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Illegal Migration Bill

Volume 829: debated on Wednesday 10 May 2023

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.