All 19 Lord Murray of Blidworth contributions to the Illegal Migration Act 2023

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Wed 24th May 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

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

Committee stage: Part 2 & Committee stage: Minutes of Proceedings Part 2
Mon 5th Jun 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

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

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

Committee stage: Part 1
Wed 7th 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
Mon 12th Jun 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 2
Wed 14th Jun 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 1
Wed 14th Jun 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 2
Wed 14th Jun 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 3
Wed 28th Jun 2023
Wed 28th Jun 2023
Mon 3rd Jul 2023
Mon 3rd Jul 2023
Wed 5th Jul 2023
Mon 10th Jul 2023
Wed 12th Jul 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments
Mon 17th Jul 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendmentsLords Handsard

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Illegal Migration Bill

Lord Murray of Blidworth Excerpts
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Migration and Borders (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
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My Lords, we have had a very interesting, long and good debate, which has had perhaps more than a hint of a Second Reading debate—but, of course, that is unsurprising, given that Clause 1 sets out the purpose of the Bill. We will of course be able to revisit this debate in the second group when we have the “clause stand part” Question.

We have heard thoughtful speeches from many noble Lords, but I particularly valued the insights from the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, my noble friends Lord Hodgson, Lord Horam, Lord Sandhurst and Lady Lawlor, and my noble and learned friend Lord Wolfson.

For now, let me respond to the amendments directly. First, Amendments 1 and 5, tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, seek to add into the Bill definitions of “illegal migration” and “unlawful migration”. The noble and learned Lord has suggested that this would be helpful in the interests of legal certainty. As a lawyer myself, I am all in favour of legal certainty but, in this instance, I am not persuaded that adding these definitions helps in this regard.

It is important to incorporate Bill-wide definitions in a Bill where terms are used across the Bill. We have done that in this Bill and, as noble Lords will have noticed, Clause 64 includes an index of defined expressions. But I put it to the noble and learned Lord that nothing hangs off the terms “unlawful migration” or “illegal migration” and, consequently, there is no need to define them. The term “unlawful migration” is used only once in the Bill, in Clause 1(1), while the term “illegal migration” is used only in the Short Title, as the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, observed. Moreover, it is clear from Clause 2 that the duty to make arrangements for removal applies to persons who meet the four conditions in that clause. It does not apply to other persons who may be in the country unlawfully—for example, because they have overstayed their limited leave to enter or remain. In short, the Bill is clear without these two terms being defined.

As regards the early intervention in the debate from the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, a point repeated by both the noble Baronesses, Lady Chakrabarti and Lady Hamwee, as well as my noble friend Lord Kirkhope and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford, I remind your Lordships that the Immigration Act 1971 was recently amended by the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 with regard to the criminal offences relating to illegal entry and arrival. This includes people who enter the UK without leave or arrive in the UK without permission: for example, without a visa where that is required under the Immigration Rules. This means that such persons are illegal migrants whether or not they go on to claim asylum. This, if I may say, answers the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, of what makes a route illegal. The answer is: legislation, passed in the normal way, and scrutinised and passed by this House.

The suggestion by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, that anyone making claims under the refugee convention can never be illegal, represents, with respect, a muddled reading of the convention. The convention is clear that states can still operate controls on illegal migration and, under Article 31, it is expressly permitted to disadvantage those who have arrived illegally from safe countries—which is true of all who come from France. This embodies the first safe country principle in the sense that Article 31 protections apply only to those who have come directly from unsafe countries—a point made by my noble friend Lady Lawlor.

The first safe country principle is also widely recognised internationally, including in the Common European Asylum System, a framework of rules and procedures operated by EU countries together, based on the refugee convention. I would add that the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, may have overlooked the fact that, under Clause 2(4) of this Bill, the “duty to remove” does not apply to those who have come directly from unsafe countries, in line with the refugee convention.

The refugee convention seems to be raised to support statements that are not all borne out by its terms. We must interpret the convention as it is written, not as others would wish it to be written.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick Portrait Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB)
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I thank the Minister for giving way. I merely want to ask whether you are recommending that all of the 46,000 who arrived last year should be sent back to France. If so, has the Prime Minister had any discussions with President Macron about that?

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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As the noble Lord knows, the Prime Minister and President Macron have had regular discussions and there have been regular treaties and agreements in relation to the enhancement of police powers in France, but it is not presently the position of the French Government that they are willing to accept the return of those who have entered the UK illegally. That is what drives the Government to look for other avenues to dissuade people from embarking on the dangerous journey across the channel.

Turning to Amendment 2, tabled—

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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I am sorry to intervene on the Minister, but I wonder if he could direct my attention to where in Article 31 of the refugee convention it refers to “illegal migrants”. I can find a reference only to “illegal entry or presence” or “entry or presence without authorisation”. It is the entry or the presence that is illegal or unauthorised; it is not the person. That is the problem that many of us have with the term “illegal migrant”. I cannot find it in Article 31 of the refugee convention; perhaps I have not looked hard enough.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I am very grateful to the noble Baroness. I was indeed about to mention her in my next sentence. Let me address that point and repeat what I said earlier. The phrase “illegal migration” in the Short Title of the Bill refers to the fact that the act of entering otherwise than in accordance with immigration controls was criminalised by an Act passed by this House and the other place in 2022. That is why it is correct to describe such people as “illegal migrants”—because they did not enter in accordance with immigration controls. That is the long and the short of it. The interpretation of Article 31 is irrelevant as regards that point of certainty.

I turn now to Amendment 2, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford. This amendment seeks to strike out subsection (5), which disapplies Section 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998. The disapplication of Section 3 will ensure that the Bill’s provisions will be interpreted to meet the legislative intent of Parliament, rather than the strained interpretations imposed by the courts to achieve compatibility with convention rights. As my noble and learned friend Lord Wolfson, King’s Counsel, pointed out, Section 3 is an unusual provision in UK law and there is, in principle, no reason why it cannot be excluded in cases like this.

It is our view that Parliament and the Government are better suited to address the sensitive policy issues involved in this legislation. It is therefore only right that Section 3, which requires the court to interpret the provisions to achieve compatibility with convention rights, must be disapplied so that courts interpret the law in accordance with the purpose of the Bill. Through this, we are ensuring that the balance between our domestic institutions is right and that Parliament’s intent is clear to the courts.

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, explained, Amendment 3 flows from the recent report of the Constitution Committee. I am very grateful to that committee for its scrutiny of the Bill. We are studying its report carefully and will respond in full ahead of Report. As for the genesis of the amendment, the noble and learned Lord explained that the Constitution Committee considered that more explanation was needed around the Section 19(1)(b) statement that I made on the introduction of the Bill in this House.

Notwithstanding that the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, quoted from my Second Reading speech on this issue, I reiterate the point I made at that stage: a Section 19(1)(b) statement means not that the provisions of the Bill are incompatible with the convention rights, only that we cannot be certain that they are compatible. The assertion suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, in his speech a moment ago, that the statement amounts to a concession that measures in the Bill are incompatible, is not the case. The purpose of Section 19, as my noble friend Lord Wolfson set out, is that it is a statement that the provisions of the Bill are incompatible with convention rights and we cannot be certain that they are compatible. It is of course a measure in a piece of legislation passed by the last Labour Government and therefore something that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, would no doubt place great weight on. Those are the terms that we find in Section 19 of the Human Rights Act.

Lord Carlile of Berriew Portrait Lord Carlile of Berriew (CB)
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Does the Minister not think that it might at least be a courtesy to the Committee to set out which of the provisions, in his view and that of the Home Secretary, are or are not compatible with the convention? That would help us to determine the quality of the legislation that is proposed.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I will come to address the issues of the broad applicability of the Section 19(1)(b) statement. There is no requirement in the Act for a statement to identify any particular section. Indeed, I do not want to wade into the waters that were nearly ventured into during the interventions on my noble friend Lord Wolfson’s speech about whether the Section 19(1)(b) statement in relation to the Communications Bill, as it then was, was in accordance with the statute.

In any event, I return to the principle of Section 19(1)(b) statements. It is right to say that they have been made by Governments of all stripes, not least in the Communications Bill, as we heard earlier in the debate, but also by the coalition Government and by Nick Clegg in the House of Lords Reform Bill 2012. As my noble friend Lord Wolfson rightly indicated, issuing a Section 19(1)(b) statement is a legitimate choice given to Ministers under the Human Rights Act. Why else would the Act provide for such a course?

As I have said, previous Governments have issued such statements, and clearly that has not caused our international reputation to collapse. More broadly, I encourage the Committee to approach questions of international reputation with a proper perspective. The world can be in no doubt that we are defenders of rights and liberty, the most obvious example being our leading support for Ukraine.

Requiring guidance to be approved by Parliament on how the Bill’s provisions are to be interpreted within the meaning of the Human Rights Act is unnecessary. On 7 March the Government published a memorandum addressing issues arising under the ECHR, and a supplementary memorandum was published in April in relation to the government amendments tabled for Report in the Commons. These memoranda set out a provision-by-provision ECHR analysis, so I submit that the Government’s position is clear, and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, will find the answers to his questions about what sits behind the Section 19(1)(b) statement in those memoranda.

It will undoubtedly be necessary to provide Home Office staff, immigration officers and others with appropriate guidance to support the implementation of the Bill. It would not be appropriate for such routine operational guidance on the implementation of a particular Act to be subject to parliamentary approval.

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Lord Lamont of Lerwick Portrait Lord Lamont of Lerwick (Con)
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When my noble friend was replying to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, he said that the ECHR memorandum set out precisely which articles of the convention had that effect and which clauses in the Bill were compatible or not, and, as he says, different rights are listed. But what is the status of that definitive document? He says it is the answer to the noble Lord’s question, but what is its status? Presumably it does not have legal effect in itself.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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That is correct: the ECHR memorandum is one of the documents prepared to support the Bill in its passage through Parliament. Obviously, if a matter of interpretation were required, it is the sort of material that those looking for an interpretation might be minded to refer to. Indeed, it is open to those in Parliament to refer to such documents. It is, of course, right to say that the ECHR memorandum is a standard part of the package in relation to public Bills—so, in that sense, it has regular status.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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Before the Minister leaves this part of his address, will he tell the House whether it is the intention of the Government that the implementation of the Act should be compliant with all the conventions that are set out in Amendment 4? Do the Government intend to comply with those conventions? This House is entitled to know.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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As I have already outlined, it is clear that there is nothing in the Bill that would require the UK to breach its international obligations. The UK takes compliance with those obligations very seriously. As for the other international instruments referred to in these amendments, they have not, by and large, been incorporated into UK domestic law, and we should not seek to do so in this Bill through the back door.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick Portrait Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB)
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The Minister seems to be placing a great deal of weight on there being nothing in this Bill that requires the Government to take action contrary to our international obligations. He would surely agree, however, that there is a great deal in this Bill that enables the Government to take action that would be contrary to our international obligations—and that without any recourse to Parliament.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I am not sure that I agree with the noble Lord. There is no requirement that powers should conceivably be expressed on the face of every Bill in such a way that they are trammelled by international obligations. That would be contrary to the dualist system, as my noble and learned friend Lord Wolfson made abundantly clear. I am reluctant to reopen that particular exchange at this juncture, given the time that we have remaining prior to the dinner break.

