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Illegal Migration Bill

Volume 831: debated on Wednesday 28 June 2023

Report (1st Day)

Relevant documents: 34th and 37th Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee, 16th Report from the Constitution Committee, 12th Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Correspondence from the Senedd published.

Clause 1: Introduction

Amendment 1

Moved by

1: Clause 1, page 1, line 3, leave out “unlawful migration, and in particular”

My Lords, noble Lords across this House are to be commended for the anxious scrutiny given to this most controversial Bill over many hours, days and nights in Committee. Now, it is time to move through votes on as many already well-debated amendments as quickly as possible.

I have Amendments 1, 2, 3, 5 and 13 in this first group. However, short of any miraculous change of heart by the Home Secretary and the Government, it is the crucial Amendment 5, also bearing the names of the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, that I shall press in what I hope will be a very short while. It replaces the rather long and strange narrative in Clause 1, so as to reinstate Section 3, the interpretation provision, of the Human Rights Act, and ensure that the rest of the Bill is read so as not to require that British officials, Ministers or His Majesty’s judges breach precious international treaties that our former statesmen and stateswomen played such a heroic part in creating. These are the ECHR of 1950, the refugee convention of 1951, the conventions on statelessness of 1954 and 1961, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989, and the anti-trafficking convention of 2005.

This interpretation amendment is essential to protecting the most vulnerable people, including by any amendments to follow. It is equally important for the international rules-based order and for our reputation as a great democracy in a troubled world. That was two minutes. I beg to move.

My Lords, I support the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, on one legal point. In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, stated, quite correctly, that we have a dualist system under which international obligations are not part of our law unless specifically incorporated by statute. I consider that this interpretation amendment does not fall foul of that because it imposes no positive obligation to do anything specifically required under those treaties. It is simply of a negative nature to say that the Bill itself —and, in due course, the Act—must be interpreted so as not to conflict with those treaties. For my part, it is perfectly legitimate and legal.

My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 4, in my name. I appreciate the need to move as fast as possible and I shall be as short as I can. This amendment, which appeared in Committee and is renewed today, would require the Secretary of State to provide

“guidance as to how the provisions of this Act are to be read and given effect in a way that is compatible with the Convention rights”.

The amendment follows a recommendation by the Constitution Committee prompted by the provisions in Clause 1(3), which tells us that

“so far as it is possible to do so, … this Act must be read and given effect so as to achieve the purpose mentioned in subsection (1)”.

Clause 1(5), the crucial subsection, states:

“Section 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998”—

which gives the function of deciding what the convention rights mean for the courts—

“does not apply in relation to provision made by or by virtue of this Act”.

The Committee said that the Government’s position requires explanation. Of course, there are more fundamental objections to these provisions, which are the subject particularly of Amendment 5. I do not want anything I may say in the next few minutes to be taken as undermining in any way the point made by the noble Baroness in favour of her amendment, but the fact remains that the Government’s position on how these provisions are going to work needs to be explained, and no sufficient explanation has been given. Clause 1(5), after all, is a major incursion into the way the convention rights are currently protected. This is a matter of particular concern given the extent to which the Bill affects so many people, including children and the victims of modern slavery, who are extremely vulnerable to government action. As I said last time, they are being sent into a desperate kind of no man’s land where the ordinary protections we enjoy are being denied them.

In replying to this amendment in Committee, the Minister said that my amendment was at odds with Section 6 of the Human Rights Act which, as he put it,

“should be our guiding light here; it affords the necessary clarity for those seeking to give effect to the provisions in the Bill”.—[Official Report, 24/5/23; col. 921.]

I simply did not understand that response and I still do not; indeed, I think it makes the case for guidance of the kind I am talking about all the more strongly. Without going into details, Section 6(1) requires public authorities to act compatibly with the convention rights, while Section 6(2) disapplies it in two circumstances. Yet the fact that the Minister is contemplating disapplication of Section 6(1) suggests to me that he is contemplating that there will be breaches of convention rights flowing from the provisions of the Bill. That seems quite inconsistent with the ECHR memorandum, which says that the clauses it identifies as engaging the convention rights are capable of being applied compatibly.

I am not going to enlarge any further, but it seems to me that that explanation does not make any sense; it is contradictory to the memorandum and it is no answer to the point I was seeking to raise. The fundamental point takes me back to Amendment 5: the short answer to the difficulty created by that explanation is to vote in favour of Amendment 5, which I will do.

My Lords, I support Amendment 5 in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton. I speak on behalf of my noble friend Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate, who put his name to the amendment but regrets that he cannot be here with us today. This amendment is firmly in the Conservative tradition of strengthening, not undermining, the international rule of law. I remind noble Lords, and especially my noble friend, that Conservative Governments were instrumental in creating the first four conventions listed in the amendment.

Regrettably, the precise legal position of the Bill and its compliance with our international obligations—with this Conservative legacy—remains unclear. The Government say they believe it is compliant. A great number of others, include some of the bodies tasked with implementing these conventions, say that it is not. What is clear is that disobeying or disapplying international agreements which bear the name of the United Kingdom is not acceptable. If the Government are unhappy with their international obligations, they are free to seek to renegotiate them, but simply ignoring our international legal commitments in pursuit of domestic expediency puts us in very bad company.

As your Lordships’ House has repeatedly reminded the Government over the last few years, if we hope to negotiate or originate future international agreements on anything from trade to artificial intelligence, and to continue to play our historic role as a creator and driver of international law, we cannot breach our existing agreements. Who would trust us then? We rightly argue for the rule of law in our international relationships and expect it to be followed by other countries; we must follow it ourselves.

My Lords, I support Amendment 5 also tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti. In Committee a comprehensive debate took place, during which different cases were made by distinguished lawyers across the House about the place of international law as it relates to our domestic lawmaking. Notwithstanding the different interpretations, I wish to reflect on the moral imperative for us to take seriously the commitments we have made in past decades. Those commitments have value in themselves, but they have also come to define the country that we are and aspire to be. They are part of why we are trusted by much of the international community and held in high regard.

Treaties such as the refugee convention and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child set out clearly the rights of people who, due to their particular circumstances, may not be able to speak up for themselves. In many cases, this country has led the way in drafting the treaties named in the amendment. We should be proud of our involvement in advocating for the rights of every single human being. Anything that affirms our conviction that we are all created in the image of God, worthy of value, dignity and safety, should be commended.

Ensuring that international treaties of this nature are taken seriously in this country, and in this Parliament, is especially important given much of the unfortunate rhetoric and misinformation present around the Bill and last year’s Nationality and Borders Act. Language matters and it forms perceptions, sometimes false perceptions. For example, we hear repeatedly that refugees should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach, even when the majority of refugees already do this, and even though the refugee convention makes no such obligation on people to claim asylum where they first find themselves.

The refugee convention states that protection is not a simple concession made to the refugee: he or she is not an object of assistance, but rather the subject of rights and duties. If we move away from this indisputable legal principle, which underpins the human rights framework, not only our reputation but the spiritual health of this nation will be at stake.

My Lords, I think the argument for Amendment 5 was won in Committee and need not be rehearsed at great length now. In my view there is no doubt that if we pass the Bill, what will follow will be a series of breaches of conventions, in particular the 1951 refugee convention. That is not just my view. It is also UNHCR’s view, formally and on the record.

When this point was put to him on our first day in Committee, the Minister said that UNHCR

“is not charged with the interpretation of the refugee convention”.—[Official Report, 24/5/23; col. 968.]

That is not true. Article 35 and the preamble to the refugee convention give UNHCR the task of supervising its implementation. We are required as convention contracted parties to submit our legislation to UNHCR. It has commented on this legislation and believes it would lead to breaches of the convention. That is why you can sum up the argument in three words: pacta sunt servanda. If we purport to believe in the rules-based international system, we cannot pass the Bill in this form. We must support Amendment 5. If the Government believe what they say, they can support Amendment 5 too.

My Lords, we were given an admirable example by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, in her brevity at the beginning. I have to apologise to the House that, because I am looking after a sick wife, I will not be here as late as I would like to be. But this is a fundamental amendment in the Bill, and to violate international law is to invalidate national law. We should all bear that in mind. We often talk of China and the violation of the agreement that we made when Hong Kong was handed over. How can we continue to do that with sincerity and determination if we pass laws in this place that violate international law?

My Lords, we have heard several times in the course of debates on the Bill that this is the will of the British people. I can assure the noble Lord sitting opposite that, if he steps outside the right-wing media, he will see that it is not. They have already been quite shocked by the egregious and often law-breaking behaviour of this Government, so now the only decent thing this Government can do is accept Amendment 5 and say that they will not break more laws. This is a reasonable request from, apparently, the whole House. I urge the Government to accept this amendment.

My Lords, at an earlier stage in our debates I asked all the lawyers present why our judiciary and officials, in interpreting these international agreements, give 75% of applicants for asylum the right to asylum on first application. It is only 25% in France and in almost all other countries it is below ours. If we are interpreting these laws correctly, other countries must be interpreting them incorrectly. We are told that we will lose all credibility if we do things incorrectly. Why do these other countries not lose all credibility? Why has none of the lawyers answered these questions before or now?

My Lords, I will speak within two minutes and oppose this amendment. Migration Watch was the first organisation to draw attention to this problem and has been calling for action for three years. I will make two political points, not legal ones. I leave the law to the lawyers.

Practically, we find ourselves in a situation where we have no means of stopping the flow of another 50,000 applicants for asylum over this year, and quite possibly as many or more next year. With last year’s intake still under consideration, the whole system is being overwhelmed and the cost is becoming extraordinary, even as a percentage of our foreign aid. This is unacceptable.

Secondly, from a political point of view, I am not political but the public are furious—

Noble Lords know that I am not. The point has just been made that the public do not understand this—they are furious and the Government’s reputation is suffering severely. Effective action is essential, but that will be only harder if this amendment is approved. I trust that this House will ensure some flexibility on the legal front in order that a very serious matter may be addressed practically.

My Lords, some extreme language was used throughout Second Reading and Committee and there was very strong emotion. I understand that, because the Bill evokes strong feelings, but I suspect that, beneath all that, there may be more agreement than has been visible in our debate today and in previous debates. The spokesman for the Opposition has not added his name to this amendment and they did not oppose Second Reading, I suspect because there is an understanding that this is a difficult problem that any Government have to deal with. Any Government of whatever stripe have to take protecting the country’s borders extremely seriously.

A great deal of agreement underlies all this. For example, we all agree that there should be better-organised legal routes for genuine asylum seekers than there are at the moment. The main difference between the two sides in this debate is over the role of deterrence. The Government argue that we will not succeed in handling this problem unless there is an element of deterrence.

To bring it up to date—I will respond to the Chief Whip’s desire to be quick—we now all have the impact assessment, which we did not have until the day before yesterday, which points out the Australian example. Australia brought in a law very similar to this, which gave its Government the power to detain people and turn them around, in their case to Nauru and the Solomon Islands—in our case it is to Rwanda—within 48 hours. I asked the Government, reasonably, why we are not doing this. They pointed out that the Australians do not have to pay any regard to the European Convention on Human Rights, whereas we do. In their view, to comply with that, we could not reasonably turn detainees around within 48 hours; we would have to take at least 28 days, as is in the Bill at the moment.

I do not know whether the Government have ticked every box and crossed every T in relation to the ECHR, but it is quite clear that they have made a big attempt to do so. They have clearly taken on board the spirit of what we have agreed, even if not the letter of the law. The Government are in discussions with the European court about the convention. I am interested to know what the Minister can say about the state of those discussions. It is not only the UK but other countries—Italy, Spain and France—that are in discussion, because this is a new problem which is not covered by the original convention. We have to take that into account and realise that there is a real problem here, which is not a lot to do with immigration but is about border control more than anything else, which any Government will have deal with.

In relation to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, the Bill in its unamended form, as it is now, passed the Commons with a majority of 59. There is huge public support for what the Government are attempting to do. The latest YouGov poll showed 60% as saying that illegal migrants should not be allowed to claim asylum in this country; only 20% said the reverse, and 20% were undecided. We have to take that into account. As Matthew Parris, who is no one’s idea of a right-wing nutcase, said recently in an article:

“If you oppose the government’s plans to send away those who land, then whether or not you know it you are advocating an indefinite continuation of migrant deaths. And that is cruel”.

