Skip to main content

Lords Chamber

Volume 829: debated on Wednesday 10 May 2023

House of Lords

Wednesday 10 May 2023

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of St Albans.

Illegal Migration Bill

Second Reading

Moved by

My Lords, the British people are generous and welcoming to those in need fleeing persecution, war and humanitarian crisis abroad. They also know that uncontrolled illegal migration makes us less safe, is unfair on taxpayers, puts lives into the hands of people smugglers and is unfair on would-be immigrants who play by the rules.

More than 45,000 people came here by small boat last year. The overwhelming majority of arrivals were adult males under the age of 40. These journeys are extremely dangerous; people have lost their lives attempting to cross one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in flimsy boats. These journeys are also unnecessary. Those making the crossings are coming from safe countries, such as France, where they could have claimed asylum.

Our broken asylum system is costing the country some £3 billion a year, and taxpayers are now spending more than £6 million a day on hotels alone. We cannot continue, year on year, with this relentless rise in the number of illegal arrivals adding unacceptable pressures not just on our capacity to house new arrivals but on our ability to provide health, educational, children’s and welfare services.

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister is right: we have to stop the boats. I welcome the fact that this objective is shared across the political spectrum. The issue before your Lordships’ House today is how best to achieve this shared objective.

There is no one single solution. We need to address this complex issue across a broad front, and the Bill needs to be seen in its wider context. The Government have already delivered: the largest-ever small boats deal with France; a new agreement with Albania; a new, unified small boats operational command; tougher immigration enforcement; new, more robust measures for identifying potential victims of modern slavery; and a plan to clear the legacy initial decision asylum backlog by the end of the year and move migrants out of expensive hotels.

But we also need new legislation to make it unambiguously clear that if you enter the UK illegally, you will not be allowed to stay here. Instead, you will be liable to be detained and will be swiftly returned, either back to your home country or to a safe third country. It is only by removing the incentive to come to the United Kingdom that we will stop people taking these dangerous journeys and deter the people smugglers from profiting off people’s suffering. This is what the Bill seeks to deliver.

Crucially, the Bill places a legal duty on the Home Secretary to make arrangements for the removal of illegal entrants who meet the four conditions set out in Clause 2. This is critical to the operation of the scheme. It will send a clear message about Parliament’s intent in enacting this legislation. Save in the very limited circumstances provided for in the Bill, it will be crystal clear to illegal migrants, the courts and the British people that the Home Secretary is legally bound to remove all those who meet the conditions set out in Clause 2 as soon as it is reasonably practical to do so.

As I have indicated, the exceptions to this duty will be limited and, in most cases, only temporary. In particular, we recognise the sensitivities in relation to unaccompanied children. That is why the Bill provides that the duty to make arrangements for removal does not apply until they reach adulthood, which in some 70% of cases is within two years of their arrival. Reflecting our current policy, the Bill confers a discretionary power to remove unaccompanied children in limited circumstances. The Bill now expressly sets out those limited circumstances in which the power to remove unaccompanied children may be exercised; that is, for the purpose of reuniting a child with a parent, where the child is to be returned to a safe country of origin or where the child has made no protection claim.

The Bill also suspends the duty to make arrangements for removal, again on a temporary basis, in the case of those persons who make a factual suspensive claim or a serious harm suspensive claim. It is vital to the effective operation of the scheme provided for in the Bill that we address head-on the cycle of repeated and late legal challenges by those seeking to frustrate the Home Secretary’s existing removal powers. The suspensive claims provided for in the Bill will be the only claims that will be heard in country and will therefore be the only route by which someone can challenge removal. Legal challenges by way of judicial review are, of course, still available, but they will not suspend removal, and Clause 4 makes this clear. These claims can continue remotely. It follows from this that the courts are not able to grant any form of interim relief that would have the effect of holding up removal pending consideration of the substantive judicial review. Clause 52 now makes this clear in the Bill.

As I have indicated, the Bill itself makes provision for two kinds of suspensive claims that provide sufficient legal remedies to those seeking to challenge their removal. Where a person seeks to challenge their removal on the basis that the Home Secretary has made a mistake of fact in deciding that they met the removal conditions, they can lodge a factual suspensive claim. Where such a claim is successful, the duty to make arrangements for removal would no longer apply, although the claimant may be subject to enforcement action under existing law if they have no legal basis to remain in the United Kingdom.

The second type of suspensive claim is a serious harm suspensive claim. Under the provisions of the Bill, a person who has made a protection or rights-based claim in respect of their home country will not be returned to that country unless it is one of the safe countries listed in new Section 80AA of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 and only if there are no exceptional circumstances militating against their return. But such a person can and will be removed to a safe third country.

Serious harm suspensive claims recognise that, exceptionally, there may be a well-founded reason why a person cannot be removed to the third country specified in the removal notice. Such a claim must be based on the fact that the person would face a real, imminent and foreseeable risk of serious and irreversible harm if they were removed. This is purposefully a high bar that reflects the terms on which the European Court of Human Rights may decide to indicate interim measures under rule 39 of its rules of court. Where a serious harm suspensive claim is upheld, it would be open to the Home Secretary to remove the person to another country or to revisit their removal to the original third country following a change of circumstances—for example, should the medical condition that previously prevented removal subsequently improve.

I have already alluded to the fact that the test for serious harm suspensive claims reflects the approach taken by the Strasbourg court when deciding the grant of interim measures. I have also explained the provisions in the Bill placing limitations on the grant of interim remedies by our domestic courts. In this context, it is entirely right that we address the impact of any interim measures indicated by the Strasbourg court.

Clause 53 of the Bill provides a discretion for a Minister of the Crown to suspend the duty to remove a person where an interim measure has been indicated. That discretion must be exercised personally by a Minister. This means that the Minister may suspend removal in response to a rule 39 interim measure but is not required to as a matter of UK law. The clause provides a broad discretion for the Minister to have regard to any factors when considering whether to disapply the duty and provides a non-exhaustive list of considerations that the Minister may have regard to when considering the exercise of that discretion. As my right honourable friend the Immigration Minister indicated in the House of Commons, this Government take our international treaty obligations incredibly seriously, and I can assure noble Lords that this discretion would be exercised judiciously and on the basis of the facts of an individual case.

The Bill provides for bespoke powers of detention for the purpose of the scheme. It is vital that we have the power to detain to establish whether a person falls within the scheme, and pending their removal, if the Bill is to be effective both as a deterrent and as a means of ensuring that the Home Secretary can comply with the duty on her to make arrangements for removal. That said, I again acknowledge the particular vulnerability of unaccompanied children. That is why the Government have brought forward amendments to provide that unaccompanied children may be detained only in circumstances prescribed in regulations. In addition, in line with the commitment given by the Immigration Minister, later in the Bill’s passage through this House we will set out the new timescale under which children may be detained for the purposes of removal without judicial oversight.

It is a central tenet of the Bill that a person who satisfies the conditions in Clause 2 will not have their asylum, human rights or modern slavery claims considered in the United Kingdom. It is a sad but incontrovertible fact that our modern slavery protections are susceptible to abuse by illegal migrants seeking to frustrate their removal from the United Kingdom. Whereas in 2019 just 6% of people arriving in the UK on a small boat and detained for return involved a modern slavery referral, the figure in 2021 was 73%.

The Bill therefore applies the public order disqualification, as provided for in the Council of Europe convention against trafficking, to those who meet the conditions in Clause 2. This means that they will not benefit from the protections otherwise afforded to potential victims of modern slavery. The Bill provides for an exception where a person’s presence in the UK is necessary for the purposes of their co-operation with a law enforcement agency in the investigation of an offence linked to their exploitation.

We recognise that the application of the public order disqualification to this cohort is a significant step and justified only during such time as the exceptional circumstances relating to the illegal entry into the UK, including arising from the channel crossings in small boats, continue to apply. For this reason, the modern slavery provisions are subject to a sunsetting clause such that, unless renewed by affirmative regulations agreed by both Houses, they will cease to apply after two years.

As I have set out, the whole point of the Bill is deterrence. As well as being clear that illegal entry into the UK may simply result in your detention and swift removal, the Bill underlines that you will have no ability to build a life in the UK. Save in very limited circumstances, Clauses 29 to 36 provide that a person will have no right to secure settlement, acquire British citizenship or, once removed, lawfully re-enter the UK.

Finally, I return to the theme I began with. Ours is a welcoming, compassionate and generous nation. We have offered our homes and communities to nearly half a million people seeking protection since 2015. We have safe and legal routes available to people from any country in the world, such as the refugee family reunion scheme and the UK resettlement scheme, as well as in recent years country-specific routes for people from Syria, Hong Kong, Afghanistan and Ukraine. We stand ready to do more. But our ability to do more must be directly linked to our capacity to house and support new arrivals.

We recognise the calls for early progress on this front, so within three months of Royal Assent we will begin the consultation with local authorities and communities themselves to understand their capacity to accommodate and support persons to be admitted to the UK each year through safe and legal routes. Within six months of Royal Assent we will set out, in a report to be laid before Parliament, the existing and proposed additional safe and legal routes. We will seek to open the proposed new routes as soon as practicable and, in any event, by the end of 2024.

We simply cannot continue with a situation whereby, year on year, tens of thousands of people make the dangerous, illegal and unnecessary journey across the channel in circumvention of our immigration controls. Illegal migration is not fair and not right. It is not fair on the British communities whose public services and housing are under pressure. It is not fair on those who work hard and obey the law to come to the UK through established routes. It is also not fair on the people travelling in the small boats themselves, who are placed in peril at the hands of people smugglers.

We must stop the boats. The Bill, in conjunction with the other steps the Government are taking, is a necessary, urgent and indeed compassionate response to the daily challenge posed to the integrity of our immigration system. We must act now and, on that basis, I beg to move.

Amendment to the Motion

Moved by

To leave out from “that” to the end and insert “the House declines to give the bill a second reading because it

(1) undermines the rule of law by failing to meet the United Kingdom’s international law commitments and by allowing Ministers to ignore the directions of judges;

(2) undermines the UK’s tradition of providing sanctuary to refugees by removing the ability of refugees to exercise their legal right to claim asylum, by removing protections afforded to modern slavery victims and by increasing the number of people in indefinite detention, including children;

(3) fails to provide safe and legal routes for refugees;

(4) fails to include measures to eliminate the backlog of asylum cases; and

(5) fails to include measures to tackle people smuggling gangs.”

My Lords, Trevor Phillips recently wrote in the Times that, in 2000, 175 million people lived outside the country of their birth and that, by 2020, it was 280 million. He likened the Prime Minister’s pledge to “stop the boats” to King Canute ordering back the incoming tide. He argued that we need to bring order to the flow, rather than focusing on the impossible task of locking the doors to keep asylum seekers out. We agree.

We have yawning gaps in our labour markets that refugees could fill. We believe that we should adopt the approach many other countries are adopting, that responsibility should be taken away from the Home Office and given to the Foreign Office or the Department for Business and Trade and that “Migration is no job for a home secretary”. Phillips agrees. We should be harnessing the power of the incoming tide, not refusing to accept that it cannot be stopped.

The Government talk about “pull factors”. We talk about “push” factors: the intolerable conditions in their home countries that compel asylum seekers to find sanctuary elsewhere in the world. Even in detention in the UK, you do not have to worry about where you are going to live, how you are going to survive without adequate food or water, or whether you are going to be killed or persecuted, or otherwise have your life endangered. Can the Minister say what evidence the Government have that the measures in the Bill will deter small boat crossings?

Talking of so-called “pull factors”, the Government have reduced their spending on measures designed to improve conditions in asylum seekers’ home countries from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national income, while at the same time spending millions of pounds from the 0.5%—this so-called “overseas aid”—on housing asylum seekers in the UK. Can the Minister confirm how much less the Government are currently spending on overseas aid since the downgrade to 0.5%, and how much of the 0.5% is being spent on housing asylum seekers in the UK?

In the Times today, the Home Secretary talks about

“the clear desire of the British people to control immigration”.

The Telegraph reported yesterday—under the headline that net migration was set to hit double the pre-Brexit level—that, in the year to December 2022, 1.37 million work, study or other visas were granted by the Government to allow people to stay long term in the United Kingdom. The Home Secretary says that the number seeking asylum crossing the channel in small boats in the same period was 45,000—just over 3% of those who sought to stay in the UK last year, even if every asylum seeker was granted leave to remain. If the Government are, as they appear, subscribing to the populist view that there is “too much” immigration, can the Minister explain why they are attempting to push through legislation that seeks to deter only three in every 100 long-term arrivals, and why, since Brexit, they have increased the number of countries from which people can enter the UK without question and without a visa by 10?

The Government portray asylum seekers as an undesirable drain on society. We disagree. Let me give noble Lords an example. A young man who I know personally, who is now in Norway, had been living in Afghanistan when, at the age of three, he lost his father, killed in the Afghanistan war, and, at the age of five, his mother died of breast cancer. He was sent to his grandmother in Iran, where he worked from the age of six until he was 12. He saved enough money to begin his journey through Europe, finally arriving in Norway the day before his 16th birthday, where he was granted asylum.

He had never been to school before arriving in Norway; now, at the age of 23, he speaks fluent Norwegian and English. He works long hours in the security industry, sending £500 a month to his grandmother and two cousins in Iran. He is also on a three-year course at police college, which will result in him becoming a Norwegian police officer. He has a Norwegian passport and driving licence, he lives alone in private rented accommodation that he pays for himself and he is saving for a deposit to buy his own home, as well as paying Norwegian tax and national insurance.

Under this Bill, if that young man came to the UK in the same way, he would face compulsory X-rays to confirm that he was not an adult. Even though the Home Secretary’s duty to deport him would not apply until he was 18, the Secretary of State would still have the power to deport him while he was a child. He would most likely be detained until he was 18 and then sent to Rwanda—if anyone ever gets sent to Rwanda, and even if the capacity of Rwanda could cope with the numbers involved.

During that time, the Home Office could prevent that young man being looked after by a local authority, ignoring this country’s international obligations to act in the best interests of the child and the provisions of Part III of the Children Act. Whether the detention of asylum seekers was reasonable or not, including the potentially indefinite detention of children, pregnant women and victims of torture, would no longer be a matter for the courts but for the Home Secretary to decide.

If the European Court of Human Rights blocked that young man’s deportation by means of an interim order, the Home Secretary could ignore the judge’s ruling. UK courts would be prevented from granting an injunction, even if there were grounds for a judicial review. So much for the rule of law.

If that young man could not be sent back to where he came from, because neither Iran nor Afghanistan are listed as “safe countries” and he remained in the United Kingdom, he would never be able to work, never be given leave to remain and never be able to become a British citizen. Neither would his children, were he to have any, nor any of his family members. Estimates are that between 160,000 and 193,000 asylum seekers could be left in limbo in the United Kingdom in the first few years of the Bill’s operation—a permanent drain on the state, a subclass of society, open to labour and sexual exploitation. Can the Minister say when we will receive the Government’s own impact assessment, or will noble Lords have to rely on NGO estimates?

This young man’s story is not exceptional. There are many such examples in the UK that prove that those with the drive and determination to make such long and perilous journeys are just the sort of people who will work hard, contribute positively to society and support their families—the complete opposite to how this Government seek to portray those seeking asylum.

The Bill seeks systematically to deny human rights to a group of people desperately seeking sanctuary. It would breach our international obligations under the UN conventions on refugees, on the rights of the child and on the reduction of statelessness, and the European convention against trafficking. This is the first, but not the only, Bill that explicitly states that it does not have to be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The Human Rights Act is being revoked, one law at a time. The Bill would undermine the rule of law, with Ministers able to ignore the rulings of judges. At the same time, we are asking Russia and China to abide by the international rule of law.

I have one final thought. I studied moral philosophy at university. One of the acid tests of whether something was morally right was the question: “What would happen if everyone did the same thing?” Can the Minister say what would happen if every country adopted the approach outlined in the Bill?

This Bill is a low point in the history of this Government and we should not allow it to proceed any further. I beg to move.

My Lords, before I make my speech, let me make it clear that we will not support the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, in his amendment. Of course, we oppose the Bill, and did so at Second and Third Reading in the other place. We understand why the amendment has been moved and we know that it sounds attractive, but if we pursued it, all that would happen is that the Government would use the Parliament Act and no amendments in this place would then be possible. So we will propose amendments and press the Government to think again, but we recognise that the elected House passed this legislation.

I also say to the Minister and this Chamber, however, that we do not need lectures either from the Home Secretary or the Justice Secretary about the constitutional position of the Lords. We will not be rushed or intimidated into giving the Bill an easy ride. We will do all we can to do our job in seeking support across the Chamber to bring about the much-needed change.

As we begin this House’s discussion of the Bill, I declare my interest as an unpaid trustee of the Human Trafficking Foundation and my work with the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab. It is essential, if not crucial, that we lay out again the principles on which we should base our consideration of the measures in the Bill. We can address the detail in Committee and on Report, and I shall do so a little in this speech—but what of our principles?

Of course, we face a very real challenge, with the Government having lost control of migrants crossing the channel in particular and asylum policy in general. The Bill is the latest response to a crisis whereby 138,000 asylum claims await decision and 45,700 migrants crossed the channel in 2022, with 6,415 so far this year. Since the Bill was announced, 3,265 migrants have crossed the channel—some deterrent. They come into a system in which already 38,900 people await removal. Of course there is a problem that needs fixing, but this new Bill, layering on more incompetence, complexity, unworkability and unfairness, will not do it—it will make it worse. Indeed, it comes less than a year after we were told that it would all be sorted out by the Nationality and Borders Act—that it was the solution and the way to stop the boats. The ink is hardly dry on that Act, and in blind panic, as the problem gets worse, new measures, which would have been regarded as unthinkable just a few years ago, are now to be rushed through.

In the face of increasing global migration, fuelled by regional insecurity, war and persecution, and the challenge of climate change, which can only get worse, where is the leadership that you would expect from our Government? Our Government say that the solution is to go it alone, embarrassed and humiliated, even as we look at countries—often some of the poorest in the world—taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees from conflicts on their borders. One has only to look at Sudan. Where are the leaders such as Churchill and Tory MP Maxwell Fyfe, who set up the Council of Europe when faced with the humanitarian and refugee crisis post World War II? Obviously now it is totally different, but they saw international co-operation, based on human rights, as an essential prerequisite to any solution.

This illegal migrants Bill has been condemned by the United Nations refugee commissioner, the Council of Europe, UNICEF and numerous NGOs and organisations, including faith organisations working in this area—condemned by all. And what do the Government say of us? That we are out-of-touch lefties, trendy lawyers and people who are not in touch, when we are standing up against those introducing unworkable measures that drive a stake through the heart of our international standing—something that we can be proud of.

As Amnesty says, Clause 1 means that, whatever the merits of the refugee’s asylum claim, whatever the strength of their connection to the UK and however indecent and impractical the aim of expelling them, their expulsion is to be required by the Bill, and no moral, legal or practical consideration is to obstruct that. That is shocking and appalling. Furthermore, the Bill bars anyone and any court from interfering; it says that there will be no judicial review for up to 28 days for anyone. No ability to test the legality or reasonableness of that is to be allowed under Clause 2. Under the Bill, everyone who has entered irregularly has to be detained; no matter whether you are fleeing persecution, war, or being trafficked, you will be locked up. Thousands on thousands will be locked up but the Government will not even give a number. There are approximately 2,000 places available at the moment. How many more cruise ships, military barges or camps are needed? Where are they? When will they be available? The Government have no idea or proper plans—they are clueless—and no judgment can be made, because no impact assessment is available for us to consider.

We have no idea what happens after those 28 days. All of it is predicated on returns agreements, like the one with Rwanda, which is stuck in the courts; other such agreements are completely non-existent. What do the Government do? They seek unilaterally to undermine the ECHR, even while they negotiate, by giving the Home Secretary what is effectively an opt-out from any interim measure granted under Rule 39. As Joanna Cherry MP, the acting chair of the JCHR, reminded us, we are talking about the suspension of measures such as extradition—not stopped, but suspended—while the case is properly examined. She pointed out that between 2019 and 2021, interim measures under Rule 39 were applied for in 880 cases against the UK but granted in just seven. How does that justify driving a coach and horses through international treaties that we signed and, indeed, helped to set up? As a former Attorney-General, Geoffrey Cox MP, said, the provisions in this Bill ask the House, should the Bill be approved, to allow,

“quite consciously and deliberately, a deliberate breach of our obligations under the convention”.—[Official Report, Commons, 26/4/23; col. 785.]

What of children under this Bill, particularly unaccompanied children? Last year, over 5,242 unaccompanied children sought asylum in the UK. These children will be detained, whatever the Minister says, for an uncertain period and returned if possible. Even if they are allowed to remain in the UK while a child, unaccompanied children will live in the knowledge that on their 18th birthday they will be subject to removal, regardless of their protection needs, which will be deemed inadmissible. If this Bill becomes law, more children will go missing. Notwithstanding the Children Act, unaccompanied children have often been placed in hotels outside the care system. The result has been 4,600 children placed in Home Office-run hotels, 440 missing episodes and 200 children still not found. This Bill will make it worse. I say to the Government that, if the state was a physical parent, it would be prosecuted. Clauses 15 to 20 do all of the above and have been condemned by, among others, the Children’s Commissioner.

Clauses 21 to 28 destroy one of the Conservative Government’s greatest achievements, the legacy of Theresa May, the former Prime Minister, and our reputation as a world leader in the area of modern slavery. As the former Prime Minister said, the Bill

“will drive a coach and horses through the Modern Slavery Act”.[Official Report, Commons, 28/3/23; col. 886.]

If noble Lords have not yet done so, they should read Clause 4(1)(c). People cannot claim to be a victim of slavery or trafficking to suspend any detention or removal, which is justified and based on selective statistics. As Theresa May said,

“more people will stay enslaved”,

and the Bill will give more power to the slave drivers and traffickers, for whom it will be easy to say,

“Don’t even think about trying to escape”,

because, if you do, you will be sent away, perhaps to Rwanda. This cannot be what our country has come to. The Government have said that you do not even have to be in the UK to assist an investigation, making it harder to identify, catch and prosecute the traffickers. Most astonishingly of all, the former Prime Minister said:

“It is a slap in the face for those of us who actually care about victims of modern slavery and human trafficking”.—[Official Report, Commons, 26/4/23; cols. 808-09.]

That was a former Conservative Prime Minister speaking recently in the other place about the provisions in the Illegal Migration Bill that is before us today.

We have a Bill that gives the Home Secretary the power to remove anyone who arrives via an irregular route, with no certainty as to where, if anywhere. Such a power extends to children—the power to detain children with no legal redress for at least 28 days. It is immoral, but there is no space or places for detention. Courts can be ignored, whether domestic or international. There are no returns agreements or international co-operation and no help if you are trafficked. That is what this House is being asked to support.

A new approach is needed. There is a better way: an approach that takes on the traffickers and smugglers, sorts out the bureaucratic mess and muddle of the current system with a fast-track asylum system and seeks international agreements and co-operation. We need an approach that restores the aid budget to 0.7%, tackling more problems in the region itself, and the speedy setting up of safe and legal routes. Above all, we need an approach that is workable, practical and based on our international obligations and the conventions that we have signed.

Instead, in response to a broken system that is failing, we have a Government playing fast and loose with our place in the world and our respect for international law. This must change. We will do all that we can, particularly on Report, to change this Bill—not by blocking it but by standing up for those who look to us for sanctuary and by proposing workable, humane solutions. We will be proud to do so. We will ask the Government to think again, as is the constitutional right of the House of Lords with respect to things that come to us from the other place.

We will not be cowed by the other place as it tries to intimidate us about seeking to change the Bill. Of course we will seek to change and amend it and we will say where we think that the Government have it wrong. This House has always done that and we will not be deflected. As I said, we need a different, moral approach that works and does not make things worse. What we are seeing from this Government is even more gimmicks and we will get more of the same until we get the change that we and the country need: a change of government.

My Lords, I acknowledge at the outset the great assistance that I have received in discussions with Dr S Chelvan, a barrister with particular expertise and experience in immigration law.

