Lord Udny-Lister debates involving the Home Office during the 2019 Parliament

Lord Udny-Lister Portrait Lord Udny-Lister (Con)
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My Lords, I do not like the Bill, but, as a number of noble Lords have said, I struggle with the alternative, as absolutely nothing else has been put forward—and certainly nothing has been suggested tonight.

I know that the Government are sincere in their desire to crack down on illegal immigration. We have an absurd situation at play in which criminal gangs and people-smugglers are taking advantage of individuals, facilitating continued violation of our borders, endangering lives and costing the taxpayer significantly. When the people of this country switch on the news, they are rightly horrified to see small boats crammed with people, and clips of small children being held dangerously in them.

The British people have proven throughout history, and indeed more so in recent times, that they are hospitable to the most in need and supportive of genuine refugees. However, their good will has been gravely exploited by the criminal gangs, who rely on an outdated legal practice and loopholes to run a mockery of not only our immigration system but the generosity of the British people. As has been said already, illegal immigration is a danger to race relations and to our society.

On the Bill, I uphold that it is for the British people alone to decide on who comes and who stays in this country. I have no doubt that they wish to see illegal immigration end and that they are fed up with the ping-pong process of legislation being passed in sovereign Parliament only for the courts to then block any attempts on the part of the Government to get on and apply it. In building on the Illegal Migration Act 2023, the Bill will, I hope, allow the Government to get on with the task of not only deterring and stopping small boat crossings but applying some needed morality and fairness to our processes for dealing with illegal immigration.

While I agree that the Bill is a mechanism that is key to stopping the boats and preventing the courts from second-guessing the sovereign will of this Parliament, I am wary that the asylum backlog, marred by the complexity of individual circumstances, could once again see this matter return to the courts on a costly case-by-case basis.

The International Agreements Committee, of which I am a member, raised a number of concerns about the agreement. These concerns will arise when the Bill is challenged in the courts, so they need resolving, and quickly.

I do not think this point has been made tonight: Rwanda itself wants to see these safeguards in place, resolved and operating because it needs them for its own reputation, and indeed because it is presenting itself, and rightly so, as a modern, leading African country. Can my noble friend the Minister provide reassurances and clarify how the provisions of the Bill which provide limited scope for individuals to raise challenges based on their individual circumstances will not be exploited as a delaying tactic rather than being a sound legal provision to protect the rights of individuals?

Further, I am encouraged by the action taken by the Government in recent times to secure agreements such as the UK-Albania joint communiqué, which has been talked about already today. Working bilaterally in that case, the Government have proven that the return of over 5,000 people who have no legal right to be here to their safe country of origin is a powerful deterrent which has seen the number of illegal Albanian arrivals to this country drop by more than 90%.

I have in other addresses to your Lordships’ House called on the Government to direct their efforts to perfecting and creating additional bilateral agreements such as this, which surely must be the most sensible way to curb the flow of illegal immigration. In this ever-destabilised world, we need a pragmatic and diplomatic avenue for the UK to continue working bilaterally with other nations to collaboratively address the growing complexities of illegal migration. I would therefore welcome an update from the Minister on how the Government are seeking to further their work in this area.

That said, the challenges that we face today are impacting the people and security of the country and require us to act swiftly. For that reason, I support the Bill.

Afghan Interpreters

Lord Udny-Lister Excerpts
Wednesday 18th October 2023

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I am happy to provide the noble and gallant Lord with that information; I will do my very best to find it.

Lord Udny-Lister Portrait Lord Udny-Lister (Con)
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My Lords, does the Minister accept that much of the world is not as stable as we would like, and that we have a duty of care to locally employed staff in our embassies, particularly in countries which are in difficulty at this time and could be in a similar situation to Afghanistan? Have we learnt these lessons?

Rwanda: Memorandum of Understanding

Lord Udny-Lister Excerpts
Monday 6th February 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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Lord Udny-Lister Portrait Lord Udny-Lister (Con)
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My Lords, despite being one of those who strongly support the Government, certainly on these Benches, I rise with regret to say that I am in agreement with what has been said by many others. After years of political neglect, our asylum system is clearly broken. I fear that the agreement with Rwanda, which has so far failed to act as a meaningful deterrent, is but a distraction from what needs to be done to break the stranglehold of the criminal gangs who are profiting from the exploitation of people.

Other noble Lords have touched on the technicalities of why it would have been wiser to use a treaty rather than a memorandum of understanding, so I will not labour that point, except to say that I share the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, that an MoU eradicates the opportunity for effective parliamentary scrutiny. I hope that my noble friend the Minister can provide remedies for this concern in his winding up.

It is through the swift deportation of illegal immigrants to their safe country of origin, not through an MoU with Rwanda, that the perilous channel crossings will be brought to an end. I therefore welcome the Government’s commitment to introduce legislation that will see illegal immigrants deported within days if their claims for asylum are rejected. The Government can be assured of my support if that legislation comes here. Recently, the Government’s successful deportation of 43 people back to Albania was a step in the right direction—although a very small one when you consider that some 13,000 Albanians arrived in the UK last year. I wish the Government would direct more attention here. Does my noble friend agree that securing more bilateral agreements, such as the UK-Albania joint communiqué, must be the way forward if we are to secure our borders and have a fair asylum system?

I conclude by commenting on the asylum backlog. Some 140,000 people are waiting for a decision on their asylum claim. That is where efforts need to be directed, to get it under some kind of control.

