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Illegal Migration Bill

Volume 828: debated on Wednesday 8 March 2023


My Lords, I shall now repeat a Statement made yesterday in another place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary:

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement about the Government’s Illegal Migration Bill. Two months ago, the Prime Minister made a promise to the British people that anyone entering this country illegally will be detained and swiftly removed—no ifs, no buts. The Illegal Migration Bill will fulfil that promise. It will allow us to stop the boats that are bringing tens of thousands to our shores, in flagrant breach of both our laws and the will of the British people.

The United Kingdom must always support the world’s most vulnerable. Since 2015, we have given sanctuary to nearly half a million people through family resettlement and global safe and legal routes. These include 150,000 people from Hong Kong escaping autocracy, 160,000 Ukrainians fleeing Putin’s war and 25,000 Afghans escaping the Taliban. Crucially, these are decisions supported by the British people precisely because they were decisions made by British people through their elected representatives, not by the people smugglers and other criminals looking to break into Britain daily. For a Government not to respond to waves of illegal arrivals breaching our borders would be to betray the will of the British people whom we are elected to serve.

The small boats problem is part of a larger global migration crisis. In the coming years, developed countries will face unprecedented pressures from ever greater numbers of people leaving the developing world for places such as the United Kingdom. Unless we act today, the problem will be worse tomorrow, and the problem is already unsustainable.

The volume of illegal arrivals has overwhelmed our asylum system. The backlog has ballooned to over 160,000. The asylum system now costs the British taxpayer £3 billion a year. Since 2018, some 85,000 people have illegally entered the United Kingdom by small boat—45,000 of them in 2022 alone. All travelled through multiple safe countries in which they could and should have claimed asylum. Many came from safe countries, such as Albania. The vast majority—74% in 2021—were adult males under the age of 40, rich enough to pay criminal gangs thousands of pounds for passage.

Upon arrival, most are accommodated in hotels across the country, costing the British taxpayer around £6 million a day. The risk remains that these individuals just disappear. And when we try to remove them, they turn our generous asylum laws against us to prevent removal. The need for reform is obvious and urgent.

This Government have not sat on their hands. Since the Prime Minister took office, recognising the necessity of joint solutions with France, we have signed a new deal providing more technology and embedding British officers with French patrols. I hope Friday’s Anglo-French summit will further deepen co-operation.

We have created a new small boats operational command, with over 700 new staff; doubled NCA funding to tackle smuggling gangs; increased enforcement raids by 50%; signed a deal with Albania, which has already enabled the return of hundreds of illegal arrivals; and we are procuring accommodation, including on military land, to end the farce of accommodating migrants in hotels.

But let us be honest: it is not enough. In the face of today’s global migration crisis, yesterday’s laws are simply not fit for purpose. So to anyone proposing de facto open borders through unlimited safe and legal routes as the alternative, let us be honest: by some counts there are 100 million people around the world who could qualify for protection under our current laws. Let us be clear: they are coming here. We have seen a 500% increase in small boat crossings in two years. This is the crucial point of this Bill. They will not stop coming here until the world knows that if you enter Britain illegally, you will be detained and swiftly removed—back to your home country if it is safe, or to a safe third country, such as Rwanda.

That is precisely what this Bill will do. That is how we will stop the boats. This Bill enables detention of illegal arrivals, without bail or judicial review within the first 28 days of detention, until they can be removed. It puts a duty on the Home Secretary to remove illegal entrants and will radically narrow the number of challenges and appeals that can suspend removal. Only those under 18, medically unfit to fly or at real risk of serious and irreversible harm—an exceedingly high bar—in the country we are removing them to will be able to delay their removal. Any other claims will be heard remotely, after removal.

When our Modern Slavery Act passed, the impact assessment envisaged 3,500 referrals a year. Last year, 17,000 referrals took on average 543 days to consider. Modern slavery laws are being abused to block removals. That is why we granted more than 50% of asylum requests from citizens of a safe European country and NATO ally, Albania. That is why this Bill disqualifies illegal entrants from using modern slavery rules to prevent removal.