It is important to appreciate where we are going with UK legislation on refugees. There are four resettlement schemes operated by the United Kingdom: Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine and Hong Kong. Critically, under the Immigration Rules, there is no asylum visa route for an individual refugee to enter the United Kingdom and claim asylum. This means that, unless a person is within one of the four resettlement schemes or asylum is sought by someone already lawfully present in the United Kingdom, the refugee’s arrival in and entry to the United Kingdom will inevitably be illegal.

That means that they will fall within category 2 refugee status under the Nationality and Borders Act 2022. They will therefore be subject to accelerated and punitive procedures and, even if they fulfil the refugee definition, they will not have the benefits of settlement and nationality afforded to group 1 refugees. They would, however, be able to make a human rights claim or a protection claim, albeit under strict constraints, including very short time limits. If they have arrived after 7 March 2023, they will almost inevitably be caught by the four conditions for mandatory removal under Clause 2 of the Bill. It is obvious and must be emphasised that this is not a small boats Bill. The provisions of the Bill would affect all who seek refugee status in this country and are entitled to the protection of the 1951 convention.

In a move away from even the limited rights of category 2 refugees under the 2022 Act, the duty under Clause 2 to make arrangements for their removal is unaffected by the making of a protection claim or a human rights claim or an application for judicial review. Any protection claim or human rights claim is by statute inadmissible and carries no right of appeal.

Removal must be to one of the countries specified in Schedule 1, but the only country there specified with which the United Kingdom has an arrangement for taking such asylum seekers is Rwanda. Such asylum seekers will be detained, as provided in Clause 10, and, under Clause 11, that will be for

“such period as, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, is reasonably necessary to enable the … removal to be carried out”.

There is no statutory time limit on such detention. An asylum seeker who is subject to removal under Clause 2 has the ability to make a suspensive claim—either a serious harm suspensive claim or a factual suspensive claim—but that does not affect the legality and finality of the obligation of the Secretary of State to make arrangements for removal.

Can it get any worse for a refugee seeking asylum in the United Kingdom? It can, because even in relation to safe and legal routes—the four resettlement routes—Clause 58 says:

“The Secretary of State must make regulations specifying the maximum number of persons who may enter the United Kingdom annually using safe and legal routes”.

Even in the case of refugees from war or armed conflict, the Government have failed to provide a safe route in relation to Sudan. We appear to be witnessing the playing out of a policy continuum under which increasing barriers for refugees to the United Kingdom are being imposed with an ultimate goal of preventing all refugees save those who have already applied under the four resettlement schemes.

It is against that background that I wish to illustrate the operation of the current and proposed legislation by reference to LGBT refugees. It is well established that LGBT refugees are within the protection of the refugee convention. Not only is that the view of the UNHCR but it has been decided by our own courts at the highest level. Unless an LGBT person is already legitimately in the United Kingdom and claims refugee status while here or happens to be within one of the four resettlement schemes, they will, as I said, almost inevitably be caught by the four conditions in Clause 2, so the Secretary of State will be under a statutory duty to make arrangements for their removal. They cannot make a protection claim, a human rights claim or an application for judicial review to prevent the operation of that duty. They will be detained for as long as the Secretary of State considers “reasonably necessary” to enable the removal to take place, without any statutory time limit. None of that is affected by the ability to make a serious harm suspensive claim.

They have to be sent to one of the countries in Schedule 1. Here, however, is a difficulty. There are many countries on that list in Schedule 1 that have anti- LGBT laws or where, even if such laws are not actively enforced or there are no express laws, there exists a social environment where there is anti-LGBT persecution with impunity and a climate of fear for LGBT people. This is particularly true of those Commonwealth countries, of which there are many, where our colonial history has had the civilising consequence of bequeathing brutal anti-LGBT laws and prejudices. Such laws or prejudices exist in the following countries specified in Schedule 1: Albania, Brazil—particularly in relation to trans people—Gambia, Ghana, Hungary, Jamaica, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Nigeria, Poland, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and, in some respects, South Africa. The only country with which the United Kingdom has reached agreement is Rwanda.

I am nearly at the end.

The Foreign Office travel advice includes the following:

“Homosexuality is not illegal in Rwanda but remains frowned on by many. LGBT individuals can experience discrimination and abuse, including from local authorities. There are no specific anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBT individuals”.

While the search is on for some other more appropriate safe country for LGBT refugees fleeing persecution, which may take years or may never be achieved, the refugee is detained without limit of time. What an appalling indictment of our failure to comply with our international legal obligations in breach of the rule of law and of our lack of humanity and empathy.

My Lords, we need a Bill to reform migration. We need a Bill to stop the boats. We need a Bill to destroy the evil tribe of traffickers. The tragedy is that, without much change, this is not that Bill.

This Bill fails utterly to take a long-term and strategic view of the challenges of migration and undermines international co-operation, rather than taking an opportunity for the UK to show leadership, as we did in 1951. There are too many problems in this Bill for one speech. The right reverend Prelates the Bishop of Durham and the Bishop of Gloucester will speak to other issues, but I hope the Government will listen to the speeches pointing out some of the issues, including the eloquent and detailed speech by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker.

The existing global conventions and agreements need updating in response to the crises we face today. While now inadequate, those conventions offer a baseline from which to build a globally shared understanding of what protection must be given to refugees. They are not inconvenient obstructions to get round by any legislative means necessary. Legal compatibility is a question for the learned lawyers among your Lordships, but it does not require a lawyer to see that what is suggested is a dramatic departure from what was ever envisaged in international law since 1951.

Even if this Bill succeeds in temporarily stopping the boats, and I do not think it will, it will not stop conflict or climate migration. The IPCC forecasts that climate change by itself, let alone the conflicts it is already causing, will lead to at least 800 million more refugees in total by 2050.

What if other countries follow suit? The UNHCR has warned that the Bill could lead to the collapse of the international system that protects refugees. Is that what we want the United Kingdom’s contribution to be in our leadership? Currently, 80% of refugees are still in the global South, protected by the poorest countries in the world. Of course we cannot take everyone, and nor should we, but this Bill has no sense at all of the long-term and global nature of the challenge the world faces. It ignores the reality that migration must be engaged with at source, as well as in the channel, as if we as a country were unrelated to the rest of the world. It is a siloed Bill, not a whole-of-government Bill. It does not draw in conflict management and prevention, which drives migration. It does not draw in climate impacts, which drive migration and conflict. It is isolationist. It is morally unacceptable and politically impractical to let the poorest countries deal with the crisis alone and cut our international aid.

Nor is there any measure in this Bill for engaging with the criminal gangs of traffickers directly and offensively, rather than trusting simply to what appears to be the unpredictability of market forces—as if traffickers were rationally trained economic actors and not appalling criminals. Safe, legal routes must be put in place as soon as illegal, unsafe routes begin to be attacked. We cannot wait for the years that will take place before that happens.

This Bill is an attempt at a short-term fix. It risks great damage to the UK’s interests and reputation at home and abroad, let alone the interests of those in need of protection or the nations that together face this challenge. Our interests as a nation are closely linked to our reputation for justice and the rule of law, and to our measured language, calm decision and careful legislation. None of those is seen here.

Long-term, globally co-ordinated solutions must be part of the way forward. This nation should lead internationally, not stand apart. I intend to table amendments in Committee that encourage this longer-term thinking and collaborative focus, including a plan for combating traffickers and working with international partners to look at updating the 1951 convention.

Nevertheless, I hope that this House will not support the excellent, sympathetic and carefully put amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. I agree with its sentiment but I also believe that, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said, it is our duty to change, not to throw out, the Bill.

Finally, as one might expect from these Benches, in the New Testament, in Matthew, chapter 25, Jesus calls us to welcome the stranger. That call has been part of the history and culture in this country for centuries and was part of the drive for the Modern Slavery Act. I urge the Government to reconsider much of the Bill, which fails to live up to our history, our moral responsibility and our political and international interests.

My Lords, it is indeed a privilege to follow the most reverend Primate. I am sure that the whole House will wish to congratulate him on the most distinguished part he played in the Coronation proceedings on Saturday.

Notwithstanding the eloquence of those who have previously spoken in opposition to the Bill, I cannot agree with them. I support the Bill. It is the first duty of a Government to protect the borders of their state, and the Bill represents the best available means of achieving that objective.

I shall make three points. First, I want to deal with the allegation that the provisions in the Bill, particularly those relating to interim rulings of the European Court of Human Rights, in some way breach the rule of law; secondly, I want to comment on the provision of safe routes for asylum seekers; and thirdly, I want to consider the extent to which the Bill’s measures are likely to succeed.

The provisions of Clause 53 have attracted a good deal of controversy. It has been suggested that they constitute a breach of our duty under the European convention and therefore a breach of the rule of law. In order to assess the validity of those arguments, it is necessary to examine the legitimacy of the power of the European Court of Human Rights to make interim rulings—which is what Clause 53 is all about.

The European court derives its authority from the convention. Article 46 of the convention expressly states that only final judgments of the court are binding. Rule 39 of the court’s rules of procedure, which provides the basis for its ability to make interim rulings, states only that it may indicate the measures that it thinks should be taken in any case. It is true that the court, in a case in 2005, seemed to conclude that it could make a binding interim ruling, but that was clearly inconsistent with the convention and with rule 39 itself.

Against that background, let us consider the ruling that the court made last year in relation to the Government’s plan to remove illegal immigrants to Rwanda. It was an ex parte ruling so the UK Government had no opportunity to state their case, it was issued by an anonymous judge in a press release, and it was indefinite in the sense that no provision was made for a hearing to take place at which the UK Government could state their case. It was contrary to all the rules of natural justice. I ask your Lordships to consider the fate, on appeal, of any first-instance judgment in our courts made in that way. It would not survive five minutes.

The response to that lamentable state of affairs set out in Clause 53 is commendably moderate. It gives a Minister of the Crown discretion, and in subsection (5) it sets out some of the matters to be taken into account in exercising that discretion. Those matters represent all the elements of natural justice that were lacking in the interim decision made by the court last year, so I commend Clause 53 to your Lordships.

Next, I would like to say a word about safe routes. There are of course legitimate arguments to be made about safe routes, but they are—I am afraid—irrelevant to the need for measures to deal with the boats. Let me explain why. Unless everyone—and I mean everyone—who applies for leave to enter the UK through a safe route is granted that right, there will be some who are refused. Some of those who are refused will be able to acquire the means to pay the people smugglers, and the people smugglers will continue to put them on boats to cross the channel. Whatever the arguments in favour of safe and legal routes, they are—I repeat—irrelevant to the main provisions of the Bill.

Finally, I want to say something about the likely efficacy of the measures set out in the Bill. There can, in my view, be little doubt that the most effective way of dealing with the problems posed by the illegal immigrants crossing the channel is to reach a return agreement with France. We reached such an agreement in 1995 when I was Home Secretary. Both countries agreed to take back anyone who had entered one country from the other and who was refused admission. Although those refused admission to the UK far outnumbered those who applied for and were refused admission to France, France honoured and complied with the agreement—which, as a matter of fact, has never been rescinded or revoked. I accept that France is not now prepared to implement this or any similar agreement, so the Government have to take whatever action is available to them. It seems to me that this Bill represents the best option available. I believe that it will have a deterrent effect and diminish the ability of the people smugglers to continue to ply their evil trade, and I commend it to the House.

My Lords, it is a privilege to be able to take part in this debate. Given the attendance in the House today, the number of speakers and the number of NGOs that have contacted us with representations about the Bill, there is clearly a great deal of public interest in the Bill—quite a lot of which is in support of the opposition to the Bill.

I listened to the Minister very carefully when he made his opening remarks. I am not sure I have the wording quite right, but he said that this Government take international obligations seriously—then he proceeded to explain why that was not the case. There have been so many instances where a Minister has been forced, as it were, to eat their words. For a long time, we have valued the international consensus on human rights, including refugees, and we have felt that this was a part of the world that we wanted to be in: it was healthy, sensible and humane. When countries have torn up that approach, we have condemned them properly—we know who they are. The Minister says that we take these obligations seriously; we are not going to debate Northern Ireland, but it was inferred about some Northern Ireland matters as well. It is fundamental to the reputation of this country, as I think the most reverend Primate made very clear, that we take a clear stand on human rights. We have set standards and, indeed, for a long time the world has followed us.

I was with the Joint Committee on Human Rights in Strasbourg some time ago visiting the European Court of Human Rights. At that time, there was some talk about this country not adhering to the decision of the court on voting rights for prisoners in jail. It was said to us in Strasbourg that Britain has a reputation for adhering to decisions made by the European Court of Human Court and has stuck by the European convention. If we did not, the notorious abusers of human rights would simply say, “If the United Kingdom doesn’t do it, why should we?”. That is already beginning to be the case—we are beginning to hear that.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees made a statement, which noble Lords have probably all seen. I quote a small part of it:

“The effect of the bill (in this form) would be to deny protection to many asylum-seekers in need of safety and protection, and even deny them the opportunity to put forward their case. This would be a clear breach of the Refugee Convention and would undermine a longstanding, humanitarian tradition of which the British people are rightly proud”.

If the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says that something is in breach of the refugee convention, surely they are the guardian of the convention, and it is not up to Governments to say, “We don’t like this bit of it, and we don’t intend to go along with it”.

There are so many ways in which our refugee system is a mess at the moment. We have had it referred to in earlier speeches—by my noble friend Lord Coaker, for example. But the Bill tackles virtually none of those. We have an enormous backlog of unresolved cases. Anybody sitting in Calais will say, “Look, the Brits can’t even resolve those cases—there are 130,000 to 150,000 of them. The Home Office isn’t capable of making any decisions, so let’s have a go, because they won’t make a decision about us either”.

The Government talk about return agreements. I welcome the fact that the Prime Minister went to France and discussed this with the French authorities, something that we have long been asking for, but the fact is that there is no return agreement in place with any country—and with Rwanda, it will not be a return agreement. If the Minister could indicate where such an agreement exists, maybe some of the things that he said will fall slightly into place.

I was very concerned about what the Minister said about judicial review, and I am sure that there will be amendments to that effect. If I understood him correctly, he was saying that judicial review would be much more limited than in the past—and we have always seen judicial review as a fundamental safeguard. Reference has been made to the rights of children. The Minister says that we will hold them here until the age of 18 and then we can remove them. Previous Governments have said that children will be treated in a more humane way—but no, that appears no longer to be the case.

As for safe routes, I know that the noble Lord who preceded me said that he did not think that safe and legal routes would work. However, I am sure that it is right, when there are safe and legal routes, that people sitting in Calais or elsewhere will try to use them, as they have in the past.

I think that a noble Lord has already referred to this matter, but the humanists have drawn attention to the list of 57 countries that are said to be safe. A Humanists International report found that 10 of those have on-book prison sentences for blasphemy and apostasy —and many are enforcing those laws. Significantly, Nigeria is one of those countries, maintaining the death penalty for blasphemy. Indeed, the president of the Nigerian Humanist Association is serving 24 years in jail for blasphemy, so it is not safe to send people to that country.

I fear that small boat crossings will not be dealt with by the Bill. There is an argument that we must get public opinion on our side—public opinion matters—but some of the language used by some Government Ministers is intended to inflate public opinion and make it hostile to refugees, rather than enabling us to resume our tradition of welcoming people who are fleeing for safety to our shores.

My Lords, what an absolute pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, who is a living example of what happens when a country opens its hearts to refugees and how those people can then settle here and contribute to the future prosperity of the nation that they make their home.

This Bill has already failed in its primary purpose, set by senior government leaders. It failed on Thursday, when the results from the red and blue wall seats came in and demonstrated that the Bill had not delivered Conservatives the votes that they sought. This is not a Bill to deal effectively, sensitively and humanely with those seeking refuge via unofficial routes. There is no such thing as an illegal route—there are unofficial routes into the UK, sometimes in very dangerous situations that could cause loss of life.

The Bill is highly political and has nothing to offer in getting rid of the backlog of asylum claims. It has nothing to offer to effectively deter the real criminals, those who traffic and profiteer from the desperation and misery of those seeking asylum in the UK, and it is not effective in building a coalition of international partners to work across the globe to deal with this.

For the Home Secretary, the Bill is about trying to win votes in some parliamentary seats by using language that dehumanises people and using traumatised and vulnerable people as political pawns. The Government say the Bill is about stopping the boats, which it will not do. Because of that, this House has a duty to stop the bull.

The Government have no clue how this will all work out. If they had, they would have published an impact assessment. They know that doing so would expose the false nature of their proposals and claims about what the Bill will achieve. One third country, Rwanda, has signed up to this deal to offshore the UK’s obligations to process and settle those seeking asylum in the UK. Rwanda will be able to take a maximum of only a few hundred people in the next few years.

The Government can make a wish list of third countries and put it in the Bill, but it would mean nothing. No other country has signed up and the Government know that they are light years away—if not further—from getting enough third countries to take the number of people that will seek asylum in the UK via unofficial routes. That will therefore lead to many hundreds of thousands of individuals stuck in limbo in new Home Office refugee prisons, as no other options are available under the Bill.

Where will vulnerable and traumatised individuals be imprisoned by the Home Office? These Home Office refugee prisons have to be identified, commissioned and, in some cases, built, whether they float or are on terra firma. According to the Refugee Council, these places will cost the taxpayer an extra £6 billion in the next few years. It is impractical, expensive and inhumane. That is not how a proud and decent country deals with those fleeing war, torture and rape.

How the Government of a nation deal with the most vulnerable says a lot about their values. The Government have chosen to treat unaccompanied children seeking refuge—some of whom will have seen their parents killed, or acts of war, or who will have been sexually exploited and trafficked to the UK—as criminals not worthy of having the dignity, hope and opportunity to rebuild their lives and settle here in the UK.

Under the Bill, children can be detained at the Home Secretary’s wish and for as long as she sees fit: a child version of refugee prisons. It is entirely unclear how the powers set out in the Bill will sit alongside local authorities’ duty under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 to safeguard any child in their area and take them into care under Section 20 if the criteria for so doing are met. The Bill has the potential to make it harder for local authorities to fulfil their duties under the Children Act to ensure stability for children as their corporate parent and to protect and support child victims of trafficking and exploitation.

If a child is lucky enough to be in the care of a local authority until the age of 18 and has the protections of looked-after status in law, just what awaits them on their 18th birthday? Imagine a traumatised and vulnerable child who arrives in the UK aged eight spending 10 years building a life, a network of support and friends and getting educated here, knowing nothing but a life in the UK, and then the Government snatching that all away from them and throwing them out of the country to God knows where at the age of 18. Do the Government not understand how impractical and inhumane this is? It is inhumane, as thousands of young people getting near the age of 18 will just disappear, many into the hands of criminals and traffickers, and it is impractical, as we are back to the imaginary third countries which will not be waiting with places to take these individuals, so they will be left in limbo in an adult Home Office refugee prison.

As well as impractical and inhumane, the Bill is ineffective. It is built on the ridiculous premise that the only way to stop the traffickers profiteering is to criminalise their vulnerable victims and treat them in a subhuman way. The Bill undermines our commitment to international law and our obligations under the UN conventions on refugees and the child, and it degrades what it means to be British. It trashes our proud and long-held values and our record, dating back to 1951, on how we deal with those seeking asylum. It undermines our country’s international standing for upholding and abiding by international law.

For these and many other reasons, the Bill has no place on the statute book. It must be placed in the dustbin of history as soon as possible. That is why I will support my noble friend Lord Paddick’s fatal amendment to ensure that the Bill does not pass Second Reading.

My Lords, it is a clever ploy to entitle this Bill the Illegal Migration Bill. Not for the first time, illegal migration has been conflated with asylum. This is essentially an asylum Bill, and asylum is a fundamental right. Migration, of course, is a choice. Although the Government claim that this Bill is designed to deal with boat people, it will apply to everyone who arrives here by whatever means as of 7 March 2023. It is doubtful whether the Bill will achieve its objectives. It will probably make matters worse and damage our reputation internationally.

No one denies that action is needed, but what we want is an effective, fair and compassionate asylum system which respects our international obligations and the rule of law. Asylum is a collective responsibility of all states—a global challenge which requires international co-operation, working within regional and international frameworks to achieve effective and sustainable results. This cannot be done in isolation.

We need a system that ensures that all claims are considered efficiently and speedily, no matter what the mode of travel. This requires streamlined processes and tailored asylum procedures. We need an expansion of safe and legal routes to ensure that those suffering persecution can reach the UK safely without being exploited by smugglers. We need to support those seeking asylum so that they engage effectively with processes, integrate and contribute by being able to work here.

The Bill falls very short of these objectives. In fact, several amendments introduced on Report in the other place will raise the bar even further. They will have the overall effect of making it even harder for people subject to the duty to remove them from the UK to resist removal. It will raise the threshold for a person to show that they would suffer serious harm.

The Government themselves have identified the new clauses on age assessments as ones that they are unable to state are compatible with the European convention. Another clause identified as one that could not be declared compatible with the convention is the one that gives immigration officers new powers to search for, seize and retain electronic devices, such as mobile phones, from individuals who are liable to be detained under the Bill, and to access, copy and use any information on them.

The Government’s own quangos remain seriously concerned that the Bill risks placing the UK in breach of its international legal obligations to protect human rights by exposing people to serious harm—particularly the measures for the detention of children and pregnant women—and removing protections for victims of trafficking and modern slavery. The Bill itself starts with a statement that the Minister is unable to say that its provisions are compatible with the convention.

In effect, the Bill will block almost everyone who arrives here by means which the Home Office deems irregular from making admissible asylum claims. By making the claims of people who have entered and arrived in the UK by irregular means permanently inadmissible, it will also make nearly all these people unremovable in reality, despite placing a duty on the Home Secretary to remove them if they meet certain conditions. This will create a large and permanent population of people who will live in limbo, at public expense, for the rest of their lives, without any hope of securing lawful status. For those who may be removed to a third country there will be a new complex fast-track system, with limited judicial scrutiny to make a claim that suspends removal.

It is predicted that the Bill will result in a large number of people being detained. It removes almost all protections for victims of modern slavery who are targeted for removal, leaving them at the mercy of traffickers. In fact, it strengthens the hand of traffickers. It is equally damaging for children.

What is missing from the Bill are any specific proposals for safe and legal routes to enter the UK. The Bill contains no confirmed details of any additional safe routes. Even with the amendment on Report in the other place, there is no obligation in the Bill to create new routes. There is nothing about speeding up processing of claims. Decision-making is slow and the backlog is increasing.

As we know, the Bill has been condemned by a whole range of people. The European Commissioner for Home Affairs and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights have raised serious concerns that, if the UK were to withdraw from the ECHR, the EU could terminate the law enforcement and judicial co-operation in criminal matters part of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, as that agreement allows the EU to suspend or terminate the agreement as a whole if there is a serious and substantial failure by the UK to respect human rights and human rights treaties to which both are parties.

What makes things worse is the rhetoric that has accompanied the Bill, which damages what Britain stands for. Hostile language that demonises and dehumanises those seeking asylum and refugees creates resentment and reprisals. Equally damaging are the attacks on lawyers and of course this House. These attacks highlight the Government’s inability to respond to substantive concerns raised by the Bill, and clumsy comments that the values of those seeking to come here are at odds with the values of this country are not helpful. It is not the values of those seeking asylum here which are at odds with our values but this Bill which is at odds with the values of our country.

My Lords, I will concentrate my remarks on the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, which is a complete abuse of this House. This House is here to revise and offer advice to the elected House of Commons. For any Member of this House to bring forward an amendment that seeks to kill a Bill completely, which has been passed by majorities of around 60 in the other place and which is an absolute priority for the Prime Minister to stop the boats, is an absolute abuse. I do not think that any Member of this House who respects its values and its role could possibly go through the Lobbies and vote for that amendment.

