that it is not good enough and he needs to reflect on what he is going to do about it.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

My understanding is that the measures are compatible with the Windsor Framework, but I will take that point back to the department and will write to both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness on it.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank those who contributed to the debate. I will come to the more general point about assistance and support as they relate to Clause 22, but I will first respond to the noble Lords, Lord Weir and Lord Morrow, and my noble friends Lady Bryan and Lady Kennedy. I am not sure about this, so can the Minister go back and check that it is right? From all my reading about devolution, I think that everyone accepts and understands that immigration is a reserved matter. I find it really difficult to understand why, in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the devolved Administrations’ ability to enhance support is not a devolved matter. I do not understand why, if they choose to do more to support a victim of trafficking, they cannot do so. I respectfully ask the Minister to check that that is the case, because I cannot believe it is.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

That would be helpful, looking at the incredulity on the faces of the noble Lords, Lord Morrow and Lord Weir.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am slightly nervous to stand up here. On a serious point, I want to say a few brief words in support of the amendments in this group, in particular Amendment 58B, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord German, Amendment 60, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, and Amendment 69, in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Etherton, my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti and others.

In the interests of being brief, I will try to cut through to what I think is the fundamental issue. This group is about standards in detention. The reason this raises such concern, which I think the Minister should address, is that new subsection (2I), as inserted by Clause 10, as has been mentioned by others, says:

“A person (of any age) detained under sub-paragraph (2C) may be detained in any place that the Secretary of State considers appropriate”.


That is a huge power to give to the Secretary of State: to allow the detention of people arriving since 7 March, of any age, in any place. It is perfectly legitimate, and summarises all the amendments and all of the comments —I will not go through them all, and if I have got this wrong then people can intervene and I will apologise—for noble Lords to ask the Minister what that actually means in practice.

I thought that the remarks of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, on behalf of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, cut to the chase. If that is the situation, how are those standards going to be maintained? What actually are those standards? Are the standards the same in a barge or in a military camp? These are the sorts of details that the Committee would wish to hear from the Minister. What are the standards, given that it can be any age and in any place? What difference will there be between arrangements for unaccompanied children, families and others? This is particularly important because the power in new subsection (2C) is not actually for people who have been definitely determined as being people we would wish to remove; it is that the immigration officer “suspects”. We are talking about the detention of individuals, maybe children, who we suspect.

That leads us into the next group. However, if we are talking about standards, this becomes particularly relevant. We are talking about people who might actually be regarded as legitimate and eligible asylum seekers, even under the criteria of this Bill.

In order to be brief, I think noble Lords are seeking an answer to the question posed by new subsection (2I). A significant extension of power to the Secretary of State to designate any place for somebody of any age demands that the Minister be very clear about what the standards will be in each of those places, and who will monitor them to ensure that those standards are kept to.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, as we have heard, these amendments bring us on to the issue of detention. The amendments in this group look at the standards of detention accommodation and seek to impose certain minimum standards in respect of accommodation and the treatment of detained individuals.

As I have repeatedly made clear, we need a new, radical approach if we are successfully to tackle the people smugglers and put an end to the dangerous, illegal and unnecessary small-boat crossings of the channel. The scheme provided for in the Bill needs to be unambiguously clear that if you enter the UK illegally you will be liable to detention and swiftly returned to your home country or sent to a safe third country. I want to make clear that the welfare of those who are detained is of the utmost importance. We will detain families and children, including unaccompanied children, only when it is necessary to do so and in appropriate accommodation with appropriate healthcare provision.

Amendments 61, 61A, 62, 66A and 69, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord German and Lord Scriven, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, deal with the issue of accommodation standards and limiting the place of detention. I assure noble Lords that persons detained under the powers conferred by the Bill will be detained in age-appropriate accommodation that meets appropriate standards.

We detain persons for immigration purposes only in places that are listed in the Immigration (Places of Detention) Direction 2021 in accordance with the long-standing provisions of the Immigration Act 1971, at paragraph 18 of Schedule 2. In answer to the point raised by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, following Royal Assent we will update that direction in line with the new detention powers. Moreover, we already have robust statutory oversight of immigration detention, including inspection by the prisons inspectorate and independent monitoring boards at every detention facility, and effective safeguards within the detention process that, I submit, are sufficient.

My noble friend Lord Wolfson made some powerful points about the application of the international instruments to the question of detention standards, and clearly made the point that the UNHCR was expressly not given the right to issue determinative interpretations of the convention. It is up to states to interpret its terms in good faith, as we are doing.

The noble Lord, Lord Scriven, also has Amendments 59B, 64B and 79C in this group, which seek to transfer certain powers in relation to the detention and accommodation of unaccompanied children from the Home Secretary to the Secretary of State for Education. To be clear, the noble Lord referred to the temporary housing of unaccompanied children in Home Office-provided accommodation prior to their transfer to the care of a local authority. Such accommodation is not detained accommodation and is therefore not caught by the provisions of these clauses. I assure the noble Lord and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, that we will return to this issue when we reach Clause 15.

The immigration functions provided for in the Bill are properly a matter for the Home Office. As noble Lords would expect, we regularly consult and work with the Department for Education on matters impacting on children, and that will continue to be the case in respect of the powers conferred by the Bill as they impact on unaccompanied children. As I have said, these are matters that properly fall within the purview of the Home Secretary and, as such, the functions to which these amendments relate should be exercised by her.

In relation to Amendment 70A which is specifically on the health and well-being of detained individuals, I can assure the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, that we will work closely with the Department for Education to ensure that there are proper provisions for children in detention, and we will build on our current detention facilities to ensure that they are appropriate and provide safe and secure accommodation for children. The statutory guidance referenced in the noble Baroness’s amendment would not be applicable where someone is detained, but we will ensure that all relevant policies that relate to detention will continue to apply.

All persons entering detention are medically screened on arrival and have access to round the clock healthcare. This will continue to be the case. The existing adults at risk in immigration detention policy will be updated in line with the Bill and will continue to act as a safeguard for vulnerable persons in detention.

The noble Lord, Lord German, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, asked about our plans to increase detention capacity. We are increasing our detention capacity to ensure we have enough detention space, and we already have plans in place to build two new immigration removal centres. These include developing a new immigration removal centre in Oxfordshire on the former site of Campsfield House and a new immigration removal centre at Gosport in Hampshire on the former site of Haslar.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, Clause 10 is an integral part of ensuring the success of this Bill, both as a deterrent and as a means of ensuring that the Home Secretary can comply with the duty to make arrangements for removal. The statutory powers to detain are spread across several different pieces of immigration legislation, such as the Immigration Act 1971 and the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. The provisions in this clause create new powers that will enable the detention of illegal migrants to establish whether the new duty to remove applies and to promptly remove those eligible from the UK. Many of the amendments in this group seek to limit these detention powers in one way or another, impacting our ability swiftly to remove those to whom the duty applies.

Amendments 58C, 58D, 63A and 63B, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord German, probe the threshold for detention and in effect seek to raise it by replacing the current test based on an immigration officer or Secretary of State suspecting the relevant matter with a test that requires an immigration officer to have “reasonable grounds for suspecting.” To deliver the objectives of this Bill, our detention powers need to enable detention of illegal migrants to ascertain whether someone falls within the duty to remove, and these amendments seek to reduce our ability so to do.

The issue of time limits is the subject of Amendments 60 and 65, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, and Amendments 59 and 63 tabled by my noble friend Lady Mobarik and co-signed by my noble friend Lady Helic. The detention powers in the Bill are fundamental to our approach, and here, as elsewhere, we need a robust and uniform scheme that broadly applies to all and does not allow the system to be gamed, for example by adults pretending to be children, or provide scope for the people smugglers to exploit any exceptions or carve-outs. The Bill will create new detention powers specific to all migrants subject to the duty to remove being introduced in this Bill. These new powers will not be time-limited. However, in line with our other existing immigration detention powers, detention will be limited to a period of time that is reasonably necessary for the statutory purpose to be caried out. The new detention powers will not be subject to the same statutory limitations as existing detention powers to ensure the power can apply more widely.

