With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the UK’s migration and economic development partnership with Rwanda.
One hundred million people are displaced globally. Others want to move to a different country, often for economic reasons. This presents an enormous challenge for sought-after destinations such as the United Kingdom. Since 2015, this kind and generous country has welcomed nearly 450,000 people through safe and legal routes. The British people are eager to help those in need and they support controlled migration. They have opened their homes to refugees. But they do not want open borders.
For decades the British people were told that this was immoral and that their concerns and opinions did not matter. Even today we see from certain quarters an unhealthy contempt for anyone who wants controlled migration. Such an attitude is unhelpful. Moreover, it is fanciful. We do not have infinite capacity. Already we are struggling to accommodate new arrivals, meaning that we spend millions every day in hotel bills alone.
We cannot tolerate people coming here illegally. It is not legitimate to leave a safe country such as France to seek asylum in the United Kingdom. We have to break the business model of the people-smuggling gangs. Their trade in human cargo is evil and lethal, as we were tragically reminded very recently.
There is a global migration crisis and it requires international solutions. In April, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel), backed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), signed a ground-breaking migration and economic development partnership with Rwanda. They deserve enormous credit for their work on this. We agreed that people who come to the UK via dangerous, illegal and unnecessary means can be relocated to Rwanda to have their asylum claims considered there. Those in need of protection will be given up to five years of support, including education and employment training, along with help with integration, accommodation and healthcare.
Being relocated to Rwanda is not a punishment but an innovative way of addressing a major problem to redress the imbalance between illegal and legal migration routes. It will also ensure that those in genuine need of international protection are provided with it in Rwanda. It is a humane and practical alternative for those who come here through dangerous, illegal and unnecessary routes. By making it clear that they cannot expect to stay in the UK, we will deter more people from coming here and make such routes unviable.
There has been a great deal of misinformation about Rwanda. I visited Rwanda myself several years ago. She is a state party to the 1951 United Nations refugee convention and the seven core United Nations human rights conventions. It is a safe and dynamic country with a thriving economy. It has an excellent record of supporting refugees and vulnerable migrants. The UN has used Rwanda for the relocation of vulnerable migrants from Libya—and this was first funded by the European Union. Many migrants, including refugees, have already built excellent lives in Rwanda. Our partnership is a significant investment in that country and further strengthens our relationship.
A myth still persists that the Home Office’s permanent secretary opposed this agreement. For the record, he did not. Nor did he assert that it is definitely poor value for money. He stated, in his role as accounting officer, that the policy is regular, proper and feasible, but that there is not currently sufficient evidence to demonstrate value for money. As he would be the first to agree, it is for Ministers to take decisions having received officials’ advice. Once the partnership is up and running, he will continue to monitor its efficacy, including value for money.
In June, the first plane was ready to relocate people to Rwanda. Our domestic courts—the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court—upheld our right to send the flight. However, following an order by an out-of-hours judge in the European Court of Human Rights, the flight was cancelled. The European Court of Human Rights did not rule that the policy or relocations were unlawful, but it prohibited the removal of specific people. This was a “without notice” order and the UK was not invited to make representations to oppose it. As a result, we have been unable to operate relocation flights pending ongoing legal proceedings, but we have continued to prepare by issuing notices of intent for those eligible for relocation, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister recently outlined a comprehensive new approach to illegal migration.
A judicial review was brought against the Rwanda partnership by a number of organisations and individual asylum seekers. The first part of proceedings considered a case that the partnership is unlawful; the second part argued that UK domestic processes under the partnership are unfair; and the third part argued that the policy is contrary to data protection laws. Today in the High Court, in a judgment spanning more than 130 pages, Lord Justice Lewis and Mr Justice Swift held that it is indeed lawful for the Government to make arrangements for relocating asylum seekers to Rwanda and for their asylum claims to be determined in Rwanda rather than in the United Kingdom. The court further held that the relocation of asylum seekers to Rwanda is consistent with the refugee convention and with the statutory and other legal obligations on the Government, including the obligations imposed by the Human Rights Act 1998.