States take different approaches to their international law obligations. Some states treat international law as part of their domestic law, but the UK, like other countries with similar constitutional arrangements, including many Commonwealth countries, has the dualist approach that we have discussed before. In those states, international law is treated as separate from domestic law and international law is incorporated into domestic law only by decisions of Parliaments through legislation. That is a point we have already discussed. The effect of these amendments would be to make the provisions of all the listed international agreements effectively justiciable in the UK courts. It is legitimate for noble Lords to make the case for incorporation into domestic law of one or more of these international instruments, but that is not the Government’s position, and we should not be using this Bill to secure that outcome.

I hope that, in light of my explanation, the noble and learned Lord will be content to withdraw his Amendment 1.

Baroness Butler-Sloss Portrait Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB)
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I wonder whether the Minister could help me. He said that the Government would apply—I gather—all the conventions that are in Amendment 4. May I suggest that it would be impossible for the Government to apply the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child? It is perfectly obvious that the best interests of a child throughout the Bill will not be recognised.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Clearly, as I have already said, it is the Government’s view that nothing in the Bill requires the UK to breach its international obligations, whether in relation to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child or any of the other listed international instruments. Of course, the United Kingdom takes compliance with its international obligations very seriously.

Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB)
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My Lords, I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this very interesting and far-ranging debate. I am conscious of the time, and I am sure the Committee would not wish me to go over the ground in any detail, and I am not going to do that.

The Minister, with great respect, has not really answered many of the questions that have been raised. We will come back to this, I am sure, possibly in the next group, but certainly these questions will come back on Report and will need to be answered in much more detail. So far as my own amendments are concerned—the definition point—the Minister has pointed out that nothing hangs on these words because they do not reappear elsewhere in the Bill. I was well aware of that when I tabled the amendment, but that raises the question: why brand the actions of these people coming here as unlawful or illegal, unless, of course, they are in breach of specific legislation, which is not always the case? That illustrates the unfortunate wording of Clause 1, which we will come back to.

As far as Amendment 3 is concerned, which deals with the question of guidance, I do not think, with great respect, that the ECHR memoranda amount to the kind of guidance that is needed in a situation where access to the courts is being denied. Something more specific is needed, and that is what the amendment is driving at. Perhaps we will come back to that at some later stage. For the time being, I think the simplest thing I should do, so that we can move on, is beg leave to withdraw Amendment 1.

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Illegal Migration Bill

Lord Murray of Blidworth Excerpts
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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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)
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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—

Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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The noble Lord has made two points. I am particularly asking about this sentence in the Government’s ECHR memorandum—so the Government’s position. It says at paragraph 1.5 about the removal of Section 3 of the Human Rights Act:

“This does not affect the Government’s assessment of compatibility of the Bill with the Convention rights”.


Article 5 of the convention clearly states:

“Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court”.


So is the paragraph in the memorandum compatible with what I have just read out? If so, it means that when people are detained, they will be able to take their cases to a court in this country.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The answer to the question, if I have understood the noble Lord, is yes, but I think he misinterprets the purpose of Section 3 of the Human Rights Act. It is not the clause by which the articles of the European Convention on Human Rights are reflected in UK domestic law. Section 3 of the Human Rights Act invites a court to construe parts of other domestic statutes or secondary legislation compatibly with convention rights. It does not mean that this is the mechanism by which convention rights are actionable in UK law, which is the standpoint that I think the noble Lord, Lord German, appears to suggest is the basis for his point. I fear that, as a matter of legal analysis, I think that to be wrong.

The noble Lord also seems to be labouring under an assumption that Clause 1 somehow upsets the separation of powers. It does not. It simply makes it clear that in interpreting this legislation, judges should seek to advance the purposes of the Bill. The Bill, and actions taken under it, are still clearly capable of review in the courts, and individuals can seek to prevent their own removal by making a suspensive claim. So, the courts are still involved, and regulations are still subject to approval by Parliament. I hope the noble Lord can rest assured that on closer inspection, this Bill leaves our separation of powers undisturbed.

I also want to pick up on a point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, who suggested that the Bill prevents human rights challenges. This is simply not the case. The Bill provides for two kinds of challenges that would have the effect of suspending removal. Other legal challenges, whether on European Convention on Human Rights grounds or other grounds, are not precluded, but they do not suspend removal. As I have indicated, Clause 1 makes the purpose of the Bill crystal clear for all to see. This will help to guide all decisions made by officials and immigration officers, Ministers, the courts and others in giving effect to the Bill. I commend the clause to the Committee.

Baroness Butler-Sloss Portrait Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB)
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My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister can help me on this. The “strained decisions” of the courts is a phrase that has been used at least three or four times this evening. As a former judge, I find that difficult to understand. I would like some elucidation as to what is meant by “strained decisions” and what examples there are.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The context of a strained decision, as the noble and learned Baroness will be aware, are circumstances where there is an ordinary, natural reading of a statute but a judge feels constrained to interpret the words of a statute in a particular way to give effect to a convention right. As the noble and learned Baroness is aware, this is a fairly obvious application of the term, and it is quite usual for such—perhaps more difficult—interpretations to be described as “strained”. I can certainly identify a number of examples, and I will write to the noble and learned Baroness in relation to them.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick Portrait Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB)
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My Lords, the Minister is a persistent non-answerer of questions; I am a persistent asker of questions. The two questions I asked—I will repeat them at dictation speed if he wishes—were echoed by the Liberal Democrat Front Bench spokesman and the Labour Front Bench spokesman. I think we are due a reply to both those questions. Does the Minister have the answers, or do I have to repeat the questions?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The noble Lord does repeatedly ask questions, and I repeatedly answer them. As he identifies, there is a difference in interpretation of Article 31 of the refugee convention. I entirely appreciate that he does not accept my interpretation; and I do not accept his. That is where we are. It is not a rigmarole. This is a matter of position and legal analysis, and I am afraid that this is the Government’s position.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick Portrait Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB)
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And the second question, please?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I believe I have answered both the noble Lord’s questions.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick Portrait Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB)
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The second question was: could the Minister please tell us that the phrase that he used, which was that nothing in this Bill “requires” the Government to take action contrary to our international obligations, does not obviate the fact that the Bill enables the Government so to do if they so wish and without any further recourse to Parliament?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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That is consistent with the normal practice in statute.

Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB)
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My Lords, perhaps I might come back to the question asked by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. I think the Minister said that he would write to her with examples of strained interpretation. I sat for many years on the Appellate Committee in the Supreme Court dealing with cases under the Human Rights Act, and I am not aware of any particular case where I was straining the language. I do not think I went very far beyond the ordinary meaning of the words.

I remember we were faced with a very difficult case involving two men who wanted to marry. In those days, the Marriage Act was very specific that marriage was between a man and a woman. We could have strained the language, but we did not do that; we said the provision was incompatible, which I think the Minister would recognise as a perfectly orthodox way to proceed. I think we were quite careful not to stray beyond the bounds of reasonable interpretation. I would be very interested to know whether he has examples of where we really did go beyond the bounds of reasonable interpretation.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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As I said, I will be writing to the noble and learned Baroness, but the House will recall that the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, set out various examples, including Ullah and Al-Skeini, and there are others. This has been a matter of jurisprudential development since the commencement of the Human Rights Act. It is a well-known evolution in interpretive principle, and it is that which is addressed by the provisions in this Bill.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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Following-up on my question about impact assessment, the Minister says that the Government do not recognise the impact assessments provided by NGOs, but why not? How can they say that they do not recognise the impact assessments provided by NGOs when they do not have their own impact assessment with which to contradict them?

The Minister also talked about the cost of not enacting this legislation, in terms of the current cost of what I think he called the “broken asylum system”—of a Government who have been in power for 13 years. To what extent is the high cost of accommodating asylum seekers in the UK down to the fact that there is a huge backlog of applications that have not been processed by the Home Office, when some 15 years ago there were almost double the number of applications and hardly any backlog?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The Government do not recognise the figures in the purported impact assessments provided by the bodies that were referred to, such as the Refugee Council, because we do not recognise the assumptions and costs referenced in them. Furthermore, those documents do not acknowledge any assessment of the impact of the effect of not proceeding with the measures in the Bill.

Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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What is the Minister’s definition of “soon”, which he said was when we would receive the impact assessment? Will it be before the end of Committee, before the start of Report or after Report and before Third Reading? Perhaps he could be more explicit.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The impact assessment will be provided when the decision is taken that it is appropriate to disclose it.

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Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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Does the Minister therefore think that it is appropriate that the body which is deciding about this Bill—Parliament—should receive the impact assessment, and should that impact assessment be with us before we complete Committee on the Bill? Surely that is appropriate. It is not for the Government to decide. It is for the Government to make their case to Parliament. If they cannot do so, because they have not got the document, because the document is not sufficiently robust or because it is not available, then the Minister should be able to tell us that right now, so that we know the basis on which we are judging this Bill.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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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)
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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)
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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.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The House knows my position. I have obviously heard what the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, have said, and I will of course take those points back to the department.

Clause 1 agreed.
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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, said, echoed by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, Clause 2 is the centrepiece of the scheme provided for in the Bill. At its heart, the Bill seeks to change the existing legal framework so that those who arrive in the UK illegally can be detained and then promptly removed, either to their home country or to a safe third country.

Clause 2 seeks to achieve this by placing a legal duty on the Secretary of State to remove those who come to the UK illegally. The duty applies where an individual meets the four conditions set out in Clause 2, which I will briefly rehearse.

The first condition is about the lawfulness of the person’s entry into the UK. This underlines the Government’s commitment to take all possible measures to stop people making dangerous journeys to enter the UK illegally, particularly across the English Channel.

The second condition is that the individual must have entered the UK on or after 7 March—the day of the Bill’s introduction in the House of Commons, as my noble friend Lady Lawlor noted. This is a crucial condition that will ensure that we do not create a perverse incentive for migrants to take illegal and dangerous journeys in an attempt to avoid being subject to the Bill’s provisions. I will return to this point in a moment.

The third condition states that the duty will apply to an individual who has not come directly from a country in which their life and liberty were threatened. That means that anyone entering the UK from another country where their life was not in danger will fall within the scope of the duty. This is consistent with our obligations under the refugee convention and upholds the principle that asylum seekers should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach. There is manifestly no need for people to make those dangerous journeys when they are already in a country where they are safe or could, in the case of France, for example, claim asylum. It places themselves and others at risk and puts money into the hands of organised criminals.