We recognise the particular vulnerability of unaccompanied children, and therefore the Bill provides that the statutory detention powers may only be exercised to detain an unaccompanied child in circumstances prescribed in regulations by the Secretary of State, such as, but not limited to, for the purpose of family reunion or where removal is to a safe country of origin. We will set out, in due course, having reflected on debates in this House and the other place, a new timescale under which genuine children may be detained for the purposes of removal without judicial oversight—

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will those regulations be available, even in draft form, before Report?

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

I will certainly take that request back to the department.

Along with a new timescale under which genuine children may be detained for the purposes of removal without judicial oversight, the Bill will also allow the Secretary of State to make regulations specifying time limits to be placed on the detention of unaccompanied children for the purpose of removal, if required. I would remind my noble friends Lady Mobarik, Lady Helic and Lady Sugg that unaccompanied children are not subject to the duty to remove and the power to remove them will be exercised only in the limited circumstances we have already described. For the most part, unaccompanied children will not be detained under the provisions of the Bill but will instead be transferred to local authority care—that care which the Committee has broadly agreed is the correct place for these children to be located.

In answer to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, I do not recognise the figure of 13,000 detained unaccompanied children in the NGO report to which he referred. Those statistics did not of course include any allowance for the deterrence effect of the measures in the Bill.

Amendment 73, put forward by the noble Lord, Lord German, seeks to introduce time limits on detention that apply at large, not just to detention under the powers conferred by the Bill. An absolute bar on detention of all children and a 28-day time limit on detention of adults would significantly impair the effectiveness of our enforcement powers. Such a time limit is likely to encourage individuals to frustrate immigration processes to the point where the time limit is exceeded, necessitating their release, which would then significantly inhibit our ability to remove those who have no right to be here and are subject to the duty. I agree that immigration detention cannot, and should not, be indefinite; as we will come on to with later clauses, the legislation places clear limitations on the duration of detention and provides for judicial scrutiny of continued detention. We judge the existing safeguards provided for in respect of existing and new detention powers to be sufficient.

Amendments 61B and 64C, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, relate to the recommendations of the Delegated Powers Committee. I am grateful for the work of the Delegated Powers Committee in its careful scrutiny of the Bill. We are considering the report, published just before the Whitsun Recess, and will respond ahead of Report stage.

Turning to Amendments 74, 75 and 76, which relate to the detention of vulnerable persons, I can assure the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that the existing adults at risk policy, which I discussed earlier, will be updated to take account of the provisions in the Bill, and will act as a safeguard when detention decisions are made in respect of such persons. This statutory policy requires that evidence of a person’s vulnerability be balanced against immigration factors when considering whether detention is appropriate in their particular case. Finally, I remind the noble Baroness that under the terms of Section 59 of the Immigration Act 2016, revisions to the statutory guidance must be laid in draft before each House and then brought into force by regulations subject to the negative procedure, so there will be an opportunity for this House to scrutinise the necessary changes.

There are no exemptions from immigration detention for any particular groups of people. Amendment 76B, again tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, seeks to create an exemption to immigration detention for potential victims of modern slavery. When decisions are currently made regarding detention or continued detention, potential victims of modern slavery are considered under the existing adults at risk in immigration detention policy.

To sum up, the Government recognise that unaccompanied children are particularly vulnerable. That is why we amended the Bill in the other place to place limitations on their detention under the powers conferred by the Bill. For all others caught by the duty to remove in Clause 2, we believe it is appropriate for the Bill to provide for a single legislative framework for their detention, with tailored provision being made in our adults at risk statutory guidance. On that basis, I invite the noble Lord, Lord German, to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before the Minister sits down, can I clarify that the 13,000 figure was not just in respect of unaccompanied children? It included families with children.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

I am grateful for that clarification.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I start by thanking my noble friend Lord Davies for Amendments 57B and 58A, which I think are very worthy and have signed. They encapsulate the points that I and many noble Lords have made throughout the passage of the Bill so far, and no doubt will in the future, that it is not only issues of principle that concern many of us with respect to this but that many of the provisions are simply unworkable and raise serious questions.

If noble Lords have not done so already, it is worth taking up the point of the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, and reading Clause 7(12)(a) and (b), which is at the heart of this group of amendments. As the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, pointed out, the captain of a ship or aircraft, the manager of a train or the driver of a vehicle must conform to the directions of an immigration officer to detain an individual and stop them escaping. That is not only if it is reasonable to do so or if it is something you could understand them doing; they must do it—they have no choice. I do not know about some of the lorry drivers the Minister knows, but good luck with that. The serious point was made that the language barrier will be enormous, or at least significant, in many of those instances.

I have some specific questions, and they repeat and reinforce some of the points that have been made. Can the Minister explain how the captain of a ship, a lorry driver or a train manager—that is who we are talking about here—will detain these people? If the immigration officer requires them to detain someone, how are they meant to do that? As my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, ably put it, given that they are not warranted officers and do not have the powers of police officers or other individuals, what force can they use? “Excuse me, please do not get out of my lorry. I have been required by the immigration officers to stop you”—I am not sure that that would work, but let us say it does. But if it does not, and the person tries to get out, what can they do to stop them? I hope the Minister can explain that. The problem is that if they do not stop them, they can be prosecuted. One of the noble Lords who contributed said that it is not that they might be prosecuted but that they will be prosecuted if they do not conform. What happens if they try but the person escapes? Who decides whether they have tried enough—that they have gone to a sufficient extent to prevent the person leaving? Knowing the practicalities of this would be useful.

Clause 7 says “vehicle”, which means a lorry, but does it also mean a car or a campervan? If you are a driver of a car and somebody is in the back, do you have to stop them getting out on the direction of an immigration officer? Is it the same rules for children as for adults? The Minister will say I am nitpicking, but we are in Committee and that is the whole point of Committee. Whether for a lorry driver, train manager or car driver, we need to know whether the Government assume that you can do the same with children and what force is applicable with respect to children vis-à-vis an adult. There are, as I say, a significant number of questions.

The last point I want to make, which was raised by my noble friend Lord Davies, is about the detention period for which someone can force a person to stay in their train, on their aircraft or in their car. What is the reasonable length of time? How does it work? I think the Bill may say a few hours but what happens when that expires? The Secretary of State is then required to say that it can be extended. How does that work? How is the driver informed about that? On the practicalities, the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, made a really interesting point, which again sounds like nitpicking. If you are a train driver or a lorry driver, and you arrive somewhere and are required to stay there for 12 hours or 24 hours, what rights do you have? Are you required to stay there, or can you pass it on to somebody else to take over from you and carry on with that period of detention?

My noble friend Lord Davies and the unions, and others who have supported them, have raised a series of important questions about why the detail is so important and why many of us have questions about not only the principles of the Bill but some of the proposals in it and the workability of them.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, Clause 7 includes requirements for various persons, such as owners and agents of a ship, aircraft, train or vehicle, the captain of a ship or aircraft, the train manager or the driver of a vehicle, to comply with directions for an individual’s removal from the UK. The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Brixton, has explained in his Amendments 57B, 58A and 71B that he seeks to probe the legal obligations these provisions place on transport operators.

If I may, I will address the point from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, about whether this relates to private vehicles. The answer is that it is related to scheduled or chartered services, not individual cars or campervans.