Of course, the point of the Bill is to stop the boats. I have listened carefully to the speeches that have been made and I have yet to hear a remedy from anyone who opposes this Bill as to how we are going to stop the boats. I hear a lot about the rights of children and the right of people fleeing persecution, much of which I support. However, I cannot support the idea of people drowning in the English Channel who are fleeing from a safe country, which is France. To be drowned in the English Channel and watch your children being taken by the sea must be a most horrendous experience, yet all the people who oppose the Bill have nothing to offer by way of a remedy for that problem, which is happening now and which will happen during the course of the following weeks as the summer—

If the noble Lord were to look at Hansard for 11 December, he would find a whole-day debate on immigration which puts forward some very clear ideas about stopping the boats.

I am most grateful to the most reverend Primate and I echo the words of my noble friend about what a fantastic job he did on Saturday. I am in strong agreement where he is concerned with issues spiritual rather than temporal. I use the word temporal in this sense because there are of course many things that we can do, but these are all going to take time. People are drowning in the English Channel now. People are leaving a safe country in order to come here, and it is fatuous to try to present this in the way that many have done. The much-misquoted saying, often attributed to Edmund Burke but in fact from John Stuart Mill, is:

“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing”.

That is what we are hearing today, effectively that we should do nothing about the immediate problem.

To return to the amendment, the role of this House is to give advice and make amendments. I accept there are issues with the Bill that need further scrutiny, particularly the issues of those who are already here in the United Kingdom and who are victims of slavery and placed in a position where they are unlikely to help the police, or those who are concerned, to deal with the real villains. These are the traffickers and the men and women who exploit people who are under enormous stress and strain. It is just not reasonable to criticise the Government for trying to deal with this problem. How on earth can it be justified that 40,000 Albanians are able to come to this country by crossing from France—a safe country—and to argue that this should not be tackled?

Those who criticise this country’s values need to ask themselves why so many people want to come here rather than remain in France, on the other side of the channel. It has been suggested that perhaps hubris has set in, as a result of the success of the liberals—I call them liberals because they are not liberal democrats. Democrats do not seek to use an unelected House to overturn the decisions made by an elected House. We know perfectly well that the United Kingdom has finite capacity. Our public services are under immense strain and yet there is a notion that we should be spending billions of pounds and not actually addressing the problem of stopping the boats. I say to those who oppose the Bill, by all means improve it, but I am delighted that the Official Opposition have indicated that they will not support the amendment, and the most reverend Primate said the same. We need to recognise that something needs to be done, and done now. This is something, which is an alternative to doing nothing, which is the mission of the people opposite.

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask in a more timely manner what I was going to ask earlier? The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury asked whether the noble Lord was aware of the practical proposals made in a previous debate. The noble Lord did not answer that question, and I think the House would like to know.

I am most grateful to the noble Lord, for whom I have immense respect. Of course I am aware of the measures, but I thought I pointed out that those would take time. It is possible to argue for changes in our approach and that it is necessary to use overseas aid to support people in their own countries. I get all that, but there is an immediate problem now, and this Bill deals with it. It is a duty upon this House to get this Bill on the statute book so that we can deal with the terrible things happening in the English Channel.

My Lords, I refer to the register and support from RAMP. Here we go again: the wretched of the earth, fleeing violence or persecution, are to be thrown from the frying pan of the Nationality and Borders Act, enacted less than a year ago, into the fire of this punitive and inhumane Bill, which effectively raises a “No asylum seekers here” sign at our border. Moreover, it will have retrospective application, which is just one example of how the Bill undermines the rule of law.

The Bill has serious implications for groups in especially vulnerable circumstances. Despite the limited concessions in the Commons, the Children’s Commissioner, who feels passionately about this, warns that the Bill

“would place the UK in clear breach of its international law obligations under a range of children’s rights treaties”.

Clear legal restrictions on children’s detention, introduced by the Conservatives, are withdrawn; rights concerning age assessment are circumscribed, contravening the recommendations of the government-appointed advisory committee; and future citizenship rights are lost. Yet there is still no sign of a child rights impact assessment. Can the Minister therefore explain how the Home Secretary will meet her duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children under Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009, the importance of which to this Bill is underlined by UNICEF, among others? Furthermore, the restriction on the detention of pregnant women, which the Government conceded in 2016 in response to successful amendments in this House, will be removed, with serious health implications for mother and baby.

At the heart of the Bill is what the UNHCR describes as an “asylum ban”. Such a ban, it makes clear, contravenes the refugee convention and international human rights law. In the Commons, the former Prime Minister, Theresa May, warned of the damage that this could do to our international reputation. The UNHCR also warns that the Bill does not guarantee more safe and legal routes; on the contrary, it places an inflexible annual cap—which includes children—on the numbers admitted this way. Moreover, it makes clear that, welcome as they are, such routes can never substitute for the right to claim asylum.

In the Commons, the Home Secretary described as “fatuous” claims that the Bill breaches refugee convention obligations. Can the Minister explain why we should accept the Government’s interpretation of the convention over that of the body with supervisory responsibility for it—described the other day in this House as “a key partner”? In the absence of adequate third-country agreements, can he also explain what will happen to all those deemed inadmissible who cannot be returned to their country of origin under the convention because their claim will not have been assessed? The fear of the Refugee Council, the UNHCR and others is that those people will be left in semi-permanent limbo, at risk of destitution. The likely harm to mental health is spelled out by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

The Bill’s title is phrased so as to signal the false claim that desperate people who cross the channel in boats, or enter via other unauthorised means, are economic migrants. Yet analysis of official data indicates that six in every 10 who crossed the channel last year would be recognised as refugees. In contrast, the Home Office has been unable to provide evidence to back its representation of them as economic migrants. Instead, as already noted, Ministers have deployed vile, dehumanising language such as “invasion”, “breaking in” and “cannibalise” to create fear and hostility among “the British people”, undermining the very social cohesion they claim to be promoting—all in the name of compassion.

The significance of such language is brought home by Erfan, an asylum seeker, in the preface to a recent JRS UK report on Napier barracks. He writes how he came to realise that

“these are not just words. They build a completely new identity, which then justify how you will be treated, seen and talked about. The language that dehumanises people makes it seem acceptable to place them in inhumane conditions and cut off from society”.

Such words, he warns, “stigmatise and justify discrimination”.

There can be no justification for such language. Nor can this shameful Bill be justified, as the wide range of civil society organisations briefing us so well have made clear. It was rushed through the Commons and still awaits the required impact assessments. We have a heavy responsibility in this House to scrutinise and amend it from start to finish. I hope that we will fulfil that responsibility and protect the fundamental right to claim asylum.

My Lords, I decided to speak today after reading the words of the Immigration Minister, Robert Jenrick, speaking for the Government to Policy Exchange, demonising migrants and failing to recognise our responsibilities to refugees seeking asylum. He said that

“excessive, uncontrolled migration threatens to cannibalise the compassion of the British public”.

“Cannibalise”—what a deliberate and demonising choice of word. He went on:

“And those crossing tend to have completely different lifestyles … to those in the UK … undermining the cultural cohesiveness”.

It was deliberately divisive language and certainly not borne out by the UK experience.

Throughout that speech, there is a constant failure to look at economic migration separately from asylum seeking. I am the daughter of a refugee. My mother was born into an Orthodox Jewish family in a small village in eastern Hungary. When the Hungarian Government brought in anti-Jewish laws in 1938, she and her family tried to obtain visas to go to another country but, like so many others, found that no visas were to be had. She decided to be a survivor: she became a nightclub dancer in order to join a troupe going on tour in the Middle East. Once outside Hungary, she settled in Greece, which she hoped to make her home, but by 1943 the beginnings of civil war in Greece were tearing Athens apart. Her bed was strafed with bullets; friends standing beside her were shot down in the street. Women’s bodies lay butchered—women were particular targets.

She had met my father, a major with the British Army in Greece, but he was denied army permission to marry her and his attempts to get her papers to go to Britain were rejected. He returned with his regiment to the UK and was demobbed—so you can imagine his astonishment when, on Christmas Eve 1945, he got a call from an airbase in southern England to say that my mother had arrived on a British miliary plane from continental Europe. She had been smuggled on board by the RAF. She was a genuine refugee but no one could argue that she had chosen an official route—or, as this Government would call it, a legal route. This Government would send her to Rwanda as an undesirable.

I see that the Minister is no longer in his place, so I ask the Whips and others to put this point to him, because I want an answer. I want the Minister today to show me the body of evidence and research that shows how British compassion has been “cannibalised” by asylum seekers and by people like my mother and me. I want to see his evidence of damage to cohesion that genuine asylum seekers, never mind migrants, have inflicted on the UK. I suspect that we will find it has no substance. He needs to show why diversity is a weakness not a strength. Ironically, if the Government continue to argue that migration creates such problems, it should never by its own logic return a single refugee to any country that already has a significant migrant population—and that eliminates most of Europe and indeed Africa, including Rwanda.

Limiting economic migration has never required treating asylum seekers as undesirables. I argue for the Britain that we saw this weekend at the Coronation, not threatened by diversity but energised by it, and comfortable with its complex identity. I recognise that not all the children of migrants or refugees share my view. Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, the daughter of migrants, asserted in the Commons on immigration that

“we have had too much of it in recent years”.—[Official Report, Commons, 13/3/23; col. 575.]

But many do share my view and say, “Do to others what I would ask you to do for my family”. I repeat to the Minister, who has now returned to his place, that he should put in front of us today the evidence of the damage that he claims underpins and justifies this Bill, without which it should not stand—please feel free to use my mother and me as examples.

My Lords, few situations are so bad that they cannot get worse, and certainly the current world migration crisis will inevitably get worse. Whether the UNHCR figure for those currently needing resettlement is 100 million or just tens of millions, future floods, fires, famines and human conflicts will inevitably drive it up. Obviously, it is insoluble by any single country, so—and this is the easy point to make—there must be international agreement as to what share of the burden we must all take. Of course, we must make the effort, but let us not pretend that it will succeed. It will not.

Each country, like the UK, must find its own solution, including sensibly—surely few would dispute—deciding on a cap for admissions and the best way for administering it. Plainly, this is by arranging safe and legal routes for the number decided on and, as under the several schemes currently operating—Ukraine, Hong Kong, Syria, Afghanistan, family members and so forth, some directly involving the UNHCR, others not—giving proper consideration in advance of arrival to who should come.

Now that we have absorbed so many Ukrainians and Hong Kongers, surely the time is ripe for a wider new scheme, ideally in co-operation with the UNHCR, to admit more. Indeed, this now seems essential. Unless a generous, fresh resettlement scheme is decided on, there is little hope of persuading people to sign up to these obviously severe measures. Happily, most of this country is still hugely sympathetic to refugees.

How infinitely preferable would this be to the present chaotic situation of having to process those arriving after perilous boat and lorry crossings? As to these, one is entitled to ask: why should they steal a march and gain an advantage over those we will have agreed to take under the capped schemes? Surely it cannot be suggested that we should reduce the number we agree to take lawfully under these schemes to accommodate those coming by boat. Although I do not accept that those arriving from a safe third country, such as France or Belgium, are on that ground alone disqualified from refugee status—indeed, having myself in decades past judicially decided the contrary—there is no reason to ignore the fact that their lives were not in immediate danger when they took to the boats. They had the money to pay the smugglers and, in a number of cases, had already been refused asylum in France or plainly had no legitimate claim to asylum, as with most of the Albanians.

At the core of this Bill, therefore, necessarily lie the twin aims of introducing and enforcing a cap for the numbers we take in future and deterring all others from arriving illegally by ensuring that, with only the narrowest exceptions, they gain absolutely nothing from doing so. The need and basic justification for that is all that I have time for. Plainly, the Bill raises many different and difficult questions—on children, accompanied and unaccompanied; about whether, where and for how long to detain those coming illegally; about Rwanda; about modern slavery; about Article 39 interim orders; about the existing backlog, et cetera—but there is no time to discuss those today. No doubt the Bill can be improved in various ways, but we must recognise that almost every amendment we make to soften it can tend only to weaken its essential objectives: stopping the boats and—the real desire of many, sometimes perhaps masked by an avowed concern about deaths in the channel—limiting the overall numbers admitted.

We really must now harden our hearts and give the Government the opportunity by this Bill finally to confront this most intractable of problems. I hope not to lose too many of my friends by saying so.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown. We are told that this Bill is unethical, which puzzles me, because, like my noble friend and roommate Lord Forsyth, I cannot quite get my mind round the ethical nature of this bizarre proposition that unelected parliamentarians should, without any real discussion, destroy a Bill that has been passed by our elected House of Commons and for which there is very considerable public support—but heigh-ho.

I find the Bill distasteful in many ways. I wish we did not have to do it. But the issues it tries to resolve are supremely distasteful—actually, they are barbaric. We need action. We are told the Bill is full of weeds. Well, if there are weeds in the garden—knowing modern legislation, there are probably a good few—you pull them out: you replace them. You do not call in a cement truck to cover the entire thing in concrete and bury it, as this fatal amendment demands.

At its heart, the Bill aims to find a better means of fighting the modern slavers and people smugglers—saving innocent lives. That seems a most moral objective. It aims to stop the evil trade in human beings by the smugglers and slavers. It is only by beating them—crushing them, if we can—that we will put an end to the miseries and deaths we have seen all too often on the seas. If we do not act, and lose control of our borders, we will play straight into the hands of the racists and bigots who will stir up hatred on our streets and in our communities. There are terrible consequences to be paid if we fail in this.

How do we stop those who arrive here claiming to be children, with stubble on their chins, who have deliberately destroyed all their documentation and paid thousands of pounds to people traffickers, enabling them to continue their awful trade? These people—these pretenders, if you will—are the enemies of genuine refugees, because they help to create and sustain an evil system that is run by criminals of the cruellest kind, who think nothing of throwing children overboard to drown in order to save their own miserable lives. They trade in lies and in lives. It is our moral obligation to stop them—to bring an end to the unimaginable pain of mothers and fathers watching their children drowning off our shores in the channel. No amount of hand-wringing or bell-ringing will do that.

I know that at Second Reading in the other place, the Labour Party said that it wants to boost international policing to try to catch the smugglers. Let us hope they can catch the drug traffickers too while they are at it. They know that that is not a solution. This quixotic and deeply unconstitutional proposal to kill the Bill is a moral cop-out. There are no simple solutions. It is about not just small boats but jumbo jets, too, and a modern world in huge flux.

Can the noble Lord—and his noble friend Lord Forsyth—explain what the Members of this House thinking when they designed a system that allows for a fatal amendment when legislation is bad enough? If, in 1946, the Salisbury convention was considered absolutely adequate, that is what we would have, with no provision for a fatal amendment.

I will try to answer the noble Baroness’s question like this: I wish the Liberal Democrats would listen to the arguments that will come in Committee and contribute to them, rather than trying to kill off all discussion. That is unprincipled and unconstitutional.

This is a world in which there is no one moral solution any more than there is one legislative solution. Of course, we will have to do much more, but this Bill is part of that effort. I ask the doubters: what are your plans? Apparently, you do not want to discuss them, but how will you stop the slavers and smugglers? What will you say to the people of this country, who have human rights too? If not this Bill, then what Bill? What would the doubters do? That is what we need to hear—in legislative detail, not just in passing debate. We wait to hear whether the moral outrage is matched by solid proposals for action, but I suspect we might be waiting for that from the opposition for a very long time.

My Lords, I start where the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, finished. Some asylum seekers clearly are non-religious. It is worth repeating that, of the so-called safe countries in the Bill, at least 10 have on-book prison sentences for blasphemy and apostasy. As my noble friend said, the president of the Nigerian Humanist Association, Mubarak Bala, is serving 24 years for blasphemy—you would have to be a pretty nasty piece of work to support that as a policy.

I want to go back to new Labour—I know that is not popular with recent Labour leaders. Between June 2001 and June 2002, I was privileged to work under my noble friend Lord Blunkett as Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality at the Home Office. I was responsible for sending people and families who had arrived illegally in the UK out of the UK. I was criticised by many, including my good friend Chris Mullin in one of his many successful diaries. Chris did say, however, that I was operating the law, and the destination of such families was to safe European countries from which they had travelled to the UK. I recall that they included France and Spain.

I know that it has become unfashionable to praise new Labour, but it remains the case that we were able to use the Dublin convention—not massively, but from time to time—to return people who had no case to be in the UK to whence they came. This Tory Government ripped up the Dublin convention when they organised and controlled the Brexit decisions, including getting rid of freedom of movement. It was a deliberate policy, and everybody knew that Dublin would go without any alternative being in place. As of today, there is still nothing in place. Why? We hear constant talk of popping across the channel and meetings between Ministers, but there is no agreement. The present situation is entirely of this Tory Government’s own making. They own Brexit. They own the actions of the coalition Government—I notice, by the way, that the world started in 2015 according to the Minister today; for most of us it started in 2010, because that is when the Tories came into power. This Government have left the UK unsupported and friendless among our geographic neighbours.

I recall the arguments and briefings in the Home Office about why the UK was a target for illegal migration. Other than the English language there were, and remain, two reasons. The first is that the UK is the easiest European country in which it is possible to work illegally and the second—which helps the first—is that there is no identity system. In 2001-02, we started work on the ID system in the Home Office, and it was pursued by others after my noble friend and I had left the Home Office. It was within sight of implementation when the Tory-led coalition, as one of its first actions under the deal with the Lib Dems in 2010, scrapped it. The Government today own that decision. Of course, that pleased the CBI and other employer bodies, as well as the Tories, because illegal working keeps wages down across the economy. That remains the case today.

New Labour stuck to legal frameworks, which meant that we could talk to our EU partners and not become friendless. While there is not time to go into it, I recall a couple of occasions when the Civil Service had to warn us that we were on the verge of breaking the law —“possible malfeasance” was the phrase used. So we changed policy, unlike the present Tory Government, who simply change the Ministerial Code.

Of course, the routes then were via the Channel Tunnel in lorries. We worked with the French, including visits to Sandgate, to seek to close these routes safely. But we had a large backlog of cases—it was huge. The Home Office employed an expert in operational research from the Ministry of Defence—in fact, I think professionally he was a rocket scientist—who sorted out the flow of work in the Home Office, which vastly reduced the case load. We were actively doing something, and we used external civil servants who were experts in making sure that that was the case. This Government own the present situation in its entirety; the case load has grown due to incompetence. Deliberately shunning friends and breaking international law is not the solution—it is time for another new Labour Government to sort it out.

My Lords, this Bill is one of anachronisms; it is not suitable for our time and does not reflect the values of our country. It has consequences that go far beyond the supposed effect of the paper that the Bill is written upon.

The Bill starts with a statement under Section 19 of the Human Rights Act that the Minister is unable to say that its provisions are compatible with the rights contained in the ECHR—an express acknowledgement that the Bill puts human rights at risk. However, the Secretary of State for Home Affairs stated in the Commons that she was “confident” and “certain” that the Bill’s measures are compatible with our international obligations. So, at the outset, can the Minister tell the House when he replies whether the words on the front of this Bill are as a result of legal advice to Ministers and that the certainty expressed by the Secretary of State is her view and not that of the Government’s legal advisers? I look forward to a report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which would be very timely, if we could see it speedily.

Secondly, we are offered no impact assessment to accompany the Bill. As my noble friend Lady Kramer asked: where is the evidence? Why was the Bill put together in such haste that one could not be prepared? Is it because, as there are no options in this Bill, it does not merit an impact assessment? Given that the Bill’s consequences will require large amounts of money, we are at least entitled to know its impact on public finances and resources.

Thirdly, this Bill sets up a substantial shift of power from the courts to the Secretary of State, and from this Parliament to the Secretary of State. The Bill sets up the Government as both judge and jury in a court of their own making. Clause 1(5) of the Bill disapplies Section 3 of the Human Rights Act, meaning that courts will no longer be required to read provisions—or any regulations that the Home Secretary makes under the extensive delegated powers she gives to herself—to verify their compatibly with convention rights. Using as of now unknown legislation, the Bill proposes giving the Secretary of State very broad powers, which Parliament will have no ability to alter or to demand a government rethink.

I illustrate my fourth concern through the story of Linh, who was trafficked into the United Kingdom at the age of 15. She was discovered by police in the back of a lorry. Social services placed her with a foster family, where it was discovered that Linh was five months pregnant, having been raped by her traffickers. Fortunately, Linh was able to move in with the foster family and give birth to her son. Under this Bill, Linh would not be able to use her status as a victim of human trafficking to challenge her removal. Even if Linh had passed through a safe country, she could not have claimed asylum there because she was held prisoner by her trafficker. Under this Bill, Linh would not be able to make a new life in the United Kingdom for her and her son. Moreover, the hand of Linh’s captor would have been strengthened by this Bill. They would have threatened that, if she tried to escape and contact the authorities, she would be removed from the United Kingdom rather than be provided with safety. The Illegal Migration Bill would serve the interests of Linh’s captors rather than secure her rights.

So, we are presented with a Bill which flouts human rights legislation and deprives those seeking asylum of their right to have their case heard. It is a Bill which amasses power to the Government from the courts and Parliament, and breaches our international obligations.

Of course we face an issue that requires a solution, but that means working with our international partners, including our partners in Europe. There seems to be a fundamental issue here: if the United Kingdom does not like the treaties and international obligations to which it is signed up, it should seek those international solutions that sit at the heart of our international obligations and not try to find a route that will have no success.

This is a dreadful Bill built purely on political dogma. It is unworkable. I have yet to meet anyone who believes that it will achieve any of the aims it sets out. It will leave tens of thousands of people in limbo in this country. It will bring misery to those who genuinely have a case to ask us for a place of refuge. There are no safe routes for many of these people; after the Bill is passed there will be no routes other than the very limited ones before it. It is certainly the case that it does not have to be like this. There are perfectly decent, just and fair alternatives.

My Lords, there will be plenty of time later to tackle the many complications in this Bill. For my part, I will make a short speech but I will take a longer and wider view.

It is now about 20 years since I co-founded Migration Watch UK, with the assistance of Professor David Coleman of Oxford University. In that time, the UK’s population has grown by an astonishing 8 million. That is about eight times the population of Birmingham and close to the population of London. Of this huge number, nearly 7 million has been due to immigration— seven out of eight. That includes the inflow of asylum seekers, which has gone up and down over that period. Nobody likes to say this, but it is surely obvious that, if this inflow is allowed to continue, the whole nature of our society will be changed—not in our time but certainly in our grandchildren’s.

The Government have claimed that their new “Australian- style” immigration system will get the numbers down. Regrettably, that is the exact opposite of the truth. The Government have actively encouraged large-scale economic migration. I briefly mention three measures: they have substantially reduced the educational requirement; they have significantly lowered the salary requirement; and they no longer require jobs first to be advertised on the domestic market. As a result, nearly half of all full-time jobs are now open to immigrant labour—yes, nearly half. It is extraordinary.

The current scale of immigration, of which asylum is only a small part, simply cannot be allowed to continue. The pressure on our schools and public services is heavy and increasing. We already have to build—wait for it—nearly 300 homes every single day just to house immigrant families. Regrettably, that is very seldom mentioned in this House.

That is the wider background to this Bill. Public anger at the chaos in the channel has obliged the Government to focus on that appalling problem but, even at 50,000 a year, as last year, asylum is only a small part of immigration as a whole. When the numbers for calendar year 2022 are published in two weeks’ time, we may well find that net migration is running at 10 times the rate of asylum—that is, about half a million. It could be even higher. If this mass immigration is allowed to continue, it will very rapidly change the way of life that we have developed over centuries. It will also weaken our sense of community as a society. The public sense this, of course, which is why nearly 60% of them want to see immigration reduced.

The Bill may have some impact on one aspect of mass immigration. However, I repeat that asylum, however chaotic, is at present only a small part of a wider issue. A real reduction in net migration, whatever its source, is now essential to preserve the nature of the country that many of us love.

I declare my interests as a member of the RAMP project and a trustee of Reset.

When looking to engage with a Bill, Members decide whether to focus on the detail or address the underlying principles behind the proposed legislation. This Bill leaves me with no choice but to start with the latter, as it asks fundamental questions about who we are as a nation. In order to supposedly reduce channel crossings, are we really prepared to consent to “extinguishing”, as the UNHCR puts it, the right to claim asylum and withholding support for victims of trafficking, and indefinitely detaining thousands of asylum seekers, including children and pregnant women? We have been left to consider the Bill’s provisions without an impact assessment, but these consequences will potentially lead to an unjustified intolerable level of harm which does not reflect who we are as a nation.