It is indeed cruel to allow that continue.

My Lords, the refugee crisis in a global one and any sustainable solution needs to be international. If we do not comply with our international obligations, as set out by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, we are unlikely to achieve the international co-operation necessary to deal with the crisis. I am afraid I do not agree with the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, that because other countries do not abide by their obligations, we should not abide by ours either.

The noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, talked about the cost. The Government’s own impact assessment says that implementing the measures in the Bill will cost the country more than the status quo. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Horam, the impact assessment says there is an “academic consensus” that there is no evidence that the measures in the Bill will have a deterrent effect. Opinion polls may say that illegal migrants should not be allowed to settle in the UK but we are talking about genuine refugees; we are not talking about illegal migrants.

We support all the amendments in this group and Amendment 5 in particular, which we will support if the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, chooses to divide the House.

My Lords, I have the misfortune to differ from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton. I know that he will not think that this is any personal discourtesy. Let me take a few minutes to explain to the House why I respectfully disagree.

Noble Lords say “No”; I think there are important points of constitutional principle here, and if that means we take another two and half minutes over it, so be it.

The starting point is that we are, as the noble and learned Lord said, a dualist state. That means that the treaties listed in the amendment are not part of our domestic law. If you were to go to court and try to rely on, for example, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, it does not give you a right in domestic law. I will come back to that point in a moment.

What does this amendment do? The noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, say that this is an interpretation amendment. The word “interpretation” does not appear in the amendment. I invite noble Lords to do something unfashionable and actually look at the words of the amendment. It provides:

“Nothing in this Act shall require any act or omission that conflicts with the obligations of the United Kingdom”—

under these treaties. That means that if the Act requires a Minister to do X but a court later holds that X is contrary to honouring these treaties, the Minister is prohibited from doing it. If the Act says that a Minister cannot do something but a court later says that the treaty means that the Minister has to, then the Minister has to. That is not, I suggest, a matter of interpretation; it changes substantively the nature of the obligations and the nature of domestic law. That is important because if it was a matter of interpretation, we would not need this clause. It has been part of our law for many years, most recently set out by the Supreme Court in the Assange case, that the courts will always interpret domestic Acts of Parliament consistently with our international treaty obligations if they can do so. This clause, therefore, is not a matter of normal interpretation; it goes further, and it has the substantive effect, I suggest, of incorporating those treaties into our domestic law. Parliament can do that, but it should not do it on a Wednesday afternoon by incorporating six treaties, which very few people in this House have read, in part or in full, into our law. This is not the way to incorporate treaties.

There is also one difference—I think I am right about this—between the amendment proposed in Committee and that proposed here today. If I recall correctly, the fourth convention in the list—the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child—was not part of the amendment in Committee. That is not a problem—it can change. However, it is interesting that a year and a half ago, the Scottish Parliament, as it was entitled to do, incorporated that convention into Scots law, but did so in a way that made it have effect in England and Wales as well. The Government took the Scottish Parliament to court under the Scotland Act. The Supreme Court held that the Scottish Parliament had exceeded its powers because it had no right to incorporate the UNCRC into the law of England and Wales. This Parliament can do that—of course it can—but it should not do so without proper debate.

This Parliament should not be incorporating, I respectfully suggest, five treaties into our domestic law on a Wednesday afternoon; still less should it do so on the basis that this is merely interpretation. It is not interpretation, it is substantive, and I invite every Member present to read the first two lines of the amendment and ask themselves whether it is interpretation or substantive. It is substantive, and it should not be accepted for that reason. This is not an interpretation amendment.

My Lords, I declare my interests as a trustee of the Human Trafficking Foundation, and my work with the University of Nottingham Rights Lab.

The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, Karen Bradley MP and I were at an international co-operation event on human trafficking. Nothing better illustrated the importance of international co-operation than the discussions we had over the last couple of the days; they showed how important the UK’s reputation is.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Horam: no one is saying that there is not a problem that needs solving. However, it should not be solved by trashing international conventions that we have signed up to but in a way which is consistent with them and which we should be proud of.

The noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, mentioned the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. I remind him that it was the 1991 Conservative Government who ratified that convention. That was when we had a Conservative Government who, as the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, pointed out, actually put into practice most of these conventions. They were proud of it, the country was proud of it, and this Parliament was proud of it. We do not solve the problem that the noble Lord, Lord Horam, mentioned by driving a coach and horses through that.

Can your Lordships imagine what we would say if the other countries that have signed up to the international treaties which we have signed turned round and said, “We’re not going to abide by those treaties any more”? Imagine if they unilaterally declared that they would step away from them and have nothing to do with them. That is the point of principle.

There is something else that I found absolutely unbelievable. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Horam, that we absolutely support Amendment 5, tabled by my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti, and one reason I did not put my name to it is that we wanted to show the breadth of support across this Chamber for that amendment. To think that I do not talk to my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti about different amendments, or that we do not work together, as we do, along with other Members of this House, is nonsense.

The noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, pointed out that the amendment says:

“Nothing in this Act shall require any act or omission that conflicts with the obligations of the United Kingdom”.

The noble Lord can have his point of view—I agree with that. My point is that it is unbelievable that this House has to have an amendment before it to actually require the Government of our country to abide by the international conventions that they have signed up to. That is the point of principle.

I do not know what dualism is; I had never heard of it until a couple of weeks ago—I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, who tried to tell me what it was. I am still not sure I understand it, but what I do understand is that, if you sign international conventions, freely, then the obligation is on you to abide by those conventions, and that is the expectation of those countries which sign them with you. That is what we should stand for. It is why we will support Amendment 5 and are proud to do so.

My Lords, before the Minister replies, can I mention that I have two amendments in my own name, which are consequential? They relate to the ability to have judicial review if the amendment to Clause 1 succeeds.

My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, has set out, Amendment 5 seeks to replace Clause 1 with a new clause that provides that nothing in this Bill requires an act or omission that conflicts with the five international agreements specified in the amendment. This includes the European Convention on Human Rights. Amendment 4, tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, is focused on compatibility with the ECHR. As I have repeatedly said in the debates on the Bill, and to reassure my noble friends Lady Helic and Lord Cormack, the Government take their international obligations, including under the ECHR, very seriously, and there is nothing in the Bill that requires any act or omission that conflicts with UK international obligations. Amendment 5 is therefore, on one level, unnecessary. But what might be viewed as a benign amendment takes a wrecking ball to our long-established constitutional arrangements, with uncertain consequences, as outlined by my noble friend Lord Wolfson.

Along with other countries with similar constitutional arrangements to the UK, we have a dualist approach, where international law is treated as separate to domestic law and incorporated only by domestic law passed by Parliament through legislation. We have, of a fashion, reproduced in domestic law aspects of the text of the ECHR through the Human Rights Act 1998, but that is not generally the case with other international instruments listed in the amendment.

The effect of this amendment would be to allow legal challenges based on international law in the domestic courts. As my noble friend Lord Wolfson has eloquently explained, this amendment would incorporate these instruments into our domestic law by the back door, thereby making substantive changes to the Bill. I therefore have to disagree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, on the effect of Amendment 5. As my noble friend said, this is wrong in principle and far from being an academic point for the lawyers. There is a legitimate case to be made for incorporation but this is not the Government’s intention, and we should not make such a fundamental change to our domestic law on the basis of a two-hour debate in Committee and a rather shorter one again today.

The noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, hit the nail on the head in her insightful contribution in Committee. In the Bill we are legislating to prevent and deter the small boats by putting in place a scheme that makes it unambiguously clear that if you arrive in the UK illegally, you will not be able to stay; instead, you will be detained and returned to your home country or removed to a safe third country. That is the proposition we are seeking to put on the statute book. That is the proposition which Parliament will have endorsed and, having done so, that is the proposition that our courts should give effect to. As the noble Baroness said, we risk undermining the reputation of this place and the elected House if the clear intent of Parliament can be unravelled by this misguided amendment.

On the amendment in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, the Government have published two memoranda addressing issues arising under the ECHR, and I remain unpersuaded of the case for statutory guidance on how the Bill’s provisions are to be implemented compatibly with convention rights. It will undoubtedly be necessary to provide Home Office staff and others with appropriate guidance to support the implementation of the Bill. In the Government’s view, it would not be appropriate for such routine operational guidance on the implementation of a particular Act to be subject to parliamentary approval.

Amendments 13 and 16, in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, would strike out Clause 4(1)(d), which makes it clear that the duty on the Home Secretary to make arrangements for the removal of a person who meets the conditions in Clause 2 applies regardless of any judicial review challenge to their removal. The noble and learned Lord’s explanatory statement for Amendment 13 describes it as consequential on Amendment 5. It may well be the noble and learned Lord’s intention to provide for judicial review challenges to removal—whether on ECHR grounds or otherwise—to be suspensive of removal, but that is not the Government’s stance, and I do not accept that his amendment is consequential on Amendment 5. We need a scheme that will enable removals in days and weeks, not, as now, in months and years. Clause 4(1) is critical to achieving that objective and I cannot support its evisceration.

Finally, as regards Amendments 1 to 3, I simply remind the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, that it is an offence to knowingly enter the United Kingdom without the required leave or to arrive without valid entry clearance or electronic travel authorisation. That being the case, Clause 1(1) quite properly refers to “unlawful migration” and “illegal routes”.

In response to the point raised by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford, I point out that the refugee convention is clear that states can still operate controls on illegal migration. Under Article 31, it is indeed expressly permitted to disadvantage those who have arrived illegally from safe countries, which is true of all who come from France. This embodies the first safe country principle, in the sense that Article 31 protections apply only to those who have come directly from unsafe countries. The first safe country principle is widely recognised internationally, including in the common European asylum system, which is a framework of rules and procedures operated by the EU countries together, based on the refugee convention.

These amendments, particularly Amendment 5 but also Amendment 13, go to the heart of the workability of the Bill. Your Lordships’ House has a choice: either we can continue to accept the status quo, which could see the £3.6 billion spent on supporting asylum seekers in 2022-23 mushroom to £11 billion a year, or £32 million a day, by 2026, or we can back the Bill, retain Clause 1 and Clause 4(1)(d), and stop the boats. The House should be in no doubt that these are wrecking amendments. I therefore invite the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, not to press his Amendment 4, and ask the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, not to press her amendment. However, were she to do so, I would have no hesitation in inviting your Lordships’ House to reject the amendment.

With reference to what has just been said about the first safe country principle, I would point out to the Minister and to the House that the UNHCR is on record from last week as authoritatively, formally saying that there is no requirement in international law for an asylum seeker to seek protection in the first safe country they reach. We may not like what the umpire says, but he is the umpire.

As the noble Lord will recall, and as my noble friend Lord Wolfson made clear in Committee, the UNHCR is not empowered to interpret or referee the convention. That is clear from the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. The UNHCR is not in a position to make that assessment, and I refer the House to the comments I made a moment ago.

My Lords, I am so grateful, as always, to all noble Lords for their contributions and to most noble Lords for their brevity. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 1.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.

Amendments 2 to 4 not moved.

Amendment 5

Moved by

5: Leave out Clause 1 and insert the following new clause—

“IntroductionNothing in this Act shall require any act or omission that conflicts with the obligations of the United Kingdom under— (a) the 1950 European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;(b) the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees including the Protocol to that Convention;(c) the 1954 and 1961 UN Conventions on the Reduction of Statelessness;(d) the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;(e) the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking Human Beings.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment replaces the narrative and interpretation provisions of Clause 1 with clear provision for compliance with all the key international obligations engaged by the Bill.

If the Government will not accept Amendment 13 as consequential, I will need to press Amendment 13 as well; but, first, I would like to test the opinion of the House on Amendment 5.

Clause 2: Duty to make arrangements for removal

Amendment 6

Moved by

6: Clause 2, page 3, line 26, leave out “7 March 2023” and insert “the date on which this section comes into force”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment ensures the duty to deport in Clause 2 does not apply retrospectively to those who entered or arrived in the United Kingdom before the Bill comes into force.