I would like to make it absolutely clear that the Government are not making transport workers or operators undertake immigration functions. Clearly, I am in agreement with much of what we have heard during the debate on this group. That is not something we would want to do. Nor are the provisions in Clause 7 about commandeering vessels or vehicles, as was suggested in the debate on the last group; we can and do make arrangements for removal by scheduled services or chartered services. Nor are these new requirements; they reflect provisions that are already in place in Schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971 for arranging the removal of persons not subject to the new duty in the Bill but otherwise liable to removal from the UK.

Having placed a person on board a ship, aircraft, train or vehicle for their removal from the UK, it is only reasonable that the Secretary of State or an immigration officer may require the relevant captain, manager or driver to prevent the person disembarking while that vehicle, ship, aircraft or train is still in the UK, and effectively keep that person in their custody until they have reached the destination. Clause 9(2), which is the subject of Amendment 58A, then applies the relevant existing criminal offences in Section 27 of the Immigration Act 1971—which already apply to carriers who fail to act under instructions to remove a person under that Act—to instructions to remove a person under the powers set out in this Bill.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

The noble and learned Baroness is quite right that it is a very difficult balance that we have to draw. The difficulty is that we cannot allow there to be a loophole which incentivises people smugglers to put young children into boats and expose them to greater danger. There is clearly a balancing act to be performed. There are powers in the Bill, as the noble and learned Baroness will have seen, in relation to exceptional circumstances. However, the principle is that a minor will be removed at the date of their majority. I should add, in relation to a point that was raised in the speeches, that of course children become adults at 18, and that is recognised in international instruments. I appreciate that children develop at different rates, but that is the legal position, as I am sure the noble and learned Baroness will agree.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Further to the point made by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, can I ask the Minister to look at this? I raised it in my remarks as well. My noble friend Lady Lister raised the case of an eight year-old. There is a problem here. I appreciate the point the Minister made, but there is a very real problem, as the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, mentioned. If you have a child who is 10 or 11, they will be here for eight years and will then be deported at 18. Can the Minister at least go away, have a look at this and discuss with his officials whether there is a way of being consistent with the Bill, as the Minister would have it, but also reflect on that as particular point that causes problems?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

I assure the noble Lord that these points have received bags of consideration, not least from me, because they are very difficult. Of course, the length of time a child is present is a material factor. I am glad to say, as I said in my earlier remarks, that the vast bulk of children who are found in the small boats are not in the eight to 10 age bracket but are more likely to be 16 or 17. I can hear the noble Lord saying sotto voce that I have not answered the question. The answer is yes, of course I will carry on thinking about it, but it is a difficult question. In the Government’s view, we have come to the only logical solution that does not provide a very large hole in the scheme of the Act.

Student Visas

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

(12 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the contribution of international students to our universities and, indeed, our communities, is immense and a great asset to our country. Since 2018, there has been a tenfold increase in the number of dependants joining students in the UK, so we have not opposed the changes the Government propose. However, as usual with the Government, there is no impact assessment and no detail—just vague assertion. What assessment have the Government made of the number of people this change will affect in terms of both students and dependants, and what do the Government believe will be the actual impact of these rule revisions on the numbers?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Migration and Borders (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I thank the noble Lord for that question. The numbers are these. In March 2023, 477,931 sponsored study visas were granted to main applicants, which was 22% more than in March 2022. In the year ending March 2023, almost one-quarter, 24%, of all sponsored study-related visas granted were to dependants of students—149,400—compared with 15% in the year ending March 2022. Our indication is that 88% of those dependant visas were to those undertaking taught postgraduate courses, so the rule changes will have the effect of greatly reducing the availability of the dependency visas to those who might otherwise have used them, and therefore reduce the net intake.

Net Migration Figures

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

(12 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Migration and Borders (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I shall now repeat an Answer given to an Urgent Question in another place. The Answer is as follows:

“Net migration to the UK is far too high. That was already clear from the previous set of official data. The ONS has today amended its previous published estimate of net migration for the year ending June 2022 to 606,000. The statistics published today show that net migration has flatlined since then. In the year ending December 2022, they show that net migration remains at an estimated 606,000. These particularly high figures are partly due to temporary and exceptional factors, such as the UK’s Ukraine and Hong Kong BNO schemes. Last year, 200,000 Ukrainians and 150,000 Hong Kong British overseas nationals made use of routes to life or time in the United Kingdom. Those schemes command broad support from the British public, and we were right to introduce them.

This Government remain committed to reducing overall net migration to sustainable levels. That is a solemn promise we made to the British public in our manifesto, and we are unwavering in our determination to deliver it. This week, we announced steps to tackle the substantial rise in the number of student dependants coming to the UK. The package of measures will ensure that we can reduce migration while continuing to benefit from the skills and resources our economy needs, because universities should be in the education business, not the immigration business. We expect this package to have a tangible impact on net migration. Taken together with the easing of temporary factors, such as our exceptional humanitarian offers, we expect net migration to fall to pre-pandemic levels in the medium term.

The public rightly expect us to control our borders, whether that is stopping the boats and addressing illegal migration or ensuring that levels of legal migration do not place undue pressure on public services, housing supply or integration. The Government are taking decisive action on both counts. Under the points-based system that we introduced post Brexit, we can control immigration; we must and we will.”

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, net migration figures are at a record high, despite promises in every Conservative manifesto since 2010 to reduce these figures, with the 2019 manifesto pledging that overall numbers would come down. Despite the Minister’s Statement, it has clearly gone wrong and is not working. Would it not be a start to tackle the doubling of work visas? Would it not be a start to end the unfair wage discount in the immigration system, which is undercutting UK wages and exploiting migrant workers? Why allow a civil engineer from Spain, for example, to be paid a 20% lower salary than the going rate for a British civil engineer? Why do the Government not tackle migration by barring employers and companies from recruiting foreign workers unless they are paid the going rate? Would that not be a start to tackling the migration problem?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

Clearly, the increase in net migration has been the result of global events, such as the world recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and international events, as I outlined in the Statement, including the policy changes introduced as part of the new immigration system at the end of EU freedom of movement. All have had an impact on migration. The Migration Advisory Committee agrees that the discount available to employers employing foreign workers under the skilled worker route is a sensible solution for occupations where there are shortages, at least in the short term. However, no occupation should be on the shortage occupation list for ever. Sectors must therefore present a realistic strategy for ending their reliance on migration before such jobs can be added to the shortage occupation list, and present compelling evidence that they should remain.

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I will just add my voice to the requests from various noble Lords across the Chamber for specific answers to these specific questions that have been raised; I think the Committee deserves those answers.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Migration and Borders (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, Clause 1 sets out the Bill’s overarching purpose and provides an overview of the provisions in the Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to prevent and deter illegal migration and, in particular, migration to the UK by unsafe and illegal routes, by requiring the removal from the UK of individuals who arrive in breach of immigration control.

Subsection (2) then summarises the key provisions of the Bill that advance this core purpose, including the duty on the Secretary of State to make arrangements for the removal of persons from the UK who meet the conditions in Clause 2.

The numbers arriving on small boats in 2022 exceeded 45,700, and, as I set out at Second Reading, the Bill is essential to deal with these illegal, dangerous and unnecessary channel crossings. Putting the purpose of the Bill front and centre, right at the start of the Bill, will make it abundantly clear to all, including the illegal entrants themselves, NGOs, the courts and others, what Parliament’s intent is in enacting this Bill. As subsection (3) provides, the subsequent provisions in the Bill should be interpreted by the courts and others in line with this statutory purpose. Again, it is incredibly helpful to make this explicit on the face of the Bill, although I should add that subsection (3) simply reaffirms the established principle that the courts and others should interpret the Bill to deliver its purpose.