The Bill appears to be fundamentally about preventing those who have travelled irregularly to the UK from claiming refugee protection. This is in clear breach of the refugee convention and indiscriminately applies to everyone, regardless of the violence or persecution they may have fled. Let us be clear: this means even refusing to offer a child or a victim of trafficking the dignity of having their asylum case heard.

More than three-quarters of asylum cases assessed last year were found to be valid, but under the new regime they would be automatically deemed inadmissible. This Bill conversely gives up on the idea of returning home people who do not qualify for asylum by grouping them with those who would qualify and attempting to remove them to a third country. In reality, both groups will be left in a permanent state of legal precarity to face a future of inescapable destitution.

The Home Secretary’s duty to detain and remove asylum seekers changes the nature of detention considerably. It moves it away from an administrative process to facilitate someone’s removal to a wider system of confinement. Therefore, disturbingly, it does not discriminate. The state will view a child or a pregnant woman first and foremost as individuals subject to immigration control, not as an innocent child or a vulnerable mother due to give birth. We need to ask, “What about the Government’s duty to protect?”

Just less than a decade ago, the Conservatives introduced time limits for the use of child detention and, at the very least, I hope to see these limits back in the Bill for all children. A child faced with detention looks at their surroundings and asks, “What did I do wrong to be here?” This develops into the question “What is wrong with me?” We cannot let children face this trauma. As the Children’s Commissioner for England has said:

“It is not acceptable for them to be treated in the same way as adults”.

Safeguarding is not discretionary.

Although the Bill enacts a new system of detention, it does not set any standards, inspection details or protective obligations on the Home Office in terms of accommodation. As I have said before, children need the highest levels of safeguarding written into the letter of the law, and I hope that more detail will be forthcoming from the Government on this. I am reminded of Jesus’s words, that

“it would be better to have a millstone around the neck and be cast into the sea than to cause a little one to stumble.”

This responsibility needs to bear upon us heavily.

No one is questioning the need for compassionate measures to prevent asylum seekers having to resort to dangerous crossings to reach sanctuary. But the rationale behind proposing a cap on safe routes, while simultaneously penalising those who have no access to a safe alternative, is unjust. I do not want to see the UK abdicate its responsibility as a global leader to explore sustainable solutions to forced migration in solidarity with the persecuted. Undermining the global system of refugee protection is no solution, and it is beholden on us all to remember that no one is too different and therefore any less worthy of compassion and respect. I hope our language in debate reflects this truth.

The wonderful founder of Citizens UK, Neil Jameson, sadly passed away recently. He often shared this quote:

“It is not hope that gives rise to action, it is action that inspires hope”.

It is this action I have seen communities up and down the country take, as they have formed community resettlement groups, opened their homes to Ukrainian refugees and supported asylum seekers to build new lives and feel hope again. The British people support and help those who genuinely have need. Although there are strong feelings on the issues that this Bill raises, I pray as we work together to bring a range of amendments that the legislation will better reflect hope and a deeper humanity.

My Lords, I always argue and indeed believe that legislation is improved by the process of scrutiny in this House. However, until the powerful and welcome statement by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, who sadly is no longer in his place, I thought that no noble Lords would be willing to see how our persistence against measures in what some have described as “popular Bills” has the consequence of reciprocal persistence and yet stronger measures. So I applaud the noble and learned Lord for his statement, and urge noble Lords to take note of what he said.

That said, I urge my noble friend the Minister, who I commend for the clear and sensitive way in which he introduced this debate, to listen carefully to those noble Lords who seek, with all sincerity, to improve this legislation with the purpose of ensuring in its implementation that it is effective in stopping the boats that cross the channel illegally. However, as much as our collective effectiveness relies on Ministers listening and taking this House seriously, it also relies on us—your Lordships—listening to and taking seriously the public, who demand that their elected Government take action against illegal activity that affects their lives and livelihoods.

We often forget that, as human beings, we all want what we often deny each other—respect and understanding. In fact, last night in this Chamber, when we were debating amendments on the Online Safety Bill, there was quite a bit of frustration at the lack of understanding from the Government in their response to debates. Something that frustrates many of our fellow citizens is the ease with which we demand respect and understanding for ourselves and show it to those who we do not know ahead of those we live alongside and whose support and co-operation we rely on most. Whether we call them the “squeezed middle”, “just about managing” or the “hardworking people who play by the rules”, these are the people we rely on to pay their taxes, keep good order in their communities and uphold British values which we—those of us in leadership roles—have become shy of or are reluctant to promote ourselves.

Our fellow citizens are no less compassionate or caring than us, and they, too, want to—and do—support people in genuine need. But they do not want their compassion to be taken for granted or taken advantage of, and they do not want us to dictate the terms on which they must support others, when it is them who always have to pay, whether that is via the growing queues for public services they have little choice over using, the shortage of housing for them and their families or through the consequential changes to our society which challenge people’s sense of status at work and the cohesiveness of their community.

I enjoy great privilege. Not only do I spend a lot of time with powerful and influential people in Westminster and other walks of life, and I get to hear and learn from their experience and wisdom. I gain the same benefits of wisdom and experience from my close family and friends who ensure that I enjoy and understand a very different world. Unlike most of us, some of them work alongside immigrants from around the world, including people who arrived in the UK on the backs of lorries a few years ago. They, too, hear some tragic stories, but they hear a whole lot more said, which leads them to make a simple plea when they talk to me, which I relate to this House with their sincerity: “Don’t assume or believe that everyone attempting to enter our country illegally is a genuine asylum seeker fleeing persecution”.

When we get to Committee, if noble Lords table amendments about the right for asylum seekers to work, I will say more about why I oppose that and why I am worried about the growing numbers of legal migration to do unskilled or low-skilled jobs. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, was right to raise the issue of the increasing number of work-study visas, about which I have heard stories of misuse. There is far more to the impact of all this than meets the eye, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, who is no longer in her place, asked for evidence. I would say to the noble Lady that there is plenty, if we are willing to listen.

But today what I ask is how noble Lords opposing the Government on this Bill think they are helping genuine asylum seekers. How does it help to improve the system? Does opposing this Bill help to restore people’s confidence in our country’s ability to distinguish between refugees fleeing for their lives and those who would simply like a better life, but are willing to lie and use illegal means to get here? Does it help to demonstrate that we can and will prioritise the former and not the latter? Does it reassure that we have the necessary support and infrastructure to cope with new arrivals without pitting their needs against those of the communities in which they are put? In short, how does opposing this Bill persuade the public that this House takes seriously all their legitimate concerns, rather than ignoring or dismissing them as the products of ignorance or prejudice?

If the Lib Dems divide the House tonight, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has already said he will, the Minister can most definitely count on my support. I support the Bill.

My Lords, attempting to compress all my criticisms of the Bill into the time allotted would be impossible; I am not alone in that situation, as other noble Lords have indicated. This debate has exposed—and I expect it will continue to expose—criticisms of the Bill’s intentions, methodology and internal incoherence, and its violation not only of international law but of civilised norms. I echo and supportively anticipate many of those criticisms.

As the UNCHR points out, the Bill

“would breach the UK’s obligations under the Refugee Convention, the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, the 1961 Convention for the Reduction of Statelessness and international human rights law”.

Given that the Home Secretary and the Minister have shared—as they are obliged to under the Human Rights Act—their personal view of the compatibility of the Bill with the European Convention on Human Rights, and that they are unable to certify the Bill as compatible with UN convention, I suspect that my noble friend Lord Foulkes of Cumnock’s suggestion yesterday that the Bill’s title would be proper if the adjective “illegal” were intended to qualify the noun “Bill” and not “migration” is accurate.

I am afraid that I can come to no other conclusion than that the Bill is entirely cynical in its intention. It is a clear case of attitudinising via legislative means. I do not believe that the Government have any objective for the Bill other than to create an environment in which they can adopt a certain posture that they think will help their future electoral success.

In the rest of my time, I shall focus on two of the more egregious measures in the Bill. That the Rwanda policy is immoral has been so widely discussed as to need no further explication from me, although I point out that the latest US State Department human rights report on Rwanda, released six weeks ago, is even more critical than the last. For example, it describes typical detention conditions in Rwanda as “harsh and life-threatening”, with regular, credible reports of “unlawful or arbitrary killings”.

I refer back to the debate we had on UK asylum and refugee policy. I asked the Minister the following question:

“How do our assessments of the robustness of judicial systems, the likelihood of arbitrary arrest and the propensity for agents of the state to use torture in Rwanda differ from that of the US State Department?”—[Official Report, 9/12/22; col. 403.]

I will never forget that, in summing up the debate, the Minister wilfully refused to answer in writing the questions that he could not get to in his speech. He has had five months’ notice of this question, and I ask him today to explain to your Lordships’ House why the US State Department has come to the conclusion it has about Rwanda and we have come to an entirely different one. What separate data do we have that they do not?

Not only is this policy immoral but, as the Refugee Council has pointed out, it threatens to embroil us in not only a series of legal challenges but immense logistical and practical endeavours. To put it politely, the Home Office’s record in recent years has not been so overwhelmingly positive that I would be confident in its ability to deal with these expeditiously and effectively. We currently have only one existing agreement with a third country for housing a small number of asylum seekers, with paragraph 16 of our MoU also binding us to take a small group of asylum seekers from Rwanda in return.

The Refugee Council estimates that:

“In the first three years of the legislation coming into effect … between 161,147 and 192,670 people will have had their asylum claims deemed inadmissible but not have been removed. They will be unable to have their asylum claims processed, unable to work and will be reliant on Home Office support and accommodation indefinitely … In total, between £8.7bn and £9.6bn will have been spent on detaining and accommodating people impacted by the bill in the first three years of its operation”.

These estimates are damning. This is not reforming our asylum system but replacing it with a state of limbo, at immense public expense.

Lastly, and briefly, I will raise Clause 53. Universal compliance with interim measures issued by the ECHR is critical. Last summer, the European Court of Human Rights, in an interim measure, spared two British citizens from being executed by Russia. In the case of Ukraine versus Russia, President Zelensky holds several interim measures against Russia to constrain the use of military force against civilians. They hold vital symbolic and practical weight, and this attempt to dilute their power for domestic political purposes is extraordinarily short-sighted.

In closing, I will mention the admonitory statements of the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Justice, and, much more importantly, the briefing on their behalf that emerged last night. They warned this House that to oppose this Bill was to frustrate the “will of the people”. On what basis has this numinous concept been determined? Yet again, we see legitimate scrutiny discredited by inflammatory rhetoric. We remember previous attempts at this, with judges described as “enemies of the people” during Brexit and the 2019 election being framed as a contest between the British populace and their own elected representatives. Last night’s statements are a tacit admission that there is no argument to be advanced in defence of this Bill but that it must simply be acceded to. We are today, in effect, being asked to abdicate our responsibilities. If the Bill is objectively to our benefit, what can it stand to lose from today’s proceedings?

My Lords, it is an honour to follow the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, with which I thoroughly agreed.

There is little mirth to be had on the grim subject of this shabby, illegal and immoral Bill, but I did allow myself a little smile this last weekend. The chasing of easy headlines through divisive, dehumanising and xenophobic rhetoric about invasions by migrants and their threat to “our” values did not pay the electoral dividend the Conservatives were hoping for, despite claims that they are “the will of the people”. In fact, the symbolic district of Dover delivered them a big rebuff when turfing Tories out of control in favour of Labour, which I congratulate.

We saw an example this weekend of how facile tough talking coupled with hasty headline-chasing legislation backfires. At least part of the blame for what went wrong with the Met lies with the Home Secretary for her rushed, illiberal, gesture politics legislation. If you wanted an example of how to unify a country and bring people together in harmony, you had to look at the Coronation and the Coronation concert. You certainly will not get it from the modern Conservative Party, and decent Tories are grasping that and not liking it.

The Government have not deigned to give us an impact assessment, but the Refugee Council forecasts that, after three years of people being refused consideration of their asylum claims, up to 200,000 of them could remain in this country due to the absence of return agreements. They will be part of a whole new class of destitute people that this Bill will knowingly create. They will be in limbo: legally and socially excluded, barred from making asylum claims but incapable of being deported, banned from working or claiming any normal benefits, excluded from any path to settlement or citizenship—in other words, an outcast underclass. That will hardly assist cohesion.

As to legal issues with this Bill, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, said of the proposal to allow the Government to ignore an order from the Strasbourg court:

“Many people would say having the power to ignore a court order is something”


“unless the circumstances were quite extraordinary … is a step a government should never take because it is symbolic of a breach of the rule of law”.

The legal commentator, Joshua Rozenberg, mused:

“Is the government’s new Illegal Migration Bill a bill to deal with illegal migration? Or is it a migration bill that we should regard as illegal? The lawyers who draft bills for government departments are bound by strict naming constraints, but I wouldn’t put it past them to have slipped an arcane joke into the short title”.

The fact is that the Bill drives a coach and horses through the UK’s domestic law and international legal obligations, including through trashing the separation of powers and obstructing recourse to independent judicial scrutiny. It undermines the rule of law in various ways, not least through some provisions of retrospective effect.

The Bill contravenes the refugee convention in penalising refugees, excluding most arrivals from the right to seek asylum and breaching the ban on refoulement. It fails to respect the UN conventions against statelessness and on the rights of the child. It removes protections for victims of trafficking and modern slavery, in breach of the European convention against trafficking, and protections against arbitrary, unnecessary and indefinite detention. It also undermines the universality of human rights, contravenes the Human Rights Act and risks breaching the European Convention on Human Rights.

In his recent letter to us, the Minister said of his inability to make a statement that the provisions of the Bill are compatible with convention rights:

“This does not mean that the provisions in the Bill are incompatible with the Convention rights. A section 19(1)(b) statement simply means we are unable to say decisively that this Bill is compatible with the ECHR … Indeed, the Government is satisfied that the provisions of the Bill are capable of being applied compatibly with those rights”.

He should have been a scriptwriter for Monty Python.

What will the Government tell next week’s Council of Europe summit of 46 Heads of State and Government, the first for 18 years, about their UK contribution to fighting threats to democracy, human rights and the rule of law, when they are actually committing such threats? Everyone sensible knows that solutions to the difficult and complex challenge of migration pressures are to be found not in cheap gestures, stunts and simplistic slogans but in international co-operation and investment in efficient Home Office administration. We could usefully seek to join Europol as well, to tackle the trafficking and smuggling gangs, which the Bill does nothing about.

As Financial Times commentator Gideon Rachman has written:

“Reducing refugee numbers in a humane and effective way requires a painstaking combination of diplomacy, law enforcement and targeted development. Deportations and walls make better headlines, but worse policy”.

Would that this Government were to take note of such wise counsel.

Finally, as to the rebukes of the noble Lords, Lord Forsyth and Lord Dobbs, neither of whom are now in their place, have no Tory Peers ever voted against a Bill at Second Reading? I look forward to finding out.

My Lords, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, on which I serve, is required and mandated by Parliament to scrutinise every government Bill for its compatibility with human rights. How is it expected to do that if a Home Secretary fails to come to the committee to defend and explain a Bill that she has been unable to sign off as human rights-compliant? That is discourteous and worse.

By contrast, in 2015, and with consummate skill, Theresa May steered the landmark modern-day slavery and human trafficking legislation through Parliament, providing pre-legislative scrutiny and building bipartisan and bicameral consensus and support. Last week, with my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss and the noble Lord, Lord McColl of Dulwich, we spent an hour with Lady May and Sir Iain Duncan Smith. I hope that when the Minister replies, he will explain why their amendment on trafficking victims, alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, in his remarks, has not been accepted.

Let us be clear: the changes proposed in the Bill will not stop the boats, as modern slavery victims are just 6% of small boat arrivals. However, it will remove support and protection from many genuine victims, and will deter slavery victims exploited on British soil from coming forward, leaving them trapped in exploitation and making prosecuting criminal gangs even harder.

I have been a trustee of a charity that combats trafficking and yesterday chaired a session for key organisations, including the Salvation Army, which with partners have supported over 18,000 victims during the 11 years that it has held the Government’s modern slavery victim care contract. It points out that the Bill disapplies various protections and those who arrive irregularly and indirectly will be deemed a “threat to public order” and will therefore be disqualified from the existing legal protections.

The weight of evidence received by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, some of it taken in camera from victims, has been overwhelmingly clear that this would be in breach of the UK’s obligations under the Council of Europe’s convention against trafficking and Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Yesterday, at that meeting with the Salvation Army, I was told that traffickers will use the new law as a tool, and that it will not break the cycle of exploitation, only exacerbate it, adding to the trauma—to destitution, homelessness and mental illness, and to people living outside the law in precarious uncertainty. Paradoxically, we will empower traffickers and brothel owners and disempower the victims.

The JCHR also heard concerns that Clauses 2 to 5 will ultimately lead to the UK failing to play its part in the global system of refugee protection, a theme that has been mentioned so often in the debate so far. Vicky Tennant, UK representative to the United Nations refugee agency, told the committee that the Bill is

“a series of unilateral measures that are about pushing refugees away and pushing responsibility on to other countries, it will undermine the trust and regional co-operation needed to manage these movements”.

Within the last 24 hours, the UNHCR has said that it

“breaks the core UN Conventions that UNHCR is mandated to safeguard: the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1954 Statelessness Convention”.

In addition to concerns for the victims of trafficking, there are five other areas that have raised red flags for the JCHR: first, the removal of protections for refugees and stateless persons; secondly, potential for indefinite and arbitrary detention; thirdly, due process and appeal rights being compromised; fourthly, concerns over interim measures; and fifthly, lack of protections for both accompanied and unaccompanied children—a point properly made by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, whose amendment on children I seconded when it was considered and supported right across your Lordships’ House.

The JCHR heard that the Bill would not be compatible with the UK’s obligations under both the ECHR and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Two experts said the provisions

“create risks of Article 5 breaches”,

while Welsh Women’s Aid said there would inevitably be

“an increase in the number of women and children exploited in hidden and organised illegal trade”.

As far as due process and appeal rights are concerned, listen to Freedom from Torture, which told us that:

“A person may be able to provide ‘reasonable’ or even ‘strong’ evidence, but not quite enough to be ‘compelling’. Very many refugees will not be able to surmount this evidential burden, putting them at risk of harm”.

The Bill also gives Ministers legislative permission to ignore interim measures indicated by the European Court of Human Rights and to breach various international and domestic legal obligations, and risks breaching others. Several witnesses told us that the Bill is so bad it is simply incapable of amendment, and that we should first undertake post-legislative scrutiny of the Nationality and Borders Act, which came into force only in January, before legislating further.

If it proves impossible to amend the Bill in the ways that many noble Lords have argued during this debate, we should have no hesitation in using our constitutional right to defeat it at Third Reading. I agree with others that it is our duty to consider the Bill in Committee and on Report.

Let me end. In 1938 the independent MP Eleanor Rathbone established the Parliamentary Committee on Refugees. In 1940, during a six-hour debate, when Europe faced the challenge of enormous numbers of displaced people, she argued that in addition to the humanitarian case there were hard-headed reasons for the UK to lead the international response. She said it is

“not only in the interests of humanity and of the refugees, but in the interests of security itself”.—[Official Report, Commons, 10/7/1940; col. 1212.]

Her speech, and its description of dog-whistle politics and the stigmatisation of refugees, bears careful study today.

Sitting suspended.

Israel: Palestinian Civilian Casualties


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the Government of Israel regarding the number of deaths and injuries of Palestinian civilians caused by the Israeli military in the Israeli-occupied territories in 2023.

My Lords, all countries, including Israel, have a legitimate right to self-defence. Where there is evidence of excessive force, we advocate swift and transparent investigations. As I said recently to the Israeli ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely, on 21 April, the Foreign Secretary and I want to see a de-escalation and a willingness for dialogue from all sides. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and I also emphasised this during our meetings with Israeli Foreign Minister Cohen during his visit to London in March.

I thank the Minister for his Answer. Can he assure me that no items covered by British arms export licences are being used in the infliction of those deaths and injuries, either by the Israeli military or Israeli civilians? I realise that this is very recent, but I draw particular attention to the early hours of 9 May, when 13 Palestinians were killed in airstrikes, including four children, four women and Dr Jamal Khaswan, a well-known dentist and chair of Al-Wafa Hospital.

My Lords, I know, from being directly involved in our relations with both Israel and the Palestinians, the importance of negotiating what one hopes will be a lasting dialogue which will lead to a lasting and secure peace. Loss of any life, particularly those of children, is extremely distressing for all concerned. Irrespective of whether it is an Israeli life or a Palestinian life, it is one life too many. On the issue of arms exports, as the noble Baroness knows, the United Kingdom Government take their defence export responsibilities extremely seriously and operate some of the most robust export controls. We continue to monitor the situation between Gaza and the West Bank and Israel very closely. We are diligent and keep regular sight of all aspects of that dispute and conflict. I assure the noble Baroness of my best intent and good offices. When there is any loss of life on either side, I think I speak for all Members of your Lordships’ House in saying that we would all rather it had not happened but, equally, one hopes that it will inspire all nobly intended people to work towards a resolution of this conflict, which has gone on for far too long.

My Lords, I welcome the decision of our Foreign Secretary not to engage with Ben-Gvir, a man convicted of inciting racism and supporting a terrorist organisation—a man whom the Israeli military felt was too dangerous to draft. What confidence does my noble friend have in the protection of Palestinian lives with Ben-Gvir in charge as the Israeli Minister for National Security?

My Lords, my noble friend speaks from deep insight into the Middle East. I alluded in my Answer to our direct engagement with Foreign Minister Cohen, and let me assure her that in all our engagements we have raised directly with the Israeli authorities the security of Palestinians in the West Bank and the importance of recognising their right to access to places of worship. During the recent challenges faced by that part of the world, we were engaging quite directly. I also assure my noble friend that we will continue to raise any issues of concern to ensure that all citizens of Israel—let us not forget that there are Arab citizens of Israel, both Christian and Muslim, as well as Jewish citizens—enjoy safe and secure rights, irrespective of where they may be.

My Lords, there is loads of time. We will hear from the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, followed by the noble Lord, Lord Palmer.

My Lords, it is worth remembering that the dreadful loss of life in the recent conflict with Gaza is due to the war between Israel and Islamic Jihad, sponsored by Iran, not between Israel and the Palestinian people. Does the Minister agree that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians goes back a long way and is due to the failure of both sides to compromise?

My Lords, first, the noble Lord speaks with great insight. I agree with him. I have been in this role for a while now; one thing I have certainly learned about what is needed in diplomacy is the importance of compromise, but also that diplomacy comes at times from listening to the situation from the other side. I am encouraged by the fact that, historically, moves forward have been made to resolve this issue. In the wider region, we have seen confidence-building measures; indeed, His Majesty’s Government are very supportive of the Abraham Accords, which have brought a greater degree of security and stability to the region. I assure the noble Lord that, through our good offices, we will continue to work with both sides to ensure that, first and foremost, peace is sustained and stabilised, and then, importantly, to ensure that negotiations can take place between both sides.

My Lords, a report from the United Nations Committee Against Torture has accused the Palestinian Authority and Hamas of torturing human rights activists, women, LGBT people, political opponents, collaborators and others. Can the Minister say what action will be taken, given our concern for the human rights of Palestinians living under the rule of Hamas and the PA, as highlighted by the recent deaths of two men in Hamas custody?

As part of my wider brief, I am the UK Minister for Human Rights. I assure the noble Lord that we do not deal directly with Hamas, but we do engage directly with the Palestinian Authority. We raise a broad range of issues. Most recently, I met Riyad al-Maliki in the margins of the Coronation; we talked about the importance of resolving the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel but, at the same time, the importance of ensuring that the rights of citizens in areas under Palestinian control are also guaranteed. Upholding human rights is a central component of any responsible Administration.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza is illegal and immoral, and that land confiscation and the demolition of homes are a direct provocation to violent protest? Should not His Majesty’s Government be far more robust in condemning Israel’s flouting of international law?