This judgment thoroughly vindicates the Rwanda partnership. Earlier today, I spoke to my Rwandan counterpart, Minister Vincent Biruta, and we confirmed our joint and steadfast resolve to deliver the partnership at scale as soon as possible. It is what the overwhelming majority of the British people want to happen. The sooner it is up and running, the sooner we will break the business model of the evil gangs and bring an end to the illegal, unnecessary and unsafe channel crossings. Now that our courts have affirmed its legality, I invite the Opposition to get behind this plan. I commend this statement to the House.
I call the shadow Home Secretary.
The Government have failed to stop criminal gangs putting lives at risk and proliferating along our borders; they have failed to prosecute or convict the gang members; and they have failed to take basic asylum decisions, which are down by 40% in the last six years. Instead of sorting out those problems, however, they have put forward an unworkable, unethical and extremely expensive Rwanda plan that risks making trafficking worse.
The Home Secretary describes today’s court judgment as a vindication, but I wonder whether she has read it, because it sets out evidence of serious problems in Home Office decision making. It also identifies the significant financial costs of the scheme and the very limited number of people who will be covered, and certainly identifies no evidence that it will act as a deterrent or address the serious problems that we face.
The court concluded that the Home Office’s decision making in each of the eight cases considered was so flawed and chaotic that those individual decisions have had to be quashed. There were cases of literally mixing up evidence and the names of individuals, so the Home Office was making decisions on the wrong people; there was confusion between teams in Glasgow and Croydon about who was deciding what and which information should be shared; and evidence of torture and trafficking was not considered. We also know that the Home Office attempted to send heavily pregnant women to Rwanda.
That is a damning indictment of the decision-making process in the Home Office, which we know is not working because no decision has been made on 98% of the small boat arrivals in the last 12 months. Ministers seem to have decided that they are so incapable of getting a grip on the asylum system and of taking asylum decisions effectively here in the UK that they want to pay a country halfway across the world to take those decisions for us.
On the lawfulness of the decision, the Court accepted that Rwanda does not have the processing capacity, including interpreters and legal support, needed to take asylum decisions, but it concluded that the agreement was still lawful because of two key points: the number of people Rwanda takes will be very limited; and lots more money will be provided by the UK Government. The Home Secretary did not tell us about any of those things. Will she now tell us, first, how many people she expects to send to Rwanda next year? Rwanda has said that it can accommodate 200 people. That is the people from 0.5% of this year’s channel crossings. The Home Office itself has said that there is no evidence that the scheme will act as a deterrent, and that the scheme is unenforceable and has a high risk of fraud.
Secondly, can the Home Secretary tell us the full cost? The Court said that significant additional funding would be provided. The Government have already written Rwanda two cheques this year: one for £120 million, and another this summer for £20 million. Millions more are promised—but how much more? How much will the scheme end up costing per person? It looks as though it will be more than £1 million per person.
Thirdly, the Court judgment says that there is no evidence that the UK Government sought to investigate either the terms of the Rwanda-Israel agreement or the way it had worked in practice. Why on earth not? That agreement was abandoned, and there is evidence that it increased trafficking and the activity of criminal gangs. Convictions for people smuggling have already dropped by 75% in two years; convictions for people trafficking are already pitifully low; and a former chief constable has warned that the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 will make that worse. Time and again, the Government have failed to tackle the criminal gangs driving the problem, and to make them pay the price. Instead of pursuing this unworkable, unethical, extortionately expensive and deeply damaging policy, the Government should use the money that they are investing in it to go after the gangs that are putting lives at risk. All that they are doing, time and again, is chasing headlines, which is a damaging distraction from the serious hard work that is needed to tackle the gangs and sort out the asylum system.
The Home Secretary has said that the Conservatives are in the last chance saloon. Their policies put them there, and have let the country down. They are always ramping up the rhetoric, and never doing the serious, hard work, or using common sense. Britain deserves better than this. Britain is better than this.