To assist this purpose, Clause 1 also disapplies Section 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998. As I have already explained in the previous debate, the disapplication of Section 3 will ensure that the Bill’s provisions will be interpreted to meet the legislative intent of Parliament, rather than strained interpretations by the courts to achieve compatibility with convention rights.

The noble Lords, Lord German and Lord Paddick, asked about the impact assessment. We have already published an equality impact assessment and will publish an economic impact assessment in due course. The noble Lord, Lord German, referred to the purported impact assessment published by the Refugee Council. We do not recognise the assumptions and costs referenced in that document. Any assessment of the impact of the Bill must also acknowledge the cost of not proceeding with it. Our broken asylum system is costing this country £3 billion a year, and over £6 million a day in hotel costs. This cannot continue. The noble Lord also seems to be labouring under an assumption that Clause 1—

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

I am afraid that I can tell the noble Lord only that it will be published in due course and that this is entirely normal.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Frankly, this is unacceptable. Without being rude, I say that the Committee must at some point have the impact assessment. How on earth can we make many of the judgments on amendments and on the various things that we may wish to come forward with on Report if we do not have an impact assessment? It is normal practice for an impact assessment to be provided so that proper decisions can be made. Can the Minister at least go back to the department and say that this Chamber—I think I speak for everyone —is very unhappy that no impact assessment is due, and that we need one? Will he ask his department to provide one for us—at least well before Report?

Baroness Lister of Burtersett Portrait Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

To add to that, we should have had a child rights impact assessment. That is supposed to be done right at the outset of the policy discussion. Therefore, it would have been appropriate for it to have been published at the same time as the Bill.

Migrants: Housing

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Wednesday 3rd May 2023

(1 year ago)

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

I do not recognise the description that the noble Baroness appends to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary’s alleged assertion in relation to the Greek islands. Clearly, those crossing the channel from France, who have hitherto slept on the hinterland of the beaches in northern France, are much better accommodated by quality hotel rooms paid for by British taxpayers, and that is something that we need to address. We need to provide adequate but basic accommodation in order to disincentivise those coming here who seek to take advantage of the generosity of the British people.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, further to my noble friend Lord Blunkett’s question, surely the Government must have a figure for the number of migrants and asylum seekers that they seek to detain. If the Government have no figure at all—not even a working figure within the Home Office—how on earth do they know how many RAF bases they will need to build accommodation on? How many cruise ships, oil rigs and barges are they going to get if they have no idea of how many people they are going to need to detain?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

The noble Lord well knows that it is not the Government’s practice to share working policy assumptions in relation to these issues. As I said, the effect of the Bill will be to deliver a deterrent effect; fewer people will cross the channel and therefore fewer people will need to be detained.

Fishing Industry: Visas for Foreign Workers

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Monday 24th April 2023

(1 year ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the UK’s fishing industry is in turmoil given the Government’s decision to implement a new visa scheme immediately, potentially leaving it short of workers. Why are they doing it? Fishing businesses are waiting weeks for the Home Office to process skilled worker visas. Is it not more sensitive to business viability to wait before implementing the scheme while the Home Office sorts the scheme and itself out? Could the English language requirement for the visa, for example, be made more sensible and reasonable? The UK’s valuable and vital fishing industry is going to be put at risk by this high-handed action by the Government. Are they going to act to sort it out, or refuse to listen to the legitimate concerns of the fishing industry?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

Since the original Question was answered in the other place by Miss Dines, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has written to stakeholders to inform them of the details of the generous support package which was communicated today to industry leaders and stakeholders. The package is designed to help producer organisations and individual businesses in the seafood sector understand the immigration system and to offer Home Office premium expedited services and products at no cost. It includes: hosting an initial familiarisation session for key leads; working with our commercial partners to ensure that there is sufficient English language testing capacity at locations where workers could be recruited; working with our commercial partners to ensure that workers can access visa application centres to give biometrics; and, once a sponsor licence is received, expediting the decision-making process for no extra charge. Once visa applications are received from workers, expediting the visa decision-making process will also be at no additional charge. Our service standard is 15 working days, but we will endeavour to make decisions in eight to 10 days. We will also appoint a dedicated point of contact in UK Visas and Immigration in relation to these matters.

Ports and Airports: Queues

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Tuesday 28th March 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister has told us that border security is the Government’s number one priority, which, of course, is right. Will he comment on media reports that an email was sent to Customs staff asking them to prioritise passports over checks for drugs and other such illegal items?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I have not seen those press reports, but I will certainly look into that and write to the noble Lord.

Shamima Begum

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Monday 27th March 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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

The slight difficulty the noble Lord has is, obviously, the incomplete picture of information, which is, unfortunately, the consequence of the nature of these types of decisions. The evaluation is made at the time of the deprivation decision, which in this case was in 2019. At that stage, the subject of the decision was not a minor, but obviously I cannot venture further into the facts of the case.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, what are the implications of this case for the reform of the Prevent strategy?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

The reform of the Prevent strategy is clearly an important priority, as discussed on a previous occasion. I do not believe that this particular case has any direct impact on the reformulation of the policy. If the litigation continues, I will come back and address the House further on that.

UK-EU: Revised Passenger Requirements

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Tuesday 21st March 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

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

Clearly, the European Union and the Schengen area have set up their own system. It does not incorporate all members of the European Union; for example, the Republic of Ireland is not participating in EES or ETIAS. It makes sense for the UK, as a sovereign country, to have its own entry and exit system, as the United States does.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the Minister has just said the system, whenever it is sorted out, will not now be delivered until after the 2024 Paris Olympics, which is over two years after it was supposed to be introduced. He will know that Eurostar is already saying there are real problems at St Pancras, Folkestone and Dover, and you only have to travel to know there are problems. What are the Government going to do to work with colleagues across Europe to try and sort this out before summer 2024?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, it is for the European Commission to decide when it implements its system. Our system will be ready probably before then, and implementation of the ETA is well advanced. But obviously, it is in everyone’s interest to work closely, and I am pleased to report that we have been very much doing so. Technical meetings are happening today between the United Kingdom and France regarding ongoing co-operation on questions of border control. Clearly, if we can reduce any impact, that assists both the UK and the EU member states.

Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Procedure) (Amendment) Rules 2023

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

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am grateful for those two considered contributions. I obviously appreciate the strength of feeling about deprivation of citizenship, but perhaps the Committee will bear with me if I repeat what I said earlier: maintaining our national security is the priority for the Government. It is vitally important that we are still able to take deprivation action, even if we do not know where a person is, to protect the public and keep our country safe. This instrument brings us closer to being able to do that, but let me explain the type of case we envisaged being covered by the new process of referral to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission.

Imagine someone who has been spying for another country against the UK and is now living at an unknown address in that other country; or the head of an organised crime group whose current whereabouts are known only through a police informant, and to use the address would put the life of that informant at risk; or a supporter of Daesh who has committed terrorist attacks and is hiding in the mountains of Syria. Such people pose a direct threat to the safety and security of the UK, and it simply cannot be right that our hands are tied because we cannot take away their British citizenship without giving them notice of the decision. Of course, depriving a person of the privilege of being British is a very significant thing to do. That is why the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 provides for judicial oversight of such decisions.

I will now take the opportunity briefly to address the additional points raised. I turn first to the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I was asked initially to confirm whether the powers would be used in a narrow and proportionate way. That is certainly my understanding. The application of deprivation powers is clearly a serious use of state power and will be done only in cases which warrant that significant step. I was then asked about reporting. I imagine that the reference there was to reporting statistics in relation to deprivation. Some statistics are certainly provided but, for obvious national security reasons, detailed statistics cannot be. The Government take very seriously their obligations to keep these matters under review.

I was asked specifically whether the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation was consulted in respect of this measure. I am afraid I do not have the answer to that question to hand. I imagine that there has been some engagement with this legislation, but I will of course find out and write to the noble Baroness in respect of that question.