My Lords, the position of His Majesty’s Government on the West Bank and the territories is clear; that is why we refer to them as the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We believe we should see progress towards the resolution of this conflict. On demolitions, the noble Lord will have seen that I recently raised directly with the Israeli authorities our concerns over the recent demolitions that have taken place, in particular the demolition of schools, and emphasised again the importance of access to education for all communities, particularly children, across that part of the world.

My Lords, may I bring the Minister back to the UN and his role as Human Rights Minister? He will be aware that this month the UN Human Rights Council is looking at Israel’s human rights record as part of its universal periodic review. Our permanent representative at the UN, Ambassador Simon Manley, has referred to the progress made by Israel and called on it to reverse its policy of settlement expansion in the Occupied Territories. Can the Minister say a bit more about our engagement with Israel on this issue through the UN, including whether high-level discussions are taking place, with our Foreign Secretary talking to Israeli Ministers?

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for raising the direct conversations that we are having with the Israeli authorities and assure her that we are doing exactly that. During Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to the UK, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister was able to raise directly the importance of the two-state solution and, yes, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary engages consistently and regularly, particularly with Foreign Minister Cohen, whom I engage with directly as the Minister responsible. In the context of the United Nations, we have strong working relationships as friends and partners to Israel, and that will continue; we will work constructively on this important agenda. Human rights matter to Israel. It is a democracy, and any democracy, wherever it is in the world, should also recognise its important responsibilities as a democracy.

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, rightly referred to the assassination of three commanders of Palestinian Islamic Jihad following 100 rockets being fired towards southern Israel. One of the targets assassinated yesterday, Tarek Azaldin, had been creating a rocket-launching apparatus in Jenin and had taught a cell how to fire and build rockets. Sadly, 10 civilians did die in that attack. Despite pressure from Iran, Hamas did not get involved in that fighting or the fighting last August. Israel has reportedly sent a message via Egyptian mediators urging Hamas not to respond. Will my noble friend and His Majesty’s Government be urging Hamas, through Egypt, not to enter this conflict?

My Lords, my noble friend rightly talks about the loss of life and the missiles launched against Israel, which raise questions about the security and safety of Israeli citizens. I agree with my noble friend. We welcome that Hamas has not been involved in this current conflict; nor has it been involved in escalating it. That is a good thing. We will use our usual channels to ensure that this conflict is not escalated. We have seen escalation and the need for de-escalation being directly addressed by the Israeli authorities themselves.



Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government how they intend to ensure continued production of frigates after the Type 31 class has been delivered.

My Lords, the refreshed National Shipbuilding Strategy is a mechanism for providing clarity to industry on future shipbuilding requirements for the Royal Navy. The Royal Navy works closely with the National Shipbuilding Office and Defence Equipment and Support to ensure that the Government’s relationship with industry is optimised to deliver ship- building requirements.

My Lords, the reassuring and mellifluous voice of the Minister makes things seem cosier than they are. We were promised for some three years that we would not drop below 19 escorts. We are now at 17. We were promised that there would be a growth in the number of escorts from the late 2020s, but that is not the case with current orders. Just to give an idea of numbers, we have 17 of these things. We lost more than 16 in May 1916. We lost more than 17 in May 1941. In May 1982 in the Falklands, 12 were lost or damaged—so 17 is not very many.

We import 95% of our goods by sea. Our seabed is at a greater risk than ever before and there is a war in Europe. Can the Minister confirm that shipbuilders and SMEs need a guarantee of a drumbeat of orders? That certainty allows the cost of the ships to be driven down, and it allows growth in skilled manpower. At the moment, there is a lacuna in orders. When will the drumbeat be committed to with orders, so that we can increase these numbers, and when will the number of escorts start to rise above the pathetic figure of 17?

I am not entirely sure of the noble Lord’s analysis and historic comparator: we are operating in a different age, with a different character of threat. The current shipbuilding programme in fact has a very loud and resonant drumbeat: the commitment to a Type 32 frigate, the bulking up with new weapons systems of the Type 23 and Type 45, and the flexibility offered by the Type 31 design, which gives options for the future, promise a very exciting period of development for our Royal Navy. If we look at that in conjunction with the carrier strike group, the two Queen Elizabeth class carriers and our nine submarines, we have a very robust maritime capability.

My Lords, given that the Type 26 is being built on the Clyde and the Type 31 at Rosyth, is it within the Minister’s understanding that the United Kingdom has never placed an order for a warship with a foreign country, and that, if Scotland were to become independent, that would not ensure the continuance of this most remarkable trade, the success that it offers and the reputation that it enhances?

The noble Lord makes a very important point. For example, in Scotland, with BAE Systems developing the Type 26 in the Clyde, Babcock developing the Type 31 from the Forth, and companies such as Thales and other industry partners doing a lot of support work, it is a very important area of economic generation for Scotland, providing jobs and skills. Historically, warships of this sensitive nature would not normally be placed with a supplier abroad.

My Lords, if we have 17 destroyers and frigates available for service with the Royal Navy, are they all serviceable and do we have sufficient crews for all of them?

The surface fleet availability comprises a total of 53 vessels. Of these, 37 are available and 16 are unavailable. Of those 16, a considerable number are in deep maintenance and will be coming out and available for operations—and, as I said earlier, we have our nine submarines. The Royal Navy is absolutely clear: we are able to discharge our operational obligations with the fleet that we have.

My Lords, does commitment to shipbuilding include the steel industry? Unless the Government give subsidy to that industry, it is likely to be destroyed. Will they commit themselves to give the same sorts of support that the Germans are giving to their steel industry?

Defence is not a major consumer of steel: indeed, for the financial year 2020-21, it consumed a little over 4,808 tonnes, and the forecast up to 2030 is for an average of 8,640 tonnes per annum. To put these numbers in perspective, in 2021, the UK produced slightly less than 7.4 million tonnes of steel, so the total forecast MoD requirement per annum is no more than about 0.12% of current UK production.

My Lords, when my noble friend responded to the noble Lord, Lord West, she said that we lived in a “different age” with a “different character of threat”. Was she seeking to imply that the threats that we now face are less than those that we faced 20, 30 or 40 years ago?

No, not at all: the threats remain as important and potentially lethal as they have ever been. But they come in multiple forms, some of which are different from the ones the noble Lord, Lord West, was describing from 1942. We require an agile, resilient maritime capability. We have that, we are developing and building on it, it is exciting, and it will ensure that we have a very capable maritime capability for the future.

My Lords, further to the question from my noble friend Lord Campbell of Pittenweem, is it true that SNP Ministers did not accept an invitation to attend a recent steel cutting for frigates on the Clyde? Could that be because of embarrassment that they cannot build their own fishing vessels—I mean ferries; I knew it began with F —on the Clyde?

I can understand the noble Lord’s diffidence in trying to describe what the SNP is building at the Ferguson shipyard. Having said that, I pay tribute to the skills of the workforce there and to the management, which is doing an extraordinary job. It is a rather sorry advertisement for the efficient delivery of ships, and I hope for the sake of the yard that these ships ultimately get launched in the near future. As to whether an SNP Minister attended the steel cutting, I do not know and am unable to comment.

Can I return the noble Baroness to the question of the policy context for the future purchase of these ships? Is she suggesting that we are potentially returning to an age of decisive maritime engagement, where the exquisite capabilities of these ships might be decisive, or is the age one of a more competitive world in which points of maritime presence and the utility and flexibility of these ships are of greater importance?

The noble and gallant Lord makes a very important distinction. It is the case that we have identified the need for our Royal Navy to be resilient and flexible and, as I indicated earlier, the Type 31 design is just that. I know that a number of noble Lords in this Chamber have asked this and I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, who has pursued this point with me: why does the MoD not look for a more easily procured piece of equipment, rather than trying to build the exquisite every time? I can say that there is evidence that the MoD is departing from that. The Type 31 is one such example. It could arguably be described an almost off-the-shelf vessel. The new MROS vessel has been bought off the shelf and will be ready for operation very soon. I think there is evidence, as the noble and gallant Lord identifies, that we need to have resilience and flexibility and be astute in working out how to provide that.

My Lords, to what extent does the Minister accept the concept of a “drumbeat of orders”? Ships that are built are inevitably late and I put to her that the reason is that they are not planned far enough ahead. Just how far ahead is the Ministry of Defence planning ship procurement and to what extent, if not placing orders, is the MoD sharing this with manufacturers?

I would like to nail the myth that there are delays. The Type 31 is on schedule and has proved a very satisfactory model of contract—five of them are to be off contract by 2028. The procurement of future vessels, as the noble Lord will be aware, has to go through a preconcept phase, a concept phase, a design phase and then the procurement process. The Type 32, for example, has gone into its preconcept phase and will be making progress on that. I think it is important to remember that there are accepted procedural stages we have to go through. The Type 32 is an exciting prospect and there will be more reported about that by the MoD in due course.

NHS: Nurses


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of whether there are sufficient NHS nurses to meet demand; and how they intend to meet this demand.

This Government have increased the size of the NHS workforce over the last decade and are committed to continuing to grow the workforce to meet the rising demand for health and care services. We are on target to deliver a further 50,000 nurses in the NHS in England by 2024 through increasing domestic recruitment, expanding nursing apprenticeships, increasing ethical international recruitment and taking actions to improve retention across the NHS.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer. He knows that the NHS is facing a desperate shortage of nurses. It is currently 44,000 and growing monthly. Our NHS depends entirely on having sufficient nurses. The members of the Royal College of Nursing recognise that the latest government pay offer fails to address the critical problem of recruitment and retention. When will the Government face up to these facts and make nurses a pay offer which offers them a long-term future in the NHS?

First, I would say that we have been negotiating with unions, the majority of which on the Agenda for Change now accept where we are. I think a lot of progress has been made in that place. We have a record number of graduates—26,000 new graduates have accepted places for next year. By all accounts, we are increasing recruitment rapidly. There are 43,000 more nurses here today than in 2019. We are doing a lot. We have plans in place to increase further and we are on it.

My Lords, the Royal College of Nursing has published figures showing that, between 2018 and 2022, 43,000 nurses left the nursing and midwifery register. We have seen this huge leaching of people moving out of nursing. What are His Majesty’s Government doing to listen to why these people are leaving and to see what we can do to retain these people who have been very expensively trained, have huge skills and are part of the reason why we have a shortage?

Absolutely, retention is key. The number I gave is net of those people leaving, so the 43,000 increase takes that all into account. We have an NHS retention program, and we are encouraging people to stay in place. It is all about training, pay and making sure the conditions are good and that we are helping them in their everyday life to set up a long-term, satisfying career structure, which we are doing.

My Lords, I apologise for trying to shout down the right reverend Prelate. Can I ask my noble friend what is being done to encourage nurses who have left for perhaps several years to come back into the profession and do a back-to-nursing course? I myself did so, and there is no reason why nurses in their 40s and 50s should not still give a lot to the profession. They can work part-time or in job shares. I think this way back in is not encouraged enough.

I thank my noble friend, and I think the whole House would wholeheartedly agree with her comments. Health Education England has a return-to-work practice which allows many different ways back in, be it full-time training, confidence classes or on-the-job situations, but flexibility is equally important, especially for people who have childcare arrangements, so that they can work the hours that work for them. What is key is that we need all these people back. They are crucially trained and experienced. The message is clear: we want them, and we are making it easy for them to come back.

For as long as I have asked questions about health, the shortage of nurses has been an issue, one way or another. How many nurses do we employ each year from English-speaking nations, such as New Zealand and Australia, and how many from the EU?

I do not have those precise figures to hand, but I am happy to supply them. International recruitment, as ever with the NHS, is a key component of our recruitment efforts, and that is why we are looking not just in English- speaking and EU nations but around the world, and we are being successful in this space.

Has the Minister seen the piece in today’s Financial Times reporting that, across the whole of the EU, 15% to 25% of hospital beds are out of use because of a shortage of clinical personnel, including nurses? The WHO forecasts that, by 2030, there will be a global shortfall in healthcare professionals of some 10 million. Does this not suggest that there is a fundamental problem here that will not be addressed just by recruiting campaigns, important as they are, and that what is required is a radical rethink of healthcare provision in the round?

Yes. Technology is a key part of that as well. Noble Lords have heard me talk about virtual wards. I have seen some excellent examples in Watford General Hospital, and we have plans to expand the number of virtual wards to use technology so that people can continue to live in the comfort of their own home knowing that they have technology support. We can make sure that we have got all sorts of solutions so that our nursing staff can go further.

The Minister knows the concern across the House about chronic staff shortages across rehabilitation and community services. I shall specifically ask him about the deeply worrying shortage of stroke nurses in hospitals and the community. The Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme showed that in 2021 only 46% of stroke units met the minimum recommended level of senior nurses and that only 23% met the minimum nurse staffing levels on duty at the weekend. Stroke nurses are vital in the care and recovery of stroke patients in hyperacute and acute hospital units as well in multidisciplinary teams. How are the Government ensuring that ICBs follow the newly updated national stoke guidelines on safe staffing levels and addressing the very serious shortage of staff across the country?

The noble Baroness makes an important point. The role of stroke nurses and physios in this space is vital in getting people back to a healthy state. It is the responsibility of the ICBs to do that, and that is very much something that Ministers are following up with our plans with them all. Provision in this space generally is something that I am personally taking an interest in, and we are surveying all the hospitals to make sure that they are putting those provisions in place.

Thank you. Many lives are at risk through the shortage of nurses, frequently through the lack of retention. Following the spirit, wisely suggested by our King, of the importance of supporting volunteering, will HMG consider allowing volunteer Red Cross and St John nurses to help to ease the situation? I declare my interest of having been a Red Cross nurse for many years.

Absolutely. The message is very much that we want to make it as easy and productive as possible for people to help out and recruit. That is why the NHS apprentice programme for nurses is a very important part of all this, along with easy, modular ways in which people can start off as maybe a social care worker but have the qualifications so that they can get into nursing provision if they should wish.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a vice-president of the Royal College of Nursing. Recently, I spent five days in hospital. In those five days, I was cared for by one British trained nurse. The others had all qualified in Nigeria, the Philippines or India. They were superb, and I have no criticism of them at all, but is there not a concern that we are siphoning off from those countries nurses in whose training they have invested? That is very disadvantageous for them, although it may be of benefit to us. There should have been more British nurses in those teams.

We have an ethical recruitment process in place to make sure that we are only recruiting in the right way. At the same time, as I mentioned, we have more undergraduates than ever—26,000 of them—to make sure that we are domestically training up the staff to be on our wards as well.

A major reason for nurses leaving the NHS is low pay and real pay cuts. I shall refer the Minister to some numbers off the wage slip of a nurse with two children: gross pay is £30,000; income tax and national insurance are £5,600; her rent is £18,000 a year; and energy is close to £3,000. That leaves £3,400 to spend on everything else. The only way that she can make ends meet is by coming out of the pension scheme and relying on food banks. Can I invite the Minister and the Health Secretary to see if they can survive on £3,400 a year?

I am afraid I do not recognise those numbers. What I recognise is the need to ensure that we are supporting our nurses and all our NHS workers. As I mentioned before, I am glad to say that we are making progress and a majority on the staff council of the Agenda for Change unions have agreed the pay rises going forward so that we are able to get the money in their pay packets, which we have done so, hopefully, we will have a more settled situation.

Social Media: Online Fraud


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with social media companies regarding addressing online fraud.

My Lords, the Government are engaging with social media firms to ensure that they play their part in tackling fraud. No. 10 held a round table in April attended by the world’s leading tech companies to discuss the new fraud strategy and kick-start work on an online fraud charter. This will be an ongoing dialogue. The Prime Minister has appointed Anthony Browne MP as the Government’s anti-fraud champion, who will also work with tech companies to ensure that they do more to tackle fraud.

My Lords, there was a lot of “ongoing” there. The Financial Services and Markets Bill contains some provisions around financial promotions while the Online Safety Bill has duties in relation to scams, but campaigners are clear that they feel the Government’s actions offer insufficient protections from the growing threat of online fraud. Ministers say that this is a matter for the online advertising programme, but we have been waiting a very long time for the outcome of that workstream. When can we expect progress? What would the Minister say to those who have been victims of fraud due to the Government’s failure to act?

My Lords, I have already referred to the new fraud strategy that was published only last week. The noble Lord will be aware that there are three pillars to that strategy—pursuing, blocking and empowering—with regard to tackling fraud in all its various forms. He will also, I am sure, have seen that in the fraud strategy there are a number of programmes and investments into law enforcement being made. He is right to bring up the Online Safety Bill, which contains many features, including the power to issue very significant fines. The fraud strategy also details some of the enhanced support that will be made available to victims.

My Lords, it was a pleasure to chair this House’s broad inquiry last year into the Fraud Act 2006 and digital fraud. I think we are all relieved to see that the fraud strategy was published last week. However, does my noble friend the Minister agree that one of the ways people are often contacted during fraud is through e-mails, which are unfortunately not covered by the Online Safety Bill? That remains a gap at this moment in time.

I pay tribute to my noble friend and thank her for the work of the committee that she chairs, the Fraud Act 2006 and Digital Fraud Committee, which published its report last year. She is right, of course, to point out that the Bill does not cover e-mails but, as I have just said, the fraud strategy enhances the support that will be available to victims. It will improve our data collection as well, which will be important in the ongoing fight.

My Lords, the committee’s report on fraud, just referred to, recommended the need to tackle online identity theft, as used by fraudsters to steal money from individuals and organisations. The committee specifically recommended consultation on creating a criminal offence of identity theft—surely there already should be one—so why have the Government not accepted that recommendation? Why do they not use the Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill to address the worrying rise in this type of fraud?

The noble Lord makes some important points about identity theft, which of course can happen offline as well as online. It needs to be considered in all its forms. I have no insight into what will come forward in future legislation, but I will make sure that his concerns are reflected.

My Lords, it is almost two months since Committee on the Financial Services and Markets Bill was completed. Is there any news of this wayward stranger?

My Lords, I am busy with the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, but I will endeavour to find out and come back to the noble Lord.

My Lords, when does the Minister expect the proceedings against a Member of this House for fraud in PPE to be concluded?

Coronation: Policing of Protests

Commons Urgent Question

The following Answer to an Urgent Question was given in the House of Commons on Tuesday 9 May.

“The Coronation was a once-in-a-generation moment, a moment of national pride and a moment when the eyes of the world were upon us. It was a ceremony with roots over a millennium old, marking a renewed dedication to service by His Majesty the King in this new reign. The Coronation went smoothly and without disruption. I thank the 11,500 police officers who were on duty alongside 6,500 military personnel and many civilians.

Today, Commissioner Mark Rowley has outlined the intelligence picture in the hours leading up to the Coronation. It included more than one plot to cause severe disruption by placing activated rape alarms in the path of horses to induce a stampede and a separate plot to douse participants in the procession with paint. That was the context: a once-in-a-generation national moment facing specific intelligence threats about multiple, well-organised plots to disrupt it. The focus of the police was, rightly, on ensuring that the momentous occasion passed safely and without major disruption. That was successful. All plots to disrupt the Coronation were foiled by a combination of intelligence work and proactive vigilant policing on the ground. I would like to thank the police and congratulate them on that success.

At the same time, extensive planning ensured that protests could take place. That was also successful. Hundreds of protesters exercised their right to peaceful protest, including a large group numbering in the hundreds in and around Trafalgar Square. Where the police reasonably believed they had grounds for arrest, they acted. The latest information is that 64 arrests were made. I will not comment on individual cases or specific decisions, but the arrests included a person wanted for sexual offences, people equipped to commit criminal damage with large quantities of paint, and arrests on suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance, often backed by intelligence. The Met’s update last night included regret—to use its word—that six people arrested could not join the hundreds protesting in Trafalgar Square and nearby. The Met confirmed that those six people have now had their bail cancelled with no further action.

The police are operationally independent and it is primarily for the Mayor of London to hold the Met to account, but let us be clear: at the weekend, officers had to make difficult judgments in fast time, in a highly pressured situation against a threatening intelligence picture. I thank the police for doing that, for delivering a successful Coronation and for enabling safe, peaceful protests.”

My Lords, we are all grateful to the police, our Armed Forces and others for ensuring that the Coronation was a spectacular success, seen across the globe. It is also true that protests took place which were allowed by the police; I saw those myself. But the Minister will know that, regarding the Public Order Act, we warned that the thresholds were too low and the stop and search powers too broad, with the ability to use them even when no offence had been committed, all sanctioned by officers of insufficient rank. Why were people with luggage straps arrested, as were women giving out rape alarms? Was the Minister surprised that some were held for up to 16 hours, with no subsequent charge, and what discussions has he had with the College of Policing about guidance with respect to the Public Order Act?

My Lords, I join the noble Lord opposite in saying how grateful we all should be to the officers of the Metropolitan Police and other forces for their excellent work over the weekend. The Coronation was a great success and involved a huge number of people; I believe there were 11,500 officers, staff and volunteers. From my experience on the pavement, they were all exceptionally good-humoured in the rain. There were also, of course, 6,500 troops involved.

In terms of the protests, the noble Lord is right to note that there were some arrests: 64 in total, with six under the Public Order Act. He will also know that the threshold for any arrest is to have reasonable suspicion. The threshold then rises before charge and, in the interim, the reasonable suspicion of those potential offences has to be investigated. As far as I can see, the police acted properly within the law.

My Lords, I also commend all those who made the Coronation such a huge success at the weekend. But we on these Benches warned the Government over and over again that the powers in the Public Order Act would result in innocent people being arrested for possession of everyday items. On the first contact of those police powers with reality, exactly what we said would happen did happen. The Metropolitan Police have expressed regret at making those arrests. When will the Government express regret for passing this Act?

My Lords, I am afraid I do not agree with the noble Lord, which will not be a surprise to him. As he may be aware, because the Metropolitan Police Commissioner wrote about it at some length, there was a significant body of intelligence which suggested that a number of people were intent on causing very serious disruption to the Coronation. Had that happened, there would have been a risk—obviously—to the country’s reputation but also to public safety, service personnel and, of course, their horses. Ministers are convinced that serious disruption was prevented which would have endangered all those things. Therefore, I think the noble Lord should commend the Act.

My Lords, can the Minister confirm whether Section 17, the journalist protection provision of the Public Order Act, was brought into force with other provisions last week? If not, why not? If yes, why was at least one journalist arrested and detained for 18 hours?

I cannot confirm whether the journalist provision was introduced last week, but I can say, as I said earlier, that six people were arrested under Section 2. The police must have reasonable suspicion, as I have already pointed out. As far as I am aware, they had that suspicion. Of course, if they did not, there are redress processes which can be adopted.

My Lords, while I have no interest to declare, noble Lords will be aware that I am a former Metropolitan Police Commissioner. Does the Minister agree that there is a need for more balance in the amount of commentary about a small number of controversial arrests, when set against the enormous Met-led security operation, unprecedented for a generation, which was successful in delivering a wonderful day for millions of people and a marvellous advertisement for the United Kingdom?

I am entirely happy to agree with the noble Lord and I will also quote the Metropolitan Police Commissioner on this subject. He said:

“Much of the ill-informed commentary on the day is wholly inaccurate—for example protest was not banned. I want to be absolutely clear—our activity was targeted at those we believed were intent on causing serious disruption and criminality”.

The comments of the noble Lord are absolutely justified. Has he noticed that there has been no comment that this was the largest public event ever held in this country? My understanding is that it was held at a time when the threat level was “Severe”, which fairly added to the challenges the police faced for this undertaking. Moreover, the particular additional problem was that they had an amazing number of Heads of State and other visitors from overseas, who had to be protected as well. At the end of the day, the whole country, except those who want to make a particular point about the legal and perfectly peaceful right of protest—which I support normally—understands that for Coronation day there was a challenge for the police, and they met it superbly.

I entirely agree with my noble friend. There were 312 of the world’s leaders in London over the weekend, being protected by about 800 close protection officers. I am going to say again that I think the police did a marvellous job in delivering a unique and very special occasion in the life of this country.