I am very disappointed by the response from the shadow Home Secretary, and I am concerned that she is seeking to go against a legitimate, rigorous decision set out exhaustively by our independent judiciary, and is still suggesting that this is an illegitimate scheme. We see in the judgment that the scheme is lawful on several grounds. The judgment looked at the legislative authority for the scheme. It looked very closely at the claims that it breached articles 3 and 14 of the European convention on human rights, and article 31 of the refugee convention. It looked closely at whether it was fair, and at whether the right of access to justice was respected. It looked very closely at other public law grounds. On all those claims, the Home Office won. The Court concluded that it was and is lawful for the Government to make arrangements to relocate asylum seekers to Rwanda, and for asylum claims to be determined in Rwanda, rather than in the UK. The judgment is a comprehensive analysis of the reasons why.
The right hon. Lady asks about the eight individual cases. We accept the Court’s judgment on those cases. We have already taken steps to strengthen the caseworking process, including revising the information and guidance given to individuals during their assessment for relocation, but we have been clear throughout that no one will be relocated if that is unsafe for them, and support is offered to individuals throughout the process to ensure that it is fair and robust.
The simple truth is that Labour Members have opposed every one of our efforts to deter illegal migration. They opposed the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, life sentences for people smugglers, and the removal of foreign national offenders, including drug dealers and rapists. All they offer is obstruction, criticism, the performative politics of opposition, and magical thinking. What do they actually offer? They say that we should return to the failed Dublin scheme—no matter that it was ineffective, and no matter that the EU does not want it. Labour Members want safe and legal routes as the answer, no matter that this Government have done more than any other in recent history, offering sanctuary to more than 450,000 people by safe and legal routes. No matter that Labour Members cannot define what routes they would stand up themselves, or that our capacity is not unlimited, and that there are more than 100 million people displaced globally. Would Labour give them all a safe and legal route to the UK?
We cannot indulge in fictions. A fundamental reason why Labour Members cannot articulate a plan is that they cannot be honest with the British public about what they really want. The shadow Home Secretary could not even decide whether she would repeal illegal entry, even though she voted against it. Labour’s solution would be to turn our crisis of illegal migration into a crisis of legal migration, with open borders by the back door. Unlimited safe and legal routes are simply open borders masquerading as humanitarianism. Last week the Prime Minister and I announced our plan to tackle small boats. Today the Court affirmed the legality of a central piece of that plan, and tomorrow Labour still will not have a plan.
Although the High Court ruled that the Rwanda policy is lawful, as has been said there were only eight asylum claimants. Those cases have all been set aside by the Court, which said in its ruling that the circumstances of each claimant had not been considered properly. Latest Home Office website figures currently show that more than 160,000 individual cases are outstanding. Furthermore, as the Home Secretary—in whom I have the greatest confidence—stated, the European Court judge who issued the injunction clearly did so without proper consideration of the Rwanda policy, and such rulings do not command our respect.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that for all those reasons it becomes more essential than ever to apply the “notwithstanding” formula to the new legislation that the Prime Minister has announced for mid-January? That must also distinguish in our own law between genuine refugees and illegal economic migrants, not only in the interests of saving life, but also to prevent organised criminality, and to assert UK parliamentary sovereignty, overriding the European convention on human rights, and at the same time dealing comprehensively with the current backlog of those 160,000 outstanding asylum cases.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. The European Court of Human Rights did not rule on the lawfulness of our policy. It did not rule that the policy or relocations were unlawful, but it did none the less prohibit the removal of individuals on the 15 June flight, via interim and injunctive relief. We have a proud tradition of defending fundamental rights in this country, and we will always retain a robust approach to protecting and preserving human rights. However, that does not mean that we will have a migration system that can be abused and exploited by those who do not have legitimate claims to be here. As the Prime Minister announced last week, we will be bringing forward legislation to ensure that we have a robust migration system and secure borders.
I call the SNP spokesperson.