The fourth and final condition is that an individual requires leave to remain but does not have it. The duty to make arrangements for removal is subject only to very limited exceptions signposted in Clause 2(11), which we will come on to at a later date when we come to a later clause.

The fundamental point is that, subject to these limited exceptions, the Home Secretary will be under a clear and unambiguous legal duty to make arrangements for the removal of persons from the UK who satisfy those four conditions. She should not be deflected from fulfilling that legal duty. These provisions make it very clear that if you meet these four conditions you will not be able to make a new life in the UK.

A number of the amendments in this group relate to the four conditions I have described. Amendment 6 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, relates to the second condition. In effect, this and other amendments tabled by the noble Lord seek to do away with the backdating of the duty to remove so that it applies only to those who illegally enter the country from the date of commencement rather than from 7 March. Amendment 39 in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, deals with the same point.

The explanatory note to the noble and learned Lord’s Amendment 39 sums up the position well, as was noted by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr. It says:

“This amendment seeks to give effect to the principle that, unless for good reason, legislation should operate prospectively and not retrospectively”.


I was challenged by the noble and learned Lord to explain what that good reason was. The Government entirely agree with the explanatory note from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. The Committee will know that it is not uncommon in exceptional circumstances for legislation to have retrospective effect, as the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, noted. But as the noble and learned Lord has acknowledged, there must be good reason for such exceptions. I suggest to the Committee that there is good reason in this instance for retrospection.

I would say that the retrospective nature of these provisions is critical. Without it, we risk organised criminals and people smugglers seeking to exploit this with an increase in the number of illegal arrivals ahead of commencement of the provisions in the Bill. This would likely lead to an increase in these unnecessary and dangerous small boat crossings and could even place more pressure on not only our asylum system, but our health, housing, educational and welfare services, not to mention our services for saving lives at sea.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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Can the Minister explain why in that case the Nationality and Borders Act does not have a retrospective clause? What evidence does the Minister have, having announced the retrospective elements and that the provisions apply from when the Bill was first introduced into the House of Commons? What deterrent effect have we seen in terms of reducing the number of boat crossings?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Certainly. The structure of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 was very different. It was not a Bill like this one, which focuses on a duty to remove and is targeted at creating a disincentive effect on people crossing the channel. This is a very differently structured piece of legislation and therefore the retrospective element is a vital and logical part of the scheme in the Bill.

As to the evidence of the deterrent effect taking effect from the date of introduction, this is seen potentially in the fact that—and one can only draw inferences from the figures—it would appear that the numbers are down on this time last year. I accept that the weather has facilitated a good measure of that, but it is certainly right to say that had there not been a retrospectivity measure in the Bill I would conjecture that the numbers crossing the channel would have been far higher. It would have been easy for people smugglers to advertise their services—and I will come to this in a moment—as something of a fire sale, saying, “Get across the channel now. Here’s your opportunity before these measures in the Government’s new scheme take effect”.

The provision in the Bill does not mean that all those who enter the country illegally on or after 7 March will be subject to the duty to remove in Clause 2(1). We have expressly provided in Clause 4(7) that asylum and human rights-based claims made on or after 7 March may be decided by the Secretary of State prior to the commencement of Clause 4. Where a person is then granted leave to remain, they will not be removed.

The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, noted that retrospectivity is problematic because it impinges on legal certainty. The key here is that we have been clear in the Bill and in the public messaging—for example, in the statement given by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and the other messaging—that this is the date when the scheme will commence. That means that there can be no uncertainty about the Government’s intention. While I accept that this is unusual in our legal system, it is not unheard of. The Revenue sometimes announces intended changes to tax law which are then later introduced by Finance Bills but backdated to the date of the announcement. In those cases, it is usually to prevent a closing-down sale of improper tax structures. There, retrospectivity is designed to protect tax revenue. Here, it is to prevent a closing-down sale of dangerous, sometimes fatal, channel crossings in the lead-up to some prospective date. We do not take this step lightly but feel it is necessary to reduce this perverse incentive.

I say “reduce” advisedly. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, has pointed out that migrants on the other side of the channel may not be as well advised as some taxpayers, but it is clear they are alive to changes in policy in the UK. For example, it is clear that announcements of a change in the approach to Albanian illegal migrants has led to a very significant dropping off of that cohort in the small boats, even before removals have begun at scale. This shows that the criminal gangs and migrants are aware of policy announcements in the UK, as my noble friend Lady Lawlor has pointed out. Similarly, the original announcement of the Rwanda scheme was known in the camps in Calais, with some suggesting in reporting that asylum seekers sought to go to the Republic of Ireland instead to avoid being sent to Rwanda. Indeed, the then Taoiseach Michael Martin noted a surge in applications and partly blamed the Rwanda announcement.

While clearly announcing the start date of the new scheme may not have had a decisive impact, it is important to do everything we can to discourage those dangerous journeys. Announcements such as this can have an impact on behaviour, and we hope they will reduce the incentive for a surge in dangerous crossings, perhaps at a time when the weather makes crossing very dangerous. To answer the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, these are the compelling and exceptional circumstances that justify this decision.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I apologise to the Minister for intervening at this late hour. If I understand him correctly, it will now be permissible to legislate retrospectively in any case of criminality because, by definition, it is very important not to have a fire sale. If we believe that certain conduct is wrong and there is a gap, whatever that conduct is, and if it is a serious enough matter to legislate in criminal terms, for example, it would now and in the future be permissible to legislate retrospectively.

My second point is that the Minister seems to suggest, like his noble friend Lady Lawlor, that because Ministers have announced a prospective change in the law, that should be good enough, because presumably we now believe that executive fiat and ministerial announcements and pronouncements are enough to suggest to people, not just in our own country but across the world, that that is what the law is and will be and always was. Have I understood the Minister correctly on this point?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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No, I am sorry to say. Clearly the position is not that in every case where there is a change in the criminal law it should have retrospective effect to the date of the Bill’s introduction. That is absolutely not what I am saying. What I am saying is that, in this context, to prevent a rush of people into these dangerous vessels, crossing the channel at a time when there is potentially bad weather, those were the special circumstances that justified retrospection in these provisions. To go back to one of the last major Bills to go through your Lordships’ House, which became the Public Order Act, I would not dream of suggesting that the offence of locking on should have had retrospective effect to the date of the introduction of the Bill; there would have been no exceptional circumstances for that.

While I am on the topic of the speech just given by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, I would like to address her suggestion that limited retrospectivity will lead to refoulement. This is clearly not the case. I can do no more than repeat that this Bill does not allow refoulement. It does not allow the Government to remove individuals to places where they will be in danger—and that, quite rightly, is under the supervision of the courts.

In particular, I would refer noble Lords to the clauses in the Bill relating to suspensive claims—Clauses 37 to 50—which allow Upper Tribunal judges to determine whether an individual faces a risk of “serious and irreversible harm”. If such a case is made out, the individual will not be removed to that place.

Amendment 7 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord German, relates to the third condition and to the issue of whether a person has or has not “come directly” from a country where their life and liberty were threatened. It is right that we prioritise protection for the most vulnerable people arriving through safe and legal routes rather than those who are strong or rich enough to have journeyed through safe countries and paid the people smugglers before they reach the UK.

In answer to the question put by the noble Lord, Lord German, repeated by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, people seeking sanctuary should apply for asylum in the first safe country they reach. There is no uniform international interpretation of the many concepts of the refugee convention. However, the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties provides the treaty to be interpreted “in good faith”. It is on this basis that we have set out our interpretation of “come directly” through Clause 2. I might add that, were Amendment 7—

Baroness Lister of Burtersett Portrait Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab)
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The Minister is beginning to address the question that I have raised twice: why should we accept this Government’s interpretation of the refugee convention over and above that of the body that is given authority by the UN to interpret it for the international community? Every other organisation that has briefed us has followed the UNHCR in its interpretation and there are very real fears of refoulement. As a noble Lord opposite said earlier. the reason given seems to be “Because we say so”, as you would say to a child. That is not good enough. We want to know exactly why we should accept the Government’s interpretation.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for that intervention. The reality is that the Government take legal advice. The UNHCR is clearly a UN body; it is not charged with the interpretation of the refugee convention. Some parts of the UNHCR have views on the Government’s position, but it is always worth recalling that the UNHCR itself maintains refugee arrangements and accommodation in Rwanda. In December, the High Court considered the submissions from the UNHCR and discounted what was said. So I invite the noble Baroness, rather than simply taking the Government’s word for it, to review the judgment of the Divisional Court, a careful and considered judgment, which considered the legality of the removal scheme.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick Portrait Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB)
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The Minister has latched on to the wrong point—not the point that the UNHCR has made again and again that it is not compatible with the obligations of our membership to refuse to consider a request for asylum. It is nothing to do with Rwanda; it is to do with refusing a request for asylum. The Minister admitted earlier that there is no explicit provision in the refugee convention that permits us to do that. That is the basis of the UNHCR’s position. Frankly, his suggestion that there are differences of opinion in the UNHCR is pretty contemptible. The High Commissioner for Refugees has said he does not think this is compatible.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I am afraid that I again find myself at odds with the noble Lord. The reality is that the UN itself relocates refugees to Rwanda. As I say, there is no suggestion that people’s asylum claims will not be dealt with under this scheme; their asylum claim will be dealt with in Rwanda once they are removed, and that is entirely compatible with the convention. There is no requirement on a member state of the convention to determine asylum claims within its own territory. That is abundantly plain.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Portrait Lord Kerr of Kinlochard (CB)
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The Minister says there is no requirement in the convention for a convention state to handle an asylum request on its own territory, but surely the deal with Rwanda rules out our ever hearing these cases. In Rwanda, people are allowed to apply for asylum in Rwanda, but their case for asylum in the United Kingdom will never be admitted. Is that not correct?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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That is entirely correct, yes. Their asylum claim will be determined by the Government of Rwanda. That is the system that the High Court found to be entirely lawful in December.

If Amendment 7 were agreed, removing the third condition, the duty to remove would also apply to those who had come directly from a country where their life and liberty were threatened, and I am sure that is not what the noble Lord would want.

Amendment 8 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, also relates to the third condition. I put it to the noble Lord that the wording in Clause 2(4), referring to threats by reason of a person’s race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, reflects the definition of a refugee in Article 1 of the refugee convention. We have heard a lot today about adherence to the refugee convention and other international treaties. There may be a case for amending the definitions in the convention to reflect the world of today rather than what it was in 1951, but we should not put the cart before the horse and insert wording in the Bill at odds with the current wording of the convention.

I add that the reference to membership of a particular social group may, on the facts of a particular case, cover a person fleeing persecution on the basis of their gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. Lastly, it is not right to suggest, as the noble Lord does, that the Bill removes individualised assessments. It does not. Officials will make assessments and those can be challenged, including by way of suspensive claims, as we have already discussed.