My Lords, I am sure that we all support the police for doing a magnificent job. One of the problems we are grappling with is that we have only read reports in the media, and of course the police may know things that we do not. However, by all accounts, someone who had been planning for months, working with the police, was arrested and simply did not realise that the luggage straps they were using to create their banners would fall foul of the legislation. Therefore, trying to be constructive, will either the police or the Government give some guidelines, to people who genuinely want to have a protest, about what is likely to fall within the scope of the Act, so that they can demonstrate peaceably?

The right reverend Prelate makes a good point, and he is right that one of the people who had been talking with the Metropolitan Police was arrested on this occasion. However, as I understand it, he was not known to the arresting officers. I am unable to comment on the rest of the circumstances for operational reasons, of course, but I will certainly take back the points regarding guidance.

My Lords, again, there is plenty of time to hear from the Cross Benches, my noble friend and the noble Lord opposite.

My Lords, does my noble friend accept that the feeling in the country on Saturday was such that, had that glorious pageantry been interrupted by paint-throwing or worse, it would have defiled the whole day in our history? The police were entirely right to put caution first on this particular occasion. The people who wanted to say that they did not want a King were allowed to shout and scream—they did in Trafalgar Square. That is freedom, but order is also important.

I agree with my noble friend and, as I said, the police were acting on very actionable intelligence about the scale and likely scope of the planned protests, which included upsetting many of the horses that, frankly, behaved rather magnificently over the weekend—

My Lords, I have no wish to comment on Saturday, but I am sure that the Minister has concerns that, on the basis of suspicion, the police can stop and arrest people who are only thinking of going to a protest. They can also undertake a stop and search, without suspicion, of people who simply want to go on a demonstration. Let us forget Saturday, which was a particular event, but, in general, demonstrations and protests are always going on. Does the Minister accept that the Government need to go back to that law and make sure that the provisions are tight enough so that totally innocent people wishing to go on a demonstration are not arrested or stopped and searched?

My Lords, the Act is in law and will not be revisited by this Government nor, I believe, by the Government of the noble Lord opposite. Having said that, guidance needs to be robust and well understood.

My Lords, I will move away from the statute and back to common law and the helpful provisions of ancient law. Certainly in my experience, the breach of the peace provisions under the common law were very powerful. If I were on duty, policing a once-in-70 years procession involving the King and Queen processing to the Coronation and back, with thousands of people from all over the world lining the streets, and I found that certain people, with noisy alarms, whistles and loud speaker equipment, had a mischievous intent to noisily disrupt that so far peaceful and happy event—given that thousands were enjoying the occasion, this might well provoke a violent and dangerous reaction from some of them, which would clearly amount to a common law breach of the peace—does the noble Lord agree that, if I used my common-law powers and arrested such demonstrators, who were clearly intent on disrupting that procession, my actions in maintaining the King’s peace would be worthy of commendation rather than condemnation?

My Lords, I think I agree with the noble Lord’s lengthy question. For the record, let me say that I am very pleased that certain people were able to express views with which I disagree.

Illegal Migration Bill

Second Reading (Continued)

My Lords, it is the right of every sovereign nation to control its borders. We in this country have a real problem with a complete breakdown of the UK’s ability to control its borders and to enforce its own laws. As the Minister said at the beginning of the debate, more than 45,000 people arrived in small boats last year. Many of those who crossed here were economic migrants—some from safe countries such as Albania—yet arrivals by boat accounted for almost half of those applying for asylum last year. We already have an accommodation problem, with 50,000 asylum seekers living in 400 hotels, costing £6 million a day. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, acknowledged that there is a problem and that it needs solving. Perhaps in the spirit of the Labour-Liberal alliance we now have, he will talk to his almost noble friend, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, who said that this is a problem that is incapable of solution and that there was no point in trying.

Some say that we should just let illegal immigrants work here, but surely that would not work; it would simply increase the pull factor of the UK to those wanting to come here. Who gets to come to this country and in what numbers is a legitimate political question. All eyes are on small boats at the moment, but there is also the much larger question, numerically, about the extraordinary recent surge in legal immigration. Last year, there were nearly 1.1 million arrivals—a net migration figure of over 504,000. There is no economic case for mass migration on that scale. These numbers are not sustainable. Our housebuilding target of 300,00 a year, which has not yet been met, probably ought to be well over 400,000 or 450,000.

Noble Lords have talked about safe routes to asylum. Legal migration is more likely to be accepted generally if we manage to control illegal immigration. At the moment, we have a situation where it is often difficult to remove migrants whom the legal system has found have no right to be here. The Bill addresses that question —that is the question and problem we have.

The heart of the Bill is Clause 2 and the provisions that give the Government the right to remove those with no legal right to remain here. It makes an asylum claim for any individual here illegally inadmissible. It should not be forgotten that the aim of the Bill is to deter. If a robust system can be established, there will be fewer boats and less need for flights to Rwanda. The Bill has been described as a threat to the rule of law, but it should be remembered that, when the Government introduced their plan to remove illegal migrants to Rwanda, our courts considered the legalities of the plan, and all courts up to the Supreme Court refused to grant an injunction to a group of migrants to stop them being put on a plane. But then, at that moment, Strasbourg issued a rule 39 interim ruling, and that is why the Government have taken powers to disregard interim rulings from the ECHR.

I am sure that noble Lords will listen very carefully to the many distinguished lawyers in this House, especially the former Lord Chief Justice, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, but many legal experts—including Sir Geoffrey Cox and my noble friend Lord Howard—have said that only final rulings, not interim rulings, of the Strasbourg court are legally binding. Martin Howe KC has even gone so far as to say that the real threat to the rule of law comes not from the Government in the Bill but from Strasbourg exceeding its jurisdictional powers.

The Bill gives the Home Secretary broad discretion; it does not require the Home Secretary to ignore rule 39 interim measures. The Government have also said that they are engaged in constructive dialogue with the ECHR, which they intend to continue, on reforms to the process by which interim measures are considered.

I agree that there are other difficult issues in the Bill; I will mention only two. The first is the removal of unaccompanied children. I am sure that Ministers would rather not contemplate being in a situation where they have to deal with such a problem. It is difficult to imagine a more awkward issue. The Immigration Minister in the Commons said that this could happen

“only in the most exceptional circumstances”,—[Official Report, Commons, 26/4/23; col. 837.]

such as reuniting a family, but I am sure the House will wish to probe that in Committee.

The second issue relates to Clauses 21 to 28. These disapply elements of the protection against modern slavery. Again, the Immigration Minister referred to cases where individuals are, as he put it, considered a threat to public order or have claimed in bad faith to be victims of slavery. This was queried, but the Minister claimed plenty of evidence and undertook to provide it, and the Minister speaking here today quoted some statistics, which I am sure the House will wish to probe. He quoted a figure of 73% of illegal immigrants applying for asylum, but in fact I think that figure refers to those in detention, and we have been told by other experts that the figure of those who have come here illegally applying under the slavery provisions is only 6%, so I am sure the House will wish to probe that.

Politics is sometimes described as the art of the possible. Perhaps more accurately, it should be described as the art of choosing between the incredibly difficult and the unbelievably difficult, but we have to make hard choices; to govern is to choose. One problem with ever-expanding human rights is that one person’s rights may clash with those of another. The rights of the individual matter deeply, but the ability of the Government to act as the trustees of the rights of the individuals who make up this country also matters. We have an acute problem which needs solving. Let us do it in a humane, legal way, but let us not duck the difficult choices.

I hope that this House will not fill the Bill with so many loopholes, exemptions, exceptions and get-out clauses that it actually becomes unworkable. We have a problem to solve, it needs solving, and this Bill is part of the solution.

My Lords, a refugee convention refugee can never—I repeat, never—be illegal. I have the unhappy duty of speaking as both the child of migrants and as a human rights lawyer. While the latter may be a cause for derision among senior members of the Government, I fail to see that it is any less noble than being a lawyer to the wealthy or an investment banker.

None of our political traditions commands a historical monopoly of virtue when it comes to the treatment of immigrants in general, or refugees and asylum seekers in particular. Low points have included: Home Office obstruction of safe passage for so many fleeing the Nazis; the racist treatment of the east African Asians in 1968; virginity testing of Hindu brides at Heathrow Airport in 1979; and, of course, the still unresolved Windrush scandal of more recent times. This is not to deny prouder moments, but to acknowledge our mixed record and the importance of legal protections for the most vulnerable people—or at least of not baking vulnerability and discrimination into our statutes for the sake of cheap headlines that tickle the base.

The politics of the Bill are a populist, divisive distraction from economic turmoil caused by mismanagement and greed. Increasingly, this is a desperate electoral strategy of culture war. Notwithstanding the inevitable cruelties that would be caused to even the most genuine refugees, this will not stop the boats. However, it is as a believer in the international rules-based order and the domestic rule of law that I have the gravest concerns. In its current form, the Illegal Migration Bill would live up to its name—assuming that the adjective describes the second noun. It would put this country, a country that was at the heart of negotiating the post-World War II international settlement, in violation of the ECHR of 1950, the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 2005 anti-trafficking convention and, perhaps most shamefully of all, given the events that led to its creation, the 1951 refugee convention and its protocol.

I do not criticise the Minister—an alternative “activist lawyer”—for making a Section 19(1)(b) statement that he cannot confirm ECHR compatibility. Such an honest position was always envisaged by the scheme of the Human Rights Act so as to facilitate parliamentary debate over whether, for example, in a state of emergency Parliament should be prepared to legislate contrary even to lawful derogation from the convention. However, I note that both the drafters of the human rights memorandum to the Bill and the Home Secretary, in the other place, adopted cake eating in the extreme with their confident assertions about the compatibility of the Bill while simultaneously ousting various aspects of the jurisdiction of both the Strasbourg and domestic courts.

The domestic duty to read legislation compatibly with rights is replaced with a duty to do the Government’s bidding, in a grotesque parody of the separation of powers. Interim relief, which is so vital in expulsion cases, will no longer bind the Government’s hands, even where either the European Court of Human Rights or UK courts believe that a person might be trafficked, tortured or killed pending a full and final hearing of their case. The provisions narrowing suspensive claims would appear to allow removal in potential breaches of rights to life and of protections against inhuman and degrading treatment in a number of cases.

There will be no bail for those caught in the wide net of this Bill for 28 days. There will be no judicial review of immigration detention decisions. All of this is in breach of the right against arbitrary detention so embedded in our common-law traditions. Further, in the absence of viable deals with safe third countries, people may be interned in legal limbo indefinitely. In addition, the Bill would apply retrospectively to people already here who have made a claim for asylum in good faith.

The core of the evil—that is not a word I use lightly —of this measure is the notion of punishing some of the most genuine refugees on account of the necessarily clandestine nature of their escape. This was not lost on the former Prime Minister and right honourable Member for Maidenhead in the other place, who was with us this morning. It was not lost on the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. It is not lost on me. Still, I cannot quite believe that our values have sunk to this.

My Lords, as the previous speaker has said, this Bill brings shame on our country. The UK was once one of the most compassionate countries, welcoming victims of oppression and violence, upholding human rights and championing the causes of the oppressed. The British public have shown their generosity in welcoming war victims.

The noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, said that there was public support for this Bill. But members of the public whom I have spoken to do not support the removal of protections for child imprisonment or the removal of rights for trafficked people in this Bill. She talked about equal treatment of genuine asylum seekers being the same as for imposters, but that is what is happening at the moment because so many claims have not been processed. Under this Bill, there would be no assessment; they would simply be imprisoned and moved somewhere else. So I think that, once the generous and fair-minded British public understand what this Bill contains, there will be no support for it from them.

As areas of conflict increase across the world, the numbers of people seeking sanctuary from violence and persecution are massively increasing. Yet the UK, claiming to be an influential global player on the world stage, is unwilling to take its share of responsibility for finding solutions to the worsening humanitarian plight of so many people fleeing conflict.

The Government are abdicating their international obligation to play a full part in worldwide efforts to address the growing numbers affected by war and violent persecution, failing to comply with long-standing international agreements and conventions. Worse still, as others have said, are the utterances of senior members of Government who are fuelling racial intolerance and painting a false picture of what is happening.

Ministers’ assertions that we are taking our fair share of asylum seekers and refugees can be seen to be untrue if we look at the performance of our European neighbours. When it comes to granting refugee status to asylum seekers, seven EU countries issued more positive decisions than the UK in 2021. These included Germany, with 59,000; France, with 33,000; Italy, with 21,000; Spain, with 20,000; Greece, with 16,000; Austria, with 12,000; compared with the UK, with 10,000. These are massive differences.

As the UNHCR says, the Bill all but extinguishes the right to asylum. To claim asylum, refugees have to be in the country where they are claiming asylum, but Clause 2 effectively removes this right, as any refugee entering the country under this Bill will not have the right to be assessed. There are no safe routes to the UK.

The noble Lord, Lord Howard, said that the problem would be worse if there were safe routes because people would go underground, but many people will go underground as a result of this Bill if it becomes law. So why are we not receiving information about safe routes from the Government at the same time as they are trying to enact this Bill?

The Bill does not, as Ministers say, protect trafficked people; it removes from them rights afforded to them by previous legislation. It means that, instead of being offered protection and support, as is the duty required by the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings, a potential victim will face detention and arrangements for their removal will commence.

So far, as others have said, the only third country willing to receive asylum seekers from the UK is Rwanda. In light of the Government’s confrontational approach, might not other third countries be unwilling to co-operate with the UK?

The Bill requires that any illegal immigrants be detained until they can be removed. The UK does not have sufficient accommodation for people who are already here—as many noble Lords have said, this is being provided at great cost. How then are we going to find accommodation for the increased numbers that will result if this Bill is implemented?

The Children’s Commissioner has raised major concerns about the current quality of accommodation for keeping children safe and 200 children are currently missing from Home Office accommodation. It is clear that many children have urgent health needs which are not being met in existing accommodation, as well as severe mental health problems, having lost family and witnessed scenes of horrifying violence. More children, including unaccompanied minors, are now to be detained under the terms of this Bill and there is no doubt that on current performance this will be in horrifically substandard accommodation.

So, it is no surprise that I agree with my colleagues that this is an appalling Bill that should be prevented from reaching the statute book. I hope that other noble Lords of the same view will stand up and be counted this evening and join us to vote for the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Paddick.

My Lords, this Bill fails to respect our international obligations and will therefore undermine the reputation of this country and our influence across the world. For this reason and others, I believe this House has a moral obligation to prevent this Bill from reaching the statute book unless it is very severely amended.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees makes the point that there are virtually no ways to claim refugee protection before arriving in the UK—with the obvious exception of people from Ukraine and Hong Kong. Anyone arriving without having already obtained refugee status will be regarded as arriving irregularly and will be locked up before being deported. This Bill therefore amounts to an asylum ban for victims from most unsafe countries.

Particularly shocking is the fact that these inhumane provisions apply even to unaccompanied children, who will be removed at the age of 18. To make matters worse, people will not be able to apply for immigration bail for the first 28 days, nor will they be able to obtain a judicial review regarding the lawfulness of their removal.

As others have said, the Bill drives a coach and horses through the Modern Slavery Act; we have to address this, along with many other issues. The idea behind the Bill is to deter people from coming to the UK in boats across the channel—but, as well as being inhumane, the Bill will not achieve this objective. The assumption is that people can be quickly returned to their own country. However, most people who come here as asylum seekers come from unsafe countries—Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, et cetera—and the Bill prohibits people from being returned to such countries. There are other countries, of course, defined as safe which imprison people who are non-believers simply because of their lack of faith. An obvious option would have been to remove asylum seekers to EU countries—safe countries they may have come through on their way to the UK—but the Brexit withdrawal agreement makes this impossible.

When the Government’s own statistics and research show that the deterrent model they have chosen does not work, can the Minister explain why they have failed to bring forward a Bill to tackle the business model of the people smugglers operating in the channel—an approach that would undoubtedly succeed in stopping the small boats and would, in fact, tackle the villains rather than the victims? The fact is that there are alternatives. In disliking this Bill, we are very clear that there are perfectly good alternatives.

What will be the cost to the UK of this policy? It will require a massive expansion of the detention estate—10,000-plus beds, according to the Refugee Council. The quality of those detention facilities will surely be appalling. The Home Office regards the approach used on the Greek islands of Chios, Lesvos and Samos as the right model for the UK’s response to asylum seekers, but Médecins Sans Frontières describes the accommodation in those facilities as “deplorable” and points to appalling suffering, exacerbated by the daily stresses and constant fears of the asylum seekers involved. Is this really the model that the UK Government wish to adopt? I do not think so. I fear that we have a Home Secretary who may be out of line with others.

Finally, I turn to the mental health consequences of the Bill. The people detained under it will have had a high prevalence of trafficking, torture and sexual and gender-based violence. The Royal College of Psychiatrists rightly points out that the Bill is likely to precipitate a significant deterioration of mental health problems in most cases. The consequences for children, with both mental and physical symptoms, are particularly distressing.

This Bill is cruel, immoral and unworkable. I call on the Government to accept the need for far-reaching amendments and, if necessary, withdraw the Bill wholesale at Third Reading.

My Lords, despite support in the other place, the Bill has come under a good deal of criticism, both in your Lordships’ House this afternoon and outside Parliament. If this House is not able to or will not offer that criticism but bends silently before the exhortations of the Home Secretary, we may as well pack up and go home. It seems to me that our constitutional duty is to warn, advise and seek to persuade the other place to think things through with care and in a less fevered atmosphere than was apparent when the Bill was debated in the other place. It is in Committee that we can look carefully at the Bill. With the greatest respect to him, I do not think that following the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, into the Division Lobby is the answer to this question.

The aims of the Bill are not in the least bit difficult to understand. They are to deter illegal entry into the United Kingdom; to break the business model of the people smugglers and save lives; promptly to remove those with no legal right to remain in the United Kingdom; and to make provision for setting an annual cap on the number of people to be admitted into the United Kingdom through safe and legal routes. I fully accept that all of those are legitimate policy aims, and in a pre-election period they are just the sort of policy aims that a Government who wish to remain in office through demonstrating their desire to protect their citizens from the expense of illegal immigration and from their having to see on their television screens images of thousands of people arriving in rubber dinghies, and who want to blame “the others” for failing to stop them before they set off, would espouse. However, while simultaneously claiming to be welcoming and compassionate, and portraying the United Kingdom as the victim of others’ failures, or of far-away political upheavals or moral ineptitude, is easy if somewhat lazy politics—and certainly not novel—it runs the risk of creating or encouraging a form of sectarianism.

In the context of the last presidential elections in the United States, sectarianism became a highly moralised political identity that saw the other side as contemptible. The moral component was fundamental. You believe that you are a member of a select group, and you fervently believe that only you know the moral truth and that the other people are hopelessly and irredeemably wrong. That is the tenor of the thinking we see across the American political divide nowadays. That is the way Donald Trump electioneers and how he describes the people who disagree with him.

This divisive political system has three main components. The first is what is known as “othering”—labelling these people as so different from us that they are almost incomprehensible. The second is called “aversion”—the idea that they are not just different but dislikeable. The third is “moralisation”, whereby they are morally bankrupt. Now sectarianism cuts both ways and moral rectitude does not belong only to one side of the argument. However, there are questions that need to be asked about whether, for example, it is acceptable to redefine one’s relationship to the law or to a long-standing convention on refugees, or to claim that judges who apply the laws enacted by Parliament—this Parliament—are “lefty lawyers”. Is it right to argue that what you think is in your immediate political interest is what is best for democracy? If the stakes are high enough, anything goes. To see where we may be heading, one has only to look at the clauses in the Bill relating to suspensive claims and serious harm; or at Clause 1(5), relating to the disapplication of Section 3 of the Human Rights Act; or at Clause 4, on the disregarding of certain claims; or at the Section 19(1)(b) statement on the face of the Bill. I have been described, I am sure, as many things, but no one I think could describe me as a “lefty lawyer”, and government by insult is not encouraging.

I am truly sorry that I have not been able to agree with my noble friend Lord Howard of Lympne, but I do suggest that we all study with some care the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, given at the outset of our proceedings.

What is less easy to understand is how the Bill’s four aims are to be achieved in practice. I have no doubt that a Home Secretary could articulate in a persuasive and evidence-based manner how each of those aims can and will be met within the rule of law and in compliance with our existing treaty obligations, most obviously under the refugee convention and the European Convention on Human Rights. There may be both a political and legal case for this Bill and the measures it demands. I genuinely look forward to hearing it, because so far, I have not.

My Lords, I am minded to vote in favour of the amendment and to oppose Second Reading of this disgraceful Bill. Other speakers have explained and will explain that the Bill is immoral and will cause much unnecessary pain and suffering, and it is far from obvious that it will achieve its stated objectives; but I am going to speak directly to the amendment and suggest reasons why it is right and necessary for this House to refuse to consider the Bill further.

No one doubts that the House of Commons has a democratic mandate and is entitled to pass whatever legislation it wishes. The issue here is the role of the second Chamber when presented with legislation that is so egregiously bad as this Bill.

The political reality is that there is no way that this Bill will or could be revised to make it better. It is intrinsically bad and, having read the debates that took place in the Commons, it is quite clear that the Government are opposed to any meaningful amendment.

Various threats have been made as to the consequences for this House if it refuses to pass this Bill, although today’s article in the Times is more measured, but we need to recognise the role in our constitution of the Parliament Acts. Any Government with a majority in the Commons can overrule this House, and if they think it is right to do so, they should do so. That does not require us to accept their proposals.

Earlier speakers have tried to suggest that for this House to refuse to consider a Bill is “unconstitutional”. Clearly that is nonsense; we have the constitutional right to refuse a Bill. I quite understand that noble Lords may not be greatly interested in my views on the matter. However, they may be swayed by the words of Sir Winston Churchill. I refer noble Lords to his speech in the Commons on 11 November 1947, when he was leader of His Majesty’s Opposition, speaking in the debate on the Second Reading of the Parliament Bill, which can be found in Hansard vol. 444, beginning at col. 203.

Sir Winston’s position on this matter is interesting, as in 1911 he was, in his own words, a “radical” and an active proponent of the legislation that limited the power of this House by restricting it to a two-year delay. Then, in 1947, he opposed Labour’s proposal to reduce the period of delay to one year. Much of his speech was devoted to setting out why two years was right and one year was too short, which, while interesting, need not concern us. There was also much political knockabout, although his comment that

“No Government has ever combined so passionate a lust for power with such incurable impotence in its exercise”

has contemporary relevance.

The burden of his speech, and what is relevant to us here today, is his forceful argument as to why and when, in accordance with our constitution, this House was entitled, even under an obligation, to refuse to consider a Bill, even when it had been passed by the Commons. The crucial point is that, as a great democrat, he argued the case for this House taking such action on the grounds of democracy. He said, in terms:

“The spirit of the Parliament Act, and the purpose of that Act, were to secure the intimate, effective and continuous influence of the will of the people upon the conduct and progress of their affairs”.

In other words, he argued that our power to delay should, when this House thought fit, be used in the interests of democracy. He asked:

“Is the party opposite really to be entitled to pass laws affecting the whole character of the country in the closing years of this Parliament without any appeal to the people who have the vote and who placed them where they are?”

In other words, our role is to make the Commons think again and, towards the end of a Parliament, make the Government seek a new mandate. His conclusion was:

“The object of the Parliament Act, and the spirit of that Act, were to give effect, not to spasmodic emotions of the electorate, but to the settled … will of the people”.—[Official Report, Commons, 11/11/1947; cols. 205, 204,214, 206.]

This Bill is clearly based on “spasmodic emotions” and we should, on the grounds set out in the amendment, use our constitutional powers to decline to give it a Second Reading.

My Lords, it is a privilege to add my voice to this debate. I echo much of what has already been said, including by my friends the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham. I will focus my remarks on the impact of this Bill on women, including victims and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence—all of it set, as you might expect, within my belief that every person is created in the image of God. We are talking here about people with names, not faceless numbers.

