All 3 Nadia Whittome contributions to the Nationality and Borders Act 2022

Read Bill Ministerial Extracts

Tue 7th Dec 2021
Nationality and Borders Bill
Commons Chamber

Report stage & Report stage & Report stage
Tue 22nd Mar 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Commons Chamber

Consideration of Lords amendments & Consideration of Lords amendments
Wed 20th Apr 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Commons Chamber

Consideration of Lords amendmentsConsideration of Lords Message & Consideration of Lords amendments

Nationality and Borders Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Nationality and Borders Bill

Nadia Whittome Excerpts
Andrew Rosindell Portrait Andrew Rosindell
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My right hon. Friend makes a superb point, and he is of course completely correct. These ex-servicemen in Hong Kong are not demanding the right to come here straightaway, but they want that option should there ever be a need for them to leave Hong Kong—if they felt unsafe or their families were under threat. Surely, in such a situation, Her Majesty’s Government should support those who have served Her Majesty’s armed forces.

Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East) (Lab)
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I thank the hon. Member and the right hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green) for tabling this important amendment. Does the hon. Member agree that, while the amendment is welcome and it would be an improvement on the current situation, it would still mean that young people born after 1997 were relying on the BNO status of their parents, and that that would disproportionately impact poorer Hongkongers and people whose families moved after 1997?

Andrew Rosindell Portrait Andrew Rosindell
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I think that refers to a different amendment, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Nationality and Borders Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Nationality and Borders Bill

Nadia Whittome Excerpts
Fiona Bruce Portrait Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con)
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I wish to speak briefly in support of the proposal made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) in lieu of Lords amendment 26, to which he referred in his impassioned speech. Disappointingly, it cannot be voted on today. If we are to break the business model of the criminal gangs behind modern slavery, we have to increase the number of successful prosecutions. One of the most effective ways to do that is to enable more victims to participate in the pursuit of justice by sharing intelligence and acting as witnesses. Evidence from programmes such as Justice and Care’s victim navigator programme shows that when given wraparound support over a longer period more victims develop the confidence to engage with criminal investigations; 89% of Justice and Care’s supported victims engaged with police at the last published evaluation, which compared with the national average of about a third.

I welcome the commitment that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean) gave on Report that

“all those who receive a positive conclusive grounds decision and are in need of tailored support will receive appropriate individualised support for a minimum of 12 months.”—[Official Report, 8 December 2021; Vol. 705, c. 427.]

However, to provide victims with the certainty and stability they need, this extended support should be included in the statutory framework.

The Government have taken the positive step of putting support for modern slavery victims in law for the first time in this Bill, but clause 63 is limited to support during the initial recovery period during the national referral mechanism. The Bill offers no support to victims after the point at which someone has been formally recognised as a victim. The Government have already committed to doing this for a minimum of 12 months and it would be a simple matter to add that commitment to the Bill, giving a more comprehensive picture of the full range of support available, and providing victims with greater certainty and stability for their recovery as a result. I hope that Ministers will support the intent behind the amendment in lieu tabled by my right hon. Friend, and I note the Minister’s comment today that the Government are very willing to take these concerns away and have discussions with my right hon. Friend and, I hope, others. I also hope that the concern about the importance of putting the 12-month period into statute will not only be taken away, but acted upon.

Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East) (Lab)
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This Bill is such wide-reaching and deeply flawed legislation that there is so much I could speak on, but in the limited time we have I will focus on Lords amendment 22, which deals with the age assessment of children.

Without that amendment, the Bill will increase the number of children who have to undergo age assessments. These processes are unethical and inaccurate, focusing on vague criteria such as a child’s “appearance and demeanour”. Other, more detailed investigations are, of course, re-traumatising for children. There is a real danger that the measures in the Bill will lead to an increase in the number of children who are wrongfully treated as adults and subsequently neglected by the authorities. That will place some of the most vulnerable children at incredibly high risk of harm, as we have already seen.

In December 2017, Alexander Tekle died by suicide less than a year after he arrived in the UK from Eritrea as an unaccompanied minor. Alex was failed on two fronts. First, he was wrongfully assessed as an adult and placed in adult Home Office accommodation, where he was violently assaulted. Secondly, the different local authorities that were subsequently entrusted with his care failed him miserably, leading him into a spiral of depression and substance abuse. Services again failed to step in and ensure that he was supported to overcome these issues. The uncertainty over Alex’s immigration status also caused persistent distress. In fact, an inquest held earlier this year found that the Home Office’s policies contributed to the spiral that led to his death. What happened to Alex is not an isolated case: there has been an alarming increase in reports of suicide among teenagers who arrived in the UK as unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. It is a pattern of failure. But instead of the Government righting this wrong, children like Alex continue to be treated with suspicion from the moment they set foot in this country.