Amendment 9 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, would remove subsection (7). This ties in with the fourth condition, which is that a person requires leave to enter or remain in the UK but does not have it. We will have a fuller debate about unaccompanied children later in Committee, but subsection (7) recognises that the duty to remove does not apply to unaccompanied children, and where they are not to be removed under the power conferred in Clause 3, the expectation is that they will normally be provided with temporary permission to remain in the UK until they are 18 years old under provisions to be made in the Immigration Rules. If subsection (7) is removed from Clause 2, an unaccompanied child given this temporary permission to remain would not then satisfy the fourth condition, thereby undermining our approach to unaccompanied children. As I say, we will have a fuller debate on this issue when we get to Clause 3, which feels like some time away.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, also has Amendment 10, requiring the Home Secretary to inform people when it has been decided that the duty to remove applies to them. Such information would include providing details of any evidence relied upon to make that decision. We have already provided, in Clause 7(2), for a person to be issued with a removal notice detailing, among other things, their right to make a suspensive claim. It is implicit in these provisions that the issue of a removal notice follows a determination that the person satisfies the four conditions in Clause 2. The four conditions relate to issues of fact. A person in receipt of a removal notice will themselves know, or ought to know, whether the conditions apply. If they have compelling evidence that the Home Secretary has made a mistake of fact, they can submit a factual suspensive claim to challenge the removal notice. We will return to those provisions, too, in due course in Committee.

Amendment 11 was spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and others. As we will come on to in later clauses, we have made particular provision for potential victims of modern slavery who are co-operating with law enforcement agencies, and it is necessary for them to remain in the UK in furtherance of such co-operation. In later debates, we will address the wider issue of the progress being made by the NCA and others in tackling the criminal gangs that are not perpetuating human trafficking but are engaged in people smuggling. It is worth also noting, in response to the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, that if an individual who had been trafficked came forward, they would be sent only somewhere where they would be safe—whether their own home country, if it was safe, or a safe third country. In all cases, they would no longer be in the control of their trafficker.

A key purpose of the Bill is to break the business model of the people smugglers. That will not happen if we undermine the central tenet of the Bill: that if you come here illegally you cannot stay, and instead you will be liable to detention and promptly removed. If we build exceptions and loopholes into the fabric of the Bill, it will be undermined and will not work. If those coming over on small boats have information that will assist in the investigation of people-smuggling offences, they can provide it, but this cannot be a reason to delay removal. Any co-operation with law enforcement agencies can, if appropriate, continue from abroad. If the experience of the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that a lot can be achieved remotely. Indeed, our domestic courts and law enforcement are well used to this by now.

Finally, Amendment 12 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, deals with the issue of entry into the United Kingdom over the Irish land border. We discussed this at length during the dinner break business yesterday in relation to the recent SI on electronic travel authorisation. I note that this is a probing amendment relating to the concerns that have been raised regarding tourists and other people who inadvertently arrive in the UK from the Republic of Ireland via the land border with Northern Ireland. As is currently the case, tourists from countries requiring visas to come to the UK as visitors should obtain these before they travel. That is as it should be. That said, I recognise the issue she has raised and accept that some individuals may, entirely unwittingly, enter the UK without leave via the Irish land border, as I said yesterday.

We are examining this issue further. I would point the noble Baroness to the regulation-making power in Clause 3, which will enable us to provide for exceptions to the duty to remove where it would be appropriate to do so.

The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, asked me about the status of a child born in the UK to a woman who meets the conditions in Clause 2. The short answer is that the child will not satisfy the conditions in Clause 2, but I will write to her with a more detailed explanation.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, asked about compatibility with article 2 of the Windsor Framework. There is a later amendment to which she has added her name, Amendment 137, on this very issue. We will come on to that later in the Committee.

As I indicated at the start, this clause provides the foundations for the Bill as a whole. It is fundamental to the effective operation of the scheme and my fear is that the amendments put forward would serve only to weaken the effectiveness of the scheme. On that basis, I invite the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, to withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Butler-Sloss Portrait Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB)
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My Lords, there was an issue about adoption of a child who came to this country, or came in the womb of somebody arriving in the country, into a British family. Are they at danger under the Bill?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Forgive me: as I thought I said, the status of a child born in the UK to a woman who meets the conditions in Clause 2 is that they would not satisfy the conditions in that clause. I realise that there were a number of hypotheticals in the way that that question was written. If I may, I would like to go away and think about them. I will reply by letter in due course, and obviously publicise that letter.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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The Minister talked about an amendment that I had co-signed. Was it Amendment 132?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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It was Amendment 137.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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The Minister, not to my surprise, did not address my question about what happens after the election. I will phrase the question another way. In your Lordships’ House, we often ask about “must” and “may” provisions. Rather than a duty to remove, surely the Government could make it that the Secretary of State “may” remove. That would allow this Government to act as they wish but would not attempt to tie the hands of any future Government.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I am afraid the structure of the Bill is that it creates a duty on the Secretary of State. That is in order to send the deterrence message that entering the country illegally is unacceptable and to reduce the number of people crossing the channel. I am afraid to say that it is a logical step that if the Government were to change, then it would be open to that other Government to pass legislation of their own. That is democracy.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very grateful to the Minister for his patience, but it is not quite right that that is the reason for the “must”, is it? It is not to send a signal to all those people overseas who are reading our draft legislation; it is to give a direction to our courts. The Home Secretary is choosing to tie her own hands. It is really in order to oust the jurisdiction of the courts and their ability to say that where the Secretary of State has a choice, they should exercise that choice in compliance with international law.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Clearly, the intent is to send a message—that people really must not make these dangerous journeys across the channel. As I say, all the avenues of legal challenge are open but there are only two categories that will suspend removal. There are a number of provisions—I am sure the noble Baroness and I will be debating them at length over the coming days in Committee—and that is how the Bill will have its effect.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett Portrait Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab)
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Could I ask that the Minister copies everyone who took part in this debate into the letter he is going to send, because it is of interest to many of us?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I will certainly place a copy in the Library of the House. I hope that suffices. I am sure that my private office can work out who is here and is participating.

Lord Carlile of Berriew Portrait Lord Carlile of Berriew (CB)
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Before the noble Lord stands up again, I feel I should bring this debate to a close. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, particularly those who supported the amendments in my name. A number of other very interesting issues have been raised. I have no doubt that we will be returning to a number of them on Report; I certainly will.

The reasons given by the Minister for what he recognises is the exceptional course of retrospectivity—I am using his words—involved conjecture: a conjecture that a very small change in the numbers, for whatever reason, of people coming on boats shows that the retrospectivity is working. I have been a Silk for 39 years. Along with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, we have probably met more criminals than the rest of this Committee added together. My observation would be a rather less naive one than that made by the Minister. Criminals are infinitely adaptable. If the Government think that the boats are being stopped, it is not evidence that fewer people are coming into this country, because there are different ways and means of doing it.

From what we have heard today—maybe on Report we will hear something different—I really believe that the case for exceptionality is far from proved. I take the view, therefore, that we will have to come back to these subjects. I urge the Government to meet noble Lords who have spoken in these debates before Report so that we can see whether there is some common ground we can find that will make this a better Bill rather than a battleground in your Lordships’ House. For the time being, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 6.

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office

Illegal Migration Bill

Lord Murray of Blidworth Excerpts
Lord Verdirame Portrait Lord Verdirame (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I hesitated to come in before and I apologise for not participating at Second Reading, but I followed the debate closely. I must declare an interest: I have been instructed before by the Government as a member of the Bar on matters relating to the subject matter of the Bill. But I can speak freely on Amendment 13 because it is not anything on which I advise. I wish to speak in support of it.

The negotiation of removal or readmission agreements is, of course, a matter for the Government and not for Parliament. But there are many examples in treaty negotiations of Governments invoking pressure from their parliaments—or even from their courts—as a reason for not being able to make a concession or for insisting on concessions from the other side. It seems to me that it might end up strengthening the hand of the Government in these negotiations if they are able to say that Parliament is insisting on them.

The most difficult negotiation is, as we have heard, with the European Union. The European Union is not opposed to readmission agreements. On the contrary, it concluded a number of them with many countries, from Turkey to Belarus. Incidentally, the readmission agreements with Belarus and Russia have been suspended, quite rightly, because of the situation that has arisen. A number of us, I think, would have regarded those agreements as problematic from a human rights point of view even before that.

The reason why a readmission agreement with the UK is difficult is that the UK is a country from which European Union member states would have to take people back, rather than send them back. The Government published a draft readmission agreement for negotiation with the EU in the summer of 2020. That text is still available on the government website. If the EU had accepted that treaty, it would have allowed the UK to send people back to EU member states—not only permanent residents and nationals, but also third-country nationals who have transited through an EU member state. The provisions in that draft treaty proposed by the UK were identical to a number of provisions found in readmission agreements concluded by the European Union, including the one with Turkey. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong about this, but I think that negotiations with the EU on the Government’s draft proposal never took off.

It is worth noting that both the UK and the EU—and that includes the EU in its own capacity and EU member states—are subject to quite wide-ranging treaty obligations on both migrant smuggling and human trafficking. These treaties impose various obligations of international co-operation, including, in the case of the migrant smuggling protocol, the obligation to

“cooperate to the fullest extent possible to prevent and suppress the smuggling of migrants by sea”.

Generally speaking, these are obligations of conduct rather than by result. They do not oblige the EU to accept the terms of the treaty proposed by the UK. They do, however, require the EU, EU member states and all parties to those treaties to engage in good faith negotiations with the UK on readmission, particularly where very similar treaties have been concluded in other contexts. It would be a very unattractive position for any party to these treaties to take the view that they are open to readmission agreements only when they are in their interest and not when they are not.

It seems to me that Amendment 13 would bring some of these questions to the surface by requiring the Government to update Parliament on the status of these negotiations and on the reasons why these negotiations might not be progressing. That is outlined in subsection (3) of the new clause proposed in Amendment 13. It would not be a case of government and Parliament speaking with separate voices; on the contrary, it would be a case of Parliament adding its voice and adding pressure for the purposes of achieving an objective that both Parliament and government consider important.

My final point concerns the language of “formal legally binding agreements” in subsection (1). It is broadly right that this should be the optimum arrangement—the formal legally binding agreement—but it is also the case in this sort of practice that states will often conclude agreements that are not binding. The European Union has two such agreements with Guinea and the Gambia. For various reasons, those agreements, in some cases, are more appropriate. My understanding—and the Minister will, again, correct me if I am wrong—is that the arrangement with Albania that was announced a few weeks ago is actually part of a non-binding arrangement that was built on an existing treaty. The treaty itself is the one from 2021, but the further agreement that was announced by the Prime Ministers at their recent meeting is an example of such a non-binding agreement that can, in certain circumstances, be a better way of achieving that same objective. I would agree, however, with the notion that the formal and legally binding agreement is the gold standard in this kind of situation.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Migration and Borders (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
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My Lords, this Bill sets out a duty on the Secretary of State to make arrangements for the removal of a person who has arrived in or entered the UK illegally and satisfies the four conditions set out in Clause 2. In the majority of cases, formal returns agreements are not required in order to carry out removals. Most countries co-operate with returns, and these relationships are managed through official-led engagement with immigration counterparts in receiving countries and through consular services based in the UK. Returns agreements can be a useful tool to solidify or improve returns co-operation and are sometimes requested by the receiving country. We carefully consider whether it is beneficial to enter into negotiations to formalise a returns relationship, having regard to the potential requests that the other side would seek to incorporate into an agreement, such as a liberalisation of the UK visa requirements in respect of their nationals.