I hear the Minister’s concerns about the statistics around modern slavery but this issue needs much more careful analysis, as the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, said. Other noble Lords have highlighted many of the issues around modern slavery. Surely it cannot be right that no one who arrives here by irregular means will be eligible to receive modern slavery support. As we have heard, this Bill proposes that victims of modern slavery will instead be subject to detention and removal. This seems wrong on so many levels, not least morally, but it will also be a substantial law enforcement issue. Why would anyone come forward as a victim of modern slavery and risk being sent to Rwanda? My right reverend friends the Bishops of London and Bristol will be following these issues with interest and concern.

There are many crossovers for victims and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. For five years, the SEREDA Project at the University of Birmingham and across other international universities has been researching refugees’ experiences of displacement from the Middle East and north Africa to the point at which people seek refuge. These academics warn that this Bill will increase vulnerability and the risk of exploitation, and will unfairly punish survivors who have unknowingly come to Britain. Safe countries, even some of our closest neighbours, are not necessarily safe for a woman who has been sex trafficked to that country or abused by smugglers in-flight. She will want to put as much distance as possible between her and the perpetrators. There is nothing in this Bill to ensure that such victims will receive the support that they need in these countries to prevent the resumption of abuse.

If this Bill is enacted in its current form, Albania will be added to the list of safe countries from which people will never be accepted. There are questions there for me around gender disparity. If a large percentage of male asylum seekers from Albania are sent back but the vast majority of women are accepted at present, surely that implies that it may not be safe for them there.

I add my voice to those speaking against the indefinite detention of pregnant women. I strongly support the call from the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, for the 72-hour time limit to be reinstated. The impact of detention on this group may include considerable, extremely serious health repercussions, including for their unborn children, who may be harmed by the stress and trauma of detention.

Across all these points, I see a worrying failure to recognise the trauma experienced by victims. I will not say more at this point—so much has been said—but I hope that we will pick up on many of these issues in Committee, so that we ensure that we shape our legislation in a way that enables our country to be an appropriate place of sanctuary, not harm.

My Lords, this debate has focused largely on legal issues. I do not doubt the importance of such issues, not least those just raised by the right reverend Prelate, but I would take the lawyers more seriously if they recognised that there is a problem and suggested solutions rather than arguing as if neither law nor treaties nor their application need to change. Ultimately, the Government and Parliament of this country must be able to decide how many people, and for what reasons, are granted refuge in this country.

I had hoped that the lawyers would explain why British courts and administrators reject only 26% of initial asylum claims, whereas France rejects 75%, Germany rejects 55%, and both Sweden and Spain reject 71%—especially since, in addition, Britain goes on to accept a majority of those who appeal. If lawyers do not admit that our system is too credulous, why do they not criticise our EU neighbours for being too harsh? Does not this disparity explain why, as my noble friend Lord Forsyth pointed out, some people are willing to risk their lives to escape safe EU countries to claim asylum in the UK?

At the heart of this debate is a challenging moral and political question: to how many and to which categories of people should we offer refuge in this country? The most reverend Primate, in his great speech on his Motion to Take Note before Christmas, said that

“I make … absolutely clear and underline”

that Britain neither can nor should

“take everyone who flees such devastation”.—[Official Report, 9/12/22; col. 370.]

I was going to say that everyone agrees with him, and that everyone accepts that we cannot accept all those who would like to find refuge in this country, until I heard the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, state that we should not even attempt to limit the numbers, only handle the flow in a more orderly fashion.

The noble Lord did say that. He can check Hansard or his notes. If he wishes to tell me what he did say, I will give way to him.

I am very grateful to the noble Lord. What I said was that we need to manage the flow of those seeking asylum into this country rather than close the gates and try to seal off the country from all people seeking asylum. I said that we should be managing the flow. I did not say that we should accept everyone.

The great difference between what the noble Lord actually said, which is that we should not even try but should just manage the flow, and what he has just said now, is too fine for me to appreciate. At least I have his original version.

The noble Lord has had his go. His original version at least had the merit of being breathtakingly honest. However, the implications of just “managing the flow” rather than trying to limit it, when this country already has a catastrophic housing problem, are obvious, and from a party that is notorious for opposing every new housing development across the country, the Lib Dem policy is breathtakingly hypocritical.

Many noble Lords have spoken of the importance of creating more safe and legal routes for immigrants. Presumably they will therefore welcome the clauses in the Bill, under which the Government and Parliament will agree an annual quota of people to be accepted under such routes. That raises several questions, the first being, “How many?” That question is contentious but is to be answered in the light of circumstances each year.

Secondly, who should be allowed in under such safe and legal routes? Clearly, we should prioritise the most vulnerable, as we do with the UNHCR for refugees from Syria, and those with the greatest right; for example, those who are related to people who are already here or whom we have obligations to, as with the Afghan translators. We can be pretty sure that there will be little overlap between these groups, who we think should have priority, and those currently arriving in small boats. The latter include the better-off members of their national communities, who can finance the tens of thousands of pounds to get here, the more audacious and usually young men who are willing to take risks, and those who have been, or expect to be, refused asylum in the EU.

Thirdly, from which countries should we enable people to come legally and safely? Presumably it is those coming directly, or as near as directly as possible, from the place where they suffered persecution. Surely it would not be to give priority to those who are already in safe countries; that is, our EU neighbours. Allowing illegal immigration across the channel to continue would mean that they will continue to jump the queue and absorb all the available accommodation in hotels, barges, barracks or otherwise, which will be needed for those coming on safe and secure routes.

Fourthly, how will we restrict those who will still want to come illegally by boats across the channel? As the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, pellucidly explained, unless we allow unlimited numbers to come by safe and legal routes, there will always be some who, having been refused legal access, will wish to come illegally by the boats. So far, none of those who accept that we cannot take everyone who wishes to come to this country has proposed any concrete alternative to the proposals in the Bill.

My question to those who condemn the Government’s plan as immoral is: why is it perfectly moral to pay the French to prevent people leaving the beaches of Calais but immoral to try to deter people from landing on the beaches of Dover? Both measures would help us save the lives of those who risk being drowned in the channel, and both leave migrants free to seek asylum in the EU if they do not wish to do so in Rwanda. I will not hold my breath while waiting for a convincing answer.

My Lords, I will speak plainly. I believe the Bill to be a thoroughly reprehensible piece of legislation that would be more suited to a party of extremists than the party that saw one of its greatest leaders, Winston Churchill, among the architects of the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. How utterly ashamed I believe Churchill would be today of the Bill.

I am not alone in my concerns, and I am indebted to all organisations that have written to me and others about the Bill and the consequences for those seeking sanctuary and asylum: people who are among the most vulnerable, damaged, dehumanised and misrepresented —individuals who should command our support, understanding and compassion. But they are warned that they will instead be stripped of the most basic human rights by this Government, whom I call the Tufton Street mob. I am indebted particularly to Amnesty International for its briefing, as well as the Bar Council, the Royal Society of Psychiatrists, the British Red Cross and LGBT group Time to be Out.

I deeply regret the introduction of the Bill, which seeks to oust judicial control of executive powers, deny refugees their right to seek asylum in the United Kingdom, exclude victims from modern slavery protections, and strip some British children of their rights to British citizenship.

It plainly risks—and, I believe, seeks—conflict over the European Convention on Human Rights and the court. The Bill is a deliberate and carefully designed vehicle to put the UK on a collision course with the European Court of Human Rights, to further the ambition of the Tufton Street mob to whip up hatred of the court in support of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Convention on Human Rights. In that regard, the Bill is utterly cynical and an act of bad faith.

The Government argue in pursuit of a singular purpose, stated in Clause 1. It is

“to prevent and deter unlawful migration, and in particular migration by unsafe and illegal routes”,

as the Bill describes them. By citing this purpose, Ministers show a remarkable disregard for people’s real lives, real-world events, this country’s international obligations concerning these matters, and even Ministers’ own policy as it relates to these issues. Sadly and reprehensibly, in promoting the Bill, this lack of respect for law, fact and people’s innate dignity has led to Ministers expressing themselves in terms that are indecent and racist, and they have quite rightly been criticised by members of their own party.

The Bill is plainly not compliant with international human rights law—no doubt something that this Government, the Tufton Street mob, are proud of— nor is it compliant with basic principles of legality and constitutionality. I believe that it is a blight on the reputation of the United Kingdom as a civilised, law-abiding, constitutionally sound and democratically accountable nation. It is my profound belief that Parliament is better than this vicious, far-right piece of legislation, and that the British people are better—a people known for compassion, understanding and basic human decency.

We will deal in greater detail with the brutal injustices of the Bill, but I will name just some. Several provisions, in effect, oust judicial oversight. Clauses 31 and 52 deny refugees their basic right to seek asylum and put minorities, such as LGBT people, at greater risk, as brilliantly expounded by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton.

The Bill excludes victims from modern slavery protections; it can deprive British children of their citizenship rights, as I said before; and there are new powers to indefinitely detain pregnant women. Women for Refugee Women’s research has found that most women seeking asylum in the United Kingdom are survivors of rape and other forms of gender-based violence, including domestic violence, sexual exploitation, forced marriage and female genital mutilation, yet these women arriving through so-called unsafe and illegal routes will be detained and sent to so-called safe third countries.

As I read this, I find it unbelievable that I am doing so inside a British Parliament and that this Bill and its intentions originate from a British Government. How quickly we can be debased and reduced by those eager to misrepresent the most vulnerable as a threat to our culture and way of life, and as cannibalising our values, and to whip up public opinion against them. How reminiscent it is of the 1930s, and how I so agree with Mr Gary Lineker and his denunciation of the language used.

In conclusion, I paraphrase Shakespeare and a play that he co-wrote, “Sir Thomas More”. The strangers have made their way from Calais to Dover, and on to London. The citizens of London, whipped up by the mob, become unruly. Thomas More stands before them and someone in the crowd shouts: “Remove them!” He replies: “You bid that they be removed, the stranger with their children upon their back, their families at their side, their belongings at their feet. You bid that they be removed. Imagine you are the stranger, with your children upon your back, your family at your side, your belongings at your feet. Imagine you are the stranger and bid that they be removed and show your mountanish inhumanity”.

Such inhumanity is within the Illegal Migration Bill, and we should consign it to the dustbin of far-right politics.

The reason that some years ago I supported the Conservative-Liberal coalition was the pledge that the imprisonment and detention of children on immigration purposes would be abolished. Now, the possibility of that is to be reintroduced.

The Government will say that this is what the British people want. Thursday’s local government election, with over 1,000 Tory losses, shows that there is no great clamour for the sort of action proposed, which is aggressive and inhumane. The Home Secretary dreams of planes deporting refugees to Rwanda. I believe this is not a dream shared by the majority of the British people, who are more likely to dream as Martin Luther King did of justice and fairness for all people. Once again, not a single Tory councillor was elected in many of our larger cities—none in Liverpool, Manchester or Newcastle. You may say, “What about the places most affected by the people in small boats?” On the south coast, the Tories were down five councillors in Dover and more than that in Folkestone. The people do not want this.

The Coronation concert showed how much we appreciate the diversity of those from many different backgrounds. This Bill has no place in the law of the United Kingdom. I am certain that every concerned Peer in the House today will join me this evening in opposing this squalid Bill.

My Lords, the only thing I really like about the Bill is the honesty of its title—it is indeed an illegal migration Bill. It bans even asking for asylum if you are coming from Khartoum, Tripoli, Tehran, Myanmar or Yemen because there is no regular, legal approved route from there. We are being asked to agree to a blatant repudiation of our commitments under the 1951 convention, as the UNCHR, the custodian of the convention, has confirmed. We are being asked to approve of indefinite detention for all such arrivals by decision of the Secretary of State, without legal oversight and with no appeal. The Secretary of State’s decisions cannot be questioned in any court or tribunal. That is astonishing, but that is what new paragraph 3A, to be inserted by Clause 12(4), says. When the Minister states in the Bill that he cannot say it is compatible with European convention rights, that is the truth but not the whole truth. The incompatibility is obvious.

That is not all. Like others, I struggle to see how this Bill can be squared with our promises under the Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons 1954, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, or the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings 2005, which only the Russians have not ratified. It is not just about small boats, although that is how it is being sold. It is about trucks, London airports, trains, victims of modern slavery, and students, businessmen or tourists from Khartoum or Tehran who when here chose to seek asylum. Their claims cannot be heard if this Bill passes; they have to be locked up sine die until the Secretary of State can find somewhere to send them. That is astonishing in my view.

I have two interests to declare. First, I was, until recently, a trustee of the Refugee Council. The Government have produced no impact assessment on the Bill but the Refugee Council has, and, as others in this debate have already mentioned, its verdict on its impracticability is damning. It puts the cost of detention over the first three years at some £9 billion. More importantly, it points out that it will not work: it will not crack the small boats problem. What might work would be for our Government to accept the repeated French offer to let us set up processing centres in France—and that is my answer to the very legitimate question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean.

I have a second interest to declare. For five years I headed the Diplomatic Service, which thought it was its duty—I am sure it still thinks it is its duty—in the national interest to speak up for the rules-based international system, which is now under such challenge from the likes of Trump and Putin. This Bill would disarm our diplomacy. When we remonstrate with rule-breakers, they would fling this back in our faces. Do as we say, not as we do is not a winning diplomatic gambit.

It is an honour to serve in this Parliament, and we must all do what we can to sustain its reputation. In almost 20 years here, I do not think I can recall a more disreputable Bill than this one. It victimises the vulnerable, and if we enact it, the country breaks its commitments and trashes its traditions. It takes perseverance to keep honour bright, and this House should ask the Government to think again. We should send the Bill back to the other place in a form which does not purport to legitimise illegality.

My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate, and it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord who, as always, spoke with such sense. He certainly knows what he is talking about, and we would do well to listen to what he said.

I look forward to this legislation being improved in your Lordships’ House—there is certainly scope for that. There are some very real concerns about this legislation. I do not doubt the need to control immigration, nor indeed do I doubt the need for a properly regulated system of asylum. However, it is a complex global issue. It does not follow that, because we have a problem, any action is appropriate, justified or to be welcomed. It is not. This Bill does not deal with the asylum backlog, nor does it do anything to bring to book traffickers, who are the real villains who should be centre stage in any system of governmental action. I question whether this legislation will have the deterrent effect that is argued for, and I look forward to hearing evidence of that.

It is legitimate to ask what we would do instead, and I will come on to some of the things that could be done. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, has just talked about processing in France, which is a real way of tackling some of the problem.

At the centre of my concerns is the statement in the Bill made by the Home Secretary that in her view she is unable to make a statement that the provisions of the Illegal Migration Bill are compatible with the convention rights. That goes to the very centre of what makes us great as a nation: a belief in the rule of law. This is the post-war settlement coming back at us. Do we really want to ally with Trump and Putin? That is what we are doing if we turn our backs on the very fundamental problem that this is illegal. That statement is a concern, and I assume it concerns the Minister. I look forward to hearing more about how he thinks we are on the right side of the law here.

I would also appreciate it if something were to be said about the impact of this legislation. We are told, and I agree, that there is a problem and we need to do something about it, but we are entitled to ask what the costs of this measure would be. Part of the answer, apart from the processing, is more safe and legal routes. That does not mean we are giving way to massive inroads into the country, but it would take pressure off illegal, costly and hazardous routes.

I am concerned about the prevention of asylum for anyone entering the UK irregularly, because people will come in irregularly, particularly because we are closing down safe and legal routes. We are, as the refugee convention has made clear, in danger of extinguishing the right for refugees to seek refugee status here. Is that what we really want as a country?

I am concerned too at our turning our backs on the modern slavery legislation—the withdrawal of protections that we passed recently with such great pride, and in contravention of international law. Is that what we want to do as a country? I do not think we do. How does the withdrawal of the rights of modern slavery protection help our country?

I am concerned also about the rights of children. The treatment of children refugees is another massive area of concern, specifically a power given to the Secretary of State to deport child asylum seekers.

The thrust of this legislation should give us pause. We should be dealing with traffickers and providing protections from modern slavery and for children. We should uphold the principle of asylum, which needs to be restated.

I listened with great interest to the contribution from the most reverent Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was right to say that he would be bringing forward proposals in Committee to deal with some of the concerns that exist about the convention and the need to update it, as well as things to be done at an international level. I hope the Government will engage with him. We should take that offer positively so that we can improve this legislation, because there are massive improvements that need to be made.

My Lords, 87 people originally signed up to speak in this debate, and I was one of them. There are slightly fewer now, but I know that if 187 had signed up I would still have wanted to add my name to those speaking on this issue, since its importance can hardly be exaggerated.

I share with noble Lords the fact that I am part of the delegation from the British Parliament to the Council of Europe, and I sit on its migration committee. I never thought that saying that would leave me feeling as if I should declare it as a conflict of interest, and yet today, faced with this legislation, I feel that the Council of Europe’s position is conflictual with the spirit of it.

Two or three years ago, I was asked to write a report to celebrate and commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 1951 convention. I consulted widely with people from the UNHCR and other United Nations agencies, as well as NGO bodies such as Amnesty International and others, and from countries around Europe. I produced my report; it was unanimously accepted by the migration committee and then went to a plenary session of the Council of Europe in Rome, where again it was accepted unanimously. Even at that time, it was possible to see and recognise—and to note in the report—that the arrangements of the 1951 convention were under pressure in various places, and in some countries were being eroded. But at that time it was possible to stand up, as a United Kingdom spokesperson, and feel that we could contribute positively to the need to do the necessary forms and tidying-up.

At the heart of the report are three basic principles: that when a refugee seeks refuge in this country, or any country, there should be, first, no penalisation; secondly, no discrimination; thirdly, no refoulement—no pushback. It would not be difficult, in the time remaining to me, to show how in this and previous legislation every one of those core principles has been either threatened or undermined, or quite simply pushed to the side. It is time for us to look again at our commitments. I am not a lawyer; I cannot do this from a legal point of view. But I believe that I and every Member of your Lordships’ House can understand those three principles without any difficulty, yet all of them are under threat and even worse.

Since I presented that report, the Ukraine war has happened. When I look at the considerably more than one million refugees in Poland and Germany as a consequence of that war, I almost feel ashamed at hearing the way that we cavil about the small number who are coming here. When the convention was drawn up, and largely at the hands of British lawyers in its present form, there followed its coming into being a meeting of what were called—quaintly—plenipotentiaries. Again, there was a significant British presence among them. They were clear that while the convention spelled out contractual arrangements to deal with the migration that everybody was having to look at, there should be generosity on the part of those furthest from the problems to help shoulder the burdens of those nearest them—the front-line states. Honestly, if that was true then, I cannot believe it is not true now.

As an accident of geography, we have a channel separating us from mainland Europe. We are already insured against the sorts of figures that I have mentioned for Germany and Poland. We pride ourselves on the number of people that we are taking in from Ukraine; it is nothing compared with what others are taking. Indeed, most international migration is dealt with by neighbouring countries absorbing the problem and taking people in. Turkey, a country for which I have mixed feelings, is doing heroic work in this regard.

We have not had pre-legislative scrutiny for the Bill, but only in February one of the Select Committees of this House produced its report, All Families Matter: An Inquiry into Family Migration. Clearly in there is a direct criticism of the direction of travel of our House and our Parliament on these issues now. Treat that as a piece of pre-legislative scrutiny and observe its strictures, and we would be far better off.

I must close. They say a Methodist minister preaches for at least 25 minutes, but I do my best. In the Times this morning and all over the radio we had the headline: “Don’t defy will of the people on migration bill, Peers warned”. The will of the people was expressed last Thursday, and it was not favourable to the people putting this Bill forward now. I suggest that it is time we recognise how radically this proposed piece of legislation eats into the spirit and values of the country we should all be proud to belong to.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, and not only because we share a family background in south Wales. Given my legal background, I am going to focus on one issue. It is a legal issue, but an important one highlighted by my noble friend the Minister in opening this debate.

Last year the Government attempted to remove a small number of people to Rwanda. The group applied to court for an injunction to prevent their removal until the full challenge to the removal order had been adjudicated. That claim for interim relief failed three times. The Government won in the High Court, won again in the Court of Appeal and won for a third time in the Supreme Court.

However, the claimants applied to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. On 14 June last year a single, unidentified judge—we do not know who it was because these things are done anonymously —of the Strasbourg court indicated interim measures under rule 39 of that court’s rules to the effect that the claimants should not be removed from the UK until all the UK litigation had concluded.

The Government acted consistently with that rule 39 interim measure indicated by the Strasbourg court and did not remove the claimants. The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, charges that in this Bill the Government seek to act contrary to the rule of law and their obligations under international law. So far as the Strasbourg court and rule 39 are concerned—my focus today—that is wrong for at least three reasons. The first reason is grounded in international law, the second reason is grounded in domestic law and the third reason goes to what the Bill actually says.

First, on international law, when we signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights, we signed up to a written document that set out our obligations clearly. One of those obligations is in Article 46(1). We have to abide by a final judgment given by the Strasbourg court against the UK. But an indication under rule 39 is not a final judgement against the UK. Indeed, as the Strasbourg court recognises—see the rule 39 factsheet on its own website—in the convention itself, there is no jurisdiction to grant interim measures. That is not surprising. In 1949 a draft version of the convention included a power to grant provisional measures, but that did not find its way into the final text. As with Sherlock Holmes’s nocturnal dog that did not bark, sometimes it is the clause which is not in the contract which is in fact the most important. Rule 39 indications therefore rest on the court’s own decision in 2005 by a majority that it has jurisdiction to make them—overturning, I might add, the same court’s more forthright previous decisions that it did not have jurisdiction to make them.

The first point is that the Strasbourg court’s jurisdiction to grant rule 39 indications is itself questionable. That, no doubt, is why they are called indications and not injunctions or orders. I invite my noble friend the Minister to confirm that, although historically the UK has taken on board the indications of the Strasbourg court under rule 39—no doubt for good political reasons—that is not because we have a treaty obligation to do so. We do not.

Secondly, not abiding by a rule 39 indication is not a breach of our domestic law. The Strasbourg court attempts to ground rule 39 indications in Article 34 of the convention, but the Human Rights Act, which incorporates the convention into our domestic law, deliberately excluded Article 34. To pick up a point made by Professor Ekins KC in his recent Policy Exchange paper, that is important. A civil servant is bound by Acts of Parliament, and it is no answer for a civil servant to refuse to do something ordered by a Minister, on the authority of this Parliament, because it might, or might arguably, involve a breach of international law. We are a dualist state, and international treaties have no application in domestic law, unless and until they are given effect by this Parliament.

Thirdly and finally, the Bill does not require a Minister to refuse to give effect to a rule 39 indication, although I accept that the default position is that the duty to remove takes priority. The Bill gives a Minister discretion that is to be exercised personally. As my noble friend the Minister pointed out, Clause 53(5) sets out specific points to which the Minister should have regard. These include whether the UK was given an opportunity to make submissions before, or after, the rule 39 indication was made; the “form” of the measure; and its “likely duration”. These are all pretty basic points, you might think, but they have to be made because they are currently not part of the procedures of the Strasbourg court. Were it to adopt the fairly basic procedures that we have in this jurisdiction surrounding the making of injunctions, a large part of the problem would go away. Therefore, the solution is likely to be, at least in part, in a reform of the procedures of the Strasbourg court. I noted with interest that Robert Jenrick indicated that the Government now have a renewed and focused engagement with that court, which I welcome very much.

However, for the reasons I stated, the Bill’s provisions on interim measures engender no breach of the rule of law, no failure to meet our international commitments and no requirement for Ministers to ignore the decisions of judges. For those reasons, if the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, pushes his amendment to a vote, I urge the House to reject it.

My Lords, on Saturday morning, I watched the Coronation. The ceremony affirmed that we are an inclusive and humane country that aspires to be a community in which people of all religions and ethnicities live harmoniously together. The King swore to govern the people with justice and mercy. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London read, from St Luke’s Gospel, of how Christ came

“to heal the brokenhearted … to set at liberty them that are bruised”.

The ceremony was uplifting and made me proud to be British. On Saturday afternoon, I turned to considering what I might say about the Illegal Migration Bill. It was depressing and made me ashamed of our Government.