I will not address the Bill’s full legal complexities today. Some of the nation’s finest legal minds have been and continue to be involved in its development. But I must say this: the rule 39 process that enabled the Strasbourg court to block, at the last minute, flights to Rwanda, after our courts had refused injunctions, was deeply flawed. Our ability to control our borders cannot be held back by an opaque process conducted late at night, with no chance to make our case or even appeal decisions. That is why we have initiated discussions in Strasbourg to ensure that its blocking orders meet a basic natural justice standard, one that prevents abuse of rule 39 to thwart removal. That is why the Bill will set out the conditions for the UK’s future compliance with such orders. Other countries share our dilemma and will understand the justice of our position.

Our approach is robust and novel, which is why we cannot make a definitive statement of compatibility under Section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998. Of course, the UK will always seek to uphold international law, and I am confident that this Bill is compatible with international law. When we have stopped the boats, the Bill will introduce an annual cap, to be determined by Parliament, on the number of refugees the UK will resettle via safe and legal routes. This will ensure an orderly system, considering local authority capacity for housing, public services and support.

The British people are famously a fair and patient people. But their sense of fair play has been tested beyond its limits as they have seen the country taken for a ride. Their patience has run out. The law-abiding patriotic majority have said, ‘Enough is enough.’ This cannot and will not continue. Their Government—this Government—must act decisively, must act with determination, must act with compassion, and must act with proportion. Make no mistake: this Conservative Government will act now to stop the boats. I commend this Statement to the House.”

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

My Lords, here we go again, as the Government launch yet another Bill to deal with their catastrophic failure on asylum. We have record backlogs, claimants waiting sometimes years for claims to be sorted, children lost, and claimants bundled into hotels with no or little local consultation. Last year, a record 45,000 people crossed the channel on small boats, up from four years ago, as convictions for people smugglers have halved. It is a public policy failure.

Just last year, the Nationality and Borders Act was passed. The Home Secretary said:

“Anyone who arrives illegally will be deemed inadmissible and either returned to the country they arrived from or a safe country.”

Can the Minister update us on how that is going? How can it work with no return agreements and the shocking Rwanda plan, as it should be, stuck in the courts? Last year’s Act led to 18,000 people deemed inadmissible because they travelled through safe countries. Without the return agreements, which the Minister never mentioned, can he confirm that just 21 were returned—or if he prefers, 0.1%. The other 99.9% were placed in shocking hotels, or similar, at the cost of £500 million and more boats arriving. It is chaos—chaos with shocking human consequences and potential rises in community tensions.

What is different this time? Where are the return agreements? Where are all those to be detained for 28 days going to be housed? What happens after the 28 days? Let us remember, among those people, there will be torture victims, those fleeing war and persecution, Afghan interpreters and families with children. It is chaos, unworkable, but it gets the Government the cheap headlines they crave—even if it means potentially excluding victims of modern slavery or trafficking. Where are the safe and legal routes that many in this Chamber have been asking for? To take one example, what route exists under the existing rules or under this Bill for Afghan interpreters who fled Afghanistan, and were told by the Government to flee Afghanistan, to avoid capture by the Taliban?

Let us put in place an alternative, one that will no doubt be mocked by those seeking sensationalism. This would include: giving asylum caseworkers the support and help they need to speed up the process, rather than criticising them in emails; putting in place proper new agreements with France, Europe and others, including returns; properly controlled and managed legal routes, such as family reunion and reform of resettlement. What is wrong with competent and sensible public authority? What about the plan to tackle gangs by establishing a cross-border policing unit—why has that not happened? Have we got to the point where, as a people smuggler told Sky News yesterday, three-quarters of the smugglers live in the UK? Is that right? What is the figure? What are the Government doing to arrest and prosecute them?