My Lords, five of the amendments in this group have my name and the names of noble and noble and learned friends on them. They are designed to remove retrospectivity in relation to the duty to deport. I, and certainly two of my noble friends, have had the advantage of a meeting with the Attorney-General and officials in recent days to discuss this, and I hope I am not being too optimistic in hoping that we will hear something at least partly welcome from the Minister at the end of this debate. I shall be very disappointed if that does not happen.

Retrospectivity is the enemy of legal certainty. Legal certainty is a basic tenet of common law and of our statutory law. In order to save time, I am not going to cite various very eminent judges who have spoken on this subject. I will simply give the names of Lord Bingham, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mance, and the great public lawyer the late Sir John Laws. I remind your Lordships that the House of Lords Constitution Committee has emphasised that retrospective legislation should be passed in very exceptional circumstances only. The proof of very exceptional circumstances should require more than mere assertion: it should require clear evidence. The fact that the retrospectivity asked for, as in this situation, may affect a relatively small cohort of people is no mitigation for the wrong of unnecessary retrospectivity.

The Government are not offering evidence. They are offering a refrain, and the refrain is: “Stop the boats”. But they have failed to offer any convincing evidence at all as to how the present circumstances are so exceptional as to justify the Bill’s wide-ranging retrospective powers. This is wholly unacceptable, given that the proposals represent a widespread retroactive overhaul of our asylum law, founded simply on a deterrent effect—“Stop the boats”—which is unproved.

Again, for the purposes of brevity, I will not deliver the whole speech I would have wished to—and will break the habits of a lifetime thereby. But I remind your Lordships that the deterrent effect is hardly borne out by the Government’s own figures for migrants detected crossing the channel in June 2023, the very month we are in. I was surprised they did not appear in the impact statement, because they were available before it. According to those figures, up to that point, 3,506 migrants were detected crossing the channel in June this year, compared with 3,139 in June last year—some 400 more, and 1,500 more than in June 2021. If one looks at the figures for April, May and June 2023 together, the evidence that this retrospective element is stopping the boats is a fairy tale, but one of those nasty fairy tales that keeps the victims of it awake at night because of the uncertainty of what will happen to them.

Furthermore, the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 addressed the same public policy issue and was not retrospective. As Dame Priti Patel MP, the then Home Secretary, said in the Second Reading debate on that legislation, the intention was that:

“Anyone who arrives in the UK via a safe third country may have their claim declined and be returned to a country they arrived from or a third safe country”. [Official Report, Commons, 19/7/21; col. 717.]

In other words, the policy intention was the same, but although there was a little bit of retrospectivity in that legislation, the vast majority of its provisions were not retrospective.

At the conclusion of Committee on this Bill, the Minister admitted that announcing that it applied from 7 March 2023

“may not have had a decisive impact”. [Official Report, 24/5/23; col. 967.]

Well, the evidence suggests that it has not had a decisive effect at all. At best it is equivocal, which cannot be a basis for proper retrospectivity. The evidence does not justify such broad and sweeping legislation, which seeks to apply penalties to those who cross the channel to claim asylum, being retrospective in its entirety. It would set a dangerous precedent whereby the Government could legislate retrospectively, based on no more than conjecture and anecdote.

I respectfully suggest, even at this stage of the Bill, that a dangerous precedent is being set, that we should be deadly serious about the fact that we are dealing with the law and with sound and historic legal practice, and that this is not a situation in which the case for retrospectivity is anywhere near made out.

My Lords, as the noble Lord has said, brevity does not mean half-heartedness today and these Benches whole-heartedly support the noble Lord’s amendments to which my name has been added. It is not only an academic, philosophical, juris- prudential matter; retrospectivity applied to this Bill will be cited as a precedent for the future and would have an impact in the real world for individuals.

As we have heard, the Nationality and Borders Act is not retrospective. Indeed, the two classes of asylum seekers for which it provided have not even been brought into effect. Ironically, the situation and the figures that have been cited have supported our points that it will not have the deterrent effect that has been claimed. It is a very thin claim. The weather in the case of the channel crossings, and TikTok’s policy in the case of Albania, did have an effect. That puts all of us in our place.

My Lords, I will speak briefly to Amendment 10 and draw attention to my entry in the register with regard to support from RAMP for this and other groups of amendments.

I have lost count of the number of times I have asked where the child rights impact assessment is, only to be told that we will receive it “in due course”. It should have been available from the outset to help develop policy, and yet here we are at Report stage with no sign of it still. Without it, how are we supposed to assess ministerial claims that their policies are in the best interest of the child and that there is no incompatibility with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child? Yesterday in Oral Questions I asked the Minister. All he could say was that:

“I am sure that it will be provided”.—[Official Report, 27/6/23; col. 574.]

When? After the Bill has gone through?

My Lords, I have looked through these amendments but not put my name to any of them. I have to say that they—in particular Amendment 8—drive a coach and horses through much of what this Bill stands for. Therefore, I am going to ask my noble friend to make sure he resists them.

This is important because we face some very serious challenges in our society as a result of the rapid growth in our population. I will go over this issue only briefly because we are time-constrained, but I just remind your Lordships that this is already a relatively overcrowded island. Last year, we admitted permanently 600,000; the year before last, we admitted 500,000. Stoke-on-Trent has a population of 250,000, Milton Keynes 288,000 and Derby 259,000. If we are going to house those people properly—and we certainly should —we will have to build four Milton Keynes or four Derbies over just two years. On dwellings, we all know how fiercely fought this is. In 2001, there were 21 million dwellings in this country; there are now 25 million—in 20 years, we have built 4 million dwellings.

It is not just at that very high level. The fact that we are introducing hosepipe bans in the south-east of England now is because the population is rising so fast we are running short of water. When we debated this in Committee, I took a certain amount of incoming from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. He said:

“everyone who has spoken so far has agreed, that we have to control migration. I do not think there is any argument about that, but does the noble Lord accept that of that 700,000 last year, or whatever the number turns out to be exactly, the Bill will cover only 45,000? The Bill is not about overall immigration”.—[Official Report, 24/5/23; col. 897.]

That is a fair point. However, the figure turned out to be 600,000 and it may well be that that 45,000 is 60,000, in which case it is 10%, not a sufficiently significant number, but the real challenge to us is that everybody thinks it is not their challenge. Everybody thinks it is somebody else’s challenge.

We have heard persuasive, dreadful, heart-rending speeches about the positions that people find themselves in—on behalf of interest groups of various sorts—and no doubt we shall hear them again. However, one group has essentially not been heard during our debates, and that is the 67.3 million people who live in this country, 18% of whom are from minority communities.

When I undertook my polling—which, as I have said to Members of the House, is freely available to anyone—I did not want it to be said that it was going to be old white Brexiteers living in the country, as opposed to young trendy hipsters living in the towns. In response to the question “The UK is overcrowded”, between 60% and 70% of people polled, across all social classes, all regions of the country and all age groups, felt that was the case. Every interest group, including those that are seeking to blunt the effect of the legislation before us, has to play its part in reducing the number. Unless we are seen to be responding to between 60% and 70% of our fellow citizens, uglier and nastier voices will emerge to capture that. We need to be conscious of that.

In my view, the amendments would punch holes in the bucket. How much water would flow out I do not know, but I hope the Minister will think very carefully before allowing the bucket to lose too much water because that way difficulties lie for us, for our communities and for generations ahead.

My Lords, in Committee I tabled a similar amendment to Amendment 10, so I will not say much now because I said it then. I listened with interest to what the noble Lord has just said, and I recognise that we do not want illegal migration. However, there are broader and more important issues.

Children have rights. A child who is unaccompanied comes to this country, sometimes quite young, and is settled here in local authority care, placed perhaps in a foster family or a residential home. They go to an English school and become fluent in English but then, at the age of 18, are then removed either to Rwanda—the only country with which there is an agreement apart from Albania, and Albanian children are unlikely to be in this group—or to some other country or home that they have fled. Quite simply, to uproot children at 18 is, as I said in Committee, cruel.

My Lords, I strongly support Amendment 10, tabled by my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss. The sole objective of the amendment is to ensure that the Government fulfil their clear responsibility to protect the best interests of children under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 3 of the convention provides explicitly that in all actions the child’s best interests must be a primary consideration, and that is what the amendment says. Article 20 requires that children separated from their parents be given special protection and assistance. Unaccompanied children seeking asylum in this country, as noble Lords know, will have escaped from the most appalling persecution, trafficking, modern slavery and other abominable experiences. The current Government are putting the reputation of this country at risk for years to come if they insist on rejecting Amendment 10 and others that seek only to ensure that this country respects our international obligations.

My Lords, I have found my notes—they were at my feet—and so will intervene now, if I may.

I support Amendments 6 and 10, and I hope all other noble Lords will similarly support them. I am responsible for Amendment 8. It has been suggested that this is a busting amendment. I do not intend to put it to a vote but I intend to tell your Lordships the importance of my amendment.

It is a little difficult for me to make this intervention because I greatly respect my Front Bench and do not like being in fundamental disagreement with them. However, I am making this intervention because I believe we should all be aware of the gross injustice that this Bill will impose, when enacted, on thousands of refugees arriving in this country. Noble Lords should also be aware that we have the power, under the Parliament Acts, to delay this process as far as to May or June of next year, thereby allowing the Government to have a big rethink.

I wish to be cognisant of the wishes of your Lordships’ House and not to speak at length, and I certainly do not want to upset my Front Bench and Chief Whip by going on too long, but this will affect thousands and thousands of refugees, and we should be aware of what we are doing. That is why I have tabled an amendment to remove Clause 2. In Committee, this amendment was supported by the noble Lord, Lord German, and my noble friends Lady Chakrabarti and Lord Coaker. I am now being left to table it on my own.

What is the injustice? Let me trace it through one set of refugees: the Afghan refugees. The information relating to them is contained in the official government statistics for 2022. I do not have the figures for 2023 to bring it up to date—I do not think they have even been issued. In 2022, 8,633 Afghan refugees sought asylum in this country. Most significantly, 97% of them were granted asylum or other status so that they could remain in the United Kingdom. Compare that with the Albanian refugees—there are rather more of them, at around 12,000—76% of whom were refused entry.

It can be assumed that, in 2023, the same number of Afghans, or possibly more, will arrive in this country. We can also assume that there will be the same proportion of genuine refugees, and that all of them will have come to this land in the genuine belief that there is the availability of asylum for them—the people smugglers are hardly going to tell them otherwise. This point was supported by paragraph 33 on page 13 of the impact assessment.

The further point I ask your Lordships to note is that, under the Taliban, there is a lot of evidence of mistreatment of Afghans, particularly women, and particularly relating to education. I also ask noble Lords to take note that, in Afghanistan, there is terrorism, persecution, false imprisonment and torture, hence the very large number of Afghans who got asylum. I remind noble Lords that that figure is 97%.

We should also look at their long journey to this country. The measured distance between Kabul and Calais is 4,168 miles—nearly twice the journey of crossing the United States of America. We do not know precisely how they carried out that journey but, inevitably, it must have been through Iran and Iraq—two countries which are not friendly to passengers—and possibly on through war-torn Syria. Somehow or other, they managed to reach the Mediterranean and Europe, via Greece or Italy. Their mode of transport must have been fairly limited. If they had the money, they might have been able to take a bus, but, in the main, they must have had to get the indulgence of lorry drivers and accept lifts from them. In my view, one has to be left with an admiration of the Afghans who made it to Calais. The Government make much of the illegal entry of the boat people, but how else could they have got here? Should they have obtained UK visa forms in the depths of the mountainous country of Afghanistan? How on earth could they have made the journey here, except in the circumstances they have?

The consequences of the provisions of the Bill will simply be dire for all refugees. Let us briefly look at them. First, without any investigation about their asylum or other status, they are to be shipped immediately, under Clause 2, to Rwanda—it could hardly be back to their home state, which is the other alternative. Rwanda carries a capacity of about 30,000 refugees. Secondly, once they get to Rwanda, for example, they will be barred from UK asylum status and left with Rwanda asylum status, if that does them any good. Thirdly, they will be branded as illegal immigrants and barred for ever from entering the UK. Their only sin has been that they travelled here from Afghanistan without the necessary paperwork and crossed the channel in a rubber dinghy, yet on arriving here they were seeking to escape the terrors—this is the important point—of the Taliban Government, probably in large numbers.