I turn to the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. His first was on whether, in the rules, the phrase “Secretary of State” referred to the Secretary of State for the Home Department. I think that phrase is subject generally to the definition in the Interpretation Act: that it applies to any of His Majesty’s principal Secretaries of State. But in practical terms, I certainly understand that the power will be exercised by the Secretary of State for the Home Department.

I was then asked as to the extent to which the existence of the proceedings should be made public. The view is taken that these proceedings are generally, for reasons of national security, best done in a closed environment and, we would suggest, best done on the papers. In the circumstances of an application to commence proceedings without giving notice, the Home Office is the only party to proceedings and, given that this is about the administrative process of giving notice, it is unnecessary to have an open hearing with several judges. The individual will not be aware of the deprivation decision at this point and will not be in a position to give legal direction. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission will determine whether the Secretary of State’s decision not to give notice is “obviously flawed”, in line with judicial review principles. I hope that answers the next question which the noble Lord asked me, which was, “What is obviously flawed?”. It is something that would be upset on judicial review for being unlawful in the public law sense, so when it would be unreasonable or unlawful.

I was asked whether legal aid will be available. Obviously, in the case of no notification, it is hard to envisage a situation, given the lack of co-operation of the other party, where legal aid would be appropriate. But certainly, in principle, in relation to deprivation proceedings, legal aid is available and there are no plans to alter that.

As to the right of appeal, obviously, SIAC itself is an appellate body, in that one is appealing against or challenging a decision of the Secretary of State. Further appeals under SIAC are possible under the procedure rules; indeed, we have seen in various recent cases the involvement of the Court of Appeal.

I was asked about the time for making a determination described in Regulation 7, at new paragraph 25E of the rules, the provision that

“The Commission must determine the application no later than 14 days after”


receipt of the application. That period was agreed with the chair of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, as it was suggested that it was an appropriate time for the chair to consider that application, balanced against the potential urgency. Of course, the only question the chair is considering there is whether it is appropriate for notice to be served—that is, whether the Secretary of State’s application should succeed.

I turn to the question from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, in respect of Rule 25B set out in Regulation 7 and, in particular, the question of the meaning of Rule 25B(3). If the Secretary of State has the information listed, it must be provided, but if the Secretary of State does not have it, the Secretary of State does not have to provide it, and that does not prevent an application going ahead. Ultimately, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission will decide whether it has sufficient information to decide the application. Clearly, if it decides that it does not have adequate information, it will refuse the application.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

If I understood the Minister correctly, he just said that if the Secretary of State does not know the information, the Secretary of State does not have to provide it to SIAC, but the Secretary of State is applying to SIAC for a deprivation of citizenship. How can you deprive it if you do not know what it is?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

This is the application process to proceed without serving notice. The Secretary of State may know, for example, the person’s name, the person’s nationality or nationalities and the relevant Home Office reference, but not the person’s correct date of birth. As I understand the operation of sub-paragraph (3), that means that the absence of that one particular, given that the Secretary of State does not know it, does not invalidate the application.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I was not asking about date of birth, was I? I was asking about where the Secretary of State does not know the nationality. I appreciate the case where you do not know all of the name, and so on—but it seems to me pretty key, if you are starting the process to deprive someone of citizenship but you do not know what their nationality is.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

It is clearly right—this comes back to another question I was going to deal with in a moment—that the power can be exercised only in cases of persons entitled to more than one nationality. The question is whether the department knows of an entitlement to British nationality and an entitlement to another nationality. If there are other potential nationality entitlements, it may be that, if those are not known, their absence from the application will not of itself invalidate the application. That is, as I understand it, the intent of that sub-paragraph.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not want to dance on the head of a pin, but now the Minister has got into the potential for denying potential nationalities, and I would say that that is fraught with difficulties. I will leave it there—but it is an interesting point about the need for clarity. The Home Office not knowing what someone’s nationality is and being able to miss that out from a SIAC appeal as the basis of a process leading to, at some point, depriving someone of nationality or citizenship, seems a bit much.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

I can certainly write to the noble Lord about it, but the short point is this: if SIAC is concerned, on the balance of probabilities, that somebody has only British citizenship and not another, it will not make an order of deprivation. I hope that, to some extent, answers his question.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think the Minister is saying that it is perfectly open to SIAC to reject that application on the basis that the Government do not know what they are doing with respect to that nationality and that they should come back at a future date when they have done a bit more work on it.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

Indeed, as with any court.

In respect of the noble Lord’s question on Rule 47 as to credibility, the question being whether a claimant’s good reasons for responding late to a priority removal notice would be taken into account in cases that go to SIAC, the answer is yes.

To pick up one point from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, on the use against dual citizens, it is right and clear in the statutory regime that an order using a deprivation power cannot be made that would have the effect of rendering a person stateless, hence the need for two nationalities, except that there is a very limited provision in Section 40(4A) of the Act, but that power has not been used to date. In any event, deprivation on conducive grounds is used sparingly and against those who pose a serious threat to the UK. It is correct that the conducive power is limited so that it can be applied only to those who are dual citizens or where there are reasonable grounds for believing that the person can become a national of another country. Parliament chose to enact the power on that basis to avoid the prospect of leaving individuals stateless, which would be contrary to the UK’s commitments under the 1961 statelessness convention.

Asylum Seekers: Accommodation in Hotels

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

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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

Of course I will look at the proposal that my noble friend recommends. The Homes for Ukraine scheme is different from Afghan applications for asylum in that it is anticipated—and indeed encouraged by the Government of Ukraine—that those Ukrainians will return to Ukraine after the danger has passed.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It was never supposed to be like this. The Government’s use of hotels is a result of a catastrophic failure of their policy. People are waiting years for an asylum decision, and we now have hundreds of children going missing. Alongside that, we have right-wing extremist groups using these hotels as a way to foment community disunity. What are the Government going to do to tackle right-wing extremism and deal with the policy that is leading to these problems in the first place?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

Clearly, the instances of violence we saw in Knowsley last week were to be deplored. Indeed, the House will be reassured to know that the Home Office has in place a careful programme to deal with these issues. It is hoped that those in hotels can feel secure as a result of knowing that the Home Office has in place arrangements to protect asylum seekers, but of course that has to be balanced against the liberty of people to protest. These are all matters being carefully considered by the department.

Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Wednesday 1st February 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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

I am afraid that I cannot answer my noble friend’s question. That is probably a matter for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office but I can no doubt ask the relevant Minister to write to him.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, reminds us, in discussing the Afghanistan resettlement scheme and the help we rightly give to some, we should never forget the continuing persecution of women and girls across the world. Of the three pathways under the Afghan scheme we are accepting at-risk people from three groups: British Council, GardaWorld and Chevening alumni. Within this, is it only those who worked for the UK who are considered, or is any other priority given to women and girls?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

As I hoped to make clear in an earlier answer, the first pathway relates to those removed during August 2021 and those who should have been removed. The second pathway relates to those referred by the UNHCR to us, and the third pathway contains the three categories that the noble Lord just identified. The short answer to the question is no, it is not just people who worked for the United Kingdom Government in various forms; it is broader than that because the UNHCR refers refugees to us who have applied.

Asylum Seekers: Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran and Sudan

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Tuesday 24th January 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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

The provision is Article 31(1).

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the asylum system is in chaos: 140,000 asylum seekers, and rising, are waiting for an initial decision; 90,000 have been waiting for over six months, and more than 40,000 for between one and three years. It is also reported that 725 claimants, of whom 155 are children, have been waiting over five years. How many of these cases apply to these five countries? Will the Minister join the Prime Minister in promising to clear the asylum backlog by the end of the year? It is action we need, not gimmicks.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

The noble Lord is entirely right: it is action we need, and I can certainly recommit to the ambition, outlined by the Prime Minister in his statement, to clear the backlog. As to the various countries within the backlog, those statistics exist but I am afraid I do not have them to hand, so I will need to write to the noble Lord about them.