This is a dark day indeed with this judgment, particularly when the Home Secretary comes to the House to imply that having morals is fanciful. Enver Solomon of the Refugee Council has called the policy
“wrong in principle and unworkable in practice”,
and I am certain that this will go to appeal as charities and those involved in the issue have stated. SNP Members will never get behind this policy—not in our name—and I remind Members that slavery, apartheid and marital rape were all lawful at one time, but none of them were right.
The Court found that the Home Office had failed to consider properly the circumstances of the eight who challenged the policy. How exactly does the Home Secretary intend to approach such cases now, and what will happen to those eight individuals? What happens to those who have already been issued with notices of intent, and what confidence can they have in a system that previously did not properly consider the cases of eight people?
The Home Secretary claims that this will be a deterrent. The Tories also claimed that the hostile environment would be a deterrent and that the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 would be a deterrent. Now they claim the Rwanda policy will be a deterrent. None of them is working because they fail to recognise the desperate circumstances that drive people to come here in the first place. Safe and legal routes will work and prevent people from losing their lives in the channel.
The Home Secretary talked about the trade in human cargo. We all want to tackle the people smugglers who exploit people in the most vulnerable of circumstances. However, what else is the Rwanda policy but state-sponsored people trafficking? How many people are actually going to be removed to Rwanda? It is going to be a tiny proportion, so any deterrent effect that the Government claim is not going to be proper. What is the total cost of this unworkable scheme? How much money has been spent on it already? How much has gone on the legal case? How much of it would have been better spent dealing with the catastrophic backlog of cases that the Tories have created?
I am afraid that the hon. Lady’s ideological zeal is blinding and preventing her from taking a rational approach. I am proud of the fact that we have welcomed 450,000 people through safe and legal routes to this country since 2015. I do not think that anyone can claim that we are not forward-leaning on all of this. She and her party need to be honest about their position with the British people: they stand for open borders and uncontrolled migration.
Parliament has legislated, our courts have ruled. We are apparently stopped by a Russian judge, woken from a bar, to issue an injunction. Can this stand?
As always, my right hon. Friend makes a powerful point. Neither the Prime Minister nor I are deterred from delivering on this policy, which is an essential part of our wider plans to break the business model to stop illegal migration. We have a legitimate basis for it. It has been upheld after being rigorously tested in our courts. We will continue to move quickly to honour the will of the British people.
The Home Secretary says that Britain has a proud tradition of supporting asylum seekers. That is true in part, but it is not true under her tenure. She is pursuing a vile policy, which is brutal towards the individuals concerned, and continually tells us that it is illegal to seek asylum. It is not; it is clearly there in all international conventions. Will she for once have a sense of humanity towards people who are desperate and victims of wars, environmental change and human rights abuse—and exploited to boot? Cannot she just hold out a hand of friendship and understanding towards these desperate people, rather than the brutal assertion that she is making?
The right hon. Gentleman talks regularly about safe and legal routes being a means to an end of illegal arrivals. The reality is that our safe and legal routes have already allowed 450,000 people to come here since 2015, with 300,000 in the last year alone—the highest number that we have seen in several decades. However, that needs to happen in conjunction with deterrent policies if they are to have any effect and if we are to stop the practice of people taking lethal and unlawful journeys across the channel, jumping the queue, undermining the British people’s generosity and breaking the law.
While the judgment is welcome, it will not solve the problem not just because of the relatively few numbers that can be deported to Rwanda but because each case must be fought individually, and human rights lawyers will fight every single case individually. That is the problem. Surely the only serious way in which we can deter migration across the channel is by having the legal right not just to process people when they arrive on our shores but to arrest them and detain them until their asylum application is dealt with. Does anything in the refugee convention stop us doing that? If not, why are we not doing it? If the Human Rights Act stops us doing it, can we not apply for a notwithstanding clause in our new legislation to deal with that problem?