The Bill is merciless. It removes modern slavery protections and deprives people fleeing suffering and persecution of any realistic possibility of refuge in our country. The Home Secretary prated of our “proud and extensive tradition” of offering refuge, even as she introduced legislation that repudiates that tradition. Under pressure from MPs, the Government have said that new safe and legal routes for asylum seekers will be opened; we will see what they offer. They have made it clear that they will not set up a scheme for people fleeing Sudan, and they are making it as difficult as possible even for Sudanese entitled to family reunion in the UK. The Bill as it is creates a Kafkaesque regime under which asylum seekers who enter the UK illegally are immediately to be deported and never again permitted to apply for asylum here, while there are no safe and legal routes for entry for almost all asylum seekers.

The Bill is particularly cruel towards children. Asylum seekers under the age of 18 will be separated from their parents; they will be detained until they are 18 and then deported. During their detention, they will be subject to a special regime administered by the Home Office. The Home Office does not have the skills to look after children. Too much of what we know about the character of the Home Office and its contractors tells us that their so-called care of these vulnerable children will be brutal.

We have been shocked by reports of the squalid and demoralising conditions in which asylum seekers are forced to exist: in seedy hotels, with filthy food, in enforced idleness and, on occasion, besieged by racist mobs. The prospect the Bill provides is of traumatised, frightened people warehoused in putative detention centres for far longer than the 28 days envisaged, while official incompetence perpetuates their limbo. If the Government succeed in deporting these poor people, it will most likely be to Rwanda, a country with a terrible history of racial strife and where human rights are not respected. Only this Government could describe Rwanda as a safe country.

The Prime Minister is obsessed with “stopping the boats”. Presumably, this is a dead cat tactic to distract attention from the Government’s failure to turn the tide of net migration running at half a million a year. He calculates that it will make his party popular among red wall voters, readers of red top papers and people who have been given to understand by the Home Secretary that the arrival of asylum seekers in small boats is an “invasion”. The stratagem did not seem to work last Thursday in the local elections.

I remind the proponents of this legislation that Mrs Thatcher used to say that, in politics, you have a choice: you can appeal to the better part of human nature or the worse. She was no softy, but she did not practise cruelty out of a cynical notion of electoral expediency. She would have understood that the policy will not work at any level. The asylum seekers will not be deterred from getting into the boats, because they will not know what our law is, and the people traffickers will continue to take their money and shove them out to sea.

True leadership would remind us that we have a duty of compassion and help to people thus broken-hearted and bruised. It would also explain that, historically, our country has been greatly enriched by immigration, that we now need an influx of young, enterprising, resilient people to eke out the demographic imbalance of our ageing population, and that we should therefore invest in the asset that asylum seekers are. On that basis, a leader can decently accept that both the pace and amount of immigration must be controlled and go on to acknowledge that there are indeed problems with the operation of the European Court of Human Rights and with the open-ended commitment of the UN Convention on Refugees, framed in very different circumstances in 1951. The way to address these problems is not to breach international law or, in effect, to secede but to engage in serious negotiations to achieve reform.

I am ashamed, too, of the Government’s attitude to justice; the Bill reprises their familiar contempt for the courts and their resentment of judicial review. In this legislation, the Home Secretary is seeking to make human rights claims inadmissible, to remove the practical possibility of appeal, and to curtail the oversight of our domestic courts and the European Court of Human Rights. If we consider the brazen statement by the Home Secretary that she cannot certify that the Bill is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, together with the obvious breaches in the Bill of the UN Convention on Refugees and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is clear that the Government disdain the rule of law. The Bill is disgusting and demeans us all.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Howarth of Newport. I will address the Minister’s introduction to the Bill, when he stated that, if the Bill is to be effective as a deterrent, the extreme measures in it are necessary. So the Bill is, very clearly, the Government’s response to address their often-stated, firmly-held belief that, in the argument of pull versus push factors in the reasons for migration, the pull factor is most relevant. In short, the Government believe that people risk life and limb, of themselves and their families, and get into flimsy boats to the UK without serviceable life jackets because the pull factors of life in the UK are irresistible.

However, this argument is deeply flawed. I say that that because every study that has ever been carried out on the subject clearly shows that, while the argument holds some truth when applied to voluntary migration, it utterly falls apart when applied to those who are escaping the unimaginable horror of conflict, famine and persecution. The Government’s own research shows this but, inexplicably, this research is no longer available online. In November 2021, the Guardian reported that the then Home Office Minister, Chris Philp, argued that accepting asylum seekers

“creates a pull factor where migrants are incentivised to undertake dangerous and illegal journeys”,

but the Home Office refused to release the report that that statement was based on. In response to this refusal to publish the evidence, a Médecins Sans Frontières spokesperson said

“The reality is that ‘pull factors’ are a myth - people who are fleeing persecution or conflict don’t need any further incentive to look for safety. It is hard to see why the government would refuse to share evidence that supports its plans - the only conclusion to draw is that they know their arguments don’t stand up”.

In fact, previous Home Office research into asylum seekers’ decision-making appears to undermine the pull factor argument for harsher policies, saying that asylum seekers

“are guided more by agents, the presence or absence of family and friends, language, and perceived cultural affinities than by scrutiny of asylum policies or rational evaluation of the welfare benefits on offer”.

The link to this report appears to have been taken down. Will the Minister look into this? In fact, it would be informative if the Government would publish all reports and advice, including legal advice, on which the Bill was put together, as requested also by my noble friend Lord German.

What we do know, however, from sector analysis, partly based, in fact, on the Home Office’s own data, is that more than two-thirds of people who cross the channel in small boats are judged to be genuine refugees and, on appeal, are allowed to remain—contradicting a government claim that 70% of small boats arrivals

“are not genuine asylum seekers”.

A compassionate Government would put in place genuine safe and legal routes for these genuine asylum seekers, and then seek to break the business model of the people smugglers. The Bill seeks to do neither.

I spent a lot of time in the Calais Jungle before it was demolished and burned to the ground in 2016. The people I met there, mostly from Sudan, Afghanistan and Syria, had no other thought than to get to the UK. They had overcome unbelievable odds to reach the English Channel and they would not be defeated now that they were within sight of its shores. Their logic was simple. The smugglers were the ones they trusted, because they wanted to help them in their aim; the French were their enemy, because they wanted to stop them, often quite brutally; Britain, in contrast, they believed, wanted them. What were they supposed to believe, when each DfID—as was, now FCDO—sack, box or pallet is emblazoned with a union jack and the words “UK Aid”, ensuring all recipients knew whom to thank for their charity?

They were right in one respect: the British people are overwhelmingly supportive of refugees. The Bill is not representative of British people. Britain is a country that has shown, time and again, that it welcomes refugees. If the Government truly want to do the right thing, they will work with international bodies, such as the IOM and the UNHCR, to support decent refugee camps in the affected regions, camps that offer the dignity of work, education and health facilities. They should make a serious effort to address the real cause of the misery of people forced into such desperate actions, the push factors behind the mass movement of people today—push factors such as desertification, flooding and extreme weather events the like of which we have never seen before. They should invest urgently in mitigation and adaptation measures against the ravages of climate change.

My Lords, I declare a specific interest as a member and former chair of the Cambridge Woolf Institute’s independent Commission on the Integration of Refugees. I resigned as chair to be able fully to participate in the proceedings on this Bill.

I have listened with great care to all the speeches we have heard so far. I particularly agree with those of my noble and learned friend Lord Etherton and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier. I recognise that the numbers of unprocessed asylum seekers and refugees speak for themselves. There should not be so many; there should not be a backlog of the kind that we have. I agree with the Government to this extent: we need changes in asylum policy, management and possibly the law. However, I agree with others that the changes to the law proposed in this Bill are neither necessary nor proportionate.

I listened with great care to the interesting and persuasive speech by the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, on rule 39 of the European Convention on Human Rights. That should be changed not through this Bill but through discussion in the Council of Europe, which is the appropriate organisation. Knowing his skill as an advocate, I can imagine him persuading courts that the British Government have been right in many cases to stick to decisions given under rule 39 because of the precedent they have set in doing so. This is not the place to deal with it.

I was concerned to hear some highly respected Peers whom I admire enormously suggesting that, because the House of Commons has passed this Bill, we are obliged to do so. Indeed, it led me during the short adjournment to play the game of cross-examining ChatGPT to see whether I could get it to agree with any of those propositions. I am sorry to say to those Peers that I failed; ChatGPT has consistently come up with something like, “The Members of the House of Lords are appointed to provide scrutiny and review of legislation passed by the House of Commons. They also act as a consultative body, providing expertise in various fields to assist in decision-making. Additionally, they may participate in debates and question government Ministers on policy issues”. Perhaps even former Cabinet Ministers should turn to ChatGPT before they decide to join your Lordships’ House. We have the duty, never mind the right, to do just what ChatGPT has insisted to me that we should.

Surely it is an imperative of sound public policy that it should enjoy an unimpeachable ethical and legal foundation. Where on the moral ground does this stand? The noble Lord, Lord German, reminded us of the title page of this Bill. If he or I in moving an amendment in Committee said, “I am unable to say that my amendment is compatible with convention rights but nevertheless I wish the Committee to proceed with it”—exactly the words on the front page of the Bill—the Minister, whoever it was, would shout me down for the effrontery of trying to break the law during a debate. But that is what the Government are doing. They should not get away with it. They are deliberately breaking the law.

How big is the problem we are dealing with? Has it been exaggerated by political rhetoric? My noble friend Lord Green, perhaps an unlikely source, reminded us that asylum seekers are a small proportion of immigrants, and the noble Baroness, Lady Janke, referred in her excellent speech to the figures in other countries, such as France, Germany, Italy and, above all, the United States. Why do we have this problem? Has it come upon us secretly in the night? Of course not; it is the result of years of failures by the Government to deal with the predictable and to reform the processing of refugees within existing law. To reform the law, they want to break the law—a most extraordinary proposition, particularly to the revising Chamber. Surely breaking the law should be the last resort.

We should not flatter totalitarians by imitating their addictions. I think we should have a Committee stage on this Bill, during which we will show the Government how this work can be achieved much more empirically and efficiently. I hope to be able to play a part in doing so.

My Lords, illegal small boats crossing the channel see desperate people putting their own lives, and those of their families, at risk, and profit criminal organisations. It is clear from all contributions to this debate that our immigration and asylum system needs significant review. I acknowledge that the Government are attempting to address some of these problems in this Bill, and that it is an incredibly complex situation.

In order for the measures in this Bill to have a chance of success, there are two fundamental issues to be addressed. The first issue is the unacceptable backlog of immigration and asylum claims. There are many reasons to regret this—the human cost for those claiming asylum and for the local authorities and communities trying to cope with long and unjustifiable waiting times, and the spiralling economic cost to the public purse and the impact this is having on our international work, as aid funding is diverted. Dealing with the backlog is essential, both so that this long delay does not act as a pull factor and to free up capacity at local and national level to provide sanctuary to those most in genuine need. Can my noble friend the Minister provide any update on what progress has been made towards the Prime Minister’s pledge to clear the backlog by the end of this year?

The second fundamental issue is that of safe and legal routes. Of course we cannot and should not take in all of those who wish to come to the UK, but we can and should continue to play our part in helping some of the world’s most vulnerable people. I am sure my noble friend the Minister will point to our generous schemes for Ukraine and Hong Kong, and indeed they are to be commended, but we must not forget about the rest of the world. Here, our recent record is not so impressive. Last year, only 1,185 people were resettled in the UK under the UNHCR global resettlement scheme; that includes the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme, which has resettled only 22 people in the UK. In his opening remarks my noble friend used these examples and others of existing safe and legal routes, but the ones he listed do not work and are not sufficient.

The Government have made some progress on this issue in the other place, thanks to Tim Loughton MP and others, though I hope to hear more about how the mechanisms will work as the Bill progresses. I agree that we need practical and thought-through plans, but without clearer ambitions and proper support for local authorities I worry that we will end up doing less than we can and should do.

I acknowledge that safe and legal routes will not stop the demand for illegal boat crossings, but that does not make them irrelevant to this Bill. We must not be in a situation where, because of this Bill, we are closing our borders without opening proper safe and legal routes. I look forward to discussing improvements to the Bill to ensure that these routes function appropriately.

I hope that during the passage of this Bill we can make progress on the detention of children and pregnant women. As we have heard, the Bill removes the prevention of routine detention of children and their families which has been Government policy since 2011 and was enshrined in law in the Immigration Act 2014. That was an achievement that had cross-party support and should be left as it is.

I hope the Government will seriously consider deleting from this Bill the power for the Secretary of State to remove an unaccompanied child. I appreciate that the Government have made some amendments on child detention, again thanks in no small part to Tim Loughton MP. I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for confirming that details on detention time limits for children will be set out during the passage of the Bill. I hope that this will be a direct replacement of the 24-hour limit that was put in place by the Immigration Act 2014. Can my noble friend the Minister say if we will also see the details of the circumstances under which unaccompanied children may be detained, and the progress on how and where the Government plan to accommodate those children once identified?

As we have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester, since 2016 there has been a 72-hour time limit on the detention of pregnant women. This ended the practice of detention for weeks, and sometimes months, which caused huge harm to women and their unborn babies. This Bill removes that protection. Will my noble friend consider amendments to retain it?

Finally, can my noble friend the Minister say whether any progress has been made on the consideration of arguments made in the other place by Theresa May MP and others on exempting victims of modern slavery? I understand the need to ensure that the legislation is not used to make false claims by those crossing in small boats, but we must ensure that actual victims who are being exploited here in the UK are able to report this abuse without fear of deportation.

Finally finally, as I have a little extra time, my noble friend will be well aware of the concerns from many eminent Members of your Lordships’ House, the UNHCR and many others that, as the Bill stands, it would breach the UK’s obligations under international refugee law. I hope that during the passage of the Bill the Government will be able to reassure noble Lords that it does not breach international law or international obligations, including the European Convention on Human Rights. That is not a position we should be in.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg, and I agree with a very great deal of what she said. I simply emphasise again some particularly disturbing elements of the Bill, declaring an interest as an advisory board member of the British Institute of Human Rights. The word “illegal” does indeed characterise it. Even the Home Secretary considers that it “may be incompatible” with the Human Rights Act. It also contravenes an astonishing number of legal instruments we are party to, as well as our own laws. To instance the most egregious, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees describes

“a clear breach of the Refugee Convention”

in the disqualifying nature of the mode of arrival, as my noble friend Lord Dubs noted.

As a former trustee of UNICEF UK, I note that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child’s concept of the “best interests of children”, incorporated into our law, is so drastically qualified as to be undermined by Clauses 2, 3, 4, 21, 22 and 31. The common-law right of access to justice and its reflection in the European Convention on Human Rights provisions for a fair trial is impaired in numerous ways in the Bill, not least with the power of removal and prohibition of ever applying for asylum or even entering the UK. The undermining of the Modern Slavery Act in Clause 21 arguably means that a trafficked person can either go to the authorities and be removed or stay with the trafficker and let the abuse continue. The Bill is even retrospective in its application, which is another departure from a principle of justice.

What has prompted this extraordinary and unprecedented break with tradition and the rule of law, which we usually see as a conservative principle? The Prime Minister cites the small boats crossing the channel. But, of course, the Bill’s reach goes far beyond those to any arrival by so-called irregular means, whether or not a safe legal route is available, which there is not, apart from in the case of Afghanistan, to a degree, Syria, Ukraine and Hong Kong. I ask the Minister—he is not in his place, but I hope that somebody is noting this—what the legal route is for people fleeing well-grounded fears of persecution in Iran, Eritrea or Sudan.

My noble friends Lord Dubs, Lord Rooker and Lord Browne of Ladyton referred to humanist refugees. How can the Government describe Nigeria as safe for a humanist refugee when the Nigerian Government maintain the death penalty for blasphemy—along with 10 other countries on the Bill’s “safe country” list in Schedule 1—and when they have sentenced the president of the country’s humanist association to 24 years in prison?

This law’s apparent departure from conservatism has not escaped several Conservative Members of the other place. They may be thinking of their 2019 manifesto, which said:

“We will continue to grant asylum … to refugees fleeing persecution”.

My noble friend Lord Coaker, in his stirring speech, cited former Prime Minister Theresa May and former Attorney-General Sir Geoffrey Cox KC suggesting that Parliament was being asked to approve a deliberate breach of our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. Outside Parliament, the Children’s Commissioner, appointed by this Government, said:

“My worry is it will make traffickers even bolder”.

Yet again, undemocratically wide powers are given to the Executive, in eight clauses by my reckoning, some of which amount to arbitrary power. Surely the real abuse in our dealing with asylum is the horrific backlog in clearing applications, which are anyway very many fewer than in comparable western countries. This is itself, arguably, a denial of rights—and it is so incompetently managed.

The laws that this Bill seeks to overthrow were not made to add bureaucracy. They were hammered out by the governments and peoples of the world to shape how we deal with crises without losing essential values. Those values, of fairness in the application of law, of recognition of people’s essential needs and of our common humanity, are not the ones expressed by this Bill. This Government should not assume that they share the values of the British people. I am not sure that they even share mainstream Conservative values. What does the noble Lord the Minister think?

Finally, the Bill is at odds, as it stands, with practical sense. Practical ways to deal with the quest of refugees for safety would include safe legal routes, as so many noble Lords have said, thus undermining recourse to people smugglers, and competent processes to deal with applications in a timely fashion. Surely we are capable of that.

My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker. I will focus today on how this Bill will affect some of the health and medical decisions relating to asylum seekers. I thank the many organisations that have provided briefings.

Given the worrying nature of the Section 4 support under this Bill, can the Minister assure your Lordships’ House that basic but proper healthcare will be provided to prevent a repetition of last autumn, when Suella Braverman stopped the dispersal of asylum seekers from the Manston and Jet Foil centres? The Minister will remember well that, as they became overcrowded and diphtheria and scabies spread rapidly, it became clear that there were not adequate health resources—until there was a major crisis and a public scandal.

This should not have been a surprise. The Home Secretary was warned of this months earlier in the Chief Inspector of Prisons’ unannounced inspection report, which said:

“Governance of health care processes was weak … The care pathway lacked coordination or clinical leadership and there were no policies, protocols or governance of clinical standards.”

Can the Minister assure your Lordships’ House that this will never happen again?

As highlighted by other speakers, including the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester, this Bill is also severely problematic for pregnant refugees. The previous Government’s 72-hour time limit on detention of pregnant women not only protected them and their unborn babies but resulted in the number of pregnant women in detention falling dramatically. This Bill would remove that limit and offer no exemption for those who are pregnant. Doctors and healthcare staff are horrified. There is also a real concern that the Bill in its current form is likely to increase the number of pregnant women in the UK who are charged for their maternity care, and we know that that impacts on maternal and foetal health. Doctors are also very concerned that offshoring—whether Rwanda or barges—is disruptive and possibly dangerous for women’s access to safe antenatal and postnatal care.

To turn now to the health of children, it is well documented that children seeking asylum are likely to face the worst childhood experiences possible, including physical and sexual violence, persecution, torture, xploitation, separation from parents and even witnessing parental death. In the Lancet, experts in child and adolescent health said:

“Rather than supporting these children, the UK’s new migration policies could cause further harm. The Illegal Migration Bill will violate the rights of children seeking asylum, undermine the Children Act, create safeguarding risks, and exacerbate the toxic stress experienced by children seeking asylum who arrive in the UK by irregular routes. As a signatory of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UK risks reneging on its commitment.”

On mental health, Dr Adrian James, the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, says that

“this new legislation will have potentially devastating consequences for the mental health of those seeking asylum in the UK. Many of these people will have experienced significant trauma in the countries from which they have fled.”

He goes on to say that not only is the Bill incompatible with the 1951 refugee convention but it

“is not compatible with the fundamental medical principle of doing no harm and we therefore consider it to be unethical.”

Earlier, the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, talked of a teenage asylum seeker with some soft stubble, and Clause 56 on age assessments proposes that biological tests be carried out to assess age. Last year, the then Home Secretary, Priti Patel, convened a committee of experts to assess whether biological tests, including X-rays, could confirm whether someone was 18 or under. The resulting report from the expert committee warned that there was

“no infallible method for either biological or social-worker-led age assessment that will provide a perfect match to chronological age”.

This was confirmed by the president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, who said:

“Paediatricians have said time and time again that age assessment by examination and X-rays is imprecise and unethical. Scientific evidence shows that pubertal assessment and bone age assessment are unreliable indicators of age and therefore cannot be used … I think it is highly questionable whether consent can even be freely given in these types of situations”.

Who will decide this highly contentious medical matter, and why are the Government not following the advice of their own expert committee, which believes that it does not and cannot work?

This Bill is not just morally unacceptable, although it is. It does not deal with traffickers and smugglers. Is the Minister serious that the Bill will stop them? It does not speed up the Home Office process of assessment of applications, which is urgent and long overdue. It does not create safe and legal routes, but it clearly breaches the 1951 convention. Our Government should be ashamed. Doctors tell us that it is unethical and unworkable. This Bill is inhuman and a danger to those who are fleeing for their lives. It is not how our country has responded to refugees for hundreds of years, and it should not progress. I will support my noble friend’s amendment tonight.

My Lords, these are unprecedented times. Last year, we had more than 40,000 illegal immigrants arriving in small boats. This year, the numbers will undoubtedly be greater. We cannot stand by and do nothing. It is not fair on those who seek to come here lawfully; it is not fair on the local authorities which have to accommodate people who have no homes to which to go. If we do not adopt some form of firm deterrence, the numbers will magnify. Those coming pay money to smugglers which is then recycled in organised crime. That chain has to be broken.

We all have sympathy for the circumstances which many leave, but that does not justify jumping the queue or pushing this country beyond its practical limits, especially when, in many cases, they come from safe countries. We owe duties of care to those who come here lawfully and to our own citizens.

First, I suggest that the Government accelerate forcefully the rate at which they process asylum claims. The rate at which it is done is lamentable and painfully slow. That is a practical step which has nothing to do with the Bill.

The Government are none the less right to act. Let me address just a few of the concerns raised. First, there is the question of treaty obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. I refer, of course, to Rule 39 interim orders. It cannot be that the Strasbourg court should grant an interim order of indefinite duration without hearing from the British Government either first or at least soon after as to why such an order is inappropriate. That is contrary to how we do things in our jurisdiction under common law, contrary to our traditions and contrary to fairness. An affected party should be heard either before an order is made or, in a case of urgency, at least as soon as practicable thereafter, and that is a lamentable gap. Importantly, following on from that, the Bill does not oblige the Minister to ignore the interim order, but it will give him or her the option. Nor, as we have heard from my noble friend Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, will that make the Minister in breach of international law. Fortunately, we have also heard that the Government are engaged in constructive dialogue with the Strasbourg court on reforms to the process, so I hope this will be resolved, but we should not be afraid of that provision in the Bill.

Next, I turn to modern slavery. I ask the Government to look again at the amendment advanced in another place by the right honourable Members for Maidenhead and for Chingford and Woodford Green. In particular, those who are already here must not be trapped in true slavery; they must not be trapped underground and abused by criminals and others.

Lastly, I address safe and legal routes. Global safe and legal routes are available for people from any country, and some 50,000 people have come here via those safe routes since 2015. Country-specific safe and legal routes—the schemes for Afghanistan, Ukraine, Hong Kong and Syria—have together provided for some 430,000 people in the same period. The Government must work to expand that network. Only when numbers moderate, however—and I am talking here of the asylum seekers whom the Bill addresses—can we treat new arrivals with the welcome which we would wish. We just have too many to cope with.

To conclude, the Bill addresses complex and difficult problems. This House must not run away from working to solve them, and I am afraid that too many speeches I have heard today point to the difficulties which we face and some of the legal problems which the Bill raises but do not provide constructive solutions. This Bill is the way forward, but no doubt it can be improved. While we examine it carefully, we must not wreck it. The problems are too great and too important to be left untouched. We cannot go on as we are; this Bill must go forward.