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Lords Chamber

Volume 818: debated on Tuesday 1 February 2022

House of Lords

Tuesday 1 February 2022

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of St Albans.

Retirement of a Member: Lord Rotherwick


My Lords, I should like to notify the House of the retirement, with effect from today, of the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, pursuant to Section 1 of the House of Lords Reform Act 2014. On behalf of the House, I should like to thank the noble Lord for his much-valued service to the House.

Social Welfare Law Cases: Legal Aid


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have this year, if any, to restore legal aid for social welfare law cases.

My Lords, following a consultation which concluded in January this year, we will lay legislation later this year proposing better access to social welfare advice for people facing possession proceedings. On 19 January, we laid legislation to pilot the provision of early legal advice for debt, housing and welfare benefit matters. The pilot will commence later this year. We will shortly publish our review of the means test for civil legal aid.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. Many who work in this vital area of law very much welcome his departmental responsibility for civil legal aid and social welfare law for the reason that we and they know that he is a powerful supporter of access to justice for all. However, does he agree that the small but welcome steps the Government are taking in this field are peanuts when compared to the millions of pounds that has been cut from social welfare law funding year on year and the hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens who have been unable to get advice and assistance? Does he further agree that, for as long as many of our fellow citizens—often those with the very least—are deprived of access to justice by not getting the advice and representation they need, there remains a stain on our much-vaunted legal system?

My Lords, I am well aware of the noble Lord’s experience and work in this area, and I respectfully commend him for it. If I may say so, I think it is rather unfair of him to say that we are spending peanuts, when actually last year we spent £1.7 billion on legal aid services. I agree with him that access to justice is a fundamental part of any justice system, and our reforms are intended to ensure that people have not only legal aid but legal support at an earlier stage of the proceedings.

My Lords, The Impact of LASPO on Routes to Justice, by Dr James Organ and Dr Jennifer Sigafoos of the University of Liverpool and published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2018, found that, due to the lack of legal aid and the demise of specialised advice, the high demand for advice on disability benefits means that the almost complete removal of welfare benefits from the scope of legal aid has had a disproportionate impact on disabled people and those with long-term health conditions. The Minister mentioned a number of areas where pilots are being carried out, but will the Government take steps to restore the funding, at least for this important sector of the community?

My Lords, I note that when it is Justice Questions we always seem to have longer questions. We are starting a pilot in both Manchester and Middlesbrough to focus on the point that the noble Lord makes: to what extent can we divert people away and solve their problems at an earlier stage? I am aware of the report the noble Lord mentioned, and of others, but we are starting a pilot, so that we have evidence of what actually works on the ground.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister very much for his first Answer. I remind him that the Conservative Lord Rushcliffe’s 1945 report urged that:

“Legal aid should be available in all Courts and in such manner as will enable persons in need to have access to the professional help they require”.

At the last pre-Covid count, in more than half the local authorities in England and Wales, with some 22 million people, there was no provider in the field of housing legal aid. Would it not be a simple first step in the process of levelling up to take immediate steps to fund at least one such provider in each local authority in England and Wales?

My Lords, I am aware of the issue with legal aid for housing. I should make two points. First, we keep this under review and are making special efforts to ensure that we find providers in areas where there are currently no providers. Secondly, as my noble friend will also be aware, wherever you are in England and Wales you can always get legal advice through the CLA telephone service. Legal advice is always available.

My Lords, the Government trumpet their intention of levelling up the disadvantaged regions through investment. Will the Minister at the same time take steps to provide adequately and properly for the needs of the disadvantaged individuals at the bottom of the ladder by providing investment for their levelling up, so that they can put their cases without disadvantage? Does the Minister really consider that they are properly dealt with?

My Lords, I have already mentioned the pilot we are starting in Middlesbrough and Manchester to identify the best way of providing legal aid for, among others, those people. I also said in a previous answer that we are looking at a review of the means test for legal aid. Indeed, we have revoked that means test for various parts of civil legal aid to ensure that people can access courts when they are most vulnerable—for example, domestic abuse victims seeking a non-molestation order.

Do we need a pilot when we know that, when you are on social security, there are so many things around welfare that exclude you and make you feel that you are actually not a part of democracy and society? Around justice, you do not need some test; you need to roll it out and get it working.

My Lords, with respect, you need a test to ensure that what you are doing is the most useful thing you can do. For example, we are looking at putting legal advice centres in hospitals, because we know that people who have legal problems often have other social welfare problems as well. It is often the case that you cannot resolve all your problems through the law; you need a holistic approach. I think we need some hard evidence, and the pilot will be very useful in this area.

My Lords, is it not the case that the Government’s review and the pilot schemes demonstrate that the Government got it very badly wrong when they cut millions of pounds from this area? Would it not be better to restore those cuts and then do a proper review and make sure that, this time, it covers people and gives them some rights?

My Lords, I made a commitment to myself today not to mention the words “Grayling” or “Gray”. What I would say is that, in this area, there is no going back to the pre-LASPO position. What we want to do in other areas of law where LASPO gave people legal aid is to divert them from the courts altogether. For example, in private family cases we have a mediation voucher scheme. We do not want people in court arguing about private family cases; we want them to resolve their problems outside court through mediation.

My Lords, it is to be welcomed that there is pilot scheme going on. I am particularly pleased to hear about the mediation scheme, which is crucial to trying to find ways to deal with things one-to-one. Can the Minister say a little more though about what is going on? What I hear from people working in the legal system is that it is absolutely blocked up by people who cannot get advice, or indeed aid, coming with hopeless cases. If only they could be given guidance earlier on, we might be able to solve some of the huge backlog, which is in itself an injustice.

The right reverend Prelate is right: we want to ensure that people do not go to court when they do not need to. During the pandemic we invested £5.4 million in not-for-profit legal support services, to make sure that people can have access to early legal advice so that only those who need the assistance of a judge go to court.

My Lords, it is 10 years since the LASPO Act came into force, which so dramatically reduced legal aid funding. The Government’s review of LASPO, published in February 2019, pointed out that the housing sector was particularly affected by these cuts, and that when housing legal advice was in scope, people were still failing to get access to the relevant legal advice. What will the pilot that the Minister has talked about do to help people get the advice which they are entitled to in any event?

My Lords, the pilot that I was referring to is a general pilot in relation to social and welfare entitlements. Regarding housing possession cases, as the noble Lord knows, there is a housing possession court duty scheme. We are running a specific focus on that, because there are areas where people are not getting the advice that they need. That was paused during the pandemic because we put a complete halt on repossessions, but we are now looking at the best way to make sure that we get focused housing advice to people who need it, when they need it.

My Lords, what was the Government’s original motivation back in 2012? Presumably, it was to save money, which this probably has not done overall. What the Government have done is to throw thousands of the poorest people in the UK into a situation where they cannot find justice.

I am afraid that I cannot assist the House with what the Government’s motivation was in 2012. My motivation is very simple: the rule of law and access to justice. It is as simple as that.

EU: Imports


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have, if any, to facilitate imports from the European Union.

My Lords, HMG have taken several actions to facilitate imports from the EU. First, we have negotiated the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which delivers zero tariffs and zero quotas. Secondly, HMRC provides services to help importers understand the customs border requirements, including webinars reaching around 20,000 UK and EU traders to date. Thirdly, our 2025 UK Border Strategy will transform how our border operates, to build the world’s most effective border.

My Lords, has the Minister visited GOV.UK and read the page, “Import goods into the UK: step by step”? It could have been written by the Spanish Inquisition. The Government proclaim that they will legislate for a bonfire of EU red tape, but why did they so mess things up that they are actually erecting trade barriers and forcing up costs instead of using post-Brexit freedom to make trading easier for our businesses and cut tariffs on goods that consumers buy? Why do Ministers go around chanting that they are creating the most open economy and unleashing Britain’s potential when in fact they are multiplying bureaucracy and exacerbating the cost-of-living crisis?

My Lords, I am grateful that the noble Lord mentioned Brexit freedoms, because there was a Statement made on that topic just yesterday, setting out what the Government intend to do to make sure that those freedoms can be available to everybody in the United Kingdom.

My Lords, may I press the Minister on the import of musical instruments from the European Union? I refer to my registered interests. If instruments manufactured in Europe are sent for exhibition in the UK and sold, they have to be shipped back to France to secure a new set of paperwork and then re-exported to their purchaser. Similar problems are faced for instruments sent back for warranty or repair. This is leading to European manufacturers withdrawing sponsorship from events in the UK. Does this arise from incompetence in the department or is Brexit fundamentally flawed?

My Lords, I am afraid that I do not have the instrument to hand which would allow me to answer the detail of the noble Lord’s questions, but I will write to him giving full details on that.

My Lords, can my noble friend have a go at answering the Question from the noble Lord, Lord Howarth of Newport?

Your Lordships are very kind to ask me to take a second bite at the cherry, but I do not have anything to add to my Answer.

My Lords, with the 12-mile queues on the A20 in Kent last week, the Commons Transport Committee took evidence from the Transport Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Vere, who is in her place. The chair of the committee raised the concern that, with more checks and bureaucracy, there will be 17-mile queues. He asked which Government Minister is responsible for liaising with the European Union, and the noble Baroness replied:

“Not me. It is a fairly complicated picture.”

The chair said:

“Assume it is the role of the Home Office, which I would have thought it would be if it is to do with borders”.

The noble Baroness, Lady Vere, replied:

“And Trade. It might be Trade’s role as well because it is about customs checks; it could be HMRC.”

The chair said:

“It could be the Foreign Office. I suppose that is my concern.”

Well, my concern is that no one is in charge. Who is in charge?

My Lords, first, on the queues at Dover last week mentioned by the noble Lord, it is not the case that those short-term delays to freight movements were caused by new customs procedures. I am reliably informed that the primary cause was ship refitting, which reduced capacity across the short straits, and higher than expected freight volumes. On the noble Lord’s main point, I assure him that all Ministers properly co-ordinate with each other on these matters.

My Lords, there are clearly problems with the smooth processing of documentation at our ports, including Dover— never mind what the Minister just tried to tell us. The Government are playing this down but they must resolve these issues quickly, certainly before any new measures are introduced later this year. Nevertheless, will the Minister welcome the 9% boost in trade to Belfast Harbour, reported in the Belfast Telegraph this morning, which is being attributed to Northern Ireland’s unique position as a result of the protocol? Can the Minister update us on conversations between the Government and the EU on this issue and will he ensure that the recent boost in trade in Northern Ireland is not jeopardised?

My Lords, making sure that the Northern Ireland protocol operates as smoothly as we intended will continue to be a priority for our relationship with the EU. While we have tried to operate this agreement in good faith, I frankly admit that the problems are significant and are growing. This must be resolved through a real negotiation between us and the European Union, which is why the Foreign Secretary is paying so much attention to this matter.

My Lords, on Monday morning operations were under way to restore Operation Stack, apparently on a permanent footing, as soon as possible. Can the Minister tell us how long he expects the ship refitting to take?

My Lords, I am very confident that as traders, hauliers, importers and, indeed, exporters become increasingly familiar with the new procedures, things will operate smoothly. We have prepared freely available tools to assist traders with these new processes, introduced on 1 January. Of course, we want things to move smoothly, and we will continue to emphasise this.

My Lords, would not relations with the EU be enormously assisted if we could do something to clear up our relations with France, which have been needlessly made hostile by the present Administration? Should we not turn away from fantasies about global Britain to restoring our well-tried relationship —in two world wars—with the entente cordiale?

I agree with the noble Lord. Harmonious arrangements and harmonious affairs between nations are the way to increase trade and investment, and we all benefit from that. Let us hope that harmony is restored in these important matters.

My Lords, let the European Union be as protectionist as it wishes. Does my noble friend the Minister accept that it is for the benefit of British consumers and manufacturing businesses to have access to imports from the rest of the world at the lowest cost and with the least bureaucracy and fuss? Do the Government have a plan for making this easier?

My noble friend raises an important point. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that businesses get the support they need. It is very interesting that, in 2021, trade with non-EU nations fared relatively better than trade with the EU. Goods imports from other countries exceeded the value of goods imports from the EU for the 10th month in a row. This is global Britain in action.

My Lords, if the Minister is so sure about the situation in Dover, would he be minded to set up a visit for Members of this House so that we can be assured of the situation on the ground?

My Lords, I am sure that the harbour authorities at Dover would be delighted to receive visits from Members of your Lordships’ House, whenever they wished to go there.

My Lords, will the Minister take another stab at the question asked by the Labour Front Bench? Will he provide us with an update on the negotiations with the EU about Ireland and the Northern Ireland protocol? Will he give a commitment, on behalf of the Government, to promote the benefits of the protocol in terms of access to the UK internal market and the EU single market? Businesses in Northern Ireland are already benefiting from these.

My Lords, I have already referred to the efforts that the Foreign Secretary is putting into this matter. My many years of experience —both in this House and outside—have taught me that giving running commentaries on negotiations rarely leads to a good outcome.

Railway Stations: Facilities


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that facilities such as lifts and public toilets at railway stations are (1) in working order, and (2) accessible to both disabled and non-disabled passengers.

My Lords, the department is introducing service quality regimes into national rail contracts. These will monitor the availability and condition of station facilities, including lifts and public toilets. Operators will be required to meet challenging targets to earn their fees. We are working with the Rail Delivery Group to improve the availability of toilet facilities for disabled and non-disabled passengers and the provision of real-time information.

My Lords, for a disabled person relying on a lift to continue their journey, it must be very depressing to come to a station and find that the lift is not working. Why? Is it because parts needed for repairs are not available? Is it because there is no staff to tackle the problem? What is being done to deal with this? With the development of HS2, there will be hundreds more lifts. Will Her Majesty’s Government join rail and lift companies in helping to avoid future problems?

My Lords, the latest information I have on lift performance is that 99.16% are currently in operation. However, that less than 1% must be returned to operation as soon as possible. We are committed to the provision of real-time information on facilities so that those who need to use a lift can know in advance whether or not one is functioning.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, on raising this issue. My own experience is that lavatories on train stations rarely operate. They are blocked and no one takes any interest in them. What is needed is some form of periodic inspection.

My noble friend is absolutely right, and that is exactly what we are putting in place: inspection of lavatories and, indeed, many other facilities. We need monitoring as part of the service quality regime. We will use independent auditors, who will check stations and trains in each rail reporting period. They will look at the availability and presentation of key facilities, cleanliness, information provision, ticketing staff—all sorts of things. That will lead to an uplift in the services.

My Lords, sight loss is another form of disability. The RAIB report on the tragic accident at Eden Park underlined the urgent need for all platforms to have tactile paving. The Government’s stock Answer to Written Questions on this tells us that 60% of stations have tactile surfaces, but we know that in many cases that coverage is only partial within each station. Can the Minister tell us what percentage of stations have full coverage on all platforms? What is the Government’s target date for completing this work? How much will it cost?

Unfortunately, I do not have the figures to hand. As the noble Baroness points out, 60% of stations currently have tactile paving and we are very keen to move that to 100%. One of the key elements of The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail is a national accessibility audit that will look at every single station across the network. It will have a detailed look at the facilities and the standards to ensure that everywhere is accessible.

There is huge regional disparity in disability access at railway stations across the country. As part of the new stations fund, a small number of railway stations have opened in recent years. Can the Government give a commitment that at least all new stations, opened or reopened, will always have full disability access and full access to all facilities for disabled passengers?