This is exactly why the Prime Minister made an announcement last week, and the Immigration Minister and I are working intensively to prepare legislation, which will be introduced next year. It will deliver a scheme along the lines my right hon. Friend describes, whereby if you come here irregularly or illegally—on a small boat, putting yourself and others at risk—you will be detained and swiftly removed to a safe third country or to Rwanda for your asylum claim to be processed.
In her statement, the Home Secretary confirmed that the permanent secretary at the Home Office had concerns about the cost and that she overruled him. We have spent £140 million so far and not a single individual has been removed. When the hon. Member for Corby (Tom Pursglove) was Immigration Minister, he said that the average cost of removing people would be £12,000—something that was not based on any fact. If she is so confident about the scheme that she took a decision to overrule the permanent secretary, will she not today publish all the costs of the scheme, so we can all take a view on whether it is a good use of taxpayers’ money, or whether it is simply a way of fulfilling one of her weird dreams?
The right hon. Gentleman needs to get his facts right because actually the agreement was struck between my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham, and the Rwandan Government. But I support the work she did and the achievement she struck. The agreement represents a long-term policy. It is expected to last for at least five years, and the costs and payments will depend on the number of people relocated, when that happens and the outcomes of the individual cases. Of course, we have been held up by litigation. Once the litigation process comes to an end, we will move quickly to deliver that and deliver value for money.
I am saddened that following last week’s tragic events neither the shadow Home Secretary nor the SNP Front Bench are prepared to say that people should not be getting into these boats in the first place. They should be claiming refuge and asylum in one of the 149 convention countries, many of which they will have gone through. I welcome today’s judgment from the High Court. Is it not even better than Rwanda that people stay safe on land in France and do not make the crossings in the first place?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. People should not be making this journey, they should not be crossing through other safe countries and they should not be choosing to come to the United Kingdom via those means. The sooner we are able to deliver a policy that reflects that, the better.
The courts have been very clear: it is wrong to have a blanket approach to the treatment of refugees, just as it would be wrong to decide that everybody caught speeding could never drive again. What matters is treating each case on its merits. We have seen already how poorly the Government treat refugee children who are here. The Home Secretary talks about being honest, so let us finally have some honest, straight answers. For the avoidance of doubt, will the Home Secretary confirm whether she intends to deport children, or those who are looking after children and are here as refugees to Rwanda? Yes or no—will children be on those flights, Ministers?
We have been very clear that families are not subject to the Rwandan policy, but the broader point is this. The hon. Member’s reading of the judgment is different from mine. There has been an extensive and exhaustive analysis of the legal claims brought against the Government, and the Court has been pretty emphatic on the legality of the policy. It concluded that the scheme is compliant with our ECHR and refugee obligations.
Two months ago, I visited the Hope hostel in Kigali. Not only was the accommodation of a high standard, but the Rwandans I spoke to expressed hope that those coming would, in due course, obtain jobs and move out to their own homes, thus allowing more refugees to come and take their place. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that this policy is not just lawful, but humane in that it offers refugees real hope?
Absolutely. My right hon. Friend reiterates a point dealt with extensively in the body of the judgment. I refer right hon. and hon. Members to that judgment, in which there is a complete analysis of the exact support that people will receive when they are in Rwanda, the monitoring that will go on to ensure that their welfare is safeguarded, and the track record that Rwanda has demonstrated in supporting refugees from the region in previous instances.
It is frustrating to sit here and listen to the Secretary of State, because none of us is denying that this is a legal ruling, but whether or not it is lawful, this plan is immoral, ineffective and incredibly costly for taxpayers. Does the Secretary of State agree that, instead of wasting taxpayers’ money on defending the policy through the courts, the Government should focus on stopping these dangerous crossings and tackling smugglers and trafficking by providing more safe and legal routes and sanctuary for refugees? Rather than dealing with the problem after people arrive here, we must deal with it at source so that they are never put in the position where they make a dangerous crossing over the channel.
As the justices made clear at the beginning of their judgment, they are not opining on the politics or the morality of the Rwanda scheme; they are simply opining on the lawfulness. That is why I have huge confidence in the judgment that has been handed down today.