I will not detain your Lordships further, except to make it plain that, if we allow the Bill through in its present form, it will impose terrible consequences on a lot of refugees who have no opportunity to establish their asylum status. I could go through the mechanism of the Parliament Acts—I have my notes for it—but it suffices to say that, under them, we have the power to stop this, and we should at least consider it.

My Lords, I will be brief because my timetable has not allowed me to take a significant part in the Bill hitherto. However, I have attended quite a lot of the debate, which I started attending in a very troubled state of mind, completely uncertain about what I would do about this startling proposal. I sat through quite a bit of the Committee debate, and have listened today to the debate on the two amendments we have had, and I think that the underlying problem is being missed. We all agree that there is a huge problem with illegal migration and that, if we cannot find a solution, people will die in the channel in considerable numbers—they go up each year—by taking risks as they come here. We all admit that it is a global problem, so, if we suddenly become an easier country than others, we are likely to find significant pressures.

We all want to retain our excellent reputation—it is not unblemished, but better than those of most other European countries—for good race relations and an integrated community. During my lifetime, Britain has become a multicultural, multiracial society, and I am glad to say that I think the majority of my fellow citizens feel that the contribution that has been made, and the improvements to our society, are quite substantial as a result. As my noble friend said a moment ago, concern about the dinghies and old fishing boats bobbing on the ocean will, if we are not careful, rearouse all the bad feelings that we used to know, which we remember only too well from 20 or 30 years ago. That is why more than 60% of our population wish to stop illegal immigration.

I have tried to listen for a solution during the debates on the two groups of amendments but, sadly, the only solution being put forward is the rather extraordinary one by the Government that we simply cease to entertain illegal immigration and deport to safe places. I have not heard a single alternative policy put forward. I am not sure that it will work—I think I said that at an earlier stage—but I am still to hear anybody else offer anything but the possibility of litigation or huge numbers of people coming here as the practice of trying to get over the channel grows. We have to face up to our responsibilities. I am a lawyer and have a huge respect for law—abiding by the rule of law is one of the most important underlying principles of our constitution—but we cannot simply produce a lot of legalisms to shoot down the proposal without making any suggestion whatever of a practical kind that is likely to impact a great national problem, which we share as part of a global problem.

Finally—I am sorry that I have spoken for longer than I intended—I give this Government credit, not for coming up with the extraordinary idea of Rwanda but for making our contribution. We have done well with Ukrainian and Hong Kong refugees and admitted a lot of people from Afghanistan, although we could have made a better job of that. We are making our contribution to the global problem and taking a huge net increase to our population each year; we are getting some benefit, as it is helping our workforce. We are not becoming a walled-in, closed country. That is a good British contribution to a tremendous problem for the whole of the western world.

With no alternative policy in sight at all, this latest legal argument, which lies behind the key amendments here, is simply not a good enough reason for rejecting this policy. I do not know whether the policy will work, but we can no longer simply do nothing. To retreat into hours and hours of legalistic debate—which is very interesting, if you are interested in that kind of thing—is not rising to the occasion. Therefore, with a certain reluctance, I will yet again support the Government, which is not always my habit in this House.

My Lords, I did not intend to speak, but I cannot let this opportunity to refute what has just been said by the noble Lord, Lord Clarke, go unanswered. There are alternatives. One of the real alternatives is that you have a proper process, and I am disappointed to hear the noble Lord—someone I admire and have great affection for—speak about the rule of law while forgetting what it means. It means that people must have a process to decide on whether their rights will be recognised. On asylum seekers, we have written our names at the bottom of—

Let me complete a sentence. We put our names at the bottom of the refugee convention saying that we would provide asylum to people, but you need a decision-making process to decide those who are legitimate and those who might purely be economic migrants. We will deny people that due process and the rule of law. That is where I disagree so sincerely with the noble Lord, and where I say that a process has to be put in place that is speedy and effective, and that it should be allowed for.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. Does she not recognise that those who apply through the legal, safe processes, and whose applications are rejected, will not still try to get to this country and will not be able to pay the people smugglers to put them on boats that cross the channel?

We had a very good asylum process. Over the years of austerity, it was cut to the bone, including cuts to the number of people with the skills to assess those asylum applications. Now, the way to reverse that is to put in place, once again, good people making those assessments on the applications being made by people seeking asylum in this country and immediately, promptly, making decisions. Then, if the applications are not properly made, people can be deported to other places—but we cannot deny them due process, and that is what we are doing in this business of not letting people make an application and treating everybody the same. That is an affront to the rule of law.

I am amazed to hear lawyers such as the noble Lord, Lord Howard, and my noble friend Lord Clarke saying that this is abiding by the rule of law. You are not abiding by the rule of law if you do not give people the opportunity of asserting their rights. In international law, asylum seekers have rights. We signed up to that proudly and are admired around the world for doing so. We are diminishing the respect we have by doing this kind of thing. It amazes me that the impact statement makes no mention of what this is going to do to our reputation around the world. As someone who now practises with the International Bar Association in countries around the world, I know that this is what we are respected for. How do we speak to China about its breach of the treaty we made with it over Hong Kong? How do we speak with any authority when we are behaving in this way with regard to international law now?

My Lords, I am concerned that the amendments in this group would, in their different ways, undermine the purpose of the Bill, which is to deter people and prevent them using unsafe and illegal routes. The date from which it will apply is 7 March 2023. I disagree with the noble Lord who has tabled Amendment 6 and others to change that date: 7 March is very clear and not subject to the time your Lordships’ House devotes to scrutinising the Bill, often until the late hours of the day or the early hours of the next morning. Tackling this sort of migration is an urgent matter. People are losing their lives. It is to be dealt with now, not delayed or put off to another date.

On Amendment 10, on unaccompanied children who reach the age of 18 in this country, removal at 18 will in some way deter this sort of illegal immigration for those not removed before the age of 18. The problem of unaccompanied children is one I take very seriously. These are very unsafe routes. It is wrong to tolerate and, in effect, encourage them. If unaccompanied children are allowed to remain, there will be an incentive to send them here, despite the risks on these routes. The assumption will be that the children will be housed, fed and educated in the UK, and that this may bring them advantages in life even if they are removed at 18, perhaps providing grounds for their families to join them.

There is a further complication in that Amendment 10 introduces the idea of judging the best interests of the person at the age of 18. Though I accept that the measure of “best interests” has been adopted in this country in many cases, it can and does give rise to subjective judgments that raise more questions than they resolve, and I am not sure it will not do so in this Bill. More to the point, we do not owe it to anyone who enters the country in defiance of immigration controls to act in their best interests, when doing so has financial costs that must be borne by others. I therefore have grave reservations about these amendments, given that they would remove the clarity about when the measure comes into force and when and to whom it applies.

My Lords, I had not intended to speak but I ask noble Lords to indulge me for a moment. I have great sympathy with my noble friend Lord Clarke and, indeed, with the words of my noble friend Lord Hodgson. However, for me, a resolution is available, but it would require this country, if necessary, to show global leadership and co-ordinate across the globe the actions that we can all take; all countries have the same problem. Rather than sitting here as an island and saying, “You’ve got to go somewhere else”—where else?—I would hope that we can find a way to show global leadership and organise safe and controlled measures that will deal with this international problem without needing, as the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, said, to break international commitments we have made.

My Lords, the second group of amendments centres on the major changes this Bill creates, particularly the duty to remove. We tabled Amendment 9, in the name of my noble friend Lord Coaker, in Committee and hoped to hear from the Government, but since we last discussed this issue significant progress has been made on putting in place returns agreements. That is the answer to the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Clarke, and the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann: putting in place returns agreements and negotiating them vigorously, so that people can be deported as they are now. Nobody on this side of the House has said that should not happen, but greater effort needs to be made to put them in place.

Turning to Amendment, 6 on retrospection, which the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, spoke to, I hope he will get the response he is looking for from the Minister; we are behind him in seeking that response. As he said, retrospectivity is the enemy of legal certainty. He quoted some powerful figures showing that the threat of stopping the boats is not having any effect on the number of people crossing the channel. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that brevity does not mean half-heartedness, and I will carry on being brief in addressing the points raised.

My noble friend Lady Lister challenged the Minister again on the child rights impact assessment; I look forward to discovering whether he can give a more convincing answer than he managed yesterday. The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, who I would count as a friend outside this Chamber, gave a speech he has given on a number of occasions, concerning the overall figures, which are indeed very serious. As he fairly pointed out, illegal migrants, who are the subject of the Bill before us, account for roughly 10% of the overall figures. Everyone on this side of the Chamber—indeed, throughout the House—acknowledges that there is a very serious issue. The focus right now is illegal migration, although I acknowledge the point he made about the wider context.

The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, spoke compellingly, as ever, about the rights of the child. I find it mind-boggling that she was having breakfast with my noble friend Lord Coaker this morning in Warsaw. Both gave compelling speeches this afternoon. My noble friend Lord Hacking also spoke with passion, and I am glad that he will not be putting his amendment to the vote today.

This has been a relatively brief debate and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

My Lords, Clause 2 is the centrepiece of the scheme provided for in this Bill. Without it, the Bill as a whole would be fundamentally undermined. It therefore follows that I cannot entertain Amendment 8 proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, who frankly conceded its wrecking effect in his speech. At its heart, this Bill seeks to change the existing legal framework so that those who arrive in the UK illegally can be detained and then promptly removed, either to their home country or to a safe third country. As my noble friends Lord Clarke and Lord Howard, both fellow lawyers, so powerfully put it, we cannot sit by and do nothing.

As the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, has set out, Amendments 6, 17, 22, 23 and 88 address the retrospective effect of the Bill. The second condition set out in Clause 2 is that the individual must have entered the UK on or after 7 March 2023—the day of this Bill’s introduction in the House of Commons. In effect, the noble Lord’s amendments seek to do away with the backdating of the duty to remove, as well as of other provisions in the Bill, so that they apply only to those who illegally enter the country from the date of commencement rather than from 7 March.

As I set out in response to the same amendments in Committee, the retrospective nature of these provisions is critical. Without it, we risk organised criminals and people smugglers seeking to exploit this, with an increase in the number of illegal arrivals ahead of commencement of the Bill. This would likely lead to an increase in these unnecessary and dangerous small boat crossings and could place even more pressure on not only our asylum system but our health, housing, education and welfare services. This risk will only grow as we get closer to Royal Assent and implementation. We must take action to prioritise support for those who are most in need and not encourage people smugglers to change their tactics to circumvent the intent of this Bill. I recognise that the retrospective application of legislation is not the norm and should be embarked upon only when there is good reason. I submit to the House that there is very good reason in this instance, given the scale of the challenge we face in stopping the boats.

Amendment 7 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, deals with entry into the United Kingdom via the Irish land border. As is currently the case, tourists from countries which require visas for them to come to the UK as visitors should obtain these before they travel. That said, I recognise the issue and accept that some individuals may inadvertently enter the UK without leave via the Irish land border. We are examining this issue further. I point the noble Baroness to the regulation-making power in Clause 3, which would enable us to provide for exceptions to the duty to remove where it would be appropriate to do so.

Amendment 10, spoken to by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, relates to the removal of an unaccompanied child once they reach the age of 18. To permit their removal only if it was in their best interests, even when they reach 18, would undermine the intent of this Bill. The Government must take action to undercut the routes that smuggling gangs are exploiting by facilitating children’s dangerous and illegal entry into the United Kingdom. As my noble friend Lady Lawlor indicated, this amendment would increase the incentive for an adult to claim to be a child and encourage people smugglers to pivot and focus on bringing over more unaccompanied children via dangerous journeys. The effect would be to put more young lives at risk. That said, where a person enters the UK illegally as a young child, Clause 29 affords discretion to grant them limited or indefinite leave to remain if a failure to do so would contravene the UK’s obligations under the ECHR, which would, among other things, take in any Article 8 claims. I hope that provides some reassurance to the noble and learned Baroness.

With regard to Amendment 9, as I indicated in Committee, formal returns agreements are not required to carry out removals, although I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, that returns agreements can be useful to improve returns co-operation. We will seek to negotiate these where appropriate.