As of May 2023, the Home Office has 16 returns agreements in place. Recent additions to the list include Albania, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. Just last week, the Prime Minister announced the start of negotiations on a new returns agreement with Moldova. A number of these agreements are sensitive, and receiving countries might withdraw co-operation if they are publicised, so it would be detrimental to formalise and publish all such agreements. There are also some countries where the existing security and country situation might prevent returns taking place, such as Sudan and Afghanistan. We continue to monitor the situation closely in those countries with a view to resuming enforced returns as soon as is practicable and safe.

I should add that, while returns agreements have a valuable role to play, they are not silver bullets. The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has, in terms, accused this Government of ripping up the Dublin convention, but may I just remind the noble Lord that the UK was a net recipient of migrants under the Dublin scheme? As my honourable friend Tim Loughton said in the other place:

“In the last year that we were covered by the Dublin convention, before the pandemic struck, we applied to the EU for 8,500 returns under that returns agreement and only 105 were granted—that is 1.2%—so what he says is complete nonsense. It did not work when we were in the EU, and he is now expecting to magic up some agreement that the EU will not give us anyway”.—[Official Report, Commons, 26/4/23, col. 792.]


Mr Loughton was, at that time, intervening on the speech of Stephen Kinnock in the other place.

In addition to the returns agreements, we also have our world-leading migration and economic development partnership with Rwanda. I remind the House that there is no limit on the numbers that can be relocated to Rwanda under the partnership agreement.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, cited various figures, including in relation to the current asylum backlog. I remind noble Lords that, under Clause 4, any asylum claims made by persons who meet the conditions in Clause 2 are to be declared inadmissible. It is, of course, important to deal with the current backlog. The Prime Minister announced today that the initial decision legacy backlog is down by over 17,000, but there is no correlation between these legacy cases and the cohort to be removed under the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, asked about the impact assessment for the Bill. We have already published the equality impact assessment, and we will publish an economic impact assessment in due course. Noble Lords will have to wait patiently for the economic impact assessment. In the interim, I do not propose to comment on impact assessments issued by NGOs or leaks in the media.

Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD)
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I have a very important question. The noble Lord and government Ministers keep saying from the Dispatch Box, here and in the other place, that certain things will happen if the Bill goes through. Has the Home Office actually completed an impact assessment which clarifies exactly what the Minister is saying?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Certain things will happen when the Bill goes through; the system described within it will take effect. I assure the noble Lord that this is something that the Home Office expects to happen—that is, that returns will be effected in accordance with the duty imposed on the Secretary of State.

Lord Carlile of Berriew Portrait Lord Carlile of Berriew (CB)
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If the impact assessment is to be provided in a timely way—or if not—will the Minister ensure that it contains an estimate or assessment of the number of people who would have been granted asylum but will not be because they are excluded as a result of the blanket effects of the Bill?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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It is not for me to dictate what is in the impact assessment. The department will provide the impact assessment in due course—

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I think I have taken enough interventions.

None Portrait Noble Lords
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Oh!

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I will come back to the noble Lords in due course, but I need to make progress.

The broken asylum system costs the UK £3 billion a year, and that is rising. There seems to be an impression that, without the Bill, those costs will not continue to rise at an alarming rate year on year. Doing nothing is not an option.

In conclusion, I agree with the noble Lord that returns agreements have a place, and we will seek to negotiate these where appropriate. By their nature, any such negotiations involve two parties. The UK cannot compel other countries to enter into such agreements; they are a two-way process. Moreover, it will not enhance such negotiations to require their status to be set out in a three-monthly report to be laid before Parliament.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I ask the noble Lord to bear with me for a moment.

Lord True Portrait The Lord Privy Seal (Lord True) (Con)
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My Lords, if I may, I remind the House that it is not required for a Minister to give way. However, your Lordships may like to recall that we are in Committee, and the normal procedure of Committee is that someone can intervene again. However, I think it is always helpful for the House to allow the Minister to complete his remarks—and then, doubtless, the noble Lord may wish to comment on them.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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As I say, this will not advance our negotiating position—quite the contrary. This amendment could well make such negotiations harder. It does not help the UK’s negotiating position to be setting out its negotiating strategy in public. I therefore invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The noble Lord and I appear to be talking somewhat at cross purposes. My answer was that it was not for me as the Minister to inform the contents and the conclusions of the impact assessment; it is of course for the Minister to ask broadly for the topics that the impact assessment should cover.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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Does the Minister understand that, if he answered the questions that your Lordships are asking, he would not experience this number of interventions? It is a rudeness not to answer our questions.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The noble Baroness will have heard the comments from the Lord Privy Seal.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett Portrait Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab)
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To take the noble Lord back to the question that was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, has the economic impact assessment been completed or not? If it has been, why do we not have it? If it has not been, surely it should have been informing the Bill itself.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I can do no better than say that the impact assessment will be published in due course.

Baroness Butler-Sloss Portrait Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB)
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How do the Government justify not having an impact statement until presumably the whole of this House has completed its dealing with the Bill? It seems to me outrageous. How can the Government justify that?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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As I say, I am afraid the impact assessment will be published in due course.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
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My noble friend must accept that the Bill can be expedited and the House can be satisfied if a proper impact assessment is produced in time for Report. The whole purpose of Committee is to probe, as we are doing this afternoon and so on. However, when it comes to Report, when the House has to make significant decisions on the most sensitive piece of legislation that has been before Parliament for a very long time, it is crucial that we have all the facts at our disposal.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Of course, I hear what my noble friend says.

Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD)
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Regardless of when the impact assessment will be published, the Minister keeps restating issues as fact. I therefore ask: have those facts been determined by a completed impact assessment that he and his colleagues have seen and signed off?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I am afraid I cannot do more than say that the impact assessment will be published in due course.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Portrait Lord Kerr of Kinlochard (CB)
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The Minister really should say whether an impact assessment was produced. I apologise for reverting; I was the one who raised the question of the impact statement. I am not terribly happy with the message that the Minister is conveying. The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, put her finger on it. Presumably the Government did their own assessment of the impact of the policy that is reflected in the Bill; therefore, an impact assessment of some kind existed. If it did not exist, I do not know how the Government could have decided to adopt this policy. If it does exist—I am sure it does, in some form or another—the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, are surely right. We are being asked to take a decision without knowing its effect. We do not know—other than breaking humanitarian law and international commitments—what practical effect the Bill will have. Therefore, before we finish Committee, the Minister should change his line and let us have it.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I am afraid that I must disagree with the noble Lord. The point about the Bill is that we know that deterrence has effect, and we have seen that, as the Prime Minister announced this morning, in relation to the effect of our returns agreement with Albania.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I am grateful to the Minister for his patience. Could I try this another way in relation to the debate on the impact assessment? If I am wrong about this, I want to be set right. This is not a rhetorical question; this is a genuine question about the process and purpose behind these impact assessments. I had been thinking that the purpose of these various assessments by the department was that they become part of the case for the legislation in Parliament. The department does the drafting and the policy and that is the Bill, that will be law; and to back it up, it has its case based on the evidence that it has marshalled.

If I am right about that, that gives rise to the concerns about why we are going further and further down the legislative process before the court of Parliament—if you like—without the evidence base. Of course, that is particularly important in the case of so-called illegal migration, because public expense is such a concern in the public debate about immigration: cost-benefit economic analysis is always a keen part of the debate in the Committee, in Parliament and in the public square.

Finally, on this same point about process and the impact assessment, the Minister said earlier that it was not for him to dictate what would be in the impact assessment, and I do understand that, because no Minister would want to dictate that. However, if I am right, and the purpose of these assessments is that they are part of the Government’s case for the legislation, surely it is for the Minister and his colleagues at ministerial level to sign off on the quality of this work and the soundness of the proposition in it. Perhaps the Minister could clarify that. It is not a judicial process; it is an executive process of marshalling the economic case for this legislation.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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There is no statutory requirement to have a public impact assessment in relation to items of public legislation. Indeed, as I understand it, many pieces of legislation do not have one at all; so it is not a statutory requirement, as perhaps the noble Baroness seemed to suggest. Clearly, there is work done in the department behind the development of policy, and an economic impact assessment is certainly not an essential part of that process; nor is it a fundamental part. It is a part and, as I say, it will be published in due course.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, surely this is not just about statutory requirements. Will the noble Lord contrast this with the way in which the right honourable Theresa May presented to Parliament the modern slavery legislation? That was dealt with by pre-legislative scrutiny, by consensus being developed across the political parties in another place, and by getting bicameral as well as bipartisan agreement around a similarly controversial question, much of which informs this particular Bill. Will the noble Lord accept, therefore, that the expressions that have been voiced around the Chamber are as much about the integrity of Parliament and the way we do things as they are about the substance of the Bill?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Well, I always listen intently to the noble Lord’s measured contributions. Of course, the key distinction between this Bill and the Modern Slavery Act 2015 is that this Bill is to address an emergency presently affecting our country and to stop people drowning in the channel. That is why this measure has to be taken through Parliament at pace—in order to put in place a deterrent effect that stops those journeys being made.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick Portrait Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB)
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My Lords, the Minister has made reference to the reduction in the number of Albanians using the cross-channel route, which is the object of this Bill. I think many of us strongly welcome and support what the Government did to negotiate with Albania and return people who are economic migrants. But would he not recognise that all that is happening under powers in the Nationality and Borders Act? It is nothing to do with the legislation before us. It is not relevant, frankly, to the case of Albania. So, it would be best not to pray in aid the welcome reduction in the number of Albanians crossing the channel, which is being dealt with under existing legislation. Is that not true?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Hesitate as I do to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, relates to returns agreements. We have negotiated with Albania an effective arrangement allowing for the return of Albanians. It is more to do with that, I suggest, than with the 2022 Bill, although of course it all plays its part. It is an example which demonstrates that deterrents work.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Portrait Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab)
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My Lords, the Committee is entitled to ask what the Minister means by “in due course”. Specifically, will the impact assessment be available before Report? My thinking is that the House should not allow the Bill to begin Report without the impact assessment being available.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I hear what the noble Lord says. I will take back his comments, and those of others, and we can reflect on them.

Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD)
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My Lords, on the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, can the Minister write to him, and put a copy of the letter in the Library, on whether the impact assessment will be published before Report,?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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As I say, I will take the mood of the Committee back to the department.