If we are talking about the broader issues, I gently disagree with the hon. Lady, as the House would imagine. I think that what is actually unacceptable is that her party is peddling a mistruth to the British people. It is saying that we can have an unlimited and open borders policy, that we have unlimited capacity and that everybody is welcome. Unfortunately, the reality is that that is not the case. We have to take a pragmatic, measured and compassionate approach to our migration—that is what is sensible and is required by the British people.
Central to solving the crisis of illegal migration is the prevention of further loss of human life in the English channel, so I welcome not only today’s judgment, but the commitment that my right hon. and learned Friend made in her statement to delivering the Rwanda partnership
“at scale as soon as possible.”
However, it is clear that there will be continued legal challenges to it, either on an individual basis or on a whole-policy basis, so may I push the Home Secretary further on the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash): that the legislation coming in the new year, which I look forward to supporting, really must include a “notwithstanding” clause to ensure that we can prevent the further loss of human life in the channel?
What is essential is that we introduce, consider and pass legislation that will be robust and resilient and actually deliver on our stated political objectives. That will require an exhaustive analysis of the legal methods but, simply put, we are in the process, we are in the sausage machine, as they would put it, so it is not a pretty sight, but nothing is off the table.
The Home Secretary said over the weekend that she is considering leaving the European convention on human rights in order to prevent people from claiming asylum. Is it possible to do that without breaking our commitments in the Belfast/Good Friday agreement?
What I think is clear is that there are evident challenges with the way in which international conventions and agreements relating to migration are working in the 21st century. I think there are legitimate questions that, at an international level, all nation states are grappling with; I have seen that at first hand when I have spoken to my counterparts in the Calais group or other international partners. There is an unprecedented scale of illegal migration and there is unprecedented pressure on domestic resources. I think that looking at how we can forge a new set of agreements to work better together is definitely a reasonable approach.
Were more safe and legal routes to be made available, they would quickly be taken up and the trade in small boats would then continue unabated—wouldn’t it?
Can the Home Secretary assure the House that if someone arrives on the shores at Dover to claim asylum in order to be able to join a child, a spouse or an elderly parent here in the United Kingdom under the right to family life, that individual will not be put on a plane to Rwanda and separated from his or her family for the rest of their lives?
Anyone arriving here irregularly will be eligible for consideration. We will consider every case on its individual merits. We have excluded families from the scheme, but we will also ensure that the decisions are made on a lawful and rational basis.
I welcome the ruling and the Home Secretary’s comments. It is clear from what we are hearing from Opposition Members that there is a great gulf between their views and those of the vast majority of the British people. Overwhelmingly, my constituents will want to see the Home Secretary’s and the Prime Minister’s proposals implemented as quickly as possible. In particular, there is genuine concern about the speed of the processing of the many cases. Although additional staff are being taken on, the pitiful number of cases with which they are dealing each week needs to be dramatically increased. Can my right hon. and learned Friend assure me that action is being taken to ensure that that happens?
Processing asylum claims is one core element of meeting the challenge more broadly. That is why it is right that we are increasing the number of caseworkers, increasing their specialism and streamlining the process. Ultimately, we want to bear down on the number of people waiting for a decision from the Home Office.
The Home Secretary says that she is taking a deterrent approach, but it is plain that today’s judgment cannot and will not function as a so-called deterrent. The whole point of this vile policy of expelling asylum seekers to Rwanda is that expulsion was supposed to happen automatically and rapidly for anyone without a prior permission to come here via a refugee scheme. However, today’s High Court judgment found that each and every individual case must be assessed first, so there will be nothing automatic about it, and under this Government there will be nothing rapid about it either. Will the Home Secretary therefore put a permanent end to this useless cruelty, provide safe and legal routes, and ensure that such routes actually function? The one from Afghanistan currently does not.
Will the Home Secretary also stop saying that this policy has the support of the British people? According to a recent YouGov poll, just 10% of them support it. The British people are better than this vile British Government.