I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising that. Although I would love to make that commitment at the Dispatch Box, as it is completely reasonable, I will have to write to him so that I can 100% confirm that that is the case. It is also important that we look at retrofitting the stations that we have. The Government have extended to 2024 the Access For All programme and provided £350 million-worth of funding.

My Lords, I think that a lot of us have an interest to declare on the question of lifts and public toilets—think about it. The Minister was very quick with the exact statistic on the number of lifts working. Could she give us a similar statistic on the number of public toilets that are working at stations? Could she also indicate how many public toilets outside stations have closed in the last 10 years?

Unfortunately, I am unable to give that statistic to the noble Lord, although I assure him that once the independent auditors are out there and checking on the loos, I am sure that statistic will be available. We look forward to it.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that, as well as the difficulty of toilets and lifts that do not work, the other problem is big gaps between platforms and trains, especially if you are a short person, as our legs are not as long as other people’s? Can she discuss with the train companies how they can improve that position? People can slip between the lines—I believe that that is a regular occurrence—and be badly injured or die as a result. Could the Minister take that up and see what improvements can be made?

I will certainly do as the noble Baroness suggests. When stations and platforms are refurbished we consider very carefully the gap between the train and the platform edge, and any serious safety issues it might raise. It is also the case that we have developed the Passenger Assist programme for disabled passengers much more in recent years. An app was launched in May 2021 so that disabled passengers can book their assistance online. It is used across the industry and has been very well received.

My Lords, the Punjabi word for travel is “safara”. Does the Minister think that this is an apt description of the difficulties experienced by disabled and non-disabled people travelling by rail?

Does the Minister agree that, instead of coming forward with some scheme of auditors to examine and then report more accurately the statistics of failure of lifts and toilets, the Government ought to employ some plumbers and electricians to go round, do the audit work and remedy it immediately?

Well, I do not know of independent auditors who are also plumbers and electricians; it is potentially an idea that we could look at. The reality is that independent auditors have a very serious job to do because taxpayers’ money is at stake here. If the train operating companies do not meet the targets for availability of services, they will not get their management fee; if there was subsequently a dispute that ended up in court, the independent auditors have to be of very high quality to ensure that such a challenge is met appropriately.

It is interesting to hear about these independent auditors. Can the Minister tell us: how many of these wonderful people will there be, how many stations a day will they be expected to audit, will their visits be announced in advance and where will they report to?

I had not expected such interest in these independent auditors and will therefore have to write to the noble Lord.

I know—but, in all seriousness, it is a very serious job that they do. It will be looking not only at loos and how clean they are et cetera, but at ticketing and the availability of staff, with mystery shoppers looking at the helpfulness of staff. All this will feed in to make sure that we can hold the train operating companies to account on behalf of the taxpayer.

Is there an effective complaints system for those like the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, who, when travelling to Scotland perhaps, may find that the loos are not working properly?

Now that is an excellent point; if it does not exist, it absolutely should. Actually, I suggest that anyone would get in touch with the customer services of the relevant train operating company to report a fault.

Ministers: Overseas Travel


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what value for money criteria they use to determine the choice of overseas travel arrangements for ministers.

My Lords, foreign travel is a vital part of diplomacy. The work that Ministers do overseas ultimately delivers for the British people. We have three government planes for government business. They are used by the Prime Minister and Ministers for precisely this purpose. This is standard practice and in the national interest. Every government decision is based on “value for money” in accordance with the Ministerial Code, and the FCDO publishes the costs related to overseas ministerial travel as part of the quarterly transparency return.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that Answer and for quoting the Ministerial Code. I shall also quote from the code, at paragraph 10.2, which says in relation to overseas visits and their costs that

“Ministers will wish to be satisfied that their arrangements could be defended in public.”

The visit by the Foreign Secretary to Australia is reported to have cost half a million pounds, when there were plenty of scheduled flights. I understand that she would not want to be trussed up in economy, but she could go in business or first class. Is it really an expenditure that the Government can defend, to spend all this money—half a million—on one visit?

My Lords, I am not going to get into the figures; as I have already said, the Government are already very transparent on ministerial travel. There is a serious point to this: the Foreign Secretary is the lead diplomat for the United Kingdom. Travelling on commercial transport is often an option that she considers but, in the current environment, particularly when we have a crisis in Ukraine, as well as in terms of her receiving confidential briefings and being able to work directly with her team while travelling—and let us not forget also the security that accompanies her—it is quite right that a considered decision is taken at the appropriate time for each Minister. When compared to other countries, particularly those within the G7, this is very reflective of what our partners do.

My Lords, first, I question the amount that was mooted in the press. Notwithstanding that, to wet-lease a long-haul commercial aircraft such as an Airbus A330 would cost approximately £6,000 per nautical mile. In this case, the Voyager—the government aircraft—costs around two-thirds less. In addition, we fly the flag. Therefore, does my noble friend agree that, quite rightly, the Royal Family takes precedence but it also makes sense that the Prime Minister and senior Ministers and officials should take full advantage of these facilities in the interests of the United Kingdom?

I repeat, just in case noble Lords opposite did not hear, that I agree with my noble friend, who, thanks to her own experience in the European Parliament, has great insight into the value and importance of diplomacy at the highest level. This is a serious business. There are many noble Lords across your Lordships’ House who fully understand and comprehend the importance of ministerial travel, particularly, when it comes to senior members of the Government such as the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, the importance of both security and confidentiality in the meetings they conduct.

When so many people are having to resort to food banks and are terrified about the rise in the cost of living, did the Foreign Secretary not display a rather Marie Antoinette “let them eat cake” attitude?

My Lords, I know and work with the Foreign Secretary and frankly, that is not a suitable remark to make about the most senior diplomat in our country. She makes very considered decisions. We are going to have a Statement on Ukraine shortly: let us just reflect on that. There are many issues of international diplomatic importance—[Interruption.] The noble Baroness has asked me a question; she should do me the courtesy, at least, of listening to the response, even if she does not agree with it.

My Lords, there is another important issue here. There is the cost of this individual plane, but the Minister mentioned three planes. I have the Prime Minister’s letter here, and he talks about all government departments having an ambition on net zero. Just exactly how does the FCDO measure its ambitions on climate change when it has three planes sending a very small team across the world? No one disputes the need to travel, but surely the FCDO should take its climate-change ambitions seriously.

My Lords, I have listened very carefully and let us be quite clear: this is not an FCDO plane. It is leased, as my noble friend pointed out, through the Cabinet Office and it is open to all Ministers at senior levels to make a considered decision for their department. On the important point the noble Lord makes, every flight contributes to the UK’s emissions trading scheme, and we pay a voluntary carbon offset credit for each flight taken.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that not only do these planes uphold the dignity of the state, but they are no more than workplaces for Ministers and their staff to discuss and manage things diplomatically and securely on long journeys?

My Lords, my noble friend speaks with great insight about the serious decisions taken at the heart of government. Just for noble Lords’ interest, the Royal Air Force—as I said, this is government-wide, including planes provided for the Royal Family—has one A330, one commercially operated A321 and one BAE146. The United States has two VC-25s, eight C-32As and two C-40 Clippers. France—the list goes on. In the United Kingdom, the decisions taken on travel for every Minister of course take value for money into account. However, the Foreign Office, the Department for International Trade and a number of other departments undertake vital work internationally, and sometimes, as I have already said, when the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary travel, they not only travel with security but conduct business on those planes. This would not be possible on any commercial flight.

My Lords, do government planes carry chargeable payloads to offset costs, thereby giving extra value for money to the taxpayer, and if not, why not?

My Lords, I have already talked about the issue of the carbon footprint. In terms of the specifics, security assessments are taken. The schedules of these planes and flights can change very quickly. Indeed, when my right honourable friend was visiting Australia, she had to make adjustments to her schedule because of the crisis situation in Ukraine. These are not normal commercial flights; they have to adapt to ministerial needs and government priorities—and I know there are many noble Lords across this Chamber who know that.

My Lords, the emissions from this flight would have been 3,955 pounds of CO2. Does the Minister believe that that is good value for money in terms of Britain’s reputation? Would the best way of flying the flag not have been to have shown our environmental credentials and ensured that the Foreign Secretary flew in the most environmentally friendly way possible? Can the Minister assure us that the flights concerned were fully offset with tree planting, at the very least?

My Lords, as I have said, decisions are taken on ministerial travel and when they concern those in the most senior positions, that is done with due consideration to their direct responsibilities—that includes my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and others—while ensuring that there is value for money.

We are leaders when it comes to climate change—we are the COP president—as has been illustrated by the UK’s leadership on this agenda. On offshore wind, for example, we are world leaders. We continue to demonstrate real credentials and work with partners on this.

For the noble Baroness’s interest, as she has articulated Australia so specifically, the visit led to a number of important agreements with one of our key regional partners, including a cyber partnership and an agreement on closer UK-Australia co-operation on clean, honest and reliable infrastructure investment in the Indo-Pacific. The Foreign Secretary also signed a deal with South Australia to boost businesses, and she attended vital Australia-UK dialogues together with my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary. This is important diplomacy at an important time for this country, and I am sure many noble Lords support that.

My Lords, the reasons the Minister has given in justification—namely, security and the wish of Ministers to work while travelling—are surely applicable to all Ministers. Can we therefore expect more half-million-pound flights?

My Lords, it is not the wish of any Minister but a necessity. When we travel abroad—I have just returned this morning from abroad—we are working and reading on the plane. However, I am not at the most senior level of government. I am not the Foreign Secretary. The Foreign Secretary is responsible for many agencies’ work and has many papers to sign, as well as receiving confidential briefings. Therefore, a considered decision is taken. It is right that, particularly for the most senior people in government, decisions to travel are taken ensuring that security is kept in mind, but also that international affairs are the priority of the agenda.

Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill

Second Reading

Moved by

Debated in Grand Committee on 27 January.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Grand Committee.

Russia: Sanctions


The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Monday 31 January.

“With permission, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on what we are doing to tackle Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Moscow’s malign intent is clear: it has massed over 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s frontier and Russian forces are continuing to arrive in Belarus. It is only eight years since Russia illegally annexed Crimea and stoked conflict in the Donbass region, so we know that the danger is real. They have been pursuing a campaign of hybrid warfare aimed at destabilising the country. Just last week, we exposed the Kremlin’s plans to install a puppet regime in Kiev.

This threatening behaviour towards a sovereign, democratic, independent country is completely unacceptable. It is a clear violation of the commitments and obligations that Russia freely signed up to, from the Helsinki Final Act and the Minsk protocols to the Budapest memorandum, which guaranteed to

“respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.”

The only way forward is for Russia to de-escalate, pull back its troops and engage in meaningful talks on the basis of those existing obligations. That is why the UK is determined to lead the way through deterrence and diplomacy.

The Prime Minister will travel to the region this week, and later today the UK will be joining discussions at the UN Security Council to apply further pressure on Russia to take the diplomatic route. I will be flying out to Moscow over the next fortnight. That builds on our campaign of diplomatic engagement over recent weeks and months. I have led calls from the G7, NATO and the OSCE to urge Russia to desist from its reckless and destabilising activities in Ukraine, as well as in Georgia, the Baltics and the Western Balkans. I have raised these issues directly with the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov. Both the United States and NATO have set out areas where we could explore reciprocal measures to increase transparency, reduce risk and take forward arms control. The ball is firmly in Russia’s court.

While we are determined to accelerate those efforts, we do so from a position of strength. We are combining dialogue with deterrence. That is why the Prime Minister is considering options for further deployments of our Armed Forces, to reassure and protect allies on NATO’s eastern flank. We are preparing to offer to support NATO with additional fast jets, warships and military specialists. As NATO’s biggest spender in Europe on defence, we are prepared to deploy our forces accordingly.

We have been very clear that a united alliance would meet any further Russian invasion of Ukraine with massive consequences for Russia’s interests and economy. We are preparing an unprecedented package of co-ordinated sanctions with our partners, which would impose severe costs. Today, I am setting out our readiness to act. We will be laying legislation before the House that will significantly strengthen our hand in dealing with Russia’s aggressive action towards Ukraine. It will go further than ever before.

Until now, the UK has only been able to sanction those linked to the destabilisation of Ukraine. This new legislation will give us the power to sanction a much broader range of individuals and businesses. We will be able to target any company that is linked to the Russian state, engages in business of economic significance to the Russian state, or operates in a sector of strategic significance to the Russian state. Not only will we be able to target these entities, we will also be able to go after those who own or control them. This will be the toughest sanctions regime against Russia we have ever had, and it is the most radical departure in approach since leaving the European Union. Those in and around the Kremlin will have nowhere to hide.

We will make sure that those who share responsibility for the Kremlin’s aggressive and destabilising action will share in bearing a heavy cost. Their assets in the UK will be frozen. No UK business or individual would be able to transact with them, and should they seek to enter the UK, they would be turned back. Laying this legislation now will enable us to act in concert with the United States and other partners rapidly, multiplying our collective impact. We will use these new powers in a targeted manner, designed to damage the interests of those who bear greatest responsibility for Russia’s actions and exert the greatest pressure to change course. I will not say now exactly who we may target, or with what measure, but Moscow should be clear that we will use these new powers to maximum effect if it pursues its aggressive intent towards Ukraine. Nothing is off the table.

We are also standing with our Ukrainian friends by providing vital support to help them defend themselves. That is why we are supplying the country with defensive, anti-tank missiles, and deploying a training team of British personnel. We have already trained over 21,000 members of the Ukrainian army through Operation Orbital. In addition, we are stepping up our investment in Ukraine’s future, ramping up support for trade up to £3.5 billion, including £1.7 billion to boost Ukraine’s naval capability. We will continue to stand united with Ukraine.

It might seem hard to believe that in the 21st century the citizens of a proud, sovereign, European democracy are living under the threat of invasion. We know from the lessons of history that this course of action would benefit no one. I do not believe that ordinary Russian citizens want to enter into an intractable quagmire of needless death and destruction that could rival the Soviet-Afghan war or the conflict in Chechnya. Indeed, we have no quarrel whatsoever with the Russian people, only with the policies pursued by its leader. It is time for the Kremlin to step back from the brink, to de-escalate and to enter into meaningful dialogue. If it does not, it should be in no doubt: we will be ready to use the powers that I have set out today to maximum effect. We will join our allies and partners to ensure that such reckless action will bring strategic consequences at a massive cost. We will defend freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

I commend this Statement to the House.”

My Lords, I welcome this Statement. I hope I can show a bit of unity with the Minister and he will not get so upset.

This House remains united in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, and we continue to support the principle of sovereignty in the face of aggression. Any sanctions must be targeted and extensive if they are to be the most effective. We must take aim at corrupt elites and comprehensively cover the most crucial sectors of the Russian economy. However, as much as it is welcome that the Government are preparing for these measures, I am concerned that they will not be paired with much broader measures needed to crack down on illicit Russian finance in the United Kingdom.

The noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, wrote to me on 9 December following my questions relating to the full implementation of the ISC Russia report. In that letter, the noble Lord refers to a “cross-government Russia unit” but gives very little detail. Of course, the ISC said that there appears to be a plethora of plans and strategies with direct relevance to the work on Russia by the organisations it oversees. The integrated review acknowledged the need to bring together elements of our work across the strategic framework at home and overseas, using all the instruments available to government in an integrated response. I hope that this afternoon the Minister will be able to tell us what has happened and where the details are on this strategic framework approach.

Six months ago, the Government said that they were finalising their report into how more than 700 Russian millionaires were fast-tracked for British residency via their so-called golden visa scheme, yet in response to Stephen Kinnock yesterday, the Foreign Secretary simply said:

“We are reviewing the tier 1 visas that were granted before 5 April.”—[Official Report, Commons, 31/1/22; col. 60.]