All of this is being done in a Bill that drives a coach and horses through international law, leading to a potential withdrawal from the ECHR. What does the Minister think one of its architects, Winston Churchill, would think of that? How does the Minister justify the unbelievable statement about the ECHR on the front of the Bill? I have never read something like this on a Bill before:

“I am unable to make a statement that, in my view, the provisions of the Illegal Migration Bill are compatible with the Convention rights, but the Government nevertheless wishes the House to proceed with the Bill.”

That is written on the front of the Bill. It is unbelievable that a British Government should put on the front of a Bill that they should ignore international law and the legal system in this country. This is an absolutely disgraceful disregard for international law.

What will other countries think of us? Are we as a country not about upholding the principle of respecting international law? Is that not one of the things that we campaign for across the world? Of course, we have a difficult issue to deal with around small boats, and we have outlined, as I just did, some sensible ways forward. But it cannot be right to seek to solve this issue through strategies rather than solutions, or by gimmicks, quick headlines and recycling harmful rhetoric. The Bill is not a solution and is not in the finest traditions of our country, which we are all so proud of. It risks making the chaos worse. Is it not true that the only people to blame for that will be the Government themselves, but the people who will suffer are those seeking asylum from horror and tyranny?

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. I came across an article that said:

“The longer the queue, the worse the administrative confusion, the greater the incentive is for racketeers to target their efforts on Britain. There is a direct link between Government incompetence in managing asylum cases and the surge in applications to stay here.”

This was written in 2000 by William Hague, then the leader of the Conservative Party and now of course the noble Lord, Lord Hague of Richmond. He was criticising the then Labour Government, but, in the ministerial letter we received, referring to plans to

“clear the legacy initial decision asylum backlog by the end of 2023”,

there was a complete failure to acknowledge that this legacy was created by a Tory-run Home Office, which has never got a grip over the last 13 years. Nearly 100,000 people have been waiting for a decision on their asylum claim for over six months—that is four times the number in 2019. We need a minimum service level in the Home Office.

We all want to see an end to dangerous channel crossings, but the Bill and the hullabaloo surrounding it are just more of the same gimmicky gesture politics, not the practical and sustainable solution that is actually needed. The Bill is not only unworkable but illegal and immoral. It treats people as criminals simply for seeking refuge. In the article I quoted from, the noble Lord, Lord Hague, said:

“We believe Britain has a moral as well as a legal duty to welcome here people who are fleeing for their lives.”

That “we” was the Conservative Party 23 years ago. No wonder that even some Tory MPs are now upset at the xenophobic and dehumanising rhetoric and intentions to breach the refugee convention and the European Convention on Human Rights.

In her enthusiasm to make the demonisation of refugees an election selling point, the Home Secretary appears to have broken the Ministerial Code: a fundraising email sent in her name to Conservative Party supporters disgracefully tarred civil servants as part of an “activist blob” that has “blocked” the Government from trying to stop the small boat crossings.

Why is the Bill needed, when the ink is barely dry on the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, which was supposed to be the magic solution that would stop the boats? This plan will punish the victims of persecution and human trafficking, but it will do nothing to stop the evil criminal gangs who profit from these small boat crossings. Not only are the majority of men, women and children who cross the channel doing so because they are desperate to escape war, conflict and persecution; most of them are in fact granted the protection they need. Four out of 10 people arriving on boats last year were from just five countries, with an asylum grant rate of over 80%—the Home Office recently decided to fast-track applications from a similar list of countries. How does the plan to deem inadmissible any claims from people who arrive on small boats from countries such as Afghanistan or Syria accord with these facts?

The only way to stop these dangerous crossings is to create safe and legal routes. The Government talk about such routes, but where and what are they? Will the Government commit to granting humanitarian visas to people needing to flee? We are told that the Bill will introduce an annual cap on the number of refugees whom the UK will accept, but how would that work? If the next person arriving is escaping the terrible cruelty of the Taliban or the appalling regime in Iran, will they just be refused? The number of family reunion visas issued in the year to September last year was more than a third down on 2019, so safe routes are in fact being constricted. Will the Minister assure me that the Government will commit to supporting my Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill, which recently passed this House, when it progresses through the other place?