I think the reality is that we are supported in taking control of our borders. That was reflected in both the 2016 referendum and the 2019 general election. We have made it clear that we will do whatever it takes to ensure that we make progress on stopping illegal migration, bring an end to this lethal journey, and, ultimately, restore integrity to our immigration system.
I welcome today’s judgment, but I find it deeply frustrating that one isolated judge can delay this process for six or seven months. Will the Home Secretary give me some sense of the timescales following the judgment? When will the first flights take off? That is what we all want to see happening, and my constituents will begin to rest easy when they can see those flights taking off.
We will probably have to strike agreements with other countries. Can the Home Secretary assure me that when we do strike such agreements, they will not be delayed in the way in which this has been delayed, and we will not go through exactly the same motions, which take oh, so long?
My hon. Friend is right. We have always maintained that this policy is lawful, and today the court has upheld that. We know that further legal challenges are possible, and we will continue to defend this policy vigorously in the courts. However, once the litigation process has come to an end, we will move swiftly in order to be in a position to operationalise the policy and deliver on our promise.
Can I caution the Home Secretary gently against getting overexcited about a decision at first instance? Often, important constitutional decisions at first instance are overturned on appeal. A recent example was when the last Prime Minister but one unlawfully prorogued Parliament. I think an appeal is inevitable. In the meantime, removals to Rwanda cannot take place because of the interim measures issued by the European Court of Human Rights. Perhaps she would like to explain to some of her Back Benchers the concept of an interim order issued by a judge sitting alone to preserve the status quo, which happens, I believe, in English law regularly by way of injunction.
The Home Secretary seems to be implying that she will obtemper the order of the European Court of Human Rights issued under article 34 of the convention, which the United Kingdom is bound by. I know she is not a great fan of the convention, and a lot of her Back Benchers are asking her about the notwithstanding clause, so is it her intention to domestically legislate her way out of our international treaty obligations?
It is not appropriate for me to speculate on the claimants’ response or whether there will be any appeals following today’s judgment. We welcome today’s findings and we will vigorously defend any appeal on the substantive matters of the lawfulness of the policy. We have been clear that, in designing and introducing our legislation next year, we will have to ensure that it is sufficiently robust to promote a scheme to ensure that if people arrive here illegally, they will be detained and swiftly removed to a safe country for your asylum claim to be processed.
My constituents welcome the High Court judgment and want the relocation flights to Rwanda to take off as soon as possible. They will be very concerned to hear that they could be subject to further judicial delay. Could the Home Secretary outline to my constituents how long she anticipates that judicial delay will be? When can I tell my constituents that the flights will take off?
The reality of litigation is that there are appeal rights. There is a hearing on 16 January, in which the claimants and the Home Office will make representations on any applications to appeal. The court will decide the next steps, if any, in UK litigation. I am considering the Home Office’s position with my legal team, so it would not be appropriate to discuss our strategy in the meantime. There is a hearing on 16 January to consider appeal applications.
The right hon. and learned Lady tries very hard to find a way forward and a solution, which I acknowledge, and I defer to the High Court ruling. I say with great respect to the right hon. and learned Lady that, clearly, we have a duty of care. Along with many others in this House and in the nation, I do not believe that the scheme fulfils our moral obligation. Should other ways of dealing with the situation be identified, such as better regulation of the English channel, better processes in France or more acceptable ways of migration, will it be reconsidered? There has to be a more compassionate approach.
The solution involves a multifaceted approach. That is why we are working closely with the French. I was pleased to strike an agreement last month with my French counterpart to bolster co-operation on the channel, and information and intelligence sharing. For the first time ever, UK Border Force officials are working hand in hand with our French counterparts. That is why I have worked closely with other Interior Ministers from European nations on similar issues. That is why we need to work on our asylum backlog and introduce legislation. The Rwanda scheme is one element of a multidimensional programme. We need all elements to work in tandem.