It is shocking that the Foreign Secretary did not have a proper answer to my honourable friend’s question. We have been giving out these visas to thousands of Russian oligarchs. Some £4 million has been donated to the Conservative Party by seven individuals who have deep and highly dubious links to the Kremlin. Can the noble Lord tell us what action the Government will take on the visas, and when they will do so? More importantly, when will we see the economic crime Bill, which will be so necessary to ensure a joined-up approach on these issues? When will the Government consider introducing a register of overseas entities Bill, foreign agent registration laws or new counterespionage legislation? We are still lacking detail on when we can expect Bills—which have previously been announced—to repair the gaping hole in our defence. Will the noble Lord tell the House when we can expect the promised computer misuse Bill and the counter-hostile state Bill to be brought to the House? Can the Minister say when the Government’s cyber co-ordination centre will be operational to help tackle these threats? These are all actions required to be taken urgently.

I believe that, to be successful, sanctions must form part of a unified and coherent response across our allies, and I understand that the noble Lord shares this aspiration. Can he say what steps we are taking to work with the G7, NATO and the OSCE to ensure that we act in unison with all our allies on these important matters?

Sanctions are always effective deterrents, but the Government must also pursue a diplomatic solution. I mentioned yesterday, in response to the Statement on the Sue Gray report, that I found it pretty shocking that the Prime Minister cancelled his phone call to President Putin at a time when such talks are vital to peace and security. Can the Minister say this afternoon when the Prime Minister will make sure that those discussions take place? Will that call be rearranged? It is vital that we have answers to all these questions.

My Lords, I put on record my appreciation for the Minister telephoning yesterday and alerting me to the Statement. He is courteous and approachable, and it is very much appreciated. I hope that his overseas visit was a success. However, as the noble Lord indicated, a telephone meeting with President Putin was postponed and a maskless Foreign Secretary contracted Covid and was unable to travel. It is embarrassing to me, and perhaps others, that the whole world now follows what we see at home: failures in leadership and an increasingly grubby Government.

However, we support moves to shore up the ability to ensure that there is a severe economic response to unwarranted Russian aggression towards Ukraine. Two weeks before Christmas, the EU and the US reached an agreement on what expanded economic sanctions would be. Our announcement, which is welcome, is a consequence of this. But, as with most things, it has a little bit of overselling attached to it.

UK FDI stocks in Russia are currently £12.3 billion —an increase of 25% during Liz Truss’s tenure as International Trade Secretary. Since the unacceptable invasion of Crimea, UK FDI stock in Russia has gone up by 50%. What actions will the Government take to stem this flow? I previously asked what contingency arrangements are in place for guidance for UK businesses that are currently conducting legitimate business that will become illegitimate as a result of any actions. The European Central Bank has done a sensitivity study with banks on exposure to Russia. Has the Bank of England done the same? What guidance is being provided to global oil and energy trading and shipping insurance with trade with Russia, which is primarily done through the City of London and will be the target of US and other sanctions?

Can the Minister explain why economic crime has been downgraded in the UK over the last few years? When Ben Wallace was Minister of State for Security, he was Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime. Damian Hinds is Minister for Security and Borders. There is no Minister for economic crime. As my noble friend Lady Ludford said yesterday, although the Foreign Secretary has said that there will be “nowhere to hide” for Russian oligarchs and their money, they have been hiding in plain sight in Chelsea, Belgravia and Mayfair.

As a December report from Chatham House indicated, the grim details of London’s world centre of kleptocracy have created a wider malaise in England’s legal system. Given this Conservative Government’s inactivity, so clearly identified in Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee reports over many years, it is legitimate to ask whether the Government are crying wolf again.

Yesterday, the Business Minister was unable to give details of what will be in the economic crime Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, asked the Home Office Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, why there have been

“few, if any, successful prosecutions”

on unexplained wealth orders. She replied:

“There have been some, and as I have explained to the House, it is quite complex and sometimes these things are very difficult to secure. There is more work to be done.”

Of course these are difficult and complex matters, but they will not be less so next week. Therefore, that is not an excuse for inaction.

Referring to President Putin, the noble Lord, Lord Austin of Dudley, asked:

“given that he has invaded Crimea, assassinated his opponents here in the UK and looted Russia’s economy, thereby impoverishing … Russian citizens, why have the Government not considered doing this anyway?”

Under the anti-corruption regulations, those that will be in scope under the new measures are currently in scope for sanctions. The Minister replied:

“The noble Lord is absolutely right. I am not party to some of the discussions going on in the FCDO and elsewhere, but he highlights the point that we have a major problem with regard to the influence here.”—[Official Report, 31/1/22; cols. 617-18.]

I think that the whole House welcomed that admission, after months of denials by the Government. We have a major problem, and if we are now being asked to put in place new measures, which may well be welcome, we have legitimate questions to ask about this Government’s motivation to properly clamp down on those who are doing us harm.

Will the Government finally accept the case for fast-tracking beneficial ownership legislation and the Bill that has been introduced in the Commons by Layla Moran MP? Will they urgently accept the amendments on golden visas proposed by my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire? If the Government are serious about this, they have two key opportunities now—will they take them?

My Lords, first, I thank both noble Lords for their support. I fully accept that it is right that we are challenged with questions as Ministers and on important issues such as the situation in Ukraine. It is important when we look towards Ukraine that the Government, together with all parties and voices across both Houses of Parliament, come together in calling out the challenging and ever-increasing presence of Russian troops, almost in a crescent shape, across Ukraine and Belarus; this is causing particular concern in the eastern part of the country. There is also the annexation of Crimea, of course.

Notwithstanding us having just done a Question on ministerial travel and where Ministers wish to work— as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, it is a requirement that we work beyond what we may be conducting in our business—I am grateful to both noble Lords. I also sought to call the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. I hope that he received the message I had to leave for him; I regret that I was unable to speak to him in advance.

The noble Lords, Lord Collins and Lord Purvis, rightly asked questions on various issues of illicit finance. I will certainly outline some of the steps that the Government have taken on the specific issue of the economic crime Bill, which was raised by both noble Lords. This also came up in the other place with my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister reiterated, during the democracy summit, the Government’s commitment to seeking to introduce it this year. I assure noble Lords that I have also made sure, in terms of my own responsibilities at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, of the importance of this Bill.

In terms of what the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, raised about what will be in the Bill, the Government have already, as he will be aware, produced the national economic crime plan; there are various elements within that. We created the National Economic Crime Centre in 2018 and, including previous legislation, there was the ground-breaking Criminal Finances Act 2017. In addition, the recent UK spending review announced new investment of £18 million in 2022-23 and £12 million per year in 2023-25 for economic crime reforms, as well as £63 million to reform Companies House, which will go in part towards addressing some of the issues that noble Lords have raised, on beneficial ownership in particular.

I note the Bill that the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, pointed to. Of course, the Government are committed. I took through the legislation—with the noble Lord, Lord Collins, as I recall, on the Opposition Benches—of the SAMLA Bill. We gave a commitment and continue to work, for example, with our overseas territories. We have exchange of notes operational with key members of the overseas territories family, but they are all now committed to ensuring that operational public registers are fully functional by 2023.

Sanctions were mentioned, which I also want to bring into the context of the point that the noble Lord, Lord Collins, raised about Russia. When we introduced the global human rights sanctions regime, as noble Lords will be aware, we broadened the scope. The global anticorruption sanctions regime has been used specifically to target those individuals from Russia, sanctioning 14 individuals involved in the $230 million tax fraud in Russia uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky himself.

I know that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary alluded to the issue of tier 1 visas. Of course, while this is a Home Office lead, it also involves the National Crime Agency, and we will continue to bring the full weight of law enforcement to those who threaten the security of the UK and our allies. More broadly, the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, asked about the current changes we are bringing and the remit—that is, which individuals and organisations they would apply to. Just to be clear, under the current regime, the UK has been able to sanction only individuals linked to the destabilisation or undermining of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. This new approach, with the governance structures—I am not talking specifically about who or which organisation may be designated—will allow us to target any company that is linked to the Russian state, engages in business of economic significance to the Russian state or operates in a sector of strategic significance to the Russian state. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, mentioned a number of those sectors.

Of course, I will work—as I have previously—with noble Lords across the House, but particularly with the Front Benches, to bring both greater detail through direct questions in your Lordships’ House and more detailed insights on the approach. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, will smile at this, but I am not going to speculate on the individuals or organisations that may be sanctioned under this broader regime. Of course, the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, is right that there are implications in certain key sectors. The issue of guidance and not just the implications for those who may be sanctioned but the wider impact on those sectors and industries is an important consideration. I assure the noble Lord that that is very much part of our thinking.

If I may, I have a final point, which picks up on some of the questions that the noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked about specific acts and specific points. I will, of course, follow up my letter to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, as well and copy in the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, and other noble Lords.

On the point that the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, raised about leadership, he may be aware—but he may not be—that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister is currently en route to Ukraine; he may well have arrived. He is having talks directly with President Zelensky. We are also announcing further support of £88 million, particularly looking more broadly at the economic and energy impacts of any steps that Russia may take. The noble Lord raised the issue of the call to President Putin. That is being prioritised, looked at and arranged. Certainly, we hope that it will happen very soon.

On the general point about my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, the noble Lord said that, again, it shows a lack of British leadership. I challenge him in this respect. Looking back over the last two months at the engagement of my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary on the issue of Ukraine, on 1 December, she met the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, and on 2 December, she met the Russian Foreign Minister. I am sure I speak for all noble Lords around your Lordships’ House in wishing my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary a speedy and full recovery. She is certainly looking to undertake her responsibilities in terms of engaging directly in Moscow. She announced yesterday that she is looking to travel to Moscow within the timeline of the next two weeks; subject to her recovery and ensuring that all processes are in place, we are looking to do exactly that.

My right honourable friend has also met with the G7, as the Prime Minister has already. On 13 December, he had a call with President Putin. He had a further call with the Ukrainian president, President Zelensky, whom he is visiting. The Foreign Secretary had a phone call with members of the OSCE. She had phone calls with UN Secretary Blinken on 23 December—to name just one of them—and with the EU policy chief, Josep Borrell. On 30 December, she had a phone call with Foreign Minister Le Drian, Secretary Blinken and German Foreign Minister Baerbock, and, most recently, she had a call with the German Foreign Minister. My colleague, Minister Heaton-Harris, spoke with Deputy Foreign Minister Titov on 26 January. The Foreign Secretary had a call with the Dutch Foreign Minister on 1 February, and, as I said, she intends to visit Moscow, health permitting.

I can provide a full list of engagements. I have not counted other Ministers; indeed, I hope to be in Estonia next week as part of our responsibilities on the Media Freedom Coalition. However, part of my engagement with the Estonian Foreign Minister, where our troops are based, will be on the situation of Ukraine.

My Lords, during last Wednesday’s Statement to the House, I suggested that, prior to supporting a proxy war military intervention, and now sanctions, all concerned should read material from the National Security Archive at George Washington University, which reveals assurances given to the Soviets on NATO expansion—an issue at the heart of the Russian case. Was my suggestion followed up or ignored? Will not those undertakings given to the Russians not go away and, in the end, become central to this whole debate on both sanctions and the potential for conflict?

The noble Lord is right on his specific suggestion but, on his broader point about the importance of diplomacy, that is exactly what Her Majesty’s Government are doing, along with our key partners. It is important, though, that Russia also recognises that it is about its actions. Let us not forget that Crimea was annexed—what, eight years ago?—and it has subsequently continued to take aggressive stances on the borders of Ukraine. I said earlier that we have now seen over 100,000 Russian troops amassing across three different fronts. These are not mere exercises; they are attempts to intimidate Ukraine. It is important that we stand with Ukraine and underline the support that we give to it, including what the sanction would be if there was a Russian incursion or invasion into any parts of Ukrainian territory. It is important that Russia understands that message, which is articulated not just by the United Kingdom but by us and our allies. I assure the noble Lord that the door of diplomacy, as I said in my previous answer, is very much open and the UK is at the forefront of that.

My Lords, is it not possible to secure the involvement of the United Nations Security Council more fully in the Ukrainian situation? Is that not the formula we followed back in 1982 when, despite Russian resistance, Resolution 503 was duly passed? It authorised, among other things, the noble Lord, Lord West—Commander West, as he then was—to set sail for the south Atlantic. Sadly, 22 of his brave colleagues did not return.

My Lords, I am very appreciative, as I often say, for the insights, experience and wisdom within your Lordships’ House. On the specific point that my noble friend raises in relation to the United Nations, as he will note, a meeting on this very issue took place at the Security Council. On initiatives which could be taken, we should never close the route to diplomacy. I believe Russia is now in the chair of the UN Security Council, so surely there is a greater onus on the presidency to demonstrate how it can bring different countries together.

My Lords, I welcome the balance that the Minister and the Foreign Secretary have struck between maximising the pain for corrupt, mafia-like elites while minimising damage for ordinary Russians, who have suffered quite enough under Vladimir Putin. Can the Minister say whether cutting Moscow from the SWIFT financial system and cancelling the Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline are being given serious consideration in the event of an invasion of Ukraine? Will he also elaborate on the co-ordination of the efforts with our closest allies that he has been describing to the House?

My Lords, I can certainly provide more details on the noble Lord’s second question. Yes, we are working with key allies, as I indicated, over the course of the last two months and beyond. We have been working with our key European allies and directly with the EU. We have been working with the United States, as well as partners further afield, on how we can act together on the situation in Ukraine. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, mentioned the importance of sanctions and working together in a co-ordinated fashion. I assure the House that we are doing exactly that. On the first question of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, I fear that if I was to say anything further it would run to speculation. But, as my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said yesterday in the House of Commons, whether our approach is diplomatic or looking at the issue of economics and the cost of Russia, everything is very much on the table.

My Lords, further to the question of my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours, can the Minister tell us, as and when the Prime Minister talks to President Putin—inevitably, the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO will be raised as a Russian concern—what precisely is the Government’s position on the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO?

My Lords, as the noble Lord knows, on the central point of Ukraine joining NATO, it is first and foremost a defensive alliance. A country can make an application and it is considered by all members of NATO. No country should be told specifically that it cannot be a member of a particular alliance; it is very much for Ukraine to request its membership and for members of NATO to decide.

My Lords, the presentation in Washington has often been—as I have seen in recent days—that the United Kingdom has only really acted under American pressure. That does not look good in Washington. Can the Minister reassure us that that was not the case? While we are tackling this issue, late as we are to it, can the Government ensure that we take a broader attitude to the question of Russian influence within the British elite, which the ISC Russia report flagged up three years ago? We need now to deal with not just the immediate question of the Ukraine crisis; there is a much broader question. Lastly, have the Government done any impact assessment of, for example, the implications for the property market in London and the south-east of imposing sanctions?

On the noble Lord’s last point, I suppose I should declare an interest: I am a property owner in London and the south-east. In all seriousness, without going into too much detail, as I said—and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, had to leave, but I recognise the courtesy extended by his note to me—we are looking at the broader impact, as the noble Lord indicated.

On the issue of engagement in Washington, I assure the House that we have been engaging on the front foot. Let us not forget that we have been engaging on this issue longer than the current US Administration. We have always made the case as strong partners of Ukraine—one can ask Ministers present and past in the Ukrainian Government. I have sat with a number of them at the United Nations who have indicated their strong support, not through us asking them, but quite genuinely, for the leadership the United Kingdom has showed in solidarity, support and friendship for Ukraine.