As of May 2023, the Home Office has 16 returns agreements in place. Recent additions to the list include Albania, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. In addition, we have our world-leading migration and economic development partnership with Rwanda. The Government carefully evaluate the advantages of engaging in negotiations to formalise and establish a returns agreement, taking into account the potential requests that the other party would seek to include in the agreement. The Government must retain ultimate discretion over the amount and detail shared, and it would not help the UK’s negotiating position to be setting out its negotiating strategy in public.

I have some sympathy for the spirit, if not the letter, of this amendment. Of course, returns agreements have an important role to play, but legislating in this way will not help progress negotiations with other countries—quite the opposite. I therefore invite the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, to withdraw his amendment. If he is minded to test the opinion of the House, I would urge noble Lords to reject the amendment.

Perhaps I might ask the Minister for clarification. He referred to the 16 agreements, and he knows I asked him specifically for the list of those 16 countries, because the House of Lords Library could not find them for me. The Minister obviously did not think it necessary to write to me between Committee and Report, so can he list those 16 countries now?

As the noble Lord will recall, during our exchange I made clear that not all of those 16 agreements are in the public domain, so I am not going to provide him with the list he seeks.

My Lords, I am very disappointed at the Minister’s response, for two reasons. First, despite being asked to produce evidence to show that retrospectivity has some factual basis for its inclusion, he has failed to answer that challenge, and he must have done so deliberately. I am afraid that leads me to be very suspicious about whether there is any such evidence whatever of a credible nature.

The second reason I am very disappointed in the Minister is that he knows perfectly well that it would be open to him to suggest a date other than the date of the commencement of the Act: for example, the day when this Bill does pass, which could be within days, or even today. That would, of course, be an element of retrospectivity, but it would be a considerable mitigation of what is provided in the Bill.

Given that discussions have taken place on these issues, I am very surprised that he has simply remained his intransigent self on this issue. The notion that a glut of small boats will be crossing the channel if the period between March and, say, now is not the subject of retrospectivity, is, frankly, absurd, ridiculous and completely lacking in any kind of credibility. I ask him to think about that; I am perfectly prepared not to press the amendment if he stands up and says he is prepared to consider that issue seriously and enter into discussions with other Ministers. Otherwise, I will test the opinion of the House.

Amendments 7 and 8 not moved.

Amendment 9 not moved.

Clause 3: Unaccompanied children and power to provide for exceptions

Amendment 10

Tabled by

10: Clause 3, page 5, line 14, at end insert—

“(6A) An unaccompanied child who reaches the age of 18 must not be removed unless it is in their best interest to do so.”

With great regret, because I know that I do not have sufficient support from the House, I will not move my amendment.

Amendment 10 not moved.

Amendment 11

Moved by

11: Clause 3, page 5, line 35, at end insert—

“(10A) A statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (7) must be laid before Parliament after being made.(10B) Regulations contained in a statutory instrument laid before Parliament under subsection (10A) cease to have effect at the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the day on which the instrument is made unless, during that period, the instrument is approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.(10C) In calculating the period of 28 days, no account is to be taken of any whole days that fall within a period during which—(a) Parliament is dissolved or prorogued, or(b) either House of Parliament is adjourned for more than four days.(10D) If regulations cease to have effect as a result of subsection (10B) that does not—(a) affect the validity of anything previously done under the regulations, or(b) prevent the making of new regulations.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment applies the “made affirmative” procedure to regulations under clause 3(7) (power to make provision for other exceptions from the duty in clause 2(1)).

My Lords, I can be relatively brief in explaining these government amendments. In short, they either respond to recommendations by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee or make minor drafting or technical refinements to the Bill. I turn first to the amendments responding to the DPRRC report.

Clause 3(7) confers a power on the Secretary of State to make exceptions from the removal duty under Clause 2. The Bill on introduction provided for such regulations to be subject to the negative procedure. The DPRRC suggested that the affirmative procedure would be more appropriate. Amendment 11 provides for the “made affirmative” procedure to apply, given the need to make regulations quickly, including ahead of implementation of the duty to remove.

The DPRRC similarly recommended that regulations made under Clause 10 setting out the circumstances in which unaccompanied children may be detained should also be subject to the affirmative procedure. Again, we have accepted the committee’s recommendation, and Amendments 54, 60 and 62 make the “made affirmative” procedure apply on the first exercise of the power—again with a view to early implementation of the Bill—but thereafter the draft affirmative procedure will apply.

Amendments 129 and 169 relate to the power to amend the definition of a “working day” in Clause 37(8). This definition applies for the purpose of various time limits for appeals under Clauses 47 and 48. The DPRRC argued that the power was inappropriate in enabling changes to be made to the meaning of “working day” in relation to actions to be taken by persons bringing an appeal. Having considered carefully the committee’s report, we have concluded that the power is not required, and Amendments 129 and 169 remove it from the Bill.

Amendment 18 is a drafting amendment and simply ensures that Clause 5(3) and (4) dovetail in referring to a country or territory.

Amendments 38 to 41 are also drafting amendments. They simply supplement the reference to the Secretary of State in Clause 7(8) and (9)—which relate to the removal powers—with reference to an immigration officer; this is done for consistency with other provisions in Clause 7.

Finally, Amendments 81 to 84 and Amendment 86 relate to the definition of an “appropriate adult” in Schedule 2. Under Schedule 2, any search of a person under 18 in which that person is required to remove any clothing other than an outer coat, jacket or glove must be in the presence of an appropriate adult. These amendments ensure that the definition of an “appropriate adult” works across the United Kingdom. I beg to move.

My Lords, we are happy to support the Government’s amendments. The Bill currently contains extensive secondary instruments that would limit Parliament’s ability to provide ongoing scrutiny. However, these changes still relegate decision-making to secondary legislation rather than being in the Bill. The Government may market these changes as a concession to this House, but we regard them more as a bare minimum.

Amendment 11 agreed.

Clause 4: Disregard of certain claims, applications etc

Amendment 12

Moved by

12: Clause 4, page 6, line 6, leave out paragraph (c)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment, with others in the name of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, seek to amend the Bill so that potential and recognised victims of trafficking will not be detained or removed before they get the opportunity to submit an application to the NRM and have it duly considered.

My Lords, as well as moving Amendment 12 in relation to modern slavery, I will speak to my other amendments relating to Clauses 4 and 21. I am most grateful to the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for their support.

I am not going to repeat the extensive arguments from two long debates that we had in Committee, save to say that modern slavery is a brutal crime that involves sophisticated criminal networks buying and selling people for profit. Victims of this appalling crime may be forced to enter the UK illegally, having been coerced, deceived, forced against their will, their identity and decision-making powers stripped away. The problem with this Bill, if it is left unamended, is that it will completely undermine the Modern Slavery Act and see victims punished for crimes committed by their perpetrators, deported or held in detention centres, exacerbating pre-existing trauma.

The noble Lord, Lord Clarke, is no longer in his place, but I listened with great interest to his contribution, and I would say to him, as the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, said, that the deterrent effect that this Bill is meant to have is completely unproven. I certainly do not think that the answer is to break international treaties, nor do I think the answer is to undermine so drastically the Modern Slavery Act. Nor does it seem to me sensible to preside over the current chaos of the asylum system. I agree with the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy and Lady Altmann, that in the end there is no substitute for international collaboration and agreement, there is no substitute for effective measures to tackle people smugglers instead of their victims and there is no substitute for proper investment in a fast and efficient system for processing asylum claims.

Under the provisions in the Bill, where a protection claim or a human rights claim falls within Clause 4(5), it will be declared as inadmissible by the Secretary of State and will not be considered in the UK. Clause 21 extends the provision to individuals even where there are reasonable grounds to believe that the individual is a victim of trafficking and removes the modern slavery provisions providing such victims with protection. So the Bill will do nothing to break the cycle of exploitation or help people break free of modern slavery.

In Committee, one of the Minister’s responses was to claim that the modern slavery national referral mechanism process

“affords opportunities for those who enter the UK unlawfully to frustrate their removal”.—[Official Report, 5/6/23; col. 1199.]

Where is the evidence? We know that, under NRM referrals last year, 90% of the competent authorities’ decisions were positive decisions—in other words that there were reasonable grounds that someone was a victim of trafficking and modern slavery—and 91% of conclusive grounds decisions were similarly positive. As my noble friend Lord Coaker said in Committee, the

“first responders are verified by the Home Office, and Home Office officials then make a reasonable grounds decision or not. A conclusive grounds decision is then made or not. It is Home Office officials who decide”.—[Official Report, 12/6/23; col. 1674.]

Is the Minister essentially saying that he is disowning his own system over which he as a Minister and his colleagues preside?

We have not discussed the impact assessment as yet, and perhaps it is not really worth discussing, but on page 2 it says starkly that a non-monetised benefit of the Bill will be

“reduced pressure on Modern Slavery National Referral Mechanism processes”.

Indeed, and that pressure is reduced even more by just getting rid of the Modern Slavery Act entirely. I will quote, as I did yesterday, what Theresa May said, in the Second Reading debate in the Commons on this Bill:

“The Home Office knows that the Bill means that genuine victims of modern slavery will be denied support.”—[Official Report, Commons, 13/3/23; col. 593.]

My amendments first seek to remove from Clause 4 the inclusion of a claim to be a victim of slavery or a victim of human trafficking from provision under which the Secretary of State must declare the claim inadmissible. My amendments to Clause 21, which are consequential, seek to restore current protections of victims of trafficking and modern slavery.

Like many noble Lords, I was very proud and very supportive of the Government when the Modern Slavery Act was taken through Parliament. This Bill undermines that Act completely. The Minister has not come up with one substantive piece of evidence to suggest that there is a fault in the actual system contained in that legislation. Unamended, this Bill is a completely untried and untested proposal, but it will undoubtedly strengthen the hands of the trafficking networks. Traffickers know; they keep people under control with threats that they will not receive help if they reach out to the authorities. We really must remove this provision. I beg to move.

My Lords, my name is on this amendment and the others that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, has tabled. He, like the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, has given us an admirable example of brevity, and I do not think one needs to repeat what was said in Committee.

As somebody who wrote a biography of William Wilberforce, my parliamentary hero, in 1983 to mark the 150th anniversary of his death and the abolition of slavery, I was particularly proud when it was a Conservative Home Secretary who took through the other place the Modern Slavery Act. I was very glad indeed to be able to give that support. It was in the very best cross-party spirit of your Lordships’ House, and we all of us are genuinely proud—I particularly that it was a Conservative achievement but with support from friends and colleagues in all parts. This Bill before us is going to undermine an international achievement of far-reaching importance. To quote another famous Conservative, this is something up with which we should not put.

My Lords, I have also put my name to most of these amendments. I agree with every word that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has said, and I do not propose to say anything more about them, this being Report. I just want to make two extra points.

As noble Lords know, the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and I got back from Warsaw today. I was chairing 14 countries discussing how Ukraine could be helped against exploitation and modern slavery. I had to deal with questions from so many other countries among the 14 as to what on earth the United Kingdom was doing in the Illegal Migration Bill. To my shame—and I admit that I was ashamed of what is happening— I could not for one moment support the Bill to those MPs from other countries; because this was a parliamentary meeting, everyone was an MP. It was really very distressing for me to stand up unable to support my own country.

The other point is that not only will victims not leave traffickers—the traffickers will say, with perfect truth, “Either you stay with us or you go to Rwanda. Which is worse? We suggest you stay with us”—but it will have a marked effect on prosecutions. There are already far too few prosecutions, and I think the impact on prosecutions of perpetrators and the extent to which modern slavery will increase over the years as a result of this Bill will be enormous.

My Lords, I spent the whole of last week in Strasbourg, where there was a very similar response from the 47 nations of the Council of Europe towards what we are doing here, with bewildered questions about it put in debate. I simply add that to what the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, said about her experience in Warsaw.

My Lords, I have two amendments in this group, Amendments 113A and 168B. In speaking to them, I will add briefly to the comments already made, all of which I associate myself with.