As the Home Secretary knows, Stoke-on-Trent has already done more than its fair share, and this has put huge pressure on our local public services, so does she agree that it is really important that we now get on with delivering this policy and get on with those flights as soon as possible?
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, his Stoke parliamentary colleagues, the local authorities and all those involved in supporting asylum seekers in Stoke. I know that a high number of people are currently accommodated in his area. It is therefore vital that we stop people coming in the first place, and delivering the Rwanda partnership is key to making that happen.
It is the super-rich and those on luxury yachts, not small boats, that people should be scared of. Asylum seekers are people just like us; they have hopes, dreams and aspirations. This policy could be legally sound but it is immoral and a waste of taxpayers’ money. This cruel Government should be ashamed of themselves. The Home Secretary said in her statement:
“This judgment thoroughly vindicates the Rwanda partnership…It is what the overwhelming majority of the British people want to happen.”
Of course, the Rwanda partnership was not in the Tory manifesto, so can she evidence this support from people across all four nations wanting the Rwanda deal? Scotland certainly does not, and Scotland will continue to reject these xenophobic policies.
The reality is that stopping people taking the journey in the first place is the compassionate and pragmatic approach. It delivers for the British people, but it also sends a message to the people smugglers, the human traffickers and those who are deliberately taking the journey to come here for illegitimate means, not to do so. That is the sensible approach.
I welcome the judgment today that confirms that the Government’s policy is legal and will be a step forward to implementing what the Prime Minister said last week. The Home Secretary is right to say that we need to break the business model of the people smugglers. Does she agree that it is not enough just to go after the supply, even though those people are immoral and parasitic, and that we also need to destroy the demand for these journeys in the first place? The way we will achieve that is by making it clear that those that come by boat will not be allowed to stay in this country. That is what worked in Australia, and that is what will work here.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I have met Australian officials who were involved in the design of their sovereign borders programme, and they say that once they were able to remove illegal entrants to Papua New Guinea or Nauru, they saw a dramatic change in the numbers of people attempting the journey in the first place. That is the model on which our Rwanda scheme is based.
If every country took this Government’s approach, this Rwanda approach, the countries that already host the overwhelming majority of refugees—the Jordans, the Lebanons, the Pakistans and the Ugandas of this world; the first countries—would be required to host all of them, while wealthy western countries such as the United Kingdom could pick and choose if and when they wanted to help out. What this Government are arguing for is an end to the international system of refugee protection, is it not?
I really disagree with the moral high ground that the hon. Member seems to be taking, in the light of Scotland’s paltry record on taking asylum seekers. It has refused to take anybody who has come here on a small boat, and that is unacceptable.
I welcome the statement today and the judgment, but will the Secretary of State confirm to the House that she will continue to use every tool in her power to stop these boats? As we can see, the Opposition and the human rights lawyers will try to stop the good work that the Secretary of State is doing, but the people of Doncaster are tired of been taken advantage of by these illegal immigrants. Will she confirm that she will continue to use every power that she has?
My hon. Friend speaks not only for the people of Doncaster but for the people of Britain in expressing the sentiment that the British people are tired and want this problem to be fixed. It is only this Government who are going to do it.
How many of the people who were pulled from the channel last week does the Home Secretary think should be sent to Rwanda?
The incident last week was tragic. People died. Precious human lives were lost. People had been exploited and took a journey that was unlawful, lethal and, in the end, tragic. That is what we want to bring to an end.
The High Court found that the Home Office has to consider an asylum seeker’s particular circumstances before deporting them to Rwanda. Does the Home Secretary acknowledge that this defeats the scheme’s original purpose, which was to have applications assessed in Rwanda under Rwandan law? As such, will she reconsider?
The judgment is very clear that our arrangement, under which people will be relocated to Rwanda for their asylum claim to be processed and for them to be resettled there, has been found to be lawful. There was an extensive analysis of all the potential legal claims that could render it unlawful, and the Home Office won.
I thank the Home Secretary for her statement and for responding to questions for more than 50 minutes.