My Lords, the House will understand when the Minister says that it is not in the Government’s gift alone to remove Russia from the SWIFT financial system, but he can say, can he not, if they believe it would be a proportionate measure, if the invasion of Ukraine goes ahead?

My Lords, I know the noble Lord is probing me for more details, but I shall not say any more. I am fully aware of the sensitivity and impact where such steps are taken. As noble Lords will have followed, and as I sought to inform those on the other three Benches in your Lordships’ House, the broader nature of what we can do once the legislation is effected will allow us to sanction organisations and individuals much more broadly and at direct cost to those entities which are Russian or which are owned by Russian entities and operating within the UK.

My Lords, in the event of general economic sanctions being applied—obviously, let us hope that the diplomatic measures that the Minister outlined will bear fruit—given that Russia and Ukraine between them produce one-third of the world’s wheat supply, we will probably see a massive hike in the price of wheat. What assessment have the Government made of the impact of that on UK food prices, and what contingencies are being put in place to find alternate supplies?

My Lords, my noble friend raises a very important point. I think the implications of any sanctions and support are well recognised. I point my noble friend specifically to the steps we have taken just now in support of Ukraine directly, which will be impacted in the first instance, and the new funding I alluded to earlier, looking specifically at the issue of Russian energy supplies. That indicates the seriousness with which the UK recognises the impact of such sanctions.

However, it is important that Russia understands very clearly and unequivocally that its actions of not just taking but retaining territory, annexing territory, as it is threatening to do now further in Ukraine are firmly unacceptable, not just to us but to our allies and the world community generally. Therefore, it is in Russia’s hand to reflect on what is being said, but this is serious. This is a serious point in the crisis, and it is therefore important that we engage diplomatically and directly. That is why my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have said directly to their respective counterparts that they wish to meet to discuss with them. One hopes that the diplomatic channel will bear fruit.

My Lords, like other Members of this House, I support the sanctions that were announced in this Statement. It is crucial that we do not undermine the steps that our Government are taking to get the message to the Russians. The problem is that if the Russians read the international press today, they will get a very different message. The headline in the Washington Post is:

“Britain, the tough-on-Russia ally, is being undermined by London”.

On it is:

“‘Londongrad’ Undermines U.K.’s Tough Talk on Russia Sanctions”.

In the Sydney Morning Herald—with the Secretary of State having just come back from there after a very important visit—it is:

“Billions parked in ‘Londongrad’ undermines Britain’s tough talk on Russia sanctions”.

We can impose sanctions on all of the people identified in this very welcome Statement, but we will not be able to seize their assets because we do not know who owns the assets. If we have to wait until 2023 to have a register that allows our Government to know who owns the assets, then these sanctions will deter no one.

My Lords, London already operates a public register. When I referred to 2023, that was in the context of our overseas territories. We already have a scheme for OTs, called the exchange of notes, which the noble Lord will be aware of. I know directly through its operation, and through speaking to, for example, tax authorities and crime agencies, that they are able to access the necessary information. However, I agree with the noble Lord that there is more to be done on this issue. I outlined some of our plans for greater transparency at Companies House to show greater levels of ownership. I assure the noble Lord that the broadening of what we are seeking to do through the legislation proposed will allow us to target individuals and organisations quite specifically and to freeze their assets as well.

My Lords, the Minister and others have referred to an invasion of Ukraine as a trigger for sanctions. Can the Minister tell me what that invasion will look like? Does it include cyberattacks? Does it include subversion by special forces, who are already in parts of Ukraine, and other such grey activities? How are we going to identify an invasion if the 100,000 troops massed there are just there for strong-arming and for show and will not themselves actually be involved?

My Lords, I alluded to the expertise and insights in your Lordships’ House, and perhaps I should be posing this question to the noble and gallant Lord, who has great insight. The activities of the Russian state and those supported by the Russian state already include such things as the noble Lord alluded to. That has seen some action being taken by the United Kingdom and our key allies and partners. What is very clear is that the physical movement of troops—again, the noble and gallant Lord will know this far better than I—is a real statement of what may come next. To just pass it off as military manoeuvres when the whole of the eastern borders of Ukraine have over 100,000 Russian troops in occupancy is a great cause for concern. Therefore, what we are seeking to do through the Statement, and, importantly, through the widening of legislation and action—be it economic action—is to demonstrate to Russia the real willingness of the alliance and our partners within NATO and Europe to stand up against such further aggression.

As I said, eight years ago Crimea was annexed illegally. No further attempts were made to withdraw troops. I went to Ukraine before Christmas, and saw the anxiety. The massing of troops in Belarus, not that far from Kiev, is causing particular concern, and it is important that we make Statements accordingly. However, behind those Statements must be concerted action.

My Lords, following on from what the noble Lord, Lord Browne, said, when the Soviet Union collapsed just over 30 years ago, people had very little private property. Within a decade, some people had riches beyond the dreams of avarice. Some of that was made legitimately, but a great deal was assets of the Russian state looted by gangsters. A lot of that money then came here. Why are we not pursuing unexplained wealth orders on these people? They have all the money in plain sight and we should be pursuing them now.

My Lords, I praise my noble friend’s impeccable timing, as my dear and noble friend Lady Williams is sitting to my right. My noble friend talked about the issue of these unexplained wealth orders and we have acted. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked earlier about the detail. The same applies for sanctions or any other step that we may take. There is a positive, in that even those with the most sinister motives have, within the United Kingdom, the rule of law. We need to ensure that, whether we are talking of these orders or of sanctions, due process is followed, and with a robustness which allows those sanctions or orders to prevail. The Home Office takes this very seriously, as does the Home Secretary. I assure my noble friend that we will act accordingly.

My Lords, the Minister will be aware that our agencies have a very good idea already about where certain money is, who has it and who it belongs to in these chains, particularly with their links to the City and the people they talk to. Can the Minister assure me that we have been monitoring very closely any movements of money and changes of pattern, because the Russians will be very aware that this is about to happen? Can he also confirm that, as a number of noble Lords have said, we are in a position to move and to hammer these people the moment that this happens, rather than having to wait two or three years for legislation? We are able to do things like that if we put our minds to it. The great joy is that, as a member of the ISC, in two years I will be able to see all the evidence of whether anyone was doing that.

My Lords, of course the Government take these issues very seriously. Often when we talk about sanctions, we talk about where the Government may be looking to sanction an individual or an organisation, and we resist, for the very reasons that the noble Lord illustrates. Giving any intimation or indication of who or what company may be targeted will lead to funds being withdrawn, if assets are held in the United Kingdom. Therefore, we look to be informed by our agencies across the piece, but it is also important to look to the application of law. There are many wise heads within your Lordships’ House on this very issue. We ensure that the letter of the law is applied fairly to any action that the Government may take. Before such a measure is taken, the background and supporting evidence is considered very carefully at a cross-government level. The noble Lord refers to various agencies, and we have some of the best—arguably the best in the world. Their contributions are important to any final decision that the Government take.

My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister can help me with the question of the breadth of sanctions which are to be sought. There is a passage in the Statement which says that:

“We will be able to target any company that is linked to the Russian state”.—[Official Report, Commons, 31/1/22; cols. 55-56.]

Of course, every Russian company is linked to the state under an obligation to report any information which may help to advance the policies of the Russian Government. The effect of this would be that the Government are seeking power to target any Russian company, whether it has a connection with Ukraine or with the United Kingdom.

My Lords, I have already talked through the broader nature of what we as a Government will be allowed to do through legislation. This is enabling legislation. When we look at each individual designation—be it an individual or an organisation—that will be considered very carefully. However, it is important that Russia recognises that its actions in Ukraine are being not just noticed but acted upon. Therefore, it is important that we are seen to act, and to act with our partners accordingly.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Committee (2nd Day)

Relevant documents: 7th and 9th Reports from the Joint Committee on Human Rights and 11th Report from the Constitution Committee

Amendment 34

Moved by

34: After Clause 10, insert the following new Clause—

“Acquisition of British citizenship by birth or adoption: comprehensive sickness insurance

(1) The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 is amended as follows.(2) After section 15, insert—15A Comprehensive sickness insurance(1) For the purposes of any decision taken by a public authority under this Part after commencement of this section, a person is to be treated as having met a requirement to have held comprehensive sickness insurance, whenever they—(a) had access to the NHS in practice, or(b) held a comprehensive sickness insurance policy.(2) This section applies in particular to any decisions taken under residence scheme immigration rules.”(3) The British Nationality Act 1981 is amended as follows.(4) After section 1(3A) insert—“(3B) A person born in the United Kingdom after commencement who is not a British citizen is entitled, on application, to register as a British citizen if the person’s father or mother would have been settled in the United Kingdom at the time of the person’s birth, if Assumption A had applied.(3C) Assumption A is that, in assessing whether the person’s father or mother met a requirement to have held comprehensive sickness insurance, this is to be regarded as having been satisfied whenever they—(a) had access to the NHS in practice, or(b) held a comprehensive sickness insurance policy.(3D) Registration under subsection (3B) is free of charge.”(5) After section 50A insert—50B ExceptionsNotwithstanding any provision of section 50A, for the purposes of an application for naturalisation or registration made under this Act, a person—(a) is not to be treated as having been in the United Kingdom in breach of the immigration laws during a period of time that has been counted as part of a continuous qualifying period in a grant of leave to that person under Appendix EU of the Immigration Rules, and(b) is not to be treated as not being of good character on account of a failure to hold comprehensive sickness insurance during some period of residence in the UK.””Member’s explanatory statement

This new Clause provides that a person seeking to naturalise as a British citizen, seeking to exercise family reunion rights as a naturalised British citizen, or seeking to have their UK-born children recognised as British at birth, need not have had comprehensive sickness insurance prior to naturalising or prior to the birth of their child.

My Lords, I hope not to have to detain the Committee for too long on this admittedly complicated subject of the anomalous historical legacy of comprehensive sickness insurance—hereafter CSI—because I am hoping that the Minister will spring up, interrupt me and pledge that the Home Office will resolve all the left-over problems faced by some EU citizens today. She was kind enough to meet me virtually last week, and I detected a degree of thoughtfulness in her department on the subject. I cannot yet put it higher than that, but I am hopeful.

Attentive listeners might recall that some of us— especially, perhaps, I—banged on about the obscure issue of CSI at various points in the debates on EU withdrawal and, in particular, on the UK’s EU settlement scheme. It is a long and, in my view, sorry history. I will recap as briefly as I can: in the EU citizens’ rights directive of nearly 20 years ago—which I worked on as a Member of the European Parliament, hence my long-standing interest—so-called free movers were required to have comprehensive sickness insurance; that was the term used. On the continent, health systems are often covered by state insurance systems. In the UK, we have the NHS or private health insurance. Although of course we have national insurance, people do not think of the NHS as an insured scheme. So there has been a long-running problem of EU citizens in Britain who are not employed, such as students, the self-employed and homemakers, being expected—although, crucially, not usually told—to have private insurance. This was a matter of legal dispute in Brussels, which rumbled on, and I do not think it ever got resolved.

Fast forward to Brexit and the acute issue of whether those lacking private health insurance were legally resident in the UK and could seek settled status under the withdrawal agreement. Fortunately, the UK Government wisely cut through that residual red tape and said, in an admirably pragmatic decision, that they would let everyone get settled status. However, often unbeknownst to individuals, they fell into one of two groups: the true cohort and the extra cohort. The significance of this distinction arises only—indeed only becomes known —when a settled person seeks to register a child’s birth, to naturalise themselves as British or to bring a family member to join them in this country. Then they face a veritable series of snakes and ladders, because any historical gap in CSI—private insurance—may make them slide down into a pit of reptilian problems. Only when they seek to register a child, bring in a spouse or become a British citizen might they be told: “Aha! Your historic lack of CSI is a bar.” Noble Lords will recall that it was not a bar to them getting settled status, but it raises its ugly head at this later stage. At the risk of mixing my metaphors, it is Kafkaesque.

Certainly, in the case of bids for naturalisation, caseworkers have—but only through guidance—been given discretion to waive this historic need for CSI to meet the lawful residence requirement. On Report in the other place, the Minister, Kevin Foster, said that

“no one has been refused British citizenship purely on the basis of the CSI requirement in free movement regulations.”

The trouble is that if an applicant has to stump up around £1,300, without the certainty of the outcome because of the discretion for the caseworker, that is a gamble—potentially an expensive one.

I am asking the Government to carry through the pragmatic logic whereby they decided to ignore the past lack of CSI for settled status and now to wipe the slate entirely clean for subsequent immigration applications and statuses. On 7 December, Minister Foster told the other place

“we are considering how the issues could be picked up as part of our work on simplification”.

He hoped that MPs would

“be pleased to hear that we are looking closely at that work.”—[Official Report, Commons, 7/12/21; col. 260.]

That was a bit encouraging.

Perhaps the Minister could give us a more solid basis of hope, in relation not just to naturalisation but to the other applications, such as the registration of a baby’s birth and family reunion. I am sure that millions of EU citizens, resident in and contributing to this country, would be immensely grateful for the peace of mind they would thereby secure. Who knows? Their gratitude might rebound on this Government. I hope for good news. I beg to move.

My Lords, I hesitate to follow my noble friend, who is an expert on this issue. I declare an interest as a British citizen seeking a residence permit in Norway, where I have lived with my husband for the last 14 years. I have always had access to the Norwegian national health system. My application for a residence permit—the equivalent of settled status—has been outstanding for over 12 months because of issues with comprehensive health insurance.

I start by thanking the Government for their generous approach to EU and EEA citizens seeking settled status in the UK. The Government have taken the general approach that, if someone has been living here for years and was legally accessing the NHS when the UK was part of the EU, they do not need to have, to have had or acquire comprehensive health insurance, even if—as with me in Norway—they are not working or studying. This goes beyond the Brexit agreement, but is entirely consistent with the principle that EU and EEA citizens living in the UK prior to Brexit should be able to continue to live here on the same terms after Brexit. It is the right thing to do. I am grateful to the Government for taking such an approach. I wish Norway would do the same.

My understanding of this amendment is that it goes a step beyond settled status—where EU and EEA citizens who have qualified for settled status seek to be naturalised as British citizens, to exercise family reunion rights as a naturalised British citizen, or to have their UK-born children recognised as British at birth. Even though they do not have to have comprehensive sickness insurance for settled status, it currently appears that they may have to have it for citizenship purposes. This amendment seeks to rectify that anomaly between settled status and citizenship. I am getting a nod, so that is okay.

What this amendment seeks to achieve follows on logically from the generous and welcome stance of the British Government on settled status in relation to comprehensive sickness insurance. We support the amendment.

My Lords, we support Amendment 34, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford. We raised this issue in the Commons and pushed it to a Division in Committee. I will not repeat all the points that the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, have made.

I want to make a few observations. This is an opportunity for the Government to clear up an obscure, largely technical anomaly which is having real-world consequences for a number of people. CSI was not required for any EEA or Swiss citizen to live in the UK and to be able to access the NHS. However, it was not generally communicated that this was an additional requirement. Most people now being impacted by this relatively obscure provision had no idea about it.

I do not believe that this should be controversial; it is a sensible change. There are two reasons for that. First, when the Government designed the EU settlement scheme, they chose not to include CSI as a requirement, so they have already decided that this requirement was not necessary and to waive it entirely. Secondly, the Government openly acknowledge that this is causing problems because they have introduced guidance, as we have heard, for caseworkers that some degree of discretion might be exercised where there are compelling grounds for granting citizenship. The amendment simply but constructively builds on that, rather than leaving it up to a vague discretionary power, the flaws of which have been discussed.