Instead of locking up asylum seekers or forcing them to stay in hotels, will the Government commit to ending their absurd ban on asylum seekers working after they have been waiting months for their claims to be processed? If so, they could pay their way.

We are expected to proceed with a Bill of which the Government themselves say there is more than a 50% chance that it is incompatible with the ECHR. Quite how they can say they

“remain confident that this Bill is compatible with international law”,

when simultaneously believing that it is only 50% likely to be, is a mystery. How can a law actually designed to circumvent human rights possibly be fit for purpose? Lastly, speaking of human rights, can I ask for a list of countries to which people would not be returned?

My Lords, it is clear that the need for reform is obvious and urgent. The problem in the channel has grown over the last two years. Since 2018, 85,000 illegally entered the UK by small boat—45,000 of them in 2022 alone. Many of them came from safe countries, such as Albania, and all travelled through multiple safe countries, in which they could and should have claimed asylum. The vast majority, 74% in 2021, were adult males under 40, rich enough to pay criminal gangs thousands of pounds for passage.

Noble Lords will not have noticed or been able to discern from the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, any policy from either the Labour Party or the Liberal party to address the crossing of the channel. The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, suggested that the delays in the asylum process were causing the mass migration—this is simply not the case. As the UNHCR says, there are 100 million refugees in the world at the moment. This requires an urgent and sustainable solution.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked me whether the Nationality and Borders Act was not a complete answer. I can reassure him that it was never said that that Act would be a silver bullet. This Bill builds on that Act, which laid the foundations of our approach but, because the situation has got worse, we now need to go further. The Nationality and Borders Act was about changing how we processed asylum claims in the current system to streamline it and reduce late and spurious claims. It made progress, and it is right that we did that, but this is different. We are now going to move these cases out of the system entirely, so they are heard elsewhere in a safe country. Illegal entry will no longer be a route to making a claim to settle in the UK—it is only by making it clear that if you come here illegally you will not have the ability to stay here that we will stop the boats. That is a measure of compassion, because it will stop people embarking on dangerous journeys across the channel.

Furthermore, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, has suggested that creating safe and legal routes is the answer, I can reply to her that it is no answer. If Parliament set a cap of, say, 30,000 that it was going to take by means of the safe and legal routes that already exist, all that would happen is that the demand would remain from those who do not fall within the cap, and the criminal gangs would still be there to feed that demand.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and his right honourable friends in the other place, suggested that the answer was to put more money into the NCA to break the criminal gangs. We have already done that: the NCA funding has been doubled, but that cannot on its own be any answer. The only answer is one to be made in legislation.

For all those reasons, I do not accept the criticisms advanced by noble Lords.

Last year, 50% of those who crossed the channel came from only five countries—Afghanistan, Eritrea, Syria, Sudan and Iran. If I were a young woman in Iran being hunted by the authorities for demonstrating and had relatives in this country, how could I come here? What safe and legal route is open to me? I believe that there is none. If we want to put the smugglers out of business, as of course we all do, the way to do it, contrary to what the Minister has just said, is to open safe and legal routes. It is absurd to suggest that a flow of 100 million would come in; that is just wild and ridiculous talk.

Has the Minister considered the likely cost of this policy? It seems to have three defects: first, it wrecks our reputation; secondly, it will not work because it will not put the smugglers out of business; and, thirdly, it could have considerable economic costs. Has the Minister considered Article 692 of the trade and co-operation agreement with the EU? If the EU believes that we have broken the European Convention on Human Rights—and the Home Secretary says in the Bill, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, pointed out, that she cannot confirm that we have not—and if it turns out that we have, as I believe we have, the Commission has the right to denounce the trade and co-operation agreement. I do not know how much of that it would denounce, but it has been in the press this afternoon that a commissioner contacted the Home Office today. Could the Minister tell us what assessment he has made of the form of action that the Commission would ask the European Union to take against us, and what economic cost that would have?