The Bill does not focus on improving the care of unaccompanied refugee children; in fact, the Home Office seems interested only in building even more barriers. It is particularly cynical that the Department pretends that age assessments are done for young people’s safety when, given the supervision provided in children’s placements, the level of risk is low should a young adult on occasion be placed in one. This contrasts with the hundreds of children who have been put in hotels and forced to share rooms and even beds with adult men they do not know.

The Home Office does not provide any solutions in the Bill. We cannot allow this devastating situation to continue. [Interruption.] Conservative Members may chunter from a sedentary position, but I am talking about something extremely serious: a young boy who committed suicide after Home Office failings. It would be great if they showed a bit of humility. Everyone who professes to care about unaccompanied refugee children should vote in support of Lords amendment 22.

Simon Hoare Portrait Simon Hoare
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It is to be welcomed that there will be no north-south border checks on the island of Ireland. The Minister will know that there is excellent intelligence sharing between the UK, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Irish authorities.

I understand what the Government are trying to do in the Bill, but I am afraid they again show a little bit of a lack of sensitivity or understanding with regard to how the all-island economy works, particularly when it comes to tourism, which is hugely important, as the hon. Member for North Down (Stephen Farry) said. In 2019, 2.245 million visitors came to the island of Ireland and spent £589 million. Such visitors maintain and support 70,800 jobs in Northern Ireland alone. There has been a 90% increase in the number of visitors to the island of Ireland from North America and 60% of all visitors to the island spend nights in both the Republic and the north of Ireland.

I understand what the Minister is trying to do, but he is using a misdirected sledgehammer to crack a non-existent nut, because we have seen no evidence to show that there is systemic abuse of the common travel area whereby people come from the south to the north and then over to GB. There is no evidence for that at all. I suggest the Government go away and have another think about the legislation. It seems to me to be sensible to exempt those who have established their right of residence in the Republic of Ireland from having to have an electronic travel authorisation. They do not need it. A lot of them will move between hospitals and doctors’ surgeries and dentists and between retail and hospitality and all the rest of it. Their bona fides have been recognised by the Republic, whether they were born in the Republic or elsewhere, and that should, through the usual intelligence sharing, be enough.

Visitors from the Irish diaspora of New Zealand, Australia, Canada or North America should be required to have an ETA only if they propose to move from the island of Ireland—irrespective of whether they have landed north or south of the border—to come to GB.

Nationality and Borders Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Nationality and Borders Bill

Nadia Whittome Excerpts
Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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I will be as brief as I can, Mr Deputy Speaker.

These are amendments that we have already debated, voted on and sent back to the other place, expressing our dissatisfaction with them.

The world is facing a crisis of migration. An estimated 80 million people are displaced by conflicts and instability around the world. Others seek to move in search of improved economic opportunities. Managing migration and welcoming and effectively supporting those most in need, while protecting borders and closing down the dangerous business of people smuggling is one of the difficult public policy challenges faced by any Government. That is why we have developed the new plan for immigration and this Bill, which is its legislative framework.

Amendments 8B and 8C require one or more returns agreements to be in place with a safe third country before the inadmissibility provisions in clause 15 can be brought into force. As I have said many times before, those in need of protection should claim in the first safe country they reach. The first safe country principle is widely recognised internationally.

Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East) (Lab)
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Under international law, anyone can claim asylum in any country that has signed the 1951 UN refugee convention. That convention makes it clear that people fleeing persecution can reach a country by irregular means if they are unable to use a valid visa. So, given that there is no legal way to come to the UK for the purpose of seeking asylum, does the Minister accept that the Government risk breaking international law?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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The point that I have consistently made is that the British Government act at all times in accordance with their international obligations, both under the European convention on human rights and the refugee convention. Again I make the point, because it bears repeating, that nobody needs to get into a small boat to reach safety. Everybody who is doing so is leaving what are inherently safe countries with fully functioning asylum systems. If people want to come to this country—we have a proud record of providing sanctuary here—they should do so through safe and legal routes. We have a proud record as a Government of providing safe and legal routes, reflecting the fact that there are conflicts and instability in the world and we respond to that.