This is a simple, clear change to the law to reflect the reality of the situation that prevails in the UK. It is very much in the spirit of rectifying obscure anomalies and barriers in our nationality law, which the early clauses of the Bill, notwithstanding those that are controversial, attempt to do.

I thank both noble Lords for their comments and, in particular, the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, for tabling this new clause about comprehensive sickness insurance, or CSI, which, under EU free movement law, was needed by EEA nationals in certain circumstances in order to reside lawfully in the UK. I was most grateful to have the chance to discuss this with the noble Baroness last week, as she said.

The EEA regulations set out the requirements that EEA nationals had to meet if they wished to reside here lawfully as a qualified person exercising free movement rights. Those who were working in the UK, or indeed who were self-employed, did not need CSI to be here lawfully, but students, the self-sufficient and their family members did. That requirement was set out in published guidance.

I note the noble Baroness’s comments about EEA nationals being able to access the NHS. Under UK legislation, all EEA nationals here under free movement had the ability to access state-provided healthcare on the basis of their ordinary residence, but the requirement to hold CSI ensured that the financial burden of providing free state-funded healthcare did not fall on the host member state, as is the clear objective of free movement law. Therefore, having access to the NHS did not equate with the requirement for CSI, although it could include the European health insurance card, otherwise known as the EHIC, issued by the EEA national’s home state.

The first part of this amendment would amend the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 so that a person is treated as having had CSI if they had access to the NHS in practice or held a CSI policy. However, there is no mention of CSI in the rest of that Act, nor is there any requirement for CSI in the residence scheme immigration rules—the rules for the EU settlement scheme in Appendix EU—for an EEA national to obtain status under the scheme.

Consistent with the citizens’ rights agreements and the relevant EU case law, a so-called Lounes dual EEA/British national can currently sponsor relevant family members under the EU settlement scheme where that national was living in the UK in accordance with free movement law, including any requirement for CSI, before they also acquired British citizenship. However, I am pleased to be able to inform the noble Baroness that the Government have decided that, as a matter of fairness, they will amend the Immigration Rules for the EUSS and the EUSS family permit at the next appropriate opportunity to disapply any requirement for a Lounes dual national to have held CSI in order to sponsor applications by relevant family members.

I think that is one of the only times I will get a “hear, hear” over the course of this Bill, so I will milk it for one small second.

This will mean that such family members will in practice be treated in the same way as an EEA national or their family member in applying to the EUSS or for an EUSS family permit. Their eligibility will not be affected by any past lack of CSI on the part of their sponsor.

The second part of this new clause would create a new registration route for children of EEA nationals. A child born in the UK will be a British citizen automatically if their parent is a British citizen or settled in the UK at the time of the birth. The suggested clause would allow a child who did not become British automatically—because their parent did not have CSI and so could not be settled in the UK—to be registered as a British citizen. The noble Baroness has also proposed that such an application should be free of charge. I note her concerns about doing the right thing for this group, but it would not be right to single out EEA nationals in this way. All those coming to the UK are expected to ensure that they meet the requirements for the route or rights on which they rely to enter and remain, including by paying the immigration health surcharge where applicable.

Nationality legislation provides routes to citizenship for children born in the UK who do not become British automatically. Like other nationals, once an EEA parent becomes settled in the UK, they can of course apply for their child to be registered as a British citizen. The EU settlement scheme allows them to be given “settled status” on the basis of five years’ continuous, but not necessarily lawful, residence in the UK.

The third part of this new clause would change the requirements for naturalisation so that a person who needed but did not have CSI could still meet the lawful residence and good character requirements. In the other place, concerns were raised that some EEA nationals did not know that they needed CSI. We introduced guidance for naturalisation caseworkers, which set out when discretion can be exercised over the lawful residence requirement. The legislation allows for discretion to be exercised

“in the special circumstances of any particular case”,

which means that each application needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

The current guidance states that it will normally be appropriate to exercise discretion where a person did not meet an additional or implicit condition of stay under EEA regulations—rather than illegal entry or overstaying—and where they can provide sufficient evidence to justify discretion being exercised in their favour. We have been monitoring this and are confident that caseworkers are using the guidance proactively and fairly. I am pleased to say that, to date, I am not aware of anyone having been refused naturalisation solely because they did not have CSI, as the noble Baroness said earlier.

The new clause would change the naturalisation requirement for EEA nationals who did not have CSI and so had not been in the UK lawfully before acquiring settled status. We do not think that we can accept this, as all applicants are required to meet the same requirements for naturalisation in terms of lawful residence, and it would not be right to treat certain nationalities differently.

With that, I hope that the noble Baroness is satisfied with my explanation and will be happy to withdraw her amendment.

My Lords, I do not want to sound churlish at all by asking this question. The “Hear, hears” were probably not as loud as they might have been for Hansard to pick them up; I hope that it does. My question will display my lack of grip of the EU settled status scheme. The Minister said that the Immigration Rules will be changed at the next appropriate opportunity. Am I right in thinking that 29 March is a significant date for those with pre-settled status? As I said, I have a lack of grip of this and an even greater lack of grip in pulling the bits together in my head but, if it is a significant date, then it is a significant question to ask whether the change will be made before 29 March.

I do not have the exact detail on the date. I understand her point about 29 March being a significant date; noble Lords will all be informed in due course of when the changes will come about and I will let the noble Baroness know.

My Lords, just to follow that up, the Minister will understand that I am concerned that some people may fail to qualify because the rules are not changed by that date, so I wonder whether she could come back to us well before then.

My Lords, I certainly welcome a great deal of what the Minister had to say, and I thank her for it. I will have to read Hansard just to make sure that I have mastered every detail of her response. This is an incredibly complicated subject; I think I have forgotten almost everything I thought I knew about settled status. It is one of those things that has become a bit of a blur over the last six years. Certainly, she said some very positive things, and was very clear, in particular, about family reunion rights. I was not entirely sure about the registration of a birth. The Minister maintained the need for discretion and the caseworker guidance for naturalisation. I was not really sure why that was necessary.

With the slight caveat that I will want to read in detail what she said on this complex subject, there is, indeed, room for considerable congratulations and gratitude that the Minister has grasped this issue by the horns. I had better stop the metaphor there. She has made progress, and there is cause for considerable rejoicing. On that note, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 34 withdrawn.

Amendment 35

Moved by

35: After Clause 10, insert the following new Clause—

“European Convention on Nationality

Her Majesty’s Government must within six months of this Act coming into force ratify the European Convention on Nationality 1997.”

My Lords, this might scramble our brains a little less than the last amendment. Amendment 35 would require the Government to ratify the 1997 European Convention on Nationality. This is a Council of Europe treaty, signed, obviously, in 1997, originally by 15 countries. It now has 29 signatories and 21 ratifications. The UK has not followed through on it. In 2002, the then Labour Government said that they planned to ratify it “in due course”, but “due course” has apparently not yet arrived.

The convention sets out the principles to which each country’s nationality laws should conform. The key principles are that everyone has the right to a nationality; statelessness should be avoided; no one should be arbitrarily deprived of his or her nationality; and neither marriage nor the end of a marriage, nor a spouse changing their nationality, should change someone’s nationality. The key part relates to the deprivation of citizenship, preventing states making people stateless unless their citizenship was obtained through fraud, false information or concealment.

The convention sets the bar for deprivation at acts that are seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the state. This was deliberately mirrored in our legislation in 2002, but with the test being lowered in 2006 to cases where the Home Secretary is satisfied that it is conducive to the public good to order a deprivation. Does the UK believe that, as part of a global community, it would be good to be part of a worldwide group of countries in its approach to nationality? Do we want to be an outlier? I beg to move.

My Lords, I shall be exceptionally brief as we had a number of significant debates on statelessness last week and we are only too aware of the crucial issues that we need to reach today.

As we have heard, the 1997 convention provided a series of general principles relating to nationality, including non-discrimination and governing principles on statelessness. I gently point out to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that no Government of any complexion have ratified it since 1997. The Labour Government in 2002 was referred to, but no Government since have ratified it either. That is just a general point.

It would be helpful and constructive for the Committee at this stage of the debate, if the Minister could confirm the following points. These are very detailed, so, to be fair, the noble Baroness may wish to write to us. Do the Government have any plans to consider ratifying the treaty or intend to do so in the near future, and is that under consideration? Have the Government made any assessment of the specific elements of the treaty that they may be opposed to and, if so, could the Minister tell us what they are? Lastly, what are the existing provisions in UK law that are currently outside the provisions of that treaty? It would be helpful to have a bit more detail about the convention, where it relates to existing law and where there are any gaps or points that we may wish to consider in future.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for their brief and succinct points in speaking to the amendment.

British citizenship affords benefits and privileges; the vast majority of us enjoy the freedom that they bring, while of course respecting the rights of others and the rule of law, but there are high-harm individuals who do not share our values. The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, is right that no Government since 1997, including the coalition Government of 2010-15, have ratified the convention, and he is right that we are not going to. The convention does not address the modern threat from global terrorism, among other things, and I would add that Spain, Belgium and Switzerland have not signed it either, perhaps for the same reasons.

The convention on nationality is at odds with domestic law. The Government do not consider it right that our sovereign powers to deprive a person of citizenship should be constrained by signing the convention, as the amendment would oblige us to do. That would severely limit the ability of the Home Secretary to make a deprivation decision in relation to high-harm individuals and those who pose a threat to public safety. Sadly, we have seen too often the effect of terrorist attacks on our way of life and the impact of serious organised crime on the vulnerable. It cannot be right that the Government are not able to use all the powers at their disposal to deal with today’s threats to our way of life.

It is the Government’s duty to keep the public safe and we do not make any apology for seeking to do so. I hope that, with that, the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.

My Lords, I shall be brief because I regard this amendment as an amuse-bouche, if you like, before the very substantial groups to come. I am sure the Minister recognised that this was a probing amendment, as I was asked to find out what the Government’s view was. I think that together we have fulfilled that task. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 35 withdrawn.

Amendment 36

Moved by

36: Before Clause 11, insert the following new Clause—


(1) Not less than six months before this Act comes into force, the Secretary of State must publish a report to Parliament regarding discussions with the governments and authorities of other countries, including those bordering the English Channel and the North Sea, concerning the steps taken or proposed to prevent or deter a person from—(a) charging refugees for assistance or purported assistance in travelling to or entering the United Kingdom;(b) endangering the safety of refugees travelling to the United Kingdom.(2) The report must focus on steps other than the provisions of this Act.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment requires the Secretary of State to publish a report on the actions that are being taken to tackle people smugglers.

My Lords, I shall also speak to the other amendment in this group. The group is about probing what the Government should be doing in the asylum and immigration space instead of this appalling Bill. As I said at Second Reading, the Bill does lots of things that are unnecessary, unhelpful and unreasonable—in fact, some of it is arguably legal—while it does nothing to directly tackle the real issues, one of which is people smuggling.

The fact is that thousands of desperate individuals grudgingly pay people smugglers because they believe there is no other choice; in the overwhelming majority of cases, they are right. If we have learned anything from the war on drugs, for example, it is that, where demand is not allowed by or provided by the state, it will be met by criminals, with all the associated dangers that come from an absence of regulation and control. In this Bill, the Government are targeting the mere 6% of those seeking to move to the UK who are asylum seekers, the most deserving of those who want to settle in the UK in that they are seeking safety from war and persecution rather than career advancement. They are criminalising the users, the asylum seekers, rather than just the suppliers, the people smugglers, and taking away the rights of the users rather than just those of the suppliers. We need to know what the Government are doing to directly target the suppliers—the people smugglers.

This Government are actually helping the suppliers, or people smugglers, rather than the users. We should be in no doubt that by failing to provide sufficient, effective and accessible safe and legal routes, and increasing security around Channel ports, making it almost impossible for individuals to cross the Channel on their own, the Government are helping the people smugglers increase their turnover and their profit margins.

The Government make much of the rhetoric of breaking the people smugglers’ business model. I studied economics at university—back in the day when PPE stood for politics, philosophy and economics rather than personal protective equipment—and I have a master’s degree in business administration. From my knowledge and experience, it appears to me that the Government do not understand business models or how to break them. These amendments aim to probe what the Government are doing to target the real criminals in all of this, the people smugglers, rather than targeting innocent, desperate seekers of sanctuary, which is what most of the Bill is actually about. I beg to move.

My Lords, I will say a little more than I have on the two previous groups. I think Amendment 36, which the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has tabled with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and to which I have added my name, is a brilliant amendment.

Amendment 129, which I have signed with the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, seeks to give a practical illustration of what may be done and should be done. Frankly, most of us would believe that it is a no-brainer type of amendment that we would expect the Government to approve with the stroke of a pen. I will speak just briefly to this amendment, because I want to come back to Amendment 36, which is a better amendment than mine, to be frank; it is more wide-ranging and encompassing. I am sure that noble Lords have looked at it with the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, who has apologised for being unable to be with us today. The amendment proposes a new clause, headed:

“Advertising assistance for unlawful immigration to the United Kingdom”.

Social media platforms are advertising how they can help illegal immigration into our country. Sky News googled it and came up with a list of the adverts.

No wonder sometimes people stop you in the street and say, “Do you know what you’re doing?”, because we would assume that the Government would stop illegal activity, published on a website for people to use while being exploited. The Minister should at least respond by saying, “Lord Coaker, you are quite right. Nobody condones that. We don’t condone it, and this is what we’re going to do about it.” I know that social media companies are difficult; there are platforms and there are ways around it. But we should at least make the effort to say that we are doing everything within our power to stop social media platforms being used in such a way by these criminal gangs.

Therefore, Amendment 129 speaks for itself. The explanatory statement says:

“This amendment would provide it is an offence to advertise illegal routes to the UK.”

Who could object to that? The amendment may be flawed—it may not be right or accurate or it may not meet the test of the lawyers who could look at it—I have no idea. But I do not think that anyone would disagree with an attempt to do that. So, if it is not right, perhaps the Government could tell us what they are doing or what amendment they will bring forward to do that, and we could look forward to that on Report or some other government action. I know that the Minister and the Government will disagree with that, so the question is: what will we do about it?

Having spoken to my amendment, also signed by the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, I will come back to that of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I apologise; I know that we want to get to Clause 11, which we will oppose and which is a shocking part of the Bill. But the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, was quite right when he spoke about Amendment 36, which deals with the people smugglers—where else in the Nationality and Borders Bill are they actually being dealt with by the Government?

I do not know whether noble Lords saw it, but, today and yesterday, the Times, the Telegraph and other newspapers reported the latest statistics on migrant crossings. I make no comment on what is causing them, but it is a statistical fact that the Home Secretary promised that she would sort this out and deal with it and the Government promised that they would be tough on the borders and said that the point of leaving the EU was that we would take back control. There is all of that, but then we look at the statistics: the number of migrants crossing the channel this January has gone up six times compared with last year. There should be a Statement by the Home Secretary in the Commons. Whatever the rights and wrongs, and whatever the causes, this is an astonishing increase. We find out that this means that there have been 46 boats, compared with 15 last year. By the way, it is also pointed out that the French stopped 29 boats last month. I know that we do not think that they do anything, but they did stop 29. Perhaps they should have stopped more, but they are doing something.