I thank the noble Lord for his questions. First, I can reconfirm that safe and legal routes exist. As I have repeatedly told the House—

Perhaps the noble Lord could listen for a moment. As I told the House, the UK resettlement scheme is one that permits the Government to accept refugees who have been approved by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and are taken directly from conflict zones. This scheme grew out of the Syria and Jordan schemes, and it is a principled and fair way in which to resettle those in need of protection. It has the advantage, as noble Lords will immediately notice, of providing protection to those who need it, not based on their ability to cross Europe and pay a people smuggler to get them across the channel on the basis that they are in sufficiently good health to survive the journey. The present safe and legal routes that exist are much fairer and more appropriate.

In the second part of the noble Lord’s question, he gave a list of countries from which people crossed the channel, but he omitted, of course, Albania, a safe third country which is a NATO member and EU accession country. Given the vast numbers who come by that route from safe third countries, I simply do not accept the premise of his question.

As to his suggestion that in some way the trade and co-operation agreement would be renounced as a result of this Bill being passed, I do not accept that contention for one moment. The Government are of the view that the measures in this Bill are compatible with our international obligations—and time will tell.

My noble friend the Minister is an experienced lawyer, and we have heard a lot about how this may or may not be in contravention of international law. I am not an experienced lawyer, but perhaps he could help me out. A lot of the critics are saying that we should let all these people in and then determine things and possibly reward them with British citizenship. Does he think that, if we let people into this country who break the law to come here and then rewarded them with British citizenship, it would undermine everybody’s respect for the rule of law in this country?

I entirely agree with my noble friend. The reality appears to be, from the policy vacuum on the Labour Benches, that the Labour Party is in favour of open borders, which appears to be entirely out of step with the views of the British people.

My Lords, the notion that the Labour Party is in favour of open borders is a complete calumny. It is a disgrace that we should argue such an important issue in this way. Article 692 has been referred to, and it is clear from the evidence that the Justice and Home Affairs Committee of this House received earlier this week that it is likely that Part 3 of the TCA would be disestablished. The consequences of that would be absolutely catastrophic.

Let me put this to the Minister: when his boss, the Home Secretary, talked about the 100 million people displaced, and in the next sentence said, “These people are coming here”—that is what she said—did she not believe that she was throwing a match into an oil tanker? Did she not understand the Donald Trump playbook of creating a crisis then believing that other people can be blamed, such as the Civil Service, the opposition parties and this House?

I suggest that it is worth at least thinking about the idea that, while we might take this Bill through Committee, we do not vote it down, because that is exactly what this Conservative Government want. Let us have a sensible debate about sensible policies agreed with the French, starting next Friday, to do what we did 20 years ago and stop the flow.

As the noble Lord will recall from his time in this department, the policy of stopping asylum is not straightforward, and that of stopping people from entering illegally and claiming asylum is not straightforward. The Labour Party failed in its time in office to answer this question, and the problem has only got worse, particularly over the past two years. It is with this legislation that we are addressing the issue that has arisen. In the absence of a policy from the Labour Party, we can do no other than to conclude that it is in favour of open borders.

As to the noble Lord’s second point in relation to international co-operation, it has been vital, alongside the creation of this new legislation, to liaise internationally both with the French and the Albanians. As the noble Lord is aware, the Prime Minister is meeting President Macron on Friday to discuss these issues.

Does my noble friend accept that this is too serious a matter to try to turn it into party politics? Does he further accept that international law is crucially important for Britain and for the establishment of a whole range of other things? The Conservative Party is intended to be the party of law and order. I must say to him that many of us accept the seriousness of the numbers of people concerned. If you are concerned with climate change—as I am—it will increase and be worse, but we cannot do this by breaking international law.

I will go along all the way with my noble friend on the tough measures that have to be taken, but he has to accept that to propose something that is against international law will undermine all the other things that we have to do throughout the world. It does not help to say things that are, frankly, somewhat distant from the truth. I happen to think that the Labour Party has got it wrong, but it does not mean that, because it has got it wrong, it does not have a policy. On this occasion, unusually, it does.