People have talked a lot about the reputational damage to this country worldwide as a consequence of this legislation. I jealously guard the reputation of Parliament, as many in this Chamber do, and it saddens me that this is in contrast with the modern slavery legislation that other noble Lords have referred to, which enjoyed consensus and which Theresa May constructed with pre-legislative scrutiny, bipartisan support and then bicameral support, with amendments made at every stage and the Government listening and incorporating those things. That is the way to make good legislation—not like this. Reputationally, this is damaging to Parliament.

My other point is about human trafficking. Like the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, I worked on a pro bono basis in the voluntary sector with charities associated with this issue. I know their deep concern. As my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss has reminded us, we are in danger of turning the clock back. We will not get the prosecutions, and the very people the Minister regularly tells us we must go after will have their job made easier as a result of this legislation.

That brings me to my amendments, which would

“ensure that there are detailed assessments of the impact of the Bill on victims … and the wider impact on tackling modern slavery … and compliance with the international legal framework”.

They would ensure that the Secretary of State is obliged to present to Parliament a considered account of how they have scrutinised the legislation, policy and practice in those nations as set out in Schedule 1, with particular reference to: the potential impact on the modern slavery strategies, including in the devolved nations; the potential impact on identification and the levels of support offered to potential and identified modern slavery or trafficking victims; the modern slavery situation, including but not limited to prevention, protection and prosecution; the risk of re-exploitation and re-trafficking; and the state of equality and human rights.

Brevity is the order of the day. I do not intend to say anything further, but I commend these amendments to the House and urge the Government to think again.

My Lords, traffickers exercise control over their victims by convincing them that they will not receive help from the authorities if they seek it. The Bill will simply add credence to that claim.

I fully sympathise with the desire to deter people from using our modern slavery laws as a means to make a spurious claim for protection, but where is the evidence? The Government cannot point at any evidence of widespread abuse of our modern slavery system, yet they propose to remove basic protections for some of the most vulnerable people in our country. It is a basic principle of law—I can find it for you in the Book of Genesis if you want—that, in our desire to convict the guilty, we should not end up punishing the innocent. Amendment 12 is the very least we need in order to protect that vital principle.

Some 41% of referrals to the national referral mechanism relate to people exploited as children, which is why I also support Amendment 112 in the name of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. We must ensure that no child victim, whatever form of exploitation they have experienced or whatever crime they may have been coerced into committing, should be disqualified from accessing protection. We owe that to children. We have a moral responsibility at the very least to provide people with the opportunity to have their case heard through the national referral mechanism without fear of immediate detention or removal.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, told us during the last vote about the views of all the members of the Council of Europe and specifically mentioned Hungary questioning what the UK is doing—Hungary.

My name is on the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, on behalf of everyone on these Benches. The survivors of modern slavery should be protected and supported, not just because it is the right thing to do and the UK was lauded for it but to help the prosecution of criminals, of which we hear very little. The Bill indicates the extent to which the Government fail to put themselves in the shoes of victims and survivors, including those who have been trafficked here—who therefore have not come under their own steam—and particularly regarding the need for survivors to be in the UK to assist prosecutions. I could go on, but I will not.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, is right that we need an independent anti-slavery commissioner in post. How long has it been—a year and how many months? A considerable number of criteria should be assessed, but we are where we are. We maintain our opposition to how slavery and trafficking are dealt with. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, on his filleting of the Bill. We will be with him.

My Lords, my name is on Amendment 96, along with those of my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss, who spoke earlier and with whom I agree, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. It attempts to remove Clause 21(5) and (6). Those subsections mean that a person will be removed from this country unless it is “necessary” and there are “compelling circumstances” to show that it is necessary for the person to be present in this country for the dreadful crimes that we are talking about to be prosecuted. Was the Director of Public Prosecutions asked about the effect of this provision on the likely success of prosecutions? If this clause required it to be advisable for the person to be present for the purposes of the investigation and prosecution, I would be in favour of it, but it goes much further than that and is contrary to all good prosecution practice.

I confess that I have met a lot of organised criminals in my time—as a barrister. I have also met an awful lot of victims in my time, as a barrister and occasionally as a Member of this House and the other place. It is not a level playing field. If the Crown Prosecution Service were asked what was advisable, like anybody who has ever prosecuted a semi-serious case and done cases where some witnesses were abroad, as I have, it would say that it is always advisable to have the witness in court, on a local screen or interviewed in a statutory way if at all possible, not to have them on the other side of the globe somewhere—they are unlikely to turn up and will be intimidated by the process.

Let me briefly compare the criminal we are talking about with the victim. The criminal is familiar with the legal system. He—it is usually a he—is often charming. He is often wealthy and can hire lawyers who may even be Members of your Lordships’ House. He is malign, lethal and cocky in the face of the legal system. Those are the characteristics of serious organised criminals. As for the victim, what is she going to be like? She will be frightened. She is likely to be poor. She will be vulnerable and terrified of the legal system and, to use an Orwellian word, will feel like an “unperson”. Do we really want that?

My Lords, throughout the passage of the Bill here and in the other place, many people have raised serious concerns about it, and about its impact on victims of modern slavery. I fear sounding like a broken record, but I said at Second Reading and in Committee that the Bill should exclude those who are subject to abuse through the heinous crime of modern slavery. I echo the words of the former Prime Minister, Theresa May. When discussing the Bill in the other place, she said that it has always been important to separate modern slavery from immigration status. My position remains unchanged.

I would prefer that modern slavery was out of this Bill entirely. For that reason, I shall support the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. They get right to the heart of the matter as they seek to amend the Bill to ensure that potential and recognised victims of human trafficking will not be detained or removed before they can apply to the NRM and have their application considered. In the spirit of those amendments, I have tabled Amendments 102A and 105A to remove Clauses 23 and 24 respectively.

In Committee, the Minister tried to reassure us that the agreement with Rwanda covers ensuring that

“any special needs that may arise as a result of a relocated person being a victim of modern slavery are accommodated”.—[Official Report, 12/6/23; col. 1704.]

The impact assessment published on Monday was more tentative, saying there could be

“a perceived welfare loss for the individuals relocated to a third country who would otherwise be granted support in the UK although this may be mitigated to the extent that the support provided in a third country is comparable”.

This is classic British understatement. We all know that there will be loss of support. The Salvation Army has described the Bill as “potentially devastating”. The US State Department’s 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report, published since Committee, lists Rwanda as a tier 2 country, whereas the UK is a tier 1 country, and said that Rwanda did not refer any victims to services. So, I am far from reassured.

The impact assessment says that one of the strategic objectives of the Bill is “to protect the vulnerable”, but it is proposing mass detention of modern slavery victims under Clause 10 and removing their rights, under the European Convention on Human Rights and the Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings, to a recovery period and support. I find myself in agreement once more with the former Prime Minister Theresa May, who described the Bill as

“a slap in the face for those of us who actually care about the victims of modern slavery”. —[Official Report, Commons, 26/4/23; col. 808.]

The Government are arguing that this is a Bill of short-term pain for long-term gain. For victims, it will be short-term and long-term pain. The JCHR’s Legislative Scrutiny: Illegal Migration Bill concluded that the Bill not only breaches international obligations but

“may also result in the increase in trafficking and slavery”.

With this in mind, I find myself extremely disappointed that an analysis of the potential number of victims affected by the Bill was not covered in the impact assessment. Particularly at such a late stage in the passage of such significant, flagship legislation, it is troubling that we do not have to hand the most basic information in order to make reasonable determinations, based on the evidence, about the efficacy of the Government’s proposals.

As I said in the previous debate in this House, as someone who introduced a Bill in the Northern Ireland Assembly to reduce trafficking and slavery, I cannot support the inclusion of modern slavery victims in this Bill, so I shall be supporting the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt.

However, your Lordships are wise enough to take a belt-and-braces approach to this Bill, so I am also supporting the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Randall. They would mitigate some of the concerns about the lack of support by ensuring that victims of modern slavery exploited in the UK will still be able to access the support they need to recover. Why? It is simply the right thing to do.

My Lords, I rise to support not only Amendment 103 in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Morrow, but any and all the amendments in this group. This is for two principal reasons. First, the approach we need to take to the victims of the heinous evil of human trafficking must be compassionate, sympathetic and supportive. When the Government produced its now sadly shelved Bill on kept animals, it contained a clause which sought to outlaw the transporting of live animals for slaughter. But that approach—treating human beings as a commodity; as raw meat, effectively—is precisely what human traffickers are doing to their victims. We should show that same level of compassion to victims of human trafficking.

Support for the victims of human trafficking is in the spirit of the best of our nation and is in the history of our nation, as has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and others. Whatever the historic arguments before then, in the 19th century this country took the lead on the abolition of first the slave trade and then slavery itself. It did not simply stand alone to say, “We are virtuous”, but took great action, particularly through the Royal Navy, to help suppress the slave trade. We should follow suit and ensure we do everything we can to stamp out the modern evil of modern slavery, so we need to support the victims of human trafficking.

Secondly, as indicated by other Members of your Lordships’ House, to include human trafficking in the Bill is entirely counterproductive. There will be a range of views across the House about the overall contents of the Bill. Many of us take a quite cynical and somewhat sceptical approach to the Bill as a whole. Others take the view that strategically, it is the wrong approach and a better approach would be to seek international co-operation to deal with the issue. However, those who are sincerely advocating for this Bill say in justification that its purpose is to bear down on those who are taking advantage of migrants trying to get across to the United Kingdom—to bear down on the criminals organising this. The reality is that, while there is a lack of connection, in my view, between the boats and human trafficking, the motivation of the criminals behind both are the same: to exploit human beings for their own gain.

The reality is that, whatever the concerns many of us have about the Bill as a whole, to include human trafficking and modern slavery and to ignore the gains previously made by the Government is to take us in completely the wrong direction. If victims of human trafficking are to be disregarded and simply deported the moment they are found—even those who are providing assistance to the police—prosecutions and, above all, the pressure on human traffickers will be reduced. What will be the end result? The most logical answer is that human trafficking will increase. Indeed, we will be giving a boon to human traffickers if this Bill goes through unamended. If we take prima facie the purpose of the Bill as described by the Government, it is entirely counterproductive to its supposed intentions. So we need these amendments to go through, and I therefore commend them to the House.

My Lords, I support Amendment 95 and the consequential Amendments 99, 101 and 104 in the name of my noble friend Lord Randall of Uxbridge, who unfortunately cannot be in his place today. He has asked me to speak on his behalf and has made it clear that if he were here, and if he could not find agreement with the Government, he would test the opinion of the House.

This amendment has been slightly modified since Committee in order to ensure parity for victims across the whole of the United Kingdom, including Scotland and Northern Ireland. The core intention remains the same: to preserve the existing recovery period for victims of modern slavery.

I emphasise one point in particular: removing modern slavery protections will not help stop the boats. In fact, it will make reducing illegal migration harder. Many victims of modern slavery, often through no fault of their own, have come illegally under the terms of this Bill, even if not necessarily by boat. The protections which give them the space to escape from their exploiters will be removed. This is bad in itself, but the really relevant point for the Government is that, as a result of removing those protections, prosecutions will become harder, as others have pointed out. The position of the people traffickers and criminal gangs who bring people into the United Kingdom illegally and hold them in modern slavery will be strengthened. The core purpose of this Bill—to prevent illegal migration—will be undermined.

The evidence is clear: for a successful prosecution, support for victims must come before engagement with the police and courts system. As drafted, the Bill inverts that, setting a high bar for co-operation before any person can be considered for an exemption from immediate deportation. In Committee, when asked by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, about the effect of removing victims of modern slavery to another country on the likelihood of their co-operation with prosecutions, my noble friend the Minister said:

“One would hope that a victim of trafficking would want to facilitate the prosecution of their traffickers”. [Official Report, 12/6/23, col. 1705.]

Most victims do, but they need support in order to do that. They need trust in the system. Threatening them with immediate deportation is not the way to build that trust, and I am afraid that I do not share my noble friend’s confidence that prosecutors will be just as easily able to work with victims in Rwanda as they can with victims in the United Kingdom.