We find out something else here—this is why I am spending some time on this and why the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, is quite right in her amendment. We find out that part of the Government’s plan, announced in the Times and the Telegraph—not here, unless it was put in a Written Ministerial Statement or Question that I cannot find; it may have been, and I apologise if it was—is locking up all single male migrants. This is according to the Secretary of State for Defence, who outlined further details of the plan for dealing with this—perhaps that is what would appear in a report that would come forward under Amendment 36. This may be the right policy, but I would have thought that that would be a subject for debate in Parliament. It is a fairly major thing to say that you are going to do—it must be a change, and it must be government policy because the Secretary of State announced it in the Times and the Telegraph today and yesterday. I saw it in the Times only about an hour ago—noble Lords may be better informed than me—while I was reading the sport section. I just flicked through the paper and there it was, and I thought, “Goodness me.” But, seriously, that is a really serious policy initiative that will be part of the plan to deal with migrants crossing the channel. The only point that I am making is that we should debate and discuss whether we believe that this is an appropriate way of dealing with this.

I was further shocked. I also deal with defence, and I asked the Defence Minister in the Lords about this. Tom Pursglove, who is a Member in the other place in the Home Office, said in the Times that the Bill will

“strengthen the powers of Border Force to stop and redirect vessels”.

This is how a Home Office Minister in the other place described what is in the Bill.

I thought that this was not the Government’s policy any more. Certainly, the Defence Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, who spoke for them on this—I do not mean to misquote her—told me that. That is push-back by another name. Redirecting boats or strengthening the powers of the Border Force to stop and redirect boats is push-back. This is simple: it is either yes or no. They are not going to use a destroyer—nobody is that stupid about this; they will not have a naval destroyer pushing a dinghy back—but is a naval commander going to be able to direct a smaller Border Force vessel to redirect a dinghy, as Tom Pursglove MP said in the papers today? I thought the Government had given up on that policy. Certainly, as I understood it, the Ministry of Defence’s understanding was that it was not going to require the Border Force to do that. I apologise if I am confusing noble Lords but I am confused by the Government’s policy. I thought it was one thing, but now, according to the papers, it appears to be another.

All I am saying is that you can see why the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, is so important, because it would require the Government to publish reports on what is going on regarding discussions with Governments and authorities, not only of our own country but of others, to tackle the smugglers. These people are not finding the dinghies themselves, collaborating with 30 other people—or whatever the numbers are—and deciding that they are all going to pile on. These people are exploited by the people smugglers, yet this is mentioned hardly anywhere in the Bill. Indeed, instead of dealing with the smugglers, the Bill changes the way we treat refugees and victims fleeing war and persecution, who are being loaded on to these boats. They are regarded almost as the criminals rather than the real criminals. That is what noble Lords will come on to when they discuss Clause 11 and other parts of the Bill. I cannot tell the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, how important this is. That is why I am labouring this: Amendment 36 is really important.

If noble Lords get the chance to have a look, Amendment 36 also says, quite rightly, in proposed new subsection (2):

“The report must focus on steps other than the provisions of this Act.”

What sensible person, in seeking to deal with people smuggling, refugees and asylum seekers, does not also believe and understand that part of the solution lies in dealing with the situations that individuals are fleeing from? I have not spoken to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, about this, but I suspect that what she is also trying to do through this amendment is say that you deal with asylum seekers and refugees not through sanctions, provisions, criminalising people and making them afraid but by addressing the problems in the countries, areas and regions they are fleeing from.

I tell your Lordships this: if I was living with my family and we were being bombed, I would flee. If my family was in a place where there was starvation, no water and poverty, and where we were threatened by criminal gangs or torture, I would flee, and I would go anywhere. I would want to protect myself, my family and my children. If you want to deal with asylum seekers and refugees, of course you must have a policy that deals with them when they arrive, but you also have to understand why they are fleeing and escaping from the country in which they were born and do something about it there.

I know that the noble Lord, Lord Russell, is on the Council of Europe; he and I have spoken about many of these things. I think I am right in saying that the noble Lord and I went to Jordan, near its border with Syria. We say about countries such as Jordan, Turkey and others, “Oh, it’s about time somebody else did something”. We went to a refugee camp in Jordan where there were hundreds of thousands of people; I went to a refugee camp in Angola where there were more than a million people.

Some of the poorest countries in the world are dealing with some of the biggest refugee crises, and sometimes with almost more resource and compassion than we do. There are astonishing numbers of people displaced and moving between these regions and countries. The thousands whom we deal with are a problem—I am not decrying that or saying that we should not do anything—but some of these other countries are having to deal with things in biblical proportions. I could not believe what I saw in Jordan when people were fleeing war and persecution, but I will tell you what the Jordanians did not do. When nearly 1 million people came across the border, they did not turn round to them and say, “We’re going to split you into different groups” but “We’re going to do what we can to help you”, while recognising that the problem in Syria or elsewhere also needed to be addressed.

That is why the second part of Amendment 36 says:

“The report must focus on steps other than the provisions of this Act.”

It is to show that if you want to deal with refugees and asylum, and people moving, you cannot just do it through law and order provisions—by policing, criminalising and locking people up. Of course, that has to be a part of what you do but it cannot be the only way to do it because, let me say this, it will fail without a shadow of a doubt. I go back to this point: if I and my family were being bombed, I would not look up what the criminal provision was in a particular country and whether I was going to be made a group 1 or group 2, or whatever; I know that is for a future debate. What I would say is, “I’m going because I want to protect my family”.

Amendment 36 is also saying “Let’s deal with the people who seek to exploit misery”. Too much of the Bill deals with the victims: those who are fleeing persecution or seeking sanctuary. Deal with the criminals; do not criminalise those being exploited by the people smugglers. Support the victims and deal with the smugglers. Amendment 36 seeks to address that, as does my Amendment 129. Let us go after the people smugglers and stop criminalising the victims.

I agree with the noble Lord—he made the point comprehensively—except that he pulled his punches. Yes, the last line of Amendment 36 is very important, for the reason he gave, but it is a paradox because the effect of the Bill, if we pass it in its present form, will be to increase people smuggling. It will produce more deaths in the channel because, instead of opening safe routes, we are criminalising unlawful arrival. We are criminalising people who come undocumented and seek asylum. We are putting into group 2, where they are to be discriminated against, people who come indirectly even if they come by a regular route—say, on an airline. Tell me: how do you come directly from Kabul? How do you come directly from Syria, if that is your country of citizenship but you are one of the 3 million Syrians who are in Lebanon and Turkey?

It is a Catch-22 situation, since 90% of asylum seekers who come to this country do so from countries where we insist that the people coming must have visas or entry certificates, but we do not issue entry certificates to people who want to come and seek asylum. The effect of this Catch-22 is to make safe routes impossible and close them down. The only way to stop deaths in the channel is to create more safe routes but the effect of the Bill, if passed in its present form, will be to produce more deaths there. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, when he says that we do not solve the problem by passing laws but, if we pass the Bill in this form, we will make the problem a lot worse.

My Lords, I rise to briefly support what the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, has just said to the House about the importance of creating more safe routes and dealing with the Catch-22 he described. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, will recall that I raised with her the position of British embassies in parts of the world of the sort the noble Lord has just referred to and the role they might play in sorting out genuine asylum claims, which people cannot make. I gave the noble Baroness examples of the Yazidis and others in northern Iraq, which I visited in 2019, who, if they could have gone to a British post or embassy and had the matter dealt with on the ground, would have been saved much misery. I appeal to the noble Baroness to look at this question of safe routes and how we bring about a way in which incredibly vulnerable people are able to be sorted out and given a chance to come to places of safety and sanctuary.

I want to support what the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said as well. So much in this Bill is about what can be described as the pull factors that the Home Office always refers to, but we have failed to give sufficient attention to the push factors that bring some of those more than 80 million who are displaced or refugees in the world today. There was a Cross-Bench debate only last month where Members from all sides of your Lordships’ House called for greater international efforts to be made, co-ordinating a campaign by the great nations in the way we have done over issues from COP 26 to Covid. Eighty million people displaced or refugees worldwide requires international action. We should be convening an international conference on that subject alone, and I would love to see this country taking the lead on that.

I would also like this country to take the lead in standing up to some of the internet companies that are referred to in Amendment 129, from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe. It is outrageous that companies believe they can be above the law and do as they wish in enticing people—the kind of people the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, described—who feel they are destitute and at risk with advertisements for illegal routes to countries such as the United Kingdom. That is against the law; it should not require a new Act of Parliament to deal with it. I hope when the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, comes to reply to the debate, he will be able to tell us that more is going to be done about that now.

My Lords, first, I would like to apologise to the House, the Front Bench in particular, the Minister and the movers of amendments in the next group, because I have a medical appointment, and under the conventions of the House, if I spoke in the next group, I would have to leave and be rightly reprimanded. I just want to say, under this group of amendments, just how much I have agreed with what everyone has said. I would have said something very similar in relation to Clause 11.

My Lords, I rise first of all, briefly, to support Amendment 129, in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe. It is clear, necessary and relatively simple, at least in principle, so I trust that the Government will consider it very carefully.

Our asylum system is already overwhelmed, with a backlog of cases approaching 125,000, which is, I think, rather more than the British Army. So we have to do everything we can to reduce the inflow of those entering by illegal means. In brackets, I say to the Minister that I hope he will take this opportunity to deny that the Government now intend to bury the statistics and emerge only every three months to tell us what is happening.

That said, I would like to speak briefly about the points that have just been made by other noble Lords about the need for safe routes for asylum seekers wishing to come here. I think we need to be a lot more careful about how we address this. My noble friend has just referred to the 80 million refugees in the world. The numbers are huge, even if these are only a third of those who are actually going to move from one country to another. Is it really being suggested that we have a system whereby any who would like to leave his own country has only to purchase a ticket to London and will then be accommodated, et cetera, and his case will be heard? Is that really what is proposed? What about those who fail? Some 70% of the people now arriving across the Channel are young males. I suspect that they are not, in most cases, the ones who are most in need. If this is not to fly completely out of control and reach a level at which the public will react rather strongly against the sheer size of the inflow, we have to be a lot more careful.

It has been suggested that one way to tackle this would be to have missions overseas to take the applications. I am sure that is being considered very carefully, but I am sure that the outcome of that consideration will be that it just will not work. Those posts—whether embassies or some special posts set up in the third world—would be overwhelmed in a matter of weeks. Then you have to ask the Governments of the countries concerned what will happen to those who turned up, quite often from neighbouring countries, did not get the permission that they were hoping for, and are hanging around the embassy or wherever it is in ever-growing numbers. The host Governments would not care for that at all, and it would not achieve anything as far as we are concerned; it would simply mean that the inflow would become, in principle, pretty unmanageable. I really think we have to be careful about this talk of “safe routes”. We keep hearing it all the time; we never hear what is actually meant. I would like to hear from colleagues in this Committee how they propose to organise 30 million people who would like to come here. It cannot be done; there is no public support for it on that scale, and we really need some clear and logical thought.

Can I just ask the noble Lord about his assumption—it seemed to be a stereotype—that young single men are not at risk? I do not claim to be an expert on the profile of asylum seekers, but one can imagine that, because a young man might be seen to be less vulnerable than a young woman in a dangerous journey towards safety and, perhaps, also vulnerable to recruitment into ISIS, for instance, actually it is not that surprising that it may be young single men who are arriving on our shores in greater numbers than young single women. I just think that it is probably important to avoid prejudicial stereotypes that, somehow, young men are not at any risk and therefore can be locked up—I just looked at the Times article that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, mentioned. It sometimes seems to me that we are at risk of demonising young men.

My Lords, it is not demonising; it is common sense. The routes that now exist are dangerous and difficult, and the people who are capable of getting through them are the young. But they are by no means the only people, nor necessarily the most deserving of our help. This is why I ask that we have a little more logic and thinking before we simply rattle off about safe routes for asylum seekers.

Can I just point out that the Refugee Council, for example, has made the point that cutting back and restricting family reunion rights, which the Bill will do—this is one of the key safe and legal routes—will particularly affect women and children? Plenty has been written about what safe and legal routes might look like—it is family reunion; it is humanitarian visas. Is the noble Lord really suggesting that we have no responsibility to the kind of people that my noble friend talked about? No one is suggesting that everyone comes over here, but much poorer countries than this country are taking responsibility for asylum seekers, and we will not take any responsibility.

I certainly accept the last part of that. Many countries in the third world are doing far more for people in serious difficulties than we are, and certainly far more in relation to their own incomes. But I would turn that round and say that if our aim is to help people in serious difficulty, of whom there are plenty, our money would be much better spent on the ground, on the food, shelter and medical attention that could be provided, rather than doing something fairly similar here at five or 10 times the price.

Can I ask my noble friend to return to the point about what might constitute a safe route? The specific example I gave the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, was about Yazidis and other minorities in northern Iraq who were faced with genocide. That was a category of people who could have been helped by our posts on the ground by dealing with their claims. To turn that into 80 million people all applying at British consulates and embassies around the world—that was not what anyone was suggesting. My noble friend asked for realistic proposals. Is this a proposal that he himself would be prepared to have a look at?

My Lords, on the question of safe routes, which has just been touched on from both sides, the point is that by definition, they tend to include the whole family: a whole group of people tend to come together. That is part of the point of safe routes. The problem with illegal, unsafe routes is that 80% of the people who use them are young men, below the age of 34. That is a fact of life we have to put up with. We hope by means of this Bill to improve the rights of people who come by safe routes, and to discourage those who come by illegal routes who, by definition, are a dysfunctional family group.

If I may answer my noble friend’s point, my answer to the Yazidis or particular problems of that kind—you will find them in Africa as well, of course—is to examine the situation that has developed, see how many people there are, where they are and how best they can be helped. That is certainly what our aid programme should be doing and what our missions should be advising on. I do not think that is the same as saying that we should consider shifting an entire community from northern Iraq to southern London.

Before my noble friend concludes, does he also agree that instead of constantly going on about the pull factors, we should be doing more about the push factors and maybe co-ordinating the kind of international conference that I was calling for?

I think there probably is scope for discussion between Governments as this problem becomes an increasingly serious one for countries, certainly throughout Europe. Yes, I would not be opposed to that but what I am calling for is some realism and not slogans.

May I just suggest to the Committee that we proceed with the Committee? I occasionally have nightmares about these issues and I am probably too sensitive to engage in human rights debates, but the die is cast—what can I say? I can think of nightmares I might have about who would be at the Dispatch Box to answer to my questions. At the moment, the little “question time” I have just heard is exceeding the worst nightmare. Can we perhaps hear from the Minister we have, rather than the potential Minister of my nightmares?

I am sorry to disappoint the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti. I thank those who have been complimentary about this amendment and make it clear that it is a team effort on our part. I really did not expect it to provoke such debate, but the thoughts that are teeming round people’s minds are bound to burst out at some point.

I want to ask about Amendment 129, and I will return the compliment to the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. It makes an immensely important point but reading it, I wondered whether there was not already an offence—an inchoate offence, possibly, under the existing immigration legislation, or possibly even conspiracy. I do not want to anticipate Clause 40, but are there any problems in using Sections 25 and 25A of the Immigration Act 1971?

My Lords, I shall comment briefly on the discussion we have been having. Why is it young men? I talked to some of the Afghans who got to Calais—this was before the Taliban took over Afghanistan completely—and they said to me that the Taliban were trying to recruit young men into their fighting forces, so the family clubbed together to help them escape, because they were the ones who, at that time, were most vulnerable. Today, it may be that the women in Afghanistan who are more vulnerable, except that they cannot find their way out. But that is one of the reasons why more young men than young women have fled. Indeed, if one looks at the people who got to northern France, quite a few of them have connections with this country, and quite a few are seeking to establish family reunion. That is an argument why we should be able to provide safe and legal routes for people from northern France to come here: so they can achieve family reunion. We should recognise what they have fled.