I can reassure my noble friend that, as I have already said, the Government do not believe that they are acting contrary to international law.

My Lords, if it was so that the Government are not acting contrary to international law, as the Minister has just said, then the compatibility statement would be put on the face of the Bill.

No, I have not finished; I have a number of points that I would like to make to the Minister. It seems to me that, if we are saying that this is ultimately a matter that must be decided by the courts, that is no way to treat Parliament. Indeed, the process being suggested, that we should proceed with a Bill that is in contravention of the Human Rights Act, seems an insult to both Houses of Parliament and I am surprised that the Government would even contemplate that.

I have one or two question to follow what the noble Lord, Lord Deben, said about international law. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has said, in terms:

“This would be a clear breach of the Refugee Convention”

and would undermine

“the very purpose for which the Refugee Convention was established.”

Is the Government’s position that the refugee convention should no longer apply in the United Kingdom or that it already does not apply in the United Kingdom?

Secondly, there are arrangements suggested in Clause 3 of the Bill on the removal of unaccompanied children. How could such a removal ever be compatible with our obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child? Clause 2(2)(a) will prevent anyone claiming asylum who has travelled on a forged passport—in fact, I think the Minister referred to this a moment ago. However, we know of course that many people fleeing persecution will have sought to deceive the authorities in the country from which they are fleeing—that is entirely to be expected in circumstances where they are being persecuted by that Government. Given that is the case, is not the UNHCR right to describe this Bill as destroying the right to claim asylum in the United Kingdom?

I will deal with that question in parts. First, as to the declaration on the front of the Bill—to which I draw the noble Lord’s attention—he will note that the Secretary of State, Suella Braverman, made a statement under Section 19(1)(b) that:

“I am unable to make a statement that, in my view, the provisions of the Illegal Migration Bill are compatible with the Convention rights, but the Government nevertheless wishes the House to proceed with the Bill.”

As the noble Lord will be aware, when the Labour Government introduced the Human Rights Act, Section 19 provided for a ministerial statement as to compatibility. By way of a Statement, the then Minister in charge of the Bill, Jack Straw, provided that this test should be one of a 50% threshold. The effect is that a Section 19(1)(a) statement is that you are satisfied that the measures are absolutely compliant, and a Section 19(1)(b) statement is that you are less than absolutely sure. Therefore, by placing a declaration of this kind on the front of the Bill, it is not a statement that the Government believe that the measures in it are not compatible; it is clearly the case that there is a strong—in my submission—legal basis for contending that these measures are compatible. However, applying the principles enunciated by Jack Straw following the passage of the Human Rights Act, the Home Secretary has quite properly appended her name to the statement on the front of this Bill. That, I hope, deals with the noble Lord’s first point.

I turn to the noble Lord’s second point, in relation to the UNHCR’s comments yesterday evening—I think the UK representative of the UNHCR made some comments. Plainly, His Majesty’s Government disagree with that analysis. I draw noble Lords’ attention to the passage in the judgment given by the High Court in the Rwanda case, in which submissions were made by counsel on behalf of the UNHRC in relation to its views on the scheme. The court did not say that those submissions were correct. It is clear that this is no infallible statement as to compatibility with international law.

My Lords, before noble Lords continue, there are a lot of people wanting to ask questions, so I implore noble Lords to ask short questions that will elicit short answers from the Minister. Let us continue with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell.

My Lords, the Minister mentioned the rule of law. Why is it, then, that every time this Government find themselves in difficulty, they seek refuge in illegality? They did so in Part 5 of the markets Bill, they did so in relation to the Northern Ireland protocol, and now we have the admission, to which the Minister has just referred, that the provisions in this Bill may be illegal. Of course, we have to take that together with the opinion expressed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The unwillingness to give certification in the usual form is, in a sense, corroborated by what the UNHCR has said.