Children Seeking Asylum: Safeguarding

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Monday 23rd January 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are all horrified by what we have heard and read about these cases of children going missing—I will say “kidnapped”—from some of these homes. Is it true that the Home Office were warned months ago about these problems? Is it true that the Home Office ignored those warnings and failed to act? If so, that is a failure of the state to act as a parent. With Home Office sources denying that these children have been kidnapped, can the Minister at least confirm that the department accepts legal responsibility for their safety now, even if it did not in the past?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

Certainly, the department does not know of any cases of kidnap. The reports in the media over the weekend are of course the subject of investigation within the Home Office but, at the moment, nothing like that has been reported to us to my knowledge.

National Security Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

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.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I will be brief, but will start by thanking the Minister for his response and all noble Lords for their contributions to this short but important debate. I am grateful to the Minister for following up on my question from last week about what was happening with the updating of guidance for people in departments across government who wish to raise concerns. But frankly, the headline from what the Minister has said is that the Government have kicked the reform of the Official Secrets Act 1989, which was never particularly on the immediate horizon, into the long grass. That is deeply disappointing because, irrespective of one’s view, the issues of the public interest defence and people being able to come forward—whistleblowers, if you want to call them that—will not go away. Reforming the Official Secrets Act would have enabled us to debate that and come up with an Act that is relevant to 2023 and beyond. As I say, it is deeply disappointing that the Minister has effectively kicked that reform into the long grass, and that is the headline from this response to the amendments. With that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

National Security Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Lord Carlile of Berriew Portrait Lord Carlile of Berriew (CB)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we are being asked to approve something that relates to regulations that we have not seen, and we would ask the Government to review the way in which they are approaching the passage of this part of the Bill. We need to see not just draft practice or draft regulations but the regulations themselves.

The way in which this part of the Bill has been generated—and I do not want to repeat a discussion that we had two days ago—means that there is a great deal of uncertainty about what is intended. I hope that the flexibility that was indicated by Ministers on Monday will be extended to how such information is disseminated. I hope that we will get an undertaking that, before Report, and not on the day that Report begins, we will see the regulations and other documents that will indicate the architecture and detail of whatever parts of FIRS are going to be retained.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, has just said, and I shall say a bit about it myself, in a few remarks on the government amendment. As the Minister said, the amendment clarifies the power in Clause 77(1)(b) and deals with the publication and disclosure of information provided by the Secretary of State under Part 3 on registration. Can the Minister say a little about what is not to be published? As the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, has just pointed out to the Committee, all this is to be done by regulations—and, I emphasise, done by regulations under the negative procedure.

Information provided by the Minister about foreign activity arrangements and foreign influence arrangements could, as the DPRRC said, be both politically and commercially sensitive. There will also be practical matters of significant political interest around these matters, given their relationship to national security. What sort of thinking is going on about what may or may not be published? Will those whose information is to be published be told in advance of publication and have any right of appeal? Again, as the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, said, why should Parliament not be able to have a more direct say in what sort of information should be published? That point was made by the DPRRC, which called for these regulations to be made, at the very least, under the affirmative procedure, to give at least some degree of scrutiny for this Parliament. I ask the Minister again to reflect on why negative procedure is being used for these regulations and not, at the very least, affirmative.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I thank both noble Lords for those contributions. I can, of course, reassure the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, who will be aware that my noble friend Lord Sharpe committed in this House that a policy statement would be published ahead of Report.

On the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, clearly the drafting of the regulations will necessarily follow the shape of the scheme, which is reflected in the final version of the statute. Therefore, it would not be appropriate at this stage to have draft regulations to consider. As to the appropriate method by which the regulations should be approved, it is the Government’s view that the negative procedure is appropriate for these minor and technical regulations, given what they do to enable the disclosure of information provided to the department in accordance with the scheme.

Therefore, for all those reasons, we submit that this is a minor and technical amendment that simply clarifies the purpose of the power, and that it is intended specifically to enable the Secretary of State to make provision through regulations for the onward disclosure of information registered under FIRS, and I therefore ask the Committee to support this amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

I note the noble Lord’s views on the topic, but we are where we are. Obviously, the department will take away what he says and endeavour to meet his reasonable request.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I say to the Minister, before he sits down, that in view of what the noble Lords, Lord Pannick and Lord Carlile, have said, it is not satisfactory. We do not have a policy statement, we cannot see the regulations and, when the regulations are passed, the Government will pass them through the negative procedure. I would have thought, at the very least, given the worries and concerns that have been raised, that the affirmative procedure, as the Delegated Powers Committee said, in these circumstances in particular, might be something the Government would consider. I ask the Minister to reflect on that.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire Portrait Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hope the Minister will agree to draw the attention of his department to the debate held in this House last week on delegated legislation and to the very strong sense across the whole House, including on his Benches, that this House is meeting a Government who give us less and less information about regulations and prefer to leave more and more out of Bills so that Ministers may act as they are. This is an abuse of Parliament and should not be pursued further. That message is particularly important for a Bill such as this, and the Government should consider it.

Asylum Seekers

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Tuesday 17th January 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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

I am afraid that I must disagree with the noble Lord. It is clear that one of the major pull factors for people crossing the channel is that they hope to work in Britain. Legally allowing people to work would increase the pull factors for them to embark on dangerous and illegal journeys across the channel.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, time after time, we hear the Minister try to explain away the chaos of the Government’s asylum policy. Time after time, new legislation is announced, chasing headlines. Time after time, the Chamber hears the appalling asylum case figures, with the shocking human consequences, as we have just heard again today. I will ask about one example: when will the doubling of asylum caseworkers to 2,500, as briefed by the Prime Minister last year, happen? Yesterday, the Minister could not confirm that the recruitment of those caseworkers had even started. It is a shambles, is it not?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

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.

National Security Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, Amendments 76, 77, 78 and 79, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, enable us to discuss the state threats prevention and investigation measures. As she outlined, Amendment 76 seeks to set a 14-hour limit on the time that someone subject to such a measure has to remain in their residence. Amendment 77 would require the Secretary of State to receive confirmation from the police that prosecution is not realistic, rather than requiring only consultation before a measure is imposed, as outlined in Clause 44(1). These are simple but important amendments, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, outlined, and the Government need to respond to them logically, particularly as they are recommended by the JCHR. In Committee last time, we all referred to the importance of the JCHR recommendations that come before us. It is particularly important that questions such as these are asked because, although we accept that STPIMs are a useful tool to have available, they impose intrusive restrictions on an individual, outside the criminal justice process, as civil measures.

In view of Amendment 76, if there is no time limit, what is acceptable? Are 20 or 21 hours acceptable? As the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, pointed out, these are essentially curfews on an individual. Although they may be justified—no one is questioning the fact that sometimes they may be necessary—some thought from the Government about what we actually mean by the imposition of time limits or curfews on an individual, and how that might be arrived at, is important. Secondly, should we not always seek to prosecute, as Amendment 77 seeks to do? The police confirming that it is not possible is a real protection, while not compromising national security; again, that is the aim of all of us.

On the more general question of STPIMS, legal aid will be available to individuals but, if they are to challenge effectively, will individuals subject to such an order be fully aware of the reasons why it has been imposed and able to challenge the imposition of such measures? Who will oversee the use of these powers? Can the Minister reassure us that, in making such a decision on application by the Secretary of State, the courts will be given all the information that they need to properly inform their decision, and that they will not be used arbitrarily, out of frustration that a criminal prosecution cannot be pursued? That was a really important point from the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford: this is not a substitute for prosecution but something to be used where, for whatever reason, it is simply not available. But we need some reassurance that criminal prosecution will always be pursued as the first option.