My noble friend Lord Coaker described the terrible conditions. My comments are going to go a bit wide of the amendment, but I hope that your Lordships will allow me to continue. I think that if we actually explained to people in this country what it is that people are fleeing from—the awful circumstances, the terrifying persecution, war, people being killed in front of them, and so on—they would be much more sympathetic to refugees coming.

The majority of the refugees who reach France claim asylum in France. A small proportion of those claim asylum here—if they can manage to get to this country. In relation to the number of refugees in the world, we are talking about rather small numbers, but there are some very important points of principle, because we are talking about people who are very vulnerable. That is why I am keen on Amendment 36 and I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Green.

I thank all noble Lords who participated in this wide-ranging and powerful debate. We did perhaps stray slightly off the subject of the amendments, and some of the debate has bled into the next group and was, I suppose, more philosophical, about the Bill in general. I will confine my remarks to the amendments, if I may, because I know that many of the matters debated will come up again—not in their “proper place”, because that would be to demean the arguments, but in their more appropriate context.

I will begin with Amendment 36, a new clause proposed to be inserted before Clause 11 on the issue of smuggling, from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. I will then address the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, on advertising illegal routes to the UK. As I said, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions.

The UK takes smuggling and illegal migration extremely seriously. We are absolutely committed to tackling organised immigration crime, or OIC, in all its forms. We work closely with near-neighbour countries such as France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and key international partners beyond Europe to address this exploitative crime and tackle smuggling networks. To tackle this threat, we have in place a multi-agency OIC taskforce which brings together law enforcement, border guards, immigration officials and prosecutors to tackle organised crime groups involved in people smuggling. This taskforce is currently working with partners in some 17 source and transit countries.

In addition, there are already agreements in place to tackle smuggling and illegal migration. For example, in November 2021 the Prime Minister signed an agreement with Belgium reaffirming the two countries’ close partnership and commitment to tackling shared threats such as serious and organised crime, including human smuggling. The two countries are committed to strengthening the legal framework for co-operation between our law enforcement agendas with a co-operation agreement and a focus on information exchange. The UK is committed to working with France to maintain the security of our shared border and to tackle illegal migration. This relationship is long-standing, supported by the Sandhurst Treaty.

Most recently, in 2021 a bilateral arrangement was reached between the UK and France. The UK pledged to make a further financial investment of approximately £54 million in 2021-22. Last year’s investment saw the French doubling the numbers of officers patrolling beaches.

Addressing the organised crime groups that facilitate illegal migration to the UK remains a UK priority. In July 2020, the Home Secretary and the French Minister of the Interior signed an agreement to create a joint intelligence cell to crack down on people-smuggling gangs. In 2021, over 23,000 crossing attempts were prevented by French law enforcement, to which the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, referred. Since the UK-France JIC was established, along with France we have dismantled 17 small-boat organised criminal groups and secured over 400 arrests.

I stress that the UK has a strong stance on smuggling and illegal migration and has agreements in place with near neighbours to reflect this. This amendment will not be helpful in the Government’s continued efforts to tackle these crimes. It may hinder the fruitful and open dialogue on these issues between the UK and its international partners, many of which would not agree to their discussions and domestic activity aimed at reducing people smuggling to be published to a domestic UK audience.

I cannot support Amendment 36 because it is not appropriate to provide a running commentary on the actions that are being taken to tackle people smugglers, much of which will be sensitive activity, particularly from an operational point of view, and based on intelligence sharing with the aim of protecting vulnerable people.

If I may be permitted a personal anecdote, I have some experience in operational sensitivities. When I served in the Royal Hong Kong Police Force, I spent much of my time on the border and was heavily involved in matters of migration. Some of it was profoundly harrowing, particularly the Vietnamese boat people, who were helped by Hong Kong and the Royal Hong Kong Police Force, but much of it was organised by criminal gangs. This was not a multinational but a multi-agency approach. However, the principles remain the same. If the smugglers, who in colloquial Cantonese were known as snakeheads, got wind of our countermeasures, they changed their methods, and changed them very quickly. Unfortunately, these people may be evil and prey on others’ vulnerability but they are not stupid.

During the debate we discussed safe and legal routes, and my noble friend the Minister sent a letter to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, outlining some of them recently. If more detail is required, we will write again. Without going into all the detail, I shall highlight the headlines of the various safe and legal routes that are available. It is slightly off-topic but, given the tone of the debate, it is worth doing.

Obviously, there is a UK resettlement scheme, which commenced in February 2021 and prioritises the resettlement of refugees. There is a community sponsorship scheme and a mandate resettlement scheme. There is a refugee family reunion scheme, which many noble Lords referred to. The Bill does not cut down on family reunion. On the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, we have granted over 39,000 refugee family reunion visas since 2015. There is the well-known Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme, the Afghan relocations and assistance policy and the immigration route for British national overseas status holders from Hong Kong. As I said, that is slightly off-topic with regard to these amendments, but I hope that noble Lords appreciate that brief digression.

Turning to Amendment 129, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for raising this important topic. We agree unreservedly with the need to target those who assist unlawful immigration to the UK. It is imperative that we take action to prevent and prosecute people smuggling. We are taking steps to combat illegal migration and the activities associated with people smuggling by increasing the maximum penalty for facilitation from 14 years’ imprisonment to life imprisonment. This aligns with the maximum penalty for human trafficking as contained in the Modern Slavery Act. By doing so, we are emphasising to the courts the gravity with which the most serious offenders should be treated.

We have also turned our attention to Section 25A of the Immigration Act 1971. Currently, Section 25A relates to helping the arrival or entry for gain—I stress that—of an asylum seeker into the UK. Clause 40 removes the current requirement for the facilitation to be “for gain”. Removing the “for gain” element from Section 25A will allow for successful prosecution of those facilitating the arrival or entry into the UK of asylum seekers where the “for gain” element cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

To be absolutely clear, the focus of Clause 40 is on criminals who act to exploit and endanger people. We have made it clear that persons do not commit an offence of facilitation if the act is done by, on behalf of, or co-ordinated by, Her Majesty’s coastguard or overseas equivalent. This provides protection not only for organisations such as the RNLI, but for individual seafarers who respond to mayday relays.

Separately, we have also provided defences for persons who show that they had to assist an individual in danger or distress at sea between the time that the individual was first in danger and being delivered to a place of safety on land. There is a defence for masters of vessels bringing stowaways into the UK, if they discover them on board after the ship has left port and reported it to immigration authorities. Finally, there is a defence for ship crew members or passengers who provide humanitarian assistance to the stowaway, as long as the presence of the stowaway is reported. This means that seafarers will be protected if they are unable to contact the coastguard for a good reason.

These defences mean that it is extremely unlikely for someone to be charged unless the authorities have concrete evidence to the contrary, such as intelligence suggesting that they are linked to people-smuggling gangs or where the same person launches multiple rescues over several days and has no good reason for being at that location.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, suggested, the conduct which the offence outlined in the amendment seeks to capture may already amount to an offence under Section 25 of the Immigration Act 1971. Section 25 deals with facilitation of a breach of immigration law which may include behaviour linked to

“recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring or receiving or exchanging control over another person.”

Section 25(4) already provides that the offence applies to things done whether inside or outside the United Kingdom.

In addition to this provision, we also have the benefit of Section 44 of the Serious Crime Act 2007. It is already an offence intentionally to encourage or assist another person to commit an offence, including pursuant to Section 25 of the 1971 Act.

Whether placing an advert would be captured by these provisions would depend on the exact circumstances of the case, including the precise wording of the advert. The overlap with existing statutory provisions would need to be carefully considered to see what value—if any—an additional offence would add.

There are complications around prosecutions in this area more generally. A key issue is the difficulty in identifying the defendant and the added complexity of the extra-jurisdictional nature of the problem.

In addition to the legislative measures I have already mentioned, we continue to work with partner agencies to combat illegal migration. We liaise with the French authorities and provide financial resources to aid and boost their operations. All this needs to be seen in the context of other liaison—for instance, the online safety Bill, led by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The online safety Bill will consider user-generated content and focus on examining the harms associated with paid-for online advertising and the role of platforms in disseminating harmful advertising content. I hope this will please the noble Lord, Lord Coaker—he is quite right.

In addition, DCMS is seeking to introduce online advertising programmes which aim to reduce harms for consumers, businesses and society as a whole. The programmes will review illegal, as well as legal but harmful, content and the placement of advertising online across all actors involved. Consultation will be launched shortly, inviting views on how the Government might best build on the regulatory framework to improve transparency and accountability in the system, with the goal of reducing harm.

To reiterate, we do not agree with the broad intent behind the proposed new clause, which is to prevent and prosecute people smuggling. Resistance to the amendment is based on the effectiveness of the offence in achieving our common aim of targeting those who assist unlawful immigration to the UK. For these reasons, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. It was rather longer and broader than perhaps we expected but it was a debate that needed to be had at some stage so we might as well have had it now. I thank particularly the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for his Amendment 129, which we of course support, and for his support for our amendment.

I also thank the noble Lord for drawing our attention to the Times article, which does indeed say that the Government’s intention is to arrest all single male migrants crossing the channel. The newspaper estimates that, on the basis of the number who crossed last year, that would mean 20,000 people being put in prison. Now, I know that the Government have a prison-building programme, but I thought that that was to accommodate those people who would be spending longer in prison as a result of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill; so, this does not seem to make much sense. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, said, the pull factors are completely overwhelmed by the push factors. When you are being bombed and persecuted, you do not worry about pull factors—you just want to get out of there. You want to get to safety and get your family to safety.

As far as the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, is concerned, bombs do not differentiate between men and women. Young men, or families, probably feel that they stand a better chance of making this very hazardous and dangerous journey to get to the UK because there are no safe and legal routes. Of course we are not saying that every eligible refugee should make their home in the UK. We are saying that the UK should take its fair share of asylum seekers—and, by any measure, we do not do that at the moment.

Yes, I can give the noble Lord an example. Let us look at the number of asylum claims per 10,000 people of countries across the whole of Europe, take the average and say that the UK should significantly increase the number of applications in line with the average number for European countries. That would be a good start, because we are nowhere near the European average in taking people who are seeking asylum. I hope that that answers the noble Lord’s question.

The number of applications per 10,000 population, I think, takes into account the population in each country.

I cannot have been clear. There is a relative density of population. This country is about to overtake the Netherlands as the most densely populated country in Europe. We are already three times as densely populated as France and about one and a half or two times as densely populated as Germany. All I am asking the noble Lord is whether, in giving the figure to the noble Lord, Lord Green, he will allow for relative densities in making that assessment.

I am not in the Government. I do not set what the policy will be in relation to the number of asylum seekers that can be brought into this country. The noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, asked whether, rather than rhetoric, we could give examples of how we might set the number of asylum claims that this country handles. I gave an example of the sort of thing that could be considered in setting the number of asylum seekers that could come. The noble Lord has suggested something else that might be taken into account, and that may well be something that can be taken into account. However—

This will be my last intervention on this matter. We have resettled more than 25,000 people since 2015—the most in Europe.

No—I am afraid that the note that the noble Lord was just passed by the Minister is not accurate. That is the number of people settled through resettlement schemes, not the number of people who have travelled to various different countries under their own steam to claim asylum. Therefore, that figure is absolutely, totally misleading.

As far as the Minister is concerned, he says that the Government take people smuggling seriously but do not want to give a running commentary on what they are doing, yet the first half of his response was a running commentary on what the Government were doing. I do not understand that at all. What we want to see is the strategy—the Government’s overall plan—to tackle people smuggling directly. At the moment, the Government’s entire focus appears to be on the victims, the asylum seekers, and not on the people smugglers. The whole purpose of this amendment is to try to refocus the Government’s attention on the real villains of the piece, the people smugglers, rather than on the persecution of asylum seekers, which is what this Bill is about. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 36 withdrawn.

Clause 11: Differential treatment of refugees

Amendment 37

Tabled by

37: Clause 11, page 13, line 33, leave out “a refugee is a Group 1” and insert “a person is a”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment ensures equality of treatment by removing the distinction between Group 1 and Group 2 refugees.

My Lords, I speak in place of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, and welcome the opportunity to speak on the amendments she proposed. I wish she could be here to speak on Amendments 37, 38, 42 and 49. I hope to do justice to her concerns and offer a bipartisan dimension to our treatment of the Bill.

It is perhaps important for me to say before launching myself into the amendments that my clear preference would always have been to propose the elimination of Clause 11 in its entirety. Having said that, however, I respect the intention behind the amendments in seeking to eliminate the distinction between two tiers of refugees. I hope that nobody groans when we cite the 1951 convention, which prohibits the penalisation of refugees

“on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened … present themselves without delay … and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.”

The Bill before us purports to change the way in which the provisions of the convention are applied, with important divergences from hitherto accepted practices.

I am a member of the Council of Europe. I was asked to compile a report to commemorate the 1951 convention; my report was endorsed by the Council just a few weeks ago. In writing it, I worked in collaboration with UNCHR officers in London, Strasbourg and Geneva. This has led to my conviction of the vital importance, in seeking a way through these critical issues, of maintaining the closest possible working relationship with UNHCR. Everyone I consulted in writing my report agreed that the key underpinning tenets of the convention are non-refoulement, non-discrimination and non-penalisation. Those are the principles that must be upheld at all costs, however much circumstances may have changed.

Although I am hugely critical of the Bill, I must, in reality, acknowledge that the United Kingdom is only one of a number of nations in search of new ways of dealing with what is undoubtedly a global crisis. A wide variety of measures has been put forward across our continent. In my report, I cited the following; some were mentioned in our previous debate. There are those who are pushing asylum seekers back, or else denying them disembarkation. Others are protecting their borders, building fences, sometimes deploying their military and even using live ammunition. Some are transferring their protection obligations to other—usually poorer—nations and isolated islands, detaining asylum seekers in poor conditions indefinitely. There are those set on criminalising solidarity and life-saving activities: making the saving of lives, the feeding of starving people and providing shelter to families in need a crime. Nor must we forget those who resort to the use of Covid-19, economic challenges or irregular arrivals of migrants as cover for disproportionate measures, restricting access to asylum and rights. The proposals in the Bill, set alongside the proposals of other nations that I just cited, would effectively undermine the very principles and obligations of the 1951 convention.

It is my view that our consideration of these important questions should seek always to be in harmony with the advice of UNHCR. That commission provides authoritative guidance in a manner consistent with the 1951 convention’s ambition to ensure,

“the widest possible exercise of these fundamental rights and freedoms”

by refugees. UNHCR, incidentally, has responsibility for all the 80-plus million refugees spread around the world.

The amendments we are considering are seeking what is fundamentally guaranteed by the 1951 refugee convention: namely, fair and equal treatment and, especially, non-discrimination. Not to observe these principles would set us at odds with the demands of international law. What is more, it would create a totally unworkable situation if applied more generally: 73% of refugees are hosted in countries neighbouring their country of origin. The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, mentioned one such example.

The proposals as currently put forward in the Bill would disrupt global co-operation, since no system could be built on the expectation that those countries bearing the majority of migrants do more and geographically distant countries do less. Furthermore, no system could be built on the expectation that those arriving in our country unconventionally deserve worse treatment than those who arrive via conventional routes.