Even the title of this Bill is ambiguous. It is called the “Illegal Migration Bill”, but we are not clear yet —it is at least becoming clear to me—that it is not the migration that is illegal but the Bill itself. I finish by repeating a point already made: growing up in politics in this country, I have been told many times that the Conservative Party is the party of law and order. I have stopped believing that this evening.

I thank the noble Lord for his remarks. The Conservative Party very much remains the party of law and order. It is this Parliament that decides the laws for this country, and it is this Parliament that must decide who can enter and when they can enter. It is our view that these measures are compatible with international law. That does not—whatever the noble Lord might suggest—render the measures in this Bill in any way illegal.

My Lords, I return to the Statement, rather than the Bill, which we will spend hours debating in due course. There was a lot in this Statement that worried me, but what worried me even more was that there was no reference whatever to children, unaccompanied children and their protection in this whole process. Can the Minister comment on why nothing was said about that in the Statement?

The Statement was intended to—and did—accurately set out the contents of the Bill. Indeed, in the exchanges that followed, which the right reverend Prelate will find in Hansard, it was clear that there was discussion of the status of children. I can confirm that the position is this: the removal of any under-18s will be delayed until adulthood except in certain circumstances. As the right reverend Prelate is aware, one issue that has arisen in relation to the exception for minors is of people claiming to be minors when they are not. This is of course an attempt to evade immigration control and can have serious safety ramifications if such a person is placed with children.

My Lords, I express the hope that when the Prime Minister is discussing things with President Macron, they have two aims: first, to establish safe, simple, clean accommodation in France, jointly paid for by this country and France; and, secondly, to make a real attempt to arrest and punish those who pilot the boats. There is a big difference between them and those who sacrifice both their lives and their life savings to get across.

I thank the noble Lord for that question. It is not the case, I am afraid, that the people-smuggling gangs are responsible for piloting the vessels: quite frequently they will delegate the duty of piloting the vessels to other passengers; it is not uniquely the case. This means that it is in fact much harder to penalise the masterminds behind these organisations. Very great efforts are made, but the reality is that there is a massive demand to cross the channel. Lots of people want to come to our country, and when there is that untapped demand, unfortunately, the likelihood is that if one criminal gang is closed down, another will crop up, unless you attack the seat of the problem, which is the demand for illegal migration.

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Murray is going to hate me, but I have just had agreement through the usual channels that we will go an extra 10 minutes, given the demand for questions. So we will hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, from my noble friend Lord Balfe and from the Cross Benches.

I am sure the Minister will wish to correct an erroneous statement that he made in responding to the Front-Bench questions. He said there are 100 million refugees in the world. That is not what the Statement says. The figure from which the Statement draws comes, I believe, from the UNHCR: 100 million displaced people in the world, most of whom are in the countries of origin. I am sure the Minister will want to correct that. I am going to pick up on the question of children. Have the Minister or the Government considered what life would be like for a 16 year-old, a 15 year-old or a 17 year-old being held—warehoused—in this country and then, the day they turn 18, being thrown out, even though we know they are a refugee?

I thank the noble Baroness and I entirely accept her correction. She is quite right about the figure of 100 million: it is displaced persons. On her second point, I am afraid I do not accept that it would be appropriate to exclude everyone under 18 from the operation of the scheme, and it is obvious why that should be: sadly, such an exception would generate very great abuse.

My Lords, this is certainly not an ideal Bill, but the problem it seeks to address has been around for a long time. In my view, it lost us the referendum, which was a big tragedy.

It won the noble Lord the referendum, but it lost me the referendum. The key point surely is that we live in a democracy. The people are demanding action in this area loud and clear, and it is our duty as a Government to deliver what the public want. The public want the boats stopped, so I hope that we can have a discussion on the basis of making the Bill work, not wrecking it.