Independent Cultural Review of London Fire Brigade

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Tuesday 29th November 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for her questions. I think it is useful to remind the House that the report confirmed that the disadvantage and discrimination that affects brigade staff does not translate into its operations and does not impact on the way the brigade prevents and responds to incidents. It is important to note that and to note our admiration for firefighters, who walk into trouble as opposed to walking away from it.

As for the Government’s response, we should bear in mind that responsibility for London Fire Brigade rests with the Mayor of London, but the Government published a fire reform White Paper in May. That set out proposals to reform the way the fire service supports and values its people. At its heart are plans to improve culture and professionalism and to put ethics at the heart of the service. The Government have also funded a number of important change programmes in the fire sector. We have supported the creation of a new code of ethics for fire and rescue services, setting out clear national expectations for standards of behaviour. The Fire Standards Board, which is funded by the Home Office, has produced fire standards to support the core code of ethics as well as a specific safeguarding standard, supported by guidance from the National Fire Chiefs Council. It will shortly be publishing new fire standards on leadership.

Lord Udny-Lister Portrait Lord Udny-Lister (Con)
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My Lords, could the Minister please advise, first, that responsibility for the London Fire Brigade rests with the Mayor of London, who has a deputy mayor responsible specifically for the London Fire Brigade? So my first point is on governance—what is being done on that? Secondly, what will then be done about removing the individuals who have been clearly identified in this process? We only recently had the report of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police on how we could not get rid of large numbers of policemen who need to leave the service quickly. Thirdly, national training has always been an issue for the fire brigade. The central Fire Service College in Moreton-in-Marsh was closed many years ago. It still has not been replaced and there are all sorts of training and governance issues around the fire brigade.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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That is very clear; there is fairly evidently a failure of leadership. However, as I mentioned, I commend the leadership of Andy Roe, who commissioned a report into his own brigade. That was courageous and, as I say, he has committed to acting on all the recommendations.

There were two recommendations on getting rid of people. One is for a historical review of complaints, which will obviously investigate potential historical injustices. I imagine that will have some sort of component to do with removing people.

I am happy to confirm that the Mayor of London has operational responsibility for this, along with his deputy. That is on the website, and he claims it for himself. This is not blaming; it is merely stating a fact.

Ukraine: Refugees

Lord Udny-Lister Excerpts
Wednesday 6th April 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Udny-Lister Portrait Lord Udny-Lister (Con)
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My Lords, I start by congratulating the Minister on his appointment. I was going to say “commiserating”, because I think that he has probably one of the toughest jobs in government at the moment, but I know that he is very hands-on—I am afraid that he will have to be in this job. I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, for this debate and in particular for her opening speech—I was moved by what she said. I agree with everybody else in condemning the appalling acts of the Russian state against the people of Ukraine.

More than 6.5 million people now displaced since February, a death toll that is continuing to climb by the hour, the graphic images of the dead left on street corners and the harrowing reports that rape is being used as a weapon of war bring shame, disgust and anger to us all. Over the weekend, the Prime Minister committed to sending specialist police and military investigators to help the International Criminal Court’s investigations, in the hope that those responsible for these heinous, evil acts may be held to account at The Hague. I very much welcome that recent action, as I am sure does everybody else, and the leadership that the Government have shown in providing solidarity, strength and support to the people of Ukraine. However, as we stand witness to perhaps the greatest humanitarian crisis of recent times, it is only right that we do all that we can to support those who are fleeing their homes to find safety, security and solace in the United Kingdom.

As I mentioned in my preamble, women and children who are now arriving in this country have seen things that no human should. How can an adult, let alone a child, forget the images of a burned body flung on the roadside? As we learned over the weekend, those fleeing may have been subjected to brutal acts, and the trauma and post-traumatic stress that they will be suffering are incomprehensible. With this in mind, would the Minister advise the Committee on what arrangements are being made to provide Ukrainian refugees with targeted, specialist mental health provision? I ask this in cautioning that mental health services across the country are already stretched because of the pandemic. The mental health support that the incoming Ukrainians will need cannot be left to the lottery of local provision.

Ukrainians have an incredibly strong work ethic. The Government’s relaxation of the rules to allow Ukrainian refugees to work is most welcome. I place on record my admiration of the companies, both large and small, which have demonstrated the best of British values in securing paid opportunities for those looking to make this country their home, if only for a short time.

However, we know that, for every good deed, there are individuals who, unfortunately, will seek to make a mockery of the system and exploit goodness. Could the Minister therefore provide reassurance that the Government will move heaven and earth to ensure that those fleeing war zones are not forced into modern slavery? Would he encourage local authorities to see what they can do to not only provide work placements but use their local knowledge and experience as an additional mechanism to ensure the legitimacy of the work being offered?

President Zelensky recently thanked our Prime Minister for the “historic leadership” that Her Majesty’s Government have shown when it comes to this nation’s support for Ukraine. I look down the list of all that the Government have done thus far and it is to be commended, as is the effort that we have seen in communities up and down the country, where the generosity and kindness of individuals serve as the greatest welcome that could possibly be made.

However, we must now ensure that when it comes to the processing, arrival and support of Ukrainian refugees, the apparatus of the state at national and local level kicks into play with the same speed, determination and force that we have been able to show on issues such as sanctions. The Government have issued more than 29,000 visas to Ukrainians in less than a month and I am reassured that they are doing their utmost to speed this up. To conclude on this point, will the Minister provide an update on what action the Government have taken in recent weeks to increase visa-processing capacity here at home and in Poland, Hungary, Moldova and other major centres?