These amendments do not confer a permanent right to settlement or residence in the United Kingdom on modern slavery victims. They retain the existing 30-day recovery period and provision for proven victims to stay in the United Kingdom only at the Secretary of State’s discretion—for example, to support prosecutions. That is not really an exclusion or exemption of the sort my noble friend the Minister says will fatally undermine the Bill, but it can create the space needed for victims of modern slavery to receive the support they need to escape the cycle of abuse and begin co-operating with the police. I hope the Government can recognise the benefits of this and re-think their position.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to rise to support many of the amendments in this group, but in particular Amendment 12. I thank my noble friend Lord Hunt, the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for moving such an important amendment.

I start by saying that, as a proud Labour politician, I am the first to recognise the phenomenal achievement, as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, pointed out, of the Conservative Government in passing the Modern Slavery Act. That is important, and he pointed out the cross-party nature of that. That is why it is so bewildering that we have a Conservative Government driving forward this legislation.

Notwithstanding that, Amendment 12 goes to the heart of the various amendments. It is important to reiterate the explanatory note to my noble friend’s amendment, which simply seeks

“to amend the Bill so that potential and recognised victims of trafficking will not be detained or removed before they get the opportunity to submit an application to the NRM and have it duly considered”.

That seems a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but of course, under this Bill, everybody who arrives irregularly —primarily by small boat, as far as the Government are concerned—is automatically excluded. That inevitably means that victims or potential victims of modern slavery and trafficking will be caught by the legislation and their needs will not be met.

We have talked about evidence. Helpfully, on Monday the impact assessment was at last published. The Government recognise the draconian nature of these provisions, as they have put in their own sunset clause, and they say they are doing this because the system is being gamed. On page 24, the impact assessment states:

“For context, of the 83,236 people that arrived in the UK on small boats between 1 January 2018 and 31 December 2022, 7 per cent (6,210 people) were referred to the NRM”.

Of course, as was made clear, that 7% of those 83,000 were referred by government-approved officials. They were not necessarily then deemed to have conclusive grounds; they were referred in order to have their situation considered.

That is the issue Amendment 12 seeks to address. It does not say there are not sometimes people who apply who should not, but that the purpose of the Modern Slavery Act is to ensure that victims have the right to have their case heard, to be supported where necessary, and to not be removed from the country during that process. Amendment 12 is therefore perfectly reasonable and if my noble friend chooses to test the opinion of the House, I hope that many of us will support it, because it is a simple but very important amendment.

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, has explained, his amendments would prevent the detention and removal of any person who meets the conditions in Clause 4 and who is the subject of a NRM referral until a conclusive grounds decision and any appeal has been determined. The current average time taken from referral to conclusive grounds decisions, made in January to March 2023, across the competent authorities, was 566 days. Against that backdrop, these are wrecking amendments. They would profoundly undermine the Government’s ability to tackle the threat to life arising from the dangerous, illegal and unnecessary channel crossings and the pressure they place on our public services.

Amendments 95, 99, 101 and 104 in the name of my noble friend Lord Randall seek to mitigate the effect of the provisions in the Bill in a more targeted way, but here too I have concerns that the amendments would undermine what we seek to do in these provisions. As I set out in Committee, the NRM presents clear opportunities for abuse by those who would seek to frustrate removal. It is worth repeating the statistics relating to NRM referrals of people arriving in small boats, which demonstrate how the NRM could be open to abuse.

In 2021, 404 people were detained for return after arriving in the United Kingdom on a small boat, 73% of whom were referred to the NRM while in detention. The latest published figure, for the period January to September 2022, is only slightly lower, at 65%. This is a large increase on earlier years; just 6% of those detained for return in 2019 were referred to the NRM while in detention. So far, only a minority of people who arrived on small boats have been detained for return, but if enforcement activity is greatly expanded, as it would be under the terms of the Bill, and if this rate of referral continues, the number of referrals could be substantially higher. These figures cannot be ignored.

I can provide some assurance to my noble friend and other noble Lords. The Bill does not impact NRM referrals of British citizens or persons who are in the UK without valid leave, having overstayed, and who are therefore, I suggest, more susceptible to exploitation in the UK; nor will unaccompanied children arriving on small boats be affected while they remain under 18. They are not subject to the duty to remove until they turn 18. Finally, the Bill provides for an exception to the application of the public order disqualification where it is necessary for someone to remain in the United Kingdom to co-operate with an investigation or prosecution related to their exploitation.

Can the Minister explain whether the figures he has given us are in the impact assessment? It would have helped us if they were; I apologise if I have missed them. Has the Minister changed the way he is coming to the percentage figure? Are the Government now saying that it is not the percentage of the number of people who arrive by small boats but the percentage of those who arrived by small boats and are detained? The percentages are going to be significantly higher because the numbers who are detained are not the sort of numbers I was talking about. The number I quoted is from the Government’s own figures. What figures are the Government using and how are they coming to them? Perhaps he can explain to the Chamber how many of the 83,236 people who arrived by small boats were detained, so we can get some idea of the percentages he is talking about.

First, I am afraid I have read so many documents in the past few days that I cannot immediately recollect whether the stats are in the IA. I will confirm whether they are, and I am sure I will be able to do that shortly.

Order! Secondly, I suggest that the material figures are those in detention. It is a fundamental part of the scheme that people will be detained and removed. We can see from the figures that those in detention have been utilising NRM claims; you can see the increase from the statistics I gave a moment ago. On the noble Lord’s final point, those are all published statistics, and I can confirm that the 65% figure is in paragraph 143 of the impact assessment.

I remind noble Lords that the application of the public order disqualification is firmly grounded in the provisions of the European convention against trafficking, or ECAT. Article 13(3) of ECAT clearly provides that states are not bound to provide a recovery and reflection period on the grounds of public order. It is again worth stressing that these provisions are time-limited. We recognise their exceptional nature, and the Bill expressly provides for Clauses 21 to 24 to cease to apply after two years unless both Houses agree to extend their operation for no more than 12 months at a time.

For the reasons I have set out, we consider that this sunsetting provision is more appropriate than the sunrise provision proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, in his Amendment 113A.

I wonder whether the Minister could help me on this. On the figure of over 500 days in the NRM, from beginning to end, is that entirely due to Home Office officials not getting through it in a timely way, or is there any other reason why it is taking so long?

The NRM process requires the gathering of evidence and input from the party, so it is not down entirely to Home Office resourcing issues.

The appointment of the new Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner is at an advanced stage, and I am sure that once appointed they will want to monitor closely the impact of these provisions.

In relation to my noble friend’s amendments, I repeat the assurance that my right honourable friend the Immigration Minister made in the other place: namely that we will consider additional protections through statutory guidance for those who have experienced exploitation in the United Kingdom. We are continuing to develop such guidance and in doing so will adopt an appropriate balance between protecting victims of modern slavery and delivering the intent of this Bill.

As regards Amendment 103, the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, quite properly raises the issue of how the modern slavery provisions in the Bill sit with the continued operation of the relevant EU directives in Northern Ireland. As I have said in earlier debates in Committee, the provisions in the Bill are compatible with the Windsor Framework. In particular, in the context of this amendment we do not consider that the 2011 anti-trafficking directive falls within the scope of Article 2 of the Windsor Framework.

Amendments 96, 102 and 105, tabled respectively by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, the noble Baroness, Lady Bryan, and the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, relate to the presumption that it is not necessary for a person to remain in the United Kingdom to co-operate with an investigation. As I outlined to the Committee, remote participation is now the norm in the workplace, and the criminal justice system is no different. It is simply no longer the case that a victim of crime needs to be in face-to-face contact with the police or others to assist with an investigation. In some cases, victims may even feel safer providing virtual or video-recorded evidence. I assure noble Lords that we are working to ensure that the relevant technology, interpreters and intermediaries are available where needed.

We have provided for statutory guidance to support decision-making by caseworkers when determining if there are compelling circumstances why the presumption should be set aside in a particular case, but there is no evidence as to why, in the majority of cases, such co-operation cannot continue by email, messaging and video conferencing. The presumption in Clauses 21(5), 23(5) and 24(5) is therefore perfectly proper and should be retained.

My Lords, I would be really grateful if the Minister could answer the question I asked him as to whether the Director of Public Prosecutions had been consulted about the effect on modern slavery and trafficking cases if the victim was not merely in another studio in another building in London or Manchester but in a country thousands of miles away, with no facilities to encourage or even compel them to give evidence.

I do not know whether the DPP has been consulted on that point but I will certainly find out and write to the noble Lord.

Amendment 112, put forward by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, would prevent the public order disqualification provided for in the 2022 Act being applied to a person whose positive reasonable grounds decision was based on exploitation which had occurred before they were 18. It is, in our view, entirely appropriate for the public order disqualification provided for in that Act to be capable of applying to all relevant individuals, including those exploited as children. In this regard, it is important to note that the public order disqualification in the 2022 Act applies only to specified persons, such as those who have been convicted of a serious criminal offence. In such cases, the age at which the exploitation took place is, I submit, irrelevant to the threat to public order an individual now poses, and we cannot tie our hands on this matter on the basis of the time at which exploitation took place.

The modern slavery measures in the Bill, alongside the others, are intended to deal with the immediate and pressing public risk arising from the exceptional circumstances relating to illegal entry into the UK. We need to take bold action and now. This Bill will not achieve its objective if removals are put on hold for over 500 days awaiting a conclusive grounds decision. As I indicated at the start, these amendments will quite simply wreck the Bill. I hope therefore that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, will be content to withdraw his Amendment 12. If he is not, I invite the House to reject it.

I am sorry to interrupt the Minister but he referred again to the 500-plus days involved in the NRM process. Earlier, in response to the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, he said that one of the reasons for that was examining the evidence. However, since he cites this as a reason for going ahead with these appalling proposals, can he explain to the House why it is not possible to shorten that period? Is he content that a process that takes more than 500 days is humane?

Considerable efforts are taken to seek to shorten the period but that is not an easy process. I agree with the noble Baroness that we should aspire to have a shorter period but we have to legislate for the world as it is, not as we wish it to be.

I can now confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, that the CPS was indeed consulted in respect of these provisions.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his response, to all noble Lords who have spoken and to my noble friend Lord Coaker for his strong support for my Amendment 12, which, as he says, goes to the heart of the argument.

I was a little surprised by the Minister describing my amendments as wrecking amendments. Noble Lords who have known me over the years know that I do not indulge in that kind of approach. I am seeking to preserve the integrity of the Modern Slavery Act.

The Minister’s argument about 566 days and the number of referrals is not a substantive one. The statistic that is most telling, as I repeated again, is that under the NRM 90% of the competent authority decisions last year were positive decisions, in that there were reasonable grounds that someone was a victim of trafficking or modern slavery, so the process stands. The Minister has not produced any argument whatever against the NRM process; he has simply talked about the length of time and the numbers, which goes back to his department and its lack of investment in making sure that the system works effectively.

My real concern here is that, instead of dealing with the perpetrators of the awful crimes around which modern slavery takes place, it is the victims who are going to be penalised. I looked back today at the Second Reading debate of the Modern Slavery Act in your Lordships’ House and the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Bates, the then Home Office Minister, who said:

“Modern slavery is an evil against which this Government are determined to take a stand”.—[Official Report, 17/11/14; col. 241.]

How sad it is that the Government have held back from that and are basically undermining it. I wish to test the opinion of the House.

Amendment 13

Moved by

13: Clause 4, page 6, line 9, leave out paragraph (d)

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential to the amendment to clause 1 tabled by Baroness Chakrabarti and would enable an application for judicial review to be made while the applicant is in the UK regarding an act or omission in conflict with the provisions there.

Amendment 13 agreed.

Amendment 14

Moved by

14: Clause 4, page 6, line 11, after “2” insert “and does not fall within the exceptions in section 3”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment would make asylum and human rights claims admissible from unaccompanied children, who are exempted from the duty to remove by Clause 3. This would continue current policy under which unaccompanied children’s asylum claims are not subject to the inadmissibility regime.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham for supporting this amendment.

The issues are pretty clear and I shall be ever so brief. We have been over these arguments in principle both in Committee and, implicitly, in some of the earlier amendments on Report. The clear point is this: the impact of the Bill will be that children claiming asylum in the UK will automatically be turned away, based on the method by which they have travelled and arrived in the UK. That, in effect, will mean that children will be refused an application for asylum, regardless of their need for protection as child refugees.