Lord Horam Portrait Lord Horam (Con)
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My Lords, as an economist I am aware of the fallibility of economic forecasts. The Governor of the Bank of England had to admit recently that the forecast for the inflationary effect was 30 years out of date. We should be wary of placing too much reliance on economic forecasts as part of any impact assessment.

Of course, as the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, has just said, there must be some understanding of what the likely effect will be, based on international evidence and so forth. The Government have not gone into this totally blind. Nevertheless, we are talking here about a novel situation. We just do not know what is likely to happen as a result of a deterrent effect. We do not know what effect the Nationalities and Borders Act has had, and we do not know what effect this will have. We should therefore be a little guarded about the value and importance of an impact assessment in this case.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I am very grateful to my noble friend for that intervention; he makes a very good point, with which I agree. Economic assessments are guarded with caveats, like any other economic forecast.

Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Portrait Lord Griffiths of Burry Port (Lab)
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My Lords, I will be very happy to agree or disagree with whatever impact assessment arises, when I see it. How can we possibly take the advice just offered and make an opinion about something that might or might not be accurate until we see what to base our judgment on? It is an extraordinary, circular argument, from someone who wants to give a fig leaf to the Minister.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I hear what the noble Lord says, but in any Bill the economic impact assessment—where one is provided, which is not in every case—is only ever one piece of the documentation that is available in support of a Bill. The impact assessment will be published in due course; I am afraid I cannot give the noble Lord any more information. I hear what he says, and the contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and will take their comments back to the department.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett Portrait Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab)
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My Lords, on 24 May, the Minister said the same thing: that he would take our concerns back to the department. There have been nearly two weeks for the department to reflect and act on our concerns about the economic impact assessment and the child rights impact assessment—which some of us consider to be even more important.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I am afraid that I have nothing to add other than that it will be published in due course.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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I am sure that the Minister did not mean to ignore the questions that I put to him. Perhaps he has not had the chance to read today’s Times. Can he write to me on the veracity of the reports in today’s Times and, while doing so, respond to the article in the Telegraph saying that the Home Office has failed to identify sufficient detention spaces as required by the Treasury?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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As the noble Lord well knows, it is not government policy to comment on leaks. That is a fairly long-standing convention. I do not propose to do so now.

--- Later in debate ---
To go back to the point made by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, one of the great things that the Conservative Government did was stopping the detention of children. It was a massive step forward; I think it was the Cameron Government who did that, and said it was a disgrace that we were detaining children. Why have the Government gone back on one of the most radical and good reforms that the Cameron Government introduced? I think it would be interesting to hear the answers to some of those questions—I can hear the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, saying “Why?”—as again, it is not only principle but practicality. I think we all look forward to the Minister’s answers.
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, Clause 3 sets out the power to remove unaccompanied children. This power will be exercised only in very limited circumstances ahead of an individual reaching adulthood. As the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, outlined, these include: reunion with the child’s parent; where the person is to be removed to a safe country of origin; where the person has not made a protection or human rights claim; or in other circumstances specified in regulations. If an unaccompanied child arrives in the UK illegally from a safe country of origin, they may be returned to their country of origin before they are 18. Of course, any such decision would be taken on a case-by-case basis.

I reassure the Committee that officials and Ministers take these decisions very seriously, with due concern for the sensitivities that have rightly been outlined by the Committee. But we need also to have in mind the profile of those who come on small boats. For context, I remind the Committee that—

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Perhaps I can take the noble Lord’s question in just a moment. For context, I remind the Committee that the majority of unaccompanied children who claimed asylum in the UK in 2022 were aged 16 or 17. Where there is a dispute about age, half are found to be adults.

Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD)
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I hope the Minister will stop this characterisation of the effects of this Bill as being just on those who arrive by small boats. He just did it again then. Is it not the case that this affects everybody, regardless of how they get here? It is not just small boats.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, that point was specifically about the alignment of the Children Act with this legislation. Clauses 17 and 20, which deal with standards of accommodation, were raised by several noble Lords. Is the Minister intending to say something about that before he moves on?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I asked a number of questions around the child rights impact assessment. Please do not say that we will get it in due course, because I quoted from the UN committee’s guidance on impact assessments and it was very clear that it should be shaping the policy process from the word go—so it must exist. Why do we not have it? It is good that the Children’s Commissioner is now being involved in discussions, but she complained that she was not consulted prior to the publication of the Bill. Given the impact on children, surely that is grave discourtesy to the Children’s Commissioner.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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From my experience, the Children’s Commissioner was involved, certainly while the Bill was passing through the other place, but I will look further into that point on timings. However, the noble Baroness is absolutely right that it is very important that she is engaged with in full in relation to the development of this legislation in so far as my personal view goes. In relation to the point about the child impact assessment, I am afraid that, however much it will disappoint the noble Baroness, I must revert to the usual answer and say that it will be provided in due course—but I of course take away the sentiment that she has evinced.

Baroness Butler-Sloss Portrait Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB)
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In relation to the situation when the child becomes 18, have the Government taken into account the impact on younger children who may have spent many years in this country and are then basically deported?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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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)
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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.

Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD)
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The Minister made reference to the balance that the Government believe there is in the Bill around unaccompanied minors and encouraging smugglers. There have been a lot of speeches in this group about the rights of the child. Article 2 says they apply to every child; Article 4 says that Governments must do all they can to make sure that every child can enjoy their rights; and Article 22 on refugee children says Governments must provide them with appropriate protection and assistance to help them enjoy all the rights of the convention. How is that balancing the rights of the child? I wonder whether the Minister could write to compare and explain—otherwise, I can see that the UK will have to withdraw itself from the rights of the child.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I do not need to write to answer that. The answer is that there is nothing incompatible with the UNCRC, because obviously a child who is here is having all their rights as a child respected, and if they are exceptionally removed under the circumstances described in the Bill it will be in a manner that is compliant with the UNCRC, particularly if it is for family reunion or for return to a safe country, which is presumably also a signatory to the UNCRC and will afford them their own rights.

Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD)
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With the greatest respect to the Minister, we have not yet seen the detail. That is the problem. The Minister has outlined two or three areas and said there will be others. It is not clear to this Committee exactly what those details are. I will repeat the earlier request: will he please write and set them all out?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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To my mind, I have set out the detail, but of course I will go back and give it further thought.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Portrait Lord Kerr of Kinlochard (CB)
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The Minister made a slightly unconvincing effort to persuade us that what is envisaged is in the best interests of the child. It rested on a couple of planks. One was that the safest route for the child will be to stop in the first safe country they come to. Hundreds of thousands of them do. If you go to look at the camps in Turkey, Greece or the Lebanon, you see that there are hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied children who have fled from conflict zones and are there. I am not sure that it is in their best interests to be there. There is a minuscule number who come here, perhaps because they speak English and not Greek or Turkish, perhaps because they have family or connections here, or perhaps they have the possibility of a home here. I cannot see why it is in their best interests to go into the camps in the first safe country they come to you and not come to their connections, family or prospects in this country.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I know that the noble Lord and I do not agree, but the international law position is that children, and indeed asylum seekers, cannot be selective about where they wish to seek asylum. It is not an evaluative decision that an applicant can make. That is not the way the refugee convention works and, as we made clear at Second Reading, and as I think was widely accepted across the House, we sadly cannot take everyone who would want to come here—and that, I am afraid, is almost the logical corollary of what the noble Lord suggested.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick Portrait Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB)
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My Lords, the Minister has chosen not to reply to various points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, and me about conformity with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. He has simply stated, “In our view it’s fine”. The committee set up at the United Nations to overview this has considered this legislation and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, said, has come to the view that it needs to be amended—a view that is rejected by the Minister. Presumably the UK was represented on that committee. Can the Minister give the Committee an account of the British representative’s statement in reply to the criticisms that led to it adopting that opinion?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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As the noble Lord knows, that is not something that I would have to hand in the course of the discussion of this amendment, but I will of course look into it.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I hope the Minister will forgive me, but a narrow but important point of principle was raised by both the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed; they spoke on different matters but on the same issue of principle. One case was about what would happen to a child who came to this country as an infant and was adopted; another, put by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, concerned a child who would not be returned to adequate reception arrangements. I believe that the Minister said to the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, that we can deal with that in regulations—so nothing to worry about there—and the answer to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, was that the Government have no intention of removing children to a country which, even if it meets the other criteria in the clause, does not have adequate reception arrangements for an unaccompanied child.

The whole structure of this so-called robust legislation is about creating tightly crafted duties to tie the hands of the Secretary of State. We know what that game is: it is about ensuring that we have, in effect, ousted the court’s supervisory jurisdiction. Powers become “duties to remove” and then, because there is a little ounce of compassion in relation to children, they say they will flip the duty and so there will not be a duty but, in certain circumstances, a power to remove even unaccompanied children. Given that this is the approach of the scheme, why on earth cannot comfort be given in the Bill to both the noble and learned Baroness and the noble Lord on those two limited circumstances? Why can the Bill not say that a child who came as an infant and who has now been adopted by a British national cannot be removed? For a child who would otherwise be removable because they have an identity document—there is a thought—or sent to a country where they are a national but there are no reception arrangements, why can it not be a criteria that there should be adequate reception arrangements? Why cannot that be in a Bill that is so tightly and robustly drawn by the Home Office?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The noble Baroness is always a powerful advocate but, in this instance, these provisions are already clear. As I have said, and for the reasons that I have explained, there is no need, in those limited circumstances, for further exploration in the Bill. As I have said, these are things that we can explore, and doubtless will return to in other parts of the Bill, but for the moment I am afraid there is no need for further additions in relation to those areas.

Lord Touhig Portrait Lord Touhig (Lab)
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In 28 years of service in this House and the other place, I have never had more difficulty in getting an answer to a question.

The Minister has responded several times, and I spoke about it earlier this afternoon. He confirms that local authorities alone have the statutory power to look after these unaccompanied migrant children. He confirms in a Written Answer that the Home Office does not have corporate parent responsibility. So can he tell us which Act of Parliament the Home Office is using to detain these children and put them into these hotels, or—I always say never assume but I am going to break my rule—are we to assume that the Government know they are acting unlawfully?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I must apologise to the noble Lord for not addressing that point in my remarks; I did mean to do so. It is a topic that the House has canvassed in Oral Questions on a number of occasions, particularly, as I seem to remember, in the winter of last year.

The present position will change when this Bill passes. As the noble Lord will have seen, there are provisions in the Bill relating to the transfer of responsibility for children, which set out the responsibility in the context of unaccompanied children. If the noble Lord looks, for example, at Clause 16, he will see that it concerns

“The power to transfer children from Secretary of State to local authority and vice versa”.


The present position arose as a result of the way in which the emergency in the channel has come about. As I said in my Answer, which was very fairly read out by the noble Lord, the clear position is that the responsibility should be for the local authorities, save for the circumstances described in Clauses 15 to 20.

Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD)
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In trying to answer my question, the Minister just reiterated what it says in the equality impact assessment. It was an important question. If the central tenet of the Bill is that children—accompanied or unaccompanied—not being given any dispensation will act as a deterrent, where is the evidence for that? In answering, the Minister said that this was the view of the department. Well it is the view of some children that the tooth fairy exists but, looking at the empirical evidence, it is quite clear that this may not be so. My question is clear: on what empirical evidence is the view of the department built, and when will this House get to see that evidence?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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It is a fairly standard rhetorical tool to ask where the evidence is but in this kind of field we have to operate looking forwards as to what might happen as a consequence of legislation, applying our own experience, and particularly that of the department in administering the UK border. It is the department, I would suggest, that is in a position to come to a view on these matters. It is not simply a case of some unqualified person reaching that assessment. The net effect is that it is the opinion of the department—

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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It is the opinion of the department that a person would not pay a people smuggler to cross the channel if they were going to be detained and removed. It stands to reason, whatever the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, might shout from a sedentary position.

Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD)
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So the Minister agrees that this is not just about small boats; this is about the whole refugee and immigration system. Where is the evidence that the provisions in this Bill will meet the central issue that the Government wish to address and act as a deterrent to children, whether accompanied or unaccompanied. Where is the evidence?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Obviously, as these provisions are not in force, there is no evidence of the impact of these measures. The noble Lord appears to require me to look into a crystal ball. We can make reasonable conjectures about the effect of these measures, and that is what we have done.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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Some time ago, the Minister asked me if I was willing to withdraw my amendment; I have a feeling that I ought to respond to that request.

This has been an extraordinary debate; I have never known there to be a debate following a request of the person to withdraw their amendment. The speeches from right across the Committee have been extraordinarily and unbelievably powerful because of course this is such an emotive subject. This Government want to detain and lock up children—accompanied, not unaccompanied, in the middle of an adoption or whatever else—in the most appalling accommodation. We know that, because this Government want to copy the model of the Greek islands, where the national view is that that accommodation is unacceptable and inhumane. We know that. That is what the Home Secretary wants to do. It is not surprising that people feel rather strongly against that proposal. That is just part of the proposition. The other is that, once children grow up, whether they are unaccompanied, adopted, leading normal lives over here or whatever else, they should be removed from this country, and of course regulations may determine the circumstances in which they may be required to be removed.

This is an appalling Bill, if I may say so. In a way, the application of the Bill to children just sums up the depth of the inhumanity of this Bill. I like to think that our Minister perhaps does have humanity and that he does respect our international obligations, and our 1989 Act and the rest of it—but he is acting and speaking on behalf of the Home Secretary, and I do seriously question whether she has the humanity that we all want her to have.

It was very important that we not only heard incredibly powerful speeches from the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and Cross-Benchers, but also that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, made a point on which I think we all agree: this Bill does not reflect what we on any Bench expect from the Conservative Party. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. That is why there is such an incredible unanimity of view that these clauses—Clause 3, Clause 4 and the rest of them—should not stand part of this Bill.

All I can do here is, for today, withdraw Amendment 14 on the basis that without a doubt these matters will return on Report.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lord Anderson of Ipswich Portrait Lord Anderson of Ipswich (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister. In the circumstances that he accurately sets out, could a declaration of inadmissibility be reversed so that the human rights claim or the protection claim could proceed in the normal way?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The provisions of the Bill in relation to that are a little involved, and I will write to the noble Lord.

Amendment 23 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, also deals with inadmissibility. It seeks to provide for asylum and human rights claims from those who have not been removed within six months to continue to be admissible within the UK. In effect, the amendment seeks to perpetuate our current broken asylum system. Again, it seeks to chip away at and put holes into the scheme provided for in the Bill, undermining its coherence and effectiveness. This amendment would regrettably again encourage illegal migrants to use every tactic to frustrate their removal, in the knowledge that after six months their asylum claim would be processed. Moreover, the amendments would unfairly result in individuals who have arrived illegally in the UK being prioritised alongside those who have availed themselves of our safe and legal routes—something which, I suggest to the Committee, is manifestly unfair.

The Bill must send a clear message that if you come to the UK via an illegal route, you will never be able to return to the UK or build a life here. The benefits of settlement should be open only to those who abide by our rules. The whole construct of the scheme is to enable illegal migrants to be removed within days and weeks, not months and years. There is no prospect of someone being left in perpetual limbo, as suggested by a number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry. Amendment 23 is therefore redundant. I therefore invite the noble and learned Lord, or his proxy, not to press Amendment 20.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, can the Minister answer the question that I put to him about the disapplication of a national referral mechanism in the case of children, a point which has been raised by the Children’s Commissioner? If he does not have the answer now, can he write to me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

If they are being abused, what is the percentage success rate of people who were referred in the last two years?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I am afraid that I do not have those statistics to hand, but I can write—

Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I can help the Minister. I think it is 82% and 91%, on average. The issue is therefore that, once these cases have been looked at, the Home Office is granting people asylum based on them being part of the modern slavery system.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The noble Lord will be aware that there are two stages to the process—a reasonable grounds decision and a conclusive grounds decision—and different statistics. A light touch has hitherto been applied in relation to reasonable grounds. I will need to look into the precise statistics and revert to him on that. I am afraid I do not recognise those statistics immediately, so they will require further research.

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Moved by
24: Clause 4, page 6, line 21, leave out “or citizen”
Member's explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Lord Murray of Blidworth at page 5, line 38.
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Moved by
25A: Clause 4, page 6, line 30, at end insert “, and
(c) any other application to a court or tribunal which is required by an enactment to be determined by applying the principles that would be applied by a court on an application within paragraph (a) or (b).”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment expands the definition in the Bill of “application for judicial review” to cover in particular an application to the judicial review jurisdiction of the Upper Tribunal or the Special Immigration Appeals Commission.
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Moved by
28: Clause 5, page 7, line 8, leave out “or citizen”
Member's explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Lord Murray of Blidworth at page 5, line 38.

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

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Department: Ministry of Justice

Illegal Migration Bill

Lord Murray of Blidworth Excerpts
Moved by
31: Clause 5, page 7, line 24, after “Convention,” insert “or has obtained a passport or other document of identity in such a country,”
Member’s explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement for the amendment in the name of Lord Murray of Blidworth at page 7, line 17.
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Moved by
34: Clause 5, page 8, line 5, after “2002,” insert “and has not obtained a passport or other document of identity in such a country,”
Member’s explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement for the amendment in the name of Lord Murray of Blidworth at page 7, line 17.
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Moved by
38: Clause 5, page 8, line 28, after “State” insert “, or who has obtained a passport or other document of identity in that State,”
Member’s explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement for the amendment in the name of Lord Murray of Blidworth at page 7, line 17.

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

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Illegal Migration Bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“specified or indicated in the direction”.

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

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

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

Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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I was interested in two stages. The Minister has talked about when the notice of removal is issued. Presumably there is also a statement of inadmissibility when you have arrived, because it takes some time to prepare the document or whatever the detail is for a removal certificate or notice. Is there an earlier notice? If so, is that the place where people can seek advice?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I do not have the answer to that at my fingertips but, if I may, I will revert to the noble Lord with it. I suspect that the availability of legal advice will be drawn to the attention of individuals at the earliest possible time, but I will check that point and come back to the noble Lord.

In conclusion, the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, made some valid points on which I will further reflect. I hope I have at least gone some way to respond to the probing amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. On that basis, I ask whether she is content to withdraw her Amendment 55.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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My Lords, it is Committee stage and, as the whole Committee knows, that is what I will do.

On this amendment, the Minister said, possibly twice, that things will be done “as soon as practicable”, but we know that not very much is practicable. It sounds like a parallel, idealised—well, it is not ideal to me but it may be in the Government’s mind—universe where all is possible. On the previous group, my noble friend referred to being somewhere within the wizardry of Oz. I do not know who is which character, and perhaps it would be inappropriate to speculate. However, the point about uncertainty in the minds of the individuals concerned is serious, which is why I made it earlier.

I do not think the Minister answered my question on Amendment 55A about whether notification can be given by a representative of the individual and whether that has to be a legal representative or could be a support worker from an organisation in the sector. Is he able to respond to that now?

Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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I also asked a question to which the Minister did not reply, about a person escaping from South Sudan via Kenya. Kenya would be treated as an unsafe country because it is in Schedule 1. Could the Minister respond to that when he has a moment?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I apologise for not answering the noble Baroness’s question. Yes, is the answer; representatives could be provided in that way.

To reply to the hypothetical situation that the noble Lord referred to about someone from South Sudan travelling via Kenya, it would depend on the facts of the specific case and whether the conditions were met. It is perhaps not directly relevant to the debate we are having on this amendment, but I am happy to consider that hypothetical in more detail and write to the noble Lord.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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To be absolutely clear, is the Minister saying that notification can be given via any representative and that they do not have to be qualified in a particular way?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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That is certainly my understanding. If the situation is any different, I will let the noble Baroness know.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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I think that is quite important, as it matters how these things work in practice. Having said that, and as I indicated, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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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)
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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.

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Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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We are discussing the issues raised in the previous group and I accept that the Minister wants to talk about them now. I also accept that there are provisions in existing law. Perhaps the Minister can tell us why, therefore, the Government need to put these provisions into the Bill if there is already legislation that stands by that. The difference that I can perceive is the requisitioning of services, particularly transport services. That may be slightly different from what we had before. If the Minister cannot say exactly why these provisions are needed, because they are already in existing powers, there is no point putting them into the Bill.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The powers in Schedule 2 to the Immigration Act will continue to apply to those being removed who are not subject to the new duty in the Bill but are otherwise liable to removal from the UK. The powers in the Bill will relate to those who fall within the cohort in Clause 2. They provide clarity and certainty by being present in the Bill in this context. It is also clearly right that the 1971 Act powers need to be applied to the Bill, so that is the purpose for their inclusion. I hope that answers the noble Lord’s question.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I hope I conceded earlier that we know that there have been directions issued to captains and others since the 1971 Act; that is not in contention. My concern, given the greater controversy of a forced duty to remove people who have not even had a refugee claim considered, and given the larger numbers that the Government clearly anticipate in relation to this policy, is about some of the detail. The Minister said that we need greater clarity, but that greater clarity will bring greater concern. I personally do not remember all this deeming of legal custody and the criminalisation of transport workers, certainly not in the original 1971 Act. Maybe more of that has happened over the years.

I ask the Minister to go back to the issues of policy and principle, and not just to rely on the precedent of the creep of legislation forcing these duties on transport workers. Whether that creep has happened or not—I can see that it has—some of us are really concerned about where it has gone. He said that this has passed without comment or controversy but that is not the case, is it? Every so often, somebody dies while being removed because of the coercion and force that is necessarily involved. If the people using that force are not prison guards, soldiers or police officers, but just common or garden transport workers, there is a real concern and controversy. I would be very grateful if the Minister would address that as a matter of principle.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I am afraid I do not agree with the noble Baroness that there is a substantive difference in the fact that the people being removed under the Bill have had their asylum claims rendered inadmissible, because under the present law categories of people have inadmissible asylum claims and they too are subject to removal. They have been subject to the powers in the pre-existing legislation, so I am afraid I do not accept the premise of her intervention.