We accept that there is a potential need for such measures, but, given their civil nature and the very real impacts on the liberties of individuals, even if necessary for national security reasons, they demand of us the need to be ever more vigilant when it comes to freedoms and human rights within a democracy. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, I will first address Amendments 77, 78 and 79. These amendments would create a requirement on the Secretary of State to receive confirmation from the police that there is no realistic chance of prosecuting an individual before imposing a state threats prevention and investigation measure—an STPIM—on an individual under Part 2. It is our view that the current drafting would already achieve that aim. STPIMs are a tool of last resort in cases where prosecution is not possible. It is always the Government’s preference and priority to seek a prosecution against those engaged in foreign power threat activity, and where we can prosecute, we will.

Clause 44 reflects our commitment to prosecution and requires prior consultation with the police, before the imposition of a STPIM notice, in relation to

“whether there is evidence available that could realistically be used for the purposes of prosecuting the individual for an offence”

relating to state threats. The police must consult the relevant prosecuting authority before responding to the Secretary of State. The requirement to consult mirrors that in terrorism prevention and investigation measures—TPIMs—to which the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, referred. Our experience of the TPIM regime is that, wherever it is apparent in the consultation that there is evidence available that means that a prosecution is feasible, such a prosecution is pursued over the imposition of a TPIM. We expect the same principle to apply in the STPIM context. I hope that that addresses some of the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker.

Furthermore, as set out in Clause 44(5), while an STPIM is in force, the police must ensure that the investigation of the relevant individual’s conduct is kept under review, consulting the prosecuting authority with a view to pursuing a prosecution if possible. Consultation is all about exploring whether there is available evidence that could realistically be used to prosecute an individual. However, the proposed amendments require the police to confirm that there is no available evidence. Changing the threshold in that way would mean that, in the event that there is limited evidence, but not enough feasibly to prosecute, we would limit our ability to use the STPIM as an alternative measure to protect the UK against individuals involved in state threats activity.

Although I understand the concerns raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, the consultation is meaningful. In each case where an STPIM is in force, the prospect of prosecuting that individual will be kept under review by the police, consulting the prosecuting authorities as necessary. The outcome of that review will be reported by the police to the Home Secretary, in accordance with their statutory duty. In some sense, that answers the point about oversight raised by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. Where a prosecution is possible, that will be the action undertaken, rather than the imposition of an STPIM. As I have said already, if we can prosecute, we will.

I turn now to Amendment 76, which seeks to place a maximum limit of 14 hours on the number of hours an individual can be required by the Secretary of State to remain in their residence under the residence measure. It is important to note that, in each STPIM case, the facts will be different, and the specific measures will be decided on a case-by-case basis. Flexibility is therefore key to ensure that the most appropriate suite of measures can be imposed. Protection against interference with the rights of individuals under Article 5 of the European convention, as was referred to by the noble Baroness, is already provided for under the residence measure. Condition D, which must be met to impose an STPIM, outlines that the Secretary of State must reasonably consider that the individual measures applied are necessary to prevent or restrict the individual’s involvement in foreign power threat activity. That covers not just the imposition of the measure but the exact terms of the measure. In the case of the residence measure, that would include the number of hours an individual must reside in their residence. I hope I have therefore addressed the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, in relation to the time requirement.

In addition, the court must agree at both the permission hearing and the review hearing to the number of hours, set by the Secretary of State, that the individual must remain in their residence—thus providing a good measure of accountability for the number of hours provided for in the order. The number of hours a person must stay at home will therefore be determined by the facts of the individual case. It is also worth noting that the individual subject to a notice has the right to apply for a variation of measures imposed both in the short term—for example, if there is a reason why they need to be out at different times on a particular day—and generally in the long term.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked who would oversee the imposition of the measures in this regime. Under Clause 54, there will be an independent reviewer of STPIMs, in the same way that there is a reviewer for TPIMs under the other terrorism legislation.

On whether the individual will know what they are accused of doing, they will have access to special advocates who will be able to access the sensitive information in a manner similar to that for TPIMs. The special advocates will have access to the sensitive information that builds the case against the individual and justifies the measure. There will also be a duty on the Government to share the information, as far as reasonably possible, with the individual themselves. With all these points in mind, the Government cannot accept these amendments and I invite the noble Baroness to withdraw Amendment 76.

Windrush Lessons Learned Review: Implementation of Recommendations

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Thursday 12th January 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, is not the treatment of the Windrush generation one of the most shameful episodes in our post-war history? These people helped rebuild Britain, and their reward was that many were wrongly detained and threatened with deportation; 83 people were actually deported. Why have only 1,300 out of an estimated 15,000 been compensated so far? Why are the Government now going to implement only some of Wendy Williams’s recommendations, not all as originally promised? Can the Minister update us on the figure? Is it still eight out of 30? Have the recommendations for a migrants’ commissioner, and to extend the powers of the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, been dropped? We still have no anti-slavery commissioner appointed. Wendy Williams demanded cultural change, but on the 75th anniversary of the Windrush generation, we are still a long way from it. Would it not be the final betrayal of that generation if there were not the real change that Wendy Williams demanded?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I agree with the noble Lord that the injustices of Windrush were an outrage. Clearly and unfortunately, it was Governments of all complexions who allowed that scandal to unfold. The noble Lord asked me whether the Windrush compensation scheme is failing. The Government—and I, as the supervising Minister for the Windrush compensation scheme—are very clear that we must compensate members of the Windrush generation and their families for the losses and impacts they suffered as a result of the scandal. We believe that we have made significant progress, having now offered a total of more than £59.58 million in compensation. As to the question about recommendations, the noble Lord knows that the Government will not comment on leaks, and I do not propose to do so today.

National Security Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I thank noble Lords for a very interesting debate on a topic of considerable public importance. These amendments concern the introduction of a public interest defence to the offences in the Bill. Amendment 75 adds a PID to Clauses 1 to 5. I am very grateful to those who have contributed to this short debate, including the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, and the noble Lords, Lord Carlile and Lord Faulks, with whom I find myself in agreement, particularly on their concerns about the practical consequences of this amendment, as well as on the concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Marks, on the application of Article 10 of the European convention. I therefore greatly welcome the display of expertise from all sides of the House.

It would be helpful for me to start by talking briefly about the genesis of these offences and the interaction with the Law Commission recommendation for a public interest defence. In this amendment, there is a significant risk of conflating the various Official Secrets Acts, so I will take a little time to clarify those Acts, because it is vital that we are precise in this context. Four Official Secrets Acts are in force: the 1911, 1920 and 1939 Acts, which deal with espionage, and the 1989 Act, which deals with unauthorised disclosures, often described as leaks.

The Law Commission, in its 2020 report, considered all four Official Secrets Acts. Starting with the 1989 Act, the Law Commission recommended the inclusion of a public interest defence, not in isolation but rather as part of a package of reforms to that Act. It is important to stress that the Bill does not seek to reform the 1989 Act, which remains in place as the relevant legislation to govern unauthorised disclosures of specified material; for example, in relation to security and intelligence, defence or international relations. For that reason, I can answer the very fair question from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, as to whether this was a relevant or irrelevant issue with the clear indication that it is not relevant to this amendment. When asked about the omission of the reform of the 1989 Act from the Bill, the Law Commission made clear, in its oral evidence to the Commons committee for the Bill, that it did not expect one single piece of legislation to address all aspects of its report.