In Committee, it is important to recognise the exploratory nature of our discussion. The proposal in Amendment 37 would remove the differentiation between two categories of people arriving on our shores and vest them with greater dignity and humanity.

In conclusion, I find a proposal dominated by the often-repeated slogan “Taking back control of our borders” is in direct contradiction to the spirit of those British lawyers—yes, British lawyers—who not only helped frame the 1951 convention but ensured at a subsequent meeting of plenipotentiaries that,

“governments in the countries of first refuge”


“grant the right of asylum within their territories with the utmost liberality,”

and that other countries would,

“undertake jointly with the countries of first reception to bear the costs arising out of”

such efforts. It went on to urge governments to

“continue to receive refugees in their territories and that they act in concert in a true spirit of international co-operation in order that these refugees may find asylum and the possibility of resettlement.”

We should note the key phrases in this declaration: “utmost liberality”, “bearing the costs jointly”, and

“in a true spirit of international co-operation”.

That was the spirit in which British negotiators reached their conclusions in 1951. Somehow, we must rediscover this generosity of spirit that moves beyond the merely contractual, beyond what might appear be mere self-interest, and towards a collective effort in our attempt to find solutions to our problems.

This seemed to be what the Minister agreed to in her summing up speech at Second Reading on the Bill on 5 January. On that occasion, after a typically spirited defence of government policy, she readily accepted the need for us to work with our international partners to tackle what really are shared global challenges. She concluded:

“All countries have a moral responsibility to tackle the issue of illegal migration.”—[Official Report, 5/1/22; col. 668.]

It is not difficult to agree with her on that. But it is harder to accept the assurance she gave that, as she put it,

“we remain in line with our international obligations”.—[Official Report, 5/1/22; col. 666.]

A refusal to accept the two-tiered proposals, as put forward in these amendments, would be a small but important step in the right direction. I commend these amendments to the Committee. I beg to move.

I would like to say a word in support of the spirit of these amendments. Specifically, I would like to speak in support of Amendments 37, 38 and 42, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, introduced brilliantly by the conscience of the House, the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths. Yet, my heart is not in this game. This is what Americans call “putting lipstick on a pig”—it is still a pig.

The only element of this group which I can whole- heartedly support is that Clause 11 should not stand part of the Bill. Our Constitution Committee gave us a choice: it said that we should either remove or redraft Clause 11. I understand what all these redrafting amendments are trying to do, but it is not a good idea. This is not a case for “death by a thousand cuts”; it is a case for a “short sharp shock”. We need to take Clause 11 out of the Bill.

Why? Because the refugee convention matters; it is an important plank in the international legal order. Clause 11 flies directly in the face of the refugee convention, because it creates two classes of refugees: one with convention rights, and one without convention rights. The charge that it is a breach of the convention is put authoritatively not only by our Law Society and the Law Society of Scotland, but by UNHCR in its 72-page memorandum. That is a pretty authoritative source; indeed, it is the authoritative source. When we set up the refugee convention, we asked UNHCR to be its guardian, to supervise its application, and to report to the Secretary-General on laws on refugees in the signatory states. Therefore, it was not interfering, but doing the job which we, when we wrote the convention, asked it to do. I find it a shaming thought that its report on this Bill will have been seen by all 147 signatory states.

Why is UNHCR so sure that the Bill undermines the convention? Clause 11 is the heart of the matter. UNHCR believes that creating a two-tier system for handling asylum seekers—one class legitimate, one illegitimate—conflicts with the simple definition of a refugee in Article 1 of the convention. A refugee, says the convention, is someone who,

“owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”.

That is all: he is outside his country of origin. The definition says nothing about any requirement to seek asylum in a particular place, and nothing about regular or irregular routes; it contains no suggestion that he is out of order if he does not seek asylum in the first safe country—there is no such requirement anywhere in international law.

A refugee is a refugee is a refugee, and must be treated as such, according to the provisions of the convention, however he got there. That is what the convention says and that is what we have believed down the years. Stretching the meaning of Article 31, as the Government seek to do, cannot change or qualify what Article 1 says, or add something that it does not contain. I have set out the definition of a refugee. There are no two categories; the definition is very simple.

I am no lawyer, and here I am surrounded by eminent, terrifying legal expertise—even including the noble and learned Lord, Lord Clarke of Nottingham; as his former private secretary, I am horrified to see him there—but the definition of a refugee, and of our sin in this Bill, from the UNHCR and the law societies, must be right, because I cannot see how 147 countries would have signed up to the convention if they had thought it meant what the Government now say it means. Four in every five refugees are in developing countries adjacent to their country of citizenship. Would host countries have agreed that guests should never move on, and that they should be required to apply for asylum only in their first host country? Would the developing world have agreed that the developed world could wash its hands of the problem of looking after refugees because they were going to have to stay in the first safe country they reached on fleeing over a frontier? I do not think so. It plainly was not what those who signed up to the convention thought it meant, and the attempt to have an expansive reading of Article 31 and so change the meaning of the convention as a whole, in particular Article 1, looks quite a legal stretch. I agree with our Constitution Committee, the law societies and, importantly, the UNHCR.

I feel for the Minister, because the case she is asked to make on the legal position and the convention seems as eccentric and unconvincing as the claim of the noble Lord, Lord Frost, that you can extinguish the role of the CJEU in Northern Ireland by using Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol. I will stay away from the law—this is a rash foray—but I will stick with the UNHCR, the law societies and the conventional reading of the convention, which is how 146 countries still read it, and say that we really need to get rid of Clause 11.

My Lords, Clause 11 is the most objectionable clause in this whole objectionable Bill. It has to go, and not just because of what the convention says, our having signed and supported it and so on. It is not just because there is a convention but because the convention is right. However, we have to pick at the Bill. We will have the debate that the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, has started us off on so well on Report, but this is our opportunity to see whether there is any give in the Government’s position and whether there is anything we can, quite bluntly, take apart on Report in a way we have not yet thought of.

My noble friend Lord Paddick, the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Blunkett, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham have indicated their objection to the clause standing part. Had we been able, under the procedures of this House, to add more than four names, I think there would have been a very long list.

We have a number of amendments in this group that are picking at this clause. Some of what I had planned to say—and probably will say because I cannot edit my notes as I go as quickly as I should—was covered in the previous group when we debated smuggling. The legislation’s objective, as it has been explained to us, is to disrupt the criminals who smuggle people. No one in their right mind supports that “trade”, but it is based on a premise about what prompts people to seek asylum with which we completely disagree.

I said at Second Reading that the Government have not attempted to walk in the shoes of refugees. I do not resile from that at all. Most asylum seekers would want to travel by a safe and legal route—they must be desperate to—but other than in a few narrow circumstances these are not available. The policy rests on deterrence, which is misconceived, because, as has been said, you do not stop to think about whether you will be in group 1 or group 2 when you get here. You do not even think about the chances of being criminalised. I am advised that Clause 11, if enforced, could mean that of those fleeing conflict and/or persecution in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria and Afghanistan—the top five countries from which people arrive here, the last stage of the journey by a small boat—an estimated 9,000 to 21,000 people currently accepted as refugees would be denied protection under the convention. It will be the most vulnerable and women and children who will be affected. The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, was the first to refer to that.

I do not think there are any amendments in this group with which we disagree; we just want to get rid of the clause. However, on Amendment 39, Clause 11(2) requires that one presents oneself

“without delay to the authorities.”

It is not the only instance in the Bill where there is a failure to recognise the difficulties for many asylum seekers who simply cannot tell their story instantly and coherently. The Bill is simply not trauma-informed. I suspect this might in fact be the least troublesome example, because most asylum seekers want to get into the system and to have their application approved as soon as possible, but the difficulties still need to be recognised.

Amendments 43 and 50 are to the subsections that give examples of the different treatment proposed for the two groups. The differentiation of treatment, if it should happen, should be completely clear and in primary legislation. We should not just have examples. It should not be variable or vulnerable to being changed or made worse through the Immigration Rules, which are a matter of the Secretary of State’s fiat without touching either House of Parliament. I am very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, added his name to most of our amendments. I understand why he has had to leave, but it is significant that he did so.

Amendments 44 and 45, and similarly Amendments 52 and 53, would challenge the differentiation regarding leave to enter and remain, because how long you are able to remain has considerable consequences for the “undeserving” asylum seeker. That is on top of all the insecurity inherent in the reduction of the length of leave and increasingly frequent reassessment processes. We cannot expect people’s well-being and mental health, or their ability to integrate into the community where they have found themselves, not to suffer in the absence of certainty; nor can we expect landlords or employers to be keen to take on quite short-term tenants and employees.

Currently, a refugee can apply for ILR—that is, indefinite leave to remain, or, in other words, settlement after five years. What are the criteria for group 2 refugees? What will they have to meet to achieve ILR? Will they have to wait 10 years, like people who have been here on a work visa, and make substantial payments periodically through that period? Quite apart from the impact on the individuals, is this not extra bureaucracy and workload for the Home Office? What is the estimate of the cost to the Home Office? Will that be reflected in the full economic impact assessment that I believe we are promised?

Amendments 47, 48, 51 and 53 are there because, however you travel, family is of the utmost importance. I do not think I need to spell it out; I will just say “common humanity” and “integration”. Family reunion is recognised as important by the Home Office, even if it is not as extensive as we argue it should be. Perhaps the Minister can explain which family member refugees will be able to reunite with, whether that will be an automatic right and whether there will be a fee attached to this route.

Amendment 55 is different but the theme is familiar. It would require the Immigration Rules into which these appalling provisions will be incorporated at any rate to be approved by a resolution in each House of Parliament before coming into force. As I have said, I think all these things should be in the Bill, but we have a provision in here for the rules and that point needs to be taken up. I am pleased to see that the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee takes the same view of the need for an affirmative resolution and even more pleased to note its report, which says:

“Given the clause’s significance and the controversy surrounding it, we consider that, where it is proposed to amend the immigration rules to make different provision for different groups of refugees, the amendment should be subject to the draft affirmative procedure so that it cannot come into force until approved by both Houses.”

However, the short point, which others will make too, is that Clause 11 needs to go.

My Lords, I would like to introduce into this debate a subject about which we have heard almost nothing so far: the views of the British people. We are, after all, the upper House of the British Parliament. Their views should be heard.

I have some figures here from the latest YouGov poll on the subject of immigration. The interesting thing is that immigration is now regarded as the third most important subject after health and the economy—even more important than Covid, curiously; I am not sure about that but, none the less, that is what it says. A previous YouGov poll said that 70% of people thought illegal crossings were a serious issue, so the public are well aware of the issue; indeed, they have been seeing it every night on television, particularly during last summer. Some 63% said that illegal immigrants should not be allowed to settle here while 60% said that they should be removed. In a June 2021 YouGov poll, 60% said they thought that illegal immigrants should be banned from claiming asylum, while only 20% thought they should be allowed to claim asylum. Some 64% thought it was fair to remove people who come from safe countries, while only 15% thought it unfair. Those are opinion polls so take them for what they are worth—we all have our views about opinion polls—but they are a snapshot of opinion in the recent past.

My own view is that, on an emotional subject such as immigration, you need to develop a policy with which the British people are comfortable. If you do not have a policy with which the British people are comfortable, it will not be sustainable in the long run. I point that out to the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, who understandably made a point about our international obligations. If we had had a policy on immigration more widely that the British people had been comfortable with in the last 20 years, we might not have had Brexit. Sadly, whether we like it or not, immigration was a huge issue in the Brexit debate. I put it to the noble Lord that the extent to which people’s views on immigration were ignored was a factor leading to the decision that we took. I am a remainer, so I regret that.

I wonder if I could ask the noble Lord two questions. First, obviously public opinion is always relevant, but does he concede that, by definition, someone who is a genuine “refugee convention” refugee is not and never was an illegal immigrant? Secondly—again, this goes to the comments made about opinion—does he agree that opinion is something that the people with the privilege to be in this place, and certainly those in government, play a role in shaping and leading as well as hearing?

My point is that we should pay regard to opinion but it is rarely mentioned in debates about immigration—almost never, in fact. There is a case for putting forward what the British people think about this, whether you think it is right or wrong. I do not think it is wholly right but, none the less, we have to take it into account. We have eventually to reach a position where the British people are comfortable with the Government’s policies; in my view, that is what the Government are trying to do.

I agree that public opinion is incredibly important but, at the same time, we are meant to be leaders; even here, we are meant to lead. Quite honestly, if you asked the British public, they would probably want hanging back; that is still very popular in some parts. Then, of course, there has been a lot of scaremongering by right-wing groups of all kinds, including parts of the Tory party—the ERG and so on—that have misrepresented a lot of what is happening with the refugees who are crossing the channel.

I am one of those people who agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Kerr—actually, is he learned? No, sorry—that a lot of these amendments are picking at a scab and there is no point in doing that because it just makes it worse. We have to get rid of Clause 11 because it just makes life harder for refugees and, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, we are not—

I think there has been plenty of leadership on this issue over the years. People who have supported a pro-immigration policy—or a relaxed immigration policy, whatever you like to call it—have been pretty vociferous over the years; they have not been quiet. We have known what they think. There has been lots of leadership. Leadership is an issue at the moment but I had better not go too far into that. None the less, the people who support an expansive and comprehensive immigration policy have been vociferous; it is the people who are against it who have had their views ignored.

I read a book about Dagenham the other day, written by a Labour activist, which pointed out the comprehensive effect of immigration in Dagenham over a 10-year period. It went from being 85% white British to less than 50% white British and the local joke was whether if you went into a shop anyone there would speak English. People appealed to the Labour Party, because it was the Labour Party that introduced these policies, and were ignored. Dagenham, a long-standing Labour seat, nearly voted Tory in the last general election—and would have done, if not for the Brexit vote—because people had been ignored on the issue of immigration. For them, immigration had simply gone too far, too fast.

I will not take another intervention, if the noble Baroness does not mind, as I have given way twice and want to finish what I am saying. I do not want to go on too long.

This House has to take into account that the silent majority have very clear views about this which they have held consistently for a long period and which have not been heard, and this has had a major effect on the policy positions of the country. In my view, it has had a deleterious effect, unfortunately; I would rather we had stayed in the European Union, but that is the fact we have to face.

It is generally admitted that we are now dealing with a very difficult, specific problem, one aspect of the whole immigration problem, namely illegal crossings of the channel. It is a small part of the problem that creates a bigger problem. Many people have raised wholesale migration, which I understand is a huge issue which is tackled in many different ways—through international development policies, as well as immigration policies, and so forth. However, there is a specific problem here which any Government of any colour would have to tackle, namely people smuggling people—not brandy, tobacco or commodities, but people—into this country illegally, day after day, against the law. That is something that no self-respecting Government can ignore; they simply cannot.

The noble Lord, Lord Horam, makes a fair point: we must certainly take account of public opinion. But I think he should take account of the extent to which political leaderships affect public opinion. The history of the last decade is a history of one of our great parties swinging right on issues of immigration. It is a history of a referendum campaign, where one side argued that 80 million Turks were going to come and there was nothing we could do to stop them. It is a history of a period in which we have constantly been told that we are beleaguered and the target of innumerable people who wish to come here. As the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, explained earlier in the debate, we are well down the league table in per capita terms for hosting immigrants of any hue. It is not good enough just to say, “There go my people. I am their leader; I must follow them.” We are capable of influencing public opinion and that is what we should be trying to do. I will give way in a second—