I should add that we regularly read of instances where there is disorder on an aircraft or instances where a pilot is obliged to land somewhere; then the doors are opened and the police remove a person from the aircraft. That detention can be as simple as keeping the doors closed until the agents of the law arrive to remove the necessary people, and similarly on trains with electric doors. The effecting of the detention is not going to be overly burdensome on the operators as a result of these provisions.

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office

Illegal Migration Bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baroness Lister of Burtersett Portrait Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken, including the right reverend Prelate, in his absence; we know that he had to get his train. I am also grateful to the Minister for answering more questions than I expected him to be able to.

I am disturbed by the proposition that it is not necessary to provide a statutory basis for temporary support because the intention is to remove people quickly. The Government are the only people who think that removal will be quick. All the organisations on the ground predict a state of semi-permanent limbo—purgatory, as some of them have called it. There needs to be a proper statutory basis for the support that these people are provided with. I hope that the Minister will look at this point again.

Other noble Lords have asked questions that have not, I think, been answered. I would be grateful if the Minister or his officials could look through Hansard and answer any remaining questions. The noble Lord, Lord German, certainly asked a number of questions that have not been addressed. I will not detain the Committee now by pressing them—I am sure that the noble Lord will not either—but I ask that a letter answering those questions goes to the noble Lords who have participated in Committee before Report.

It would also be helpful if the Government published as clearly as they can a statement on what is proposed. We can piece bits together from the Minister’s reply today but the point has been made that local authorities, faith groups, refugee organisations and others need to start planning; they need to know. A clear statement would therefore be helpful.

I finish by quoting the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, who said that this is going to be like detention without walls. That is a very telling statement. It is important that we get this right. We do not want large numbers of people destitute on our streets because they are in this permanent limbo. I look forward to seeing what the Minister has to say in any subsequent letters but, for now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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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)
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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.

Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD)
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If the central tenet of the Bill is to deter people from coming to the UK, why are the Government expanding detention centres?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I can imagine the noble Lord’s response if we did not expand detention centres. The point is that, as a matter of government planning, we need to have sufficient capacity to ensure that we can detain and swiftly remove those who enter the country illegally, in particular those embarking on dangerous journeys across the channel.

Change will not happen overnight, but we are committed to making this legislation work. We are working to find other solutions to scale up our detention capacity too. The first step is to change the law, which is why we are focusing on getting this Bill through Parliament.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, raised a related point, suggesting that large numbers would need to be detained in the absence of returns agreements. I remind him that in addition to our partnership with Rwanda we have returns agreements with 16 countries and that, as I have indicated, a returns agreement is not a prerequisite to our ability to remove people. I hope I have been able to reassure noble Lords about our commitment to maintain appropriate standards of detention accommodation and to provide appropriate care for those held in detention under the powers conferred by the Bill. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord German, will be content to withdraw his Amendment 58B.

Amendment 79C intends to ensure that the Secretary of State for Education has responsibility for unaccompanied children as soon as they arrive in the UK. I suggest that the amendment does not in fact have this effect. It places no duty on the Secretary of State for Education to have any responsibility for arriving children. It would give the Department for Education the power to provide accommodation but not a duty to do so. At this stage the children are already in the Home Office system and the Home Office has pre-existing duties under Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 towards those children. The Home Office also runs existing relevant mechanisms such as the national transfer scheme. It is a matter for the Government as to which department should operate these powers.

This amendment could create a great deal of legal uncertainty, which is not in the best interests of children. For example, where children were not accommodated by a local authority on arrival, the Home Secretary could not use her powers under Clause 16 to move children into local authority placements quickly unless those children were in DfE-run accommodation, which DfE would be under no duty to provide. That uncertainty continues with regard to the application of Clause 19 and how any accommodation power linked to a government department that operates in England only could be applied to the devolved Administrations. For that reason, I invite the noble Lord not to move that amendment.

Lord Etherton Portrait Lord Etherton (CB)
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I asked whether confirmation could be given that the Government will adhere to the 18 minimum conditions in the UNHCR Detention Guidelines. It would be very helpful for the Committee to know specifically which ones they intend to comply with and which they do not.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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As I have already indicated, the standards that will be adhered to are those prescribed already in legislation. While the points set out in the UNHCR’s document map on in some respects, there is no exact overlap. The regime which will be applied is that which I have already described.

Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD)
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I wonder if I could ask the Minister two questions. The first relates to his comment before last to my noble friend Lord Scriven about whether the Secretary of State for Education should be the corporate parent for government, as opposed to the corporate parent being local authorities. In the event where there is a delay after a child has arrived before a local authority is allocated to be the corporate parent, who is the corporate parent for that child? The Home Secretary does not have that power; there is no protection and no oversight. I say this in light of the fact that, in Kent, there is a special arrangement for Kent not to be the corporate parent for all unaccompanied minors that have arrived there, for fairly obvious reasons. The concern would be that that child might not get the protection that it needs. That is the first question, which is completely separate to the one on my Amendment 70A.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for his comments about appropriate healthcare, but without knowing what appropriate healthcare is and whether it meets standards that have been set out—even if he says that the guidance would not work—I am somewhat at a loss. Could he write to me to set out exactly what those standards were, because many doctors are extremely concerned about the current standards available for children in detention at the moment?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Yes, certainly. In response to those two points, as the noble Baroness will have seen, we will discuss this again when we reach Clause 15. But Clause 15(1) provides that the Secretary of State may provide or arrange for the provision of accommodation in England for unaccompanied children. As the noble Baroness rightly identifies, presently in Kent there is an agreement which works well. Initial reception facilities are provided by Kent County Council as the corporate parent, then any unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are transferred within the national transfer scheme. Obviously, it is sensible to have the powers in Clause 15(1) as a backstop, in the event that those powers might be needed. I hope that therefore provides a complete answer to the noble Baroness’s first question.

In relation to the second part of her question as to the standards, as I hope I have already made clear, we will be applying the standards that presently remain. It is abundantly clear that those standards are very detailed as set out. I would be happy to write to the noble Baroness to outline what they are. We will definitely be able to provide that.

Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD)
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I thank the noble Lord with regard to the first issue. I wondered if there was actual data on the time that it takes to provide that transfer for children. What I am concerned about is the gap; we may be discussing it later, but the noble Lord raised the issue himself. Could he provide me with a letter that shows exactly how long it takes to get that transfer through, because I am hearing that there are gaps?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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Because the powers in the Bill are obviously not yet in force, I cannot answer as to whether there would be a gap. But clearly it is anticipated—it is hoped—that there will not be a need to utilise the powers in Clause 15 routinely, because the situation with respect to Kent and other relevant local authorities should provide an answer. I am afraid that the noble Baroness cannot expect me to look into my crystal ball and predict what the situation will be after the Act is implemented.

Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD)
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I am really sorry to prolong this. The noble Lord referred to the national transfer scheme. There is a concern that either it is taking some time or some children are not being transferred; they are, at the moment, without a corporate parent. There must be current data. That is why I ask: what is the normal gap and how many children have not been allocated?

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I am very happy that the noble Baroness has asked me that question. I am delighted to say that, as of yesterday, there are zero children in Home Office UASC hotels. They are all in the care of local authorities. I hope that provides a fairly clear answer to her question. Perhaps I can invite the noble Lord, Lord Alton, to intervene.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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I am grateful to the Minister. My question rather builds on what the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, has been asking. Earlier I specifically asked about the disapplication of the duty on the Secretary of State to consult with the independent family returns panel and the criticism that has been made by the UK Committee for UNICEF, which said that it regretted that decision. I asked the Minister if he would give further consideration to that point and think further about the safeguards that it enables to be put in place to deal with the kinds of issues the noble Baroness has put to him.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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I am very grateful to the noble Lord. I am sorry that I did not answer that question. The relevant provision is in Clause 13 of the Bill. We will come to discuss it in the 11th group of amendments. Perhaps that might be the moment to explore those detailed points more thoroughly.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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My Lords, may I press the Minister on the issue of disabled asylum seekers? I raised this specifically in terms of what is happening in general provision, what is happening at Manston, how the Government foresee—or not—disabled asylum seekers being accommodated on barges and whether they foresee provision in the new arrangements under this Bill complying with UNHCR detention guidance for disabled asylum seekers.

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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The noble Baroness raises an important point. It is obviously right that our guidance reflects the special needs of disabled people in accordance with our duties under the Equality Act. That will continue to be the case. I hope that provides some reassurance for the noble Baroness.

Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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My Lords, this has been a very interesting debate, not least because I have seen two lawyers agreeing with each other after having a debate of 10 or 15 minutes about a point of law. It is a fascinating experience.

To turn back to the amendments before us, I thank everyone who participated. In the response the Minister just gave, there are a number of matters which I would like to ask him about. If I understood correctly, he said it is the intention to only allow detention in line with the Immigration (Places of Detention) Direction 2021. I think that is what the Minister said. He then immediately said that, after this Bill is enacted, we will amend it—we will uprate it. I do not quite understand what the uprating mechanism is and why you need to uprate a direction you presently agree with. It would be helpful if the Minister could say what he means by uprating and if they are following the Immigration (Places of Detention) Direction 2021—which, I acknowledge, is the right thing to do.

On Campsfield and Gosport, the Minister said that the capacity would be increased. Could he give an indication of the numbers of places there will be in each of those, or the total for both.

Finally, I have what I consider a bit of a non sequitur, but the Minister said it several times and repeated it today. He said that return agreements are not a prerequisite for returns. I did not quite understand that because if you want to return somebody, you need an agreement that they will be taken. That seems to be an agreement. It was a bit of a non sequitur and certainly did not fall within the wonderful statements we had from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bellamy, about these matters earlier. If the Minister could address those three questions, I will then be in a position to deal with the amendment.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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As I hope I made clear, once the Bill is passed, the direction will need to be updated, rather than “uprated”. It will reflect the new provisions and any new detention facilities that are available to be utilised at that point. I am afraid that I am not in a position to give the noble Lord an indication of the size at this stage.

On returns agreements, as I think I made clear in a previous group on the second day in Committee, there are different relations with various countries, so circumstances can arise where people can be returned to countries with which we do not have a formal returns agreement. I can write to the noble Lord in more detail on that subject.

Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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I thank the Minister for his answer. It would be helpful to know whether the matter of capacity of the two places is just unknown or whether it has not been concluded yet. If that is the case, I presume that the Minister could tell me at some stage what the capacity is.

This has been an important debate and I am sure we will return to it on Report. On the basis of those answers, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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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)
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Will those regulations be available, even in draft form, before Report?

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