I turn to the 1911 to 1939 Acts, which this Bill replaces. The Law Commission made a number of recommendations with respect to reform of those espionage laws, but crucially did not recommend the inclusion of a public interest offence. Again, during its oral evidence to the Committee for this Bill in the other place, the Law Commission was clear that, in its view, the requirements of the offences take them outside the realm of leaks and into the realm of espionage. It is worth also noting, as the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, correctly observed to the Committee, that within the security services themselves there are elaborate whistleblowing mechanisms already in place for the declaration of unlawfulness, as she has already outlined.

Let me put it very clearly on record that the offences in Clauses 1 to 5 of this Bill are not intended to have a chilling effect on legitimate whistleblowing. As I have said, the Committee has this evening already heard first-hand of experience of the mechanisms in respect of whistleblowing in the security services. The provisions in this Bill are about espionage, and I am sure that the Committee would strongly agree that espionage against the United Kingdom can never be in the public interest, although I appreciate that that is not what noble Lords are implying by tabling this amendment.

I am pleased to confirm that the Government are, of course, willing to continue to discuss the proper protections for legitimate activity, as the Committee has expressed and the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, in particular, has requested. The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked for further details on the Government’s efforts to keep whistleblowing guidance under continuing review, and I can confirm that that work is ongoing. No doubt it can be discussed further, in a similar way.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sorry to interrupt, but just on the point about the guidance, where the Minister has confirmed that the Government are undertaking work to update it, what is the process and the timeline for that?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

I am afraid that I am unaware of the precise timeline—I will find out. If the matter is not discussed in relation to the Kramer amendment, obviously I shall write to the noble Lord in respect of it.

I turn to the offences themselves, and the aspects that we consider move them away from capturing legitimate activity. For the Clause 1 offence of obtaining or disclosing protected information, the activity has to be for a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the United Kingdom. It is right that we are able to prosecute disclosures of protected information when it is clear that a person intended to harm the UK and was working for or on behalf of, or with the intention to benefit, a foreign power. Legitimate whistleblowing would not meet all the requirements of this offence.

The Clause 2 offence of obtaining or disclosing trade secrets is designed to tackle the illicit disclosure and acquisition of sensitive commercial information amounting to a trade secret for, on behalf of, or for the benefit of a foreign power. For the offence to be committed, the activity has to be unauthorised, and the person has to know, or ought reasonably to know, that their conduct is unauthorised. Someone who disclosed information in the course of using lawful and appropriate whistleblowing routes would not be conducting unauthorised activity.

The Clause 3 offence criminalises assisting foreign intelligence services. The offence can be committed in one of two ways: either by conduct of any kind that a person intends will materially assist a foreign intelligence service, or by conduct that it is reasonably possible may materially assist a foreign intelligence service and where the person knows, or ought reasonably to know, that that is the case. The material assistance must be material assistance in carrying out UK-related activities. The expression “UK-related activities” means activities taking place either inside the United Kingdom, or those taking place outside the United Kingdom which are prejudicial to the safety or interests of the United Kingdom. Legitimate whistleblowing activity should not meet the threshold for an offence under Clause 3, such as intending to materially assist a foreign intelligence service in carrying out covert operations in the United Kingdom.

I move on to the offences in Clauses 4 and 5, which criminalise harmful activity in and around prohibited places. It is right that we are able to prosecute relevant activity around the United Kingdom’s most sensitive sites where it is clear that such activity has been carried out to harm the United Kingdom. Activity carried out to harm the United Kingdom in this way cannot be in the public interest.

National Security Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
- Hansard - -

Forgive me; the answer is that, in the text of the Bill, this is not limited to state threats proceeds of crime. The operation of the Bill is as I just described in my speech and, as I have already said, its safeguards are built into the statute itself.

The second amendment to Schedule 6 tabled by the noble Baroness seeks to remove certain circumstances whereby a review of a suspect’s detention may be postponed. There are various reasons why a review may need to be postponed. For example, the suspect may be receiving medical treatment and be unable to make representations on their continued detention to the review officer. It may be that there is a delay in the review officer arriving at a custody suite, or they may be reviewing another suspect’s detention if multiple arrests have been made in a short period.

It is impossible to predict all the possible circumstances and make specific provision for them in the legislation. The legislation does not provide for the review to be permanently postponed. It is required to be carried out as soon as possible, but this proposal provides for some operational flexibility. The code of practice—which, as I have said, the Government will publish in due course—will provide further information on reviews of detention, and we will state the requirement for any postponement of detention reviews to be recorded on the custody record. In the meantime, similar provision again can be found in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act code of practice code H, which operates for detentions under the Terrorism Act 2000.

With that, I conclude.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that very helpful reply, which put on the record clarification of certain things, in particular that the word “constable” applies to all police forces across the UK. That was helpful in answer to the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford. As the Minister will know, a number of regulations and codes of practice will be coming before Parliament with respect to the detention of people under these powers. They will require some quite careful consideration by Parliament.

With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

National Security Bill

Debate between Lord Murray of Blidworth and Lord Coaker
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we all hope that the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, will not be criminalised by this Bill, but we look forward to the Minister’s response and for the exemptions to which the noble Lord referred to cover him.

I want to make a couple of brief remarks, again supporting what the noble Lord, Lord Marks, is trying to do, which is to narrow the focus—that has been the subject of much of the debates have had on the various amendments. This amendment would require an intention that the conduct will prejudice the safety or security or defence interests of the United Kingdom and apply that to a number of clauses. The noble Lord, Lord Marks, has outlined quite adequately why a discussion about that and a decision for the Government are needed. I hope that the Minister will explain why the Government do not think it is necessary rather than just dismissing it.

I wanted something to be clarified, notwithstanding the fact that it may be a simple response. On visiting many military bases, one finds people outside them taking photographs and numbers and watching the activity because it is a pastime; it is something that is of interest to them. I do not think that the Bill will criminalise that, but on behalf of people who have an interest in something that I personally would not have an interest in doing, I wonder whether the Minister could clarify it. I have seen people taking photographs at RAF bases of the planes taking off. It is simply something of interest to them. It would be helpful for the Minister to clarify that they would not be caught by the Bill, even if unintentionally.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, was right to remind us about intention. It is important. We will come to the public interest debate later, but she referred to journalists and whistleblowers, who risk being criminalised even though their intention is not to undermine national security. That will take us to the public interest defence debate that we will get to later in the Bill.

In answer to the points and amendments from the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, I think that the JCHR amendments—whether or not they are all right, and we heard a debate earlier on about them—are really important for the JCHR to have put before the Committee. What it is essentially saying is, “We think this is possibly something which impacts on the freedoms that we enjoy in our democracy”, freedom of expression being the one that the noble Baroness just referred to. The Government seek to modernise the national security law, which we all agree with—there is no disagreement in the Committee about that—but the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, should not apologise for the JCHR; rather, we should congratulate it on coming to all of us and asking us to justify what we are doing and on asking the Government to justify what they are doing in the name of national security. There is a compromise to be made sometimes between national security and complete freedom to do X, Y or Z. All of us accept that. The debate, as we heard on earlier amendments, is where you draw the line. I, and other noble Lords, think it is important—whether in respect of this group or others—that a debate takes place in this Parliament, and we should attempt to do better at defining what we actually mean rather than just leaving it to the courts.

I say to the noble Baronesses, Lady Ludford and Lady Jones, and to others who continually remind us about the JCHR that I am sure it is sometimes immensely irritating to the Government, but that is the job. That, in a non-flippant way, is important, because there are compromises with freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom to do X, Y or Z, and freedom for people to go about doing things exactly how they want to. It is a price we pay for our national security; how high that price should be is something we should not flinch from debating in this House.

The amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Marks, seek to put intent into these offences. If the Government do not believe that is important, it is necessary to argue the case as to why. On whistleblowers, journalistic freedom and so on, which the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, mentioned, I am sure we will come to that debate later when we discuss the public interest defence. I finish by saying again to the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford: more power to your elbow.