My Lords, I really hope we do not play party politics with the Bill. Earlier, it was said that the Home Secretary had created a crisis by the use of rhetoric and I just point out that, no, she did not: there is a crisis and that is that we are not controlling the borders. So we have to be very careful—on all sides, by the way. Will the Minister reflect, based on the Statement, that the very concept of modern slavery, for example, but even asylum and refugee status, are in danger of being undermined by the confusion caused by claiming that people from safe countries are fleeing war and persecution? People are becoming cynical when they hear the word “asylum”. There is a gaslighting of the British public by people who challenge them and tell them they are inhumane and not compassionate. Will he reflect on the toxicity that has been created by that, with the trending of “Nazi Germany”, “1930s” and all the rest of it? That is an insult to the British public, is it not?

Yes. Taking the noble Baroness’s points in order, I very much heed her words: it is very important that discussion of these issues happens in a calm and measured fashion. On her second point in relation to the cynicism that is born of the abuse of the generosity of the British people towards those seeking asylum and humanitarian protection, I could not agree more. Sadly, that has led to a reputation that these measures can be abused by those who are, in reality, wanting to come to Britain for reasons of economic migration rather than for genuine protection. Abusing those measures has led to a degree of cynicism among the public. Finally, on her final point as to whether there is toxicity, there is. The best way to deal with that is to stop the boats and have a system of asylum protection that brings people directly from neighbouring countries to those from which these people come and does not allow people to jump the queue by travelling across Europe and paying the people smugglers.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 was a landmark Act, followed by many parts of the world. Do the Government appreciate the impact across the world, in countries that have followed us, of the extent to which we are reneging on that Act under Clauses 21 to 25?

I entirely agree that the Modern Slavery Act was a landmark provision, but sadly that too has been the subject of very extensive abuse. As we set out in the Statement, it is clear that people are being advised to claim that they are victims of modern slavery in order to avail of the respite and the long period for conclusive determination of modern slavery claims, which was passed by this House and the other place as a measure of compassion for modern slaves. The measures in this Bill do not undermine our principle of acting to stop this evil practice of modern slavery.

My Lords, it is the turn of the Labour Benches, but I hope that if people ask short questions and get short answers, we will get through everyone.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that we cannot solve this problem by unilateral domestic action alone? We have to have co-operation with European countries that are facing similar problems of asylum and refugees. Does he also accept that this co-operation is going to be very difficult to deliver if we are seen to be unilaterally going against the European Convention on Human Rights? This is fundamental, because it will not only stop co-operation in this area but threaten co-operation in areas such as trade. It is a foundation of the Good Friday agreement and is vital to Britain’s standing in the world.

I agree that international co-operation is a vital part of the jigsaw; that is why we reached fresh agreements in December with the Governments of Albania and of France and why the Prime Minister is meeting President Macron on Friday. To that extent, I agree with the noble Lord. However, I do not agree that the United Kingdom cannot act unilaterally, because we need to stop people taking these risky journeys across the channel—one of the busiest and most dangerous sea lanes in the world. That requires special legislation to be passed by this Parliament, and this Bill satisfies that.

My Lords, does my noble friend recall that, last year, we granted right of admission to 1.1 million people and gave right to remain to 504,000 people? Is it not unsurprising, given the scale of those numbers, that the British people are asking us to bear down on those who seek to jump the queue and arrive illegally?

My Lords, does the Minister agree with the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, who said what the vast majority of the British people will be thinking—that at last the Government are doing something to make sure that we can control our borders? Will stopping the use of hotels require legislation—if so, that could take some time—or are the Government committed to stopping it as soon as possible?

The Home Office very much wishes to stop the use of hotels. I hope there may be some announcements on that in the near future.

Does the Minister think it is humane and shows the sense of Great British compassion that, under the provisions of this Bill, an unaccompanied child fleeing war and arriving on these shores at the age of seven will, 11 years later at the age of 18, be deported to another country and have no automatic right of return to the country in which he or she has been for 11 years and made his or her life?

This is a scheme to prevent illegal immigration. That person would need to have paid a people smuggler to bring them across the channel. For the scheme to be coherent, age alone cannot automatically exclude membership from the cohort for removal.