This is in the light of the most recent figures, which show that, of all the unaccompanied children who arrived and whose cases were determined, 86% were given refugee status. Therefore, we are saying no to the equivalent children who will be coming in the future. We are dealing with some of the most vulnerable of all refugees. We know that. Even the Minister said in Committee:

“We recognise the particular vulnerabilities in relation to unaccompanied children”.—[Official Report, 5/6/23; col. 1168.]

There has been virtually nothing in the impact assessment about children. At Question Time the other day, the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, referred to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Earlier this month, the committee expressed concerns about the potential impact of the Illegal Migration Bill on children and went on to specify in detail how it would work.

The Government seem to think that, by having this, somehow children will stop coming over. I do not believe there is any evidence to support that. I have talked to some of the children in the Calais area. Those who get to Calais are absolutely determined to continue their journey.

The Government seem to think that most of the world’s refugees should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach. Most of the world’s refugees, in any case, are in countries adjacent to the one they fled. We know that the majority of children who reach France claim asylum there; it is a minority who claim asylum in this country.

What we are doing with this Bill is shutting the door on some of the most vulnerable human beings on earth: refugee children. These are children who have escaped the most appalling situations. The Government was wobbly even in the Commons during Report on this issue, and the right thing would be for them to accept this amendment. There is absolutely no argument why they should turn their backs on children, the most vulnerable refugees that there are. I beg to move.

My Lords, I will speak to the second amendment in this group, which is in my name and the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr. I declare my interests as set out in the register. I obviously support the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, as an absolutely important amendment.

The amendment I am proposing has two purposes. The first is to provide a route out of the limbo which thousands of people could fall into if they were not removed from this country and had to remain here without any opportunity to make their case. The second purpose is to provide a backstop for the Government so that they can bring matters to a conclusion where there is no conclusion in this Bill.

This amendment provides a backstop for the Government if, for whatever reason, an individual cannot be removed within six months. It means that the Government do not have to indefinitely support them. The Government can consider their asylum claim in the UK which, if successful, means they can get on with their life in the United Kingdom. If it is unsuccessful, they can be removed to their country of origin. Without this amendment, the Government are unable, because of the powers in the Bill, to consider their asylum application in the United Kingdom. So, if a safe third country cannot be identified for a person’s removal, the Home Secretary has no way to discharge the responsibility to them.

The economic impact assessment of the Bill assumes that people will be detained for 40 days before removal. In fact, I will quote the Minister at the beginning of today’s debate. He said:

“We need a scheme that will enable removals in days and weeks, not … in months”.

If that is the case, and the Government are true to their meaning, this backstop will never apply. But it is a backstop in case it does not work. We have not seen the evidence that it might work. The backstop will ensure that taxpayers’ money is not tied up in supporting thousands of people indefinitely. It is not a commitment to spend additional money but a financially prudent course of action that will help planning for both national Government and local authorities in this country.

This amendment also recognises the human dignity of each individual. Keeping them in a state of limbo, unable to support themselves and their families, and dependent on the state, is not healthy for any society. It has the great risk of fuelling exploitation in the United Kingdom.

The migration and economic development partnership with Rwanda is currently the only removal agreement that the UK has in place that includes third country nationals. The legal and practical challenges faced by that scheme are well documented and, even if it becomes operational, it will not be possible to remove to Rwanda all of the thousands of people whose claims are deemed inadmissible. That is why this backstop clause for the Government is so important.

In response to a similar amendment that we debated in Committee, the Minister said that it would

“encourage illegal migrants to use every tactic to frustrate their removal, in the knowledge that after six months their asylum claim would be processed”.—[Official Report, 5/6/23; col. 1202.]

However, as the Bill stands, there is little option for any challenge for individuals. The two suspensive claims set out in the Bill both have timeframes far shorter than six months. As the Minister said, they expect the removal to happen within days and weeks, not months. So all the actions that the Government propose would be well under the six months when the time limits to challenge removal will have expired.

I urge Peers to support this amendment to introduce a framework that will provide an opportunity for the Government to control public expenditure. In so doing, it would avoid the horrible, damaging and inhumane prospect of thousands of people being incarcerated in limbo, with no route out of the situation in which they find themselves.

My Lords, I will speak in support of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord German, to which I have added my name, and in strong support of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs.

The noble Lord, Lord German, spoke of limbo, which is exactly what we will create here if we do not pass Amendment 15. These people will be detained indefinitely, in the dark about when they will be sent somewhere and in the dark about where they will be sent. That simply is out of keeping with the traditions of the society in which we are proud to live.

The Government will no doubt say that the possibility that a case might be allowed to start in the asylum process would significantly weaken deterrence. That seems to be the principal argument against today’s amendments—even, astonishingly, against the modern slavery amendment a few moments ago. The Government should perhaps read their own impact assessment, in which paragraph 31 says:

“The academic consensus is that there is little to no evidence suggesting changes in a destination country’s policies have an impact on deterring people from leaving their countries of origin or travelling without valid permission, whether in search of refuge or for other reasons. Non-policy drivers of behaviour (for example diaspora, shared language or culture, and family ties) are also known to be strong factors influencing the choice of final destination”.

I believe that that is the case.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, spoke powerfully in reaction to the noble Lords, Lord Clarke and Lord Howard, about the importance for the rule of law domestically and respect for international law of allowing the due process of hearing an asylum claim to take place. We all know that it needs to be streamlined and to have more resources put into it, but, basically, it is a sane system. The idea of limbo is insane, immoral and illegal, and, as the noble Lord, Lord German, pointed out, would be costly. The case for Amendments 14 and 15 is rock-solid.

My Lords, I have put my name to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, which I strongly support, as noble Lords can imagine. I agree with everything that was said in support of Amendment 14, and I will add only two short points.

The first is that, over the years that I have been in this House, the Government have spoken again and again about the welfare and best interests of children. In the Bill, it is notable how the best interests and the welfare of children are totally ignored. Secondly, I visited Calais and met a number of young people, under 18, who were determined to come to this country. There was no question of them being pushed by any adults— I never saw an adult in any of the areas of Calais that I visited. They are determined to come, and they have good reasons to have fled their country. I heard harrowing stories of why they wanted to get away. Quite simply, this amendment would put back what they are entitled to and what is in their best interests. It should be supported.

My Lords, I will make two brief points in support of Amendment 14. Before that I repeat the question I posed earlier: where is the child rights impact assessment that we were promised? It is now Report, and we really ought to have it.

My first point is that, in Committee, I quoted from the previous Lords Minister and from Home Office guidance that unaccompanied young children are

“not suitable for the inadmissibility processes”.

I asked the Minister to explain why, given these recent statements, they are considered suitable now, and on what evidence this policy volte-face is based. I did not get a reply, so I would welcome one now, please.

Secondly, last week, I attended Barnardo’s launch of its report A Warm Welcome: A Blueprint for Supporting Displaced Children Seeking Protection in the UK. We were given a booklet about a comic book for children seeking safety, co-designed by children and young people with lived experience of the asylum journey. It ended with a letter to the children who follow in their footsteps, which said:

“I know when you came to the UK you had a difficult time. I know this because I did too. So don’t worry, everything is going to be ok … You have been through a difficult time but you are safe now … You can forget the past because you are safe and you can look to the future and start your life here”.

I was close to tears reading this poignant letter because, if the Bill goes through in its present form, the children who follow will no longer be able to start a life here. The booklet was called Journeys of Hope; the Bill destroys that hope. This amendment would at least give back some hope to unaccompanied children who reach the UK through irregular routes.

My Lords, I support both amendments in this group, but I am particularly pleased to be able to speak in support of Amendment 14, to which my right reverend friend the Bishop of Durham is a co-signatory, although he is unable to be present today.

The Bill will prevent potentially thousands of children ever claiming refugee protection in the UK, however serious their protection needs may be and, disturbingly, regardless of the fact that they may not have had any say in the decision to travel here irregularly. Let us be absolutely clear: this means that vulnerable unaccompanied children who have fled unimaginable horrors will arrive to find that they will be detained and then potentially accommodated by the Home Office outside the established care system. All of this is not in order for their asylum cases to be heard and assessed but simply to deter others.

Given that no return agreements are yet in place, and that the Government have not provided any new information about how returns will exponentially increase, the overwhelming majority of individuals will be left to languish in perpetual legal limbo, as we have heard, and financial precarity. I argue that this is unacceptable for any asylum seeker, but for an unaccompanied child it is simply unforgivable.

Last year, close to nine out of 10 separated children were granted refugee status. Some 99% of unaccompanied children arriving from Afghanistan and Eritrea were granted status. It is these children—those with a genuine need for protection—who will be left outside the asylum system unless the Government change course.

Children’s development is intrinsically linked to secure attachment and safety, but the state is choosing to prescribe for them an uncertain and harmful future. This is counter to the Home Secretary’s duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of all children and to prevent punishment of a child on the basis of status or the activities of their parents, as obligated by both domestic and international law.

The amendment would grant re-entry to the asylum system for those separated children the Secretary of State is unable to remove. It is a pragmatic measure that would go some way towards protecting children from these adverse impacts, which are neither tolerable nor justifiable. I urge the Minister to relent on these amendments.

My Lords, I support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. He quoted a letter that the Minister very kindly sent to me two days ago about the reaction of the Committee on the Rights of the Child of the United Nations. That communication demonstrated that the committee found that if we did not amend the Bill—and the amendment we are looking at now is obviously required—we would be in breach of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. That convention was signed by the late Baroness Thatcher. I do not believe we should be in the business of ignoring the view that we will breach that international obligation we undertook in 1990.

My Lords, for the avoidance of doubt, my noble friend Lord Scriven has signed the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. All of us on these Benches wholeheartedly support that amendment, in addition to Amendment 15 in the name of my noble friend Lord German.

My Lords, in the spirit of reciprocity, we wholeheartedly support Amendment 15 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord German, as well as my noble friend Lord Dubs’s amendment.

My noble friend’s amendment points out that we should absolutely not rule out unaccompanied children from being admissible if they come via an illegal route. As we have heard from a number of noble Lords, this would not be in keeping with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The amendment from the noble Lord, Lord German, is a practical amendment on granting re-entry into the asylum system for those the Government are not able to remove, and we are happy to support it. It would avoid potentially thousands of children, as well as other asylum seekers, being kept in limbo. As he very fairly pointed out, this is a backstop for the Government because, if they are true to their aspirations for the Bill, they will never have to use the noble Lord’s amendment. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

My Lords, as the noble Lords, Lord Dubs and Lord German, have explained, these amendments relate to the provision in Clause 4(2), which provides for protection claims and relevant human rights claims made by persons who meet the conditions in Clause 2 to be declared inadmissible.

On Amendment 14, we recognise the particular vulnerability of unaccompanied children, as observed by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, which is why we need to prevent them making unnecessary and life-threatening journeys to the UK. If we are serious about wanting to prevent and deter these journeys, it is crucial that we maintain the position currently set out in the Bill. We must avoid creating a perverse incentive to put unaccompanied children on small boats and make dangerous journeys.

In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, I point out that the Bill provides for a wholly new scheme. We are in a different position from the one we were in in the last Session, when the Nationality and Borders Bill, as it then was, was debated.

As I have said before, the Secretary of State is not required to make arrangements to remove an unaccompanied child from the UK, but there is a power to do so. The Bill sets out that this power will be exercised only in limited circumstances ahead of them reaching adulthood, such as for the purposes of reunion with a parent or where removal is to a safe country of origin. Where an unaccompanied child is not removed, pursuant to the power in Clause 3, we continue to believe that it is appropriate for the Bill to provide for the duty to remove to apply once they turn 18. To provide otherwise will, as I have already said, put more young lives at risk and split up more families by encouraging the people smugglers to put more and more unaccompanied children on to the small boats. In answer to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Bill is very much about protecting children.

However, I can offer the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, some comfort. Were regulations to be made under Clause 3(7), permanently excluding a category of persons from the duty in Clause 2(1), the effect of that would be to set aside the requirement in Clause 4(2) to declare any protection claim or relevant human rights claim inadmissible. Such a person would then be dealt with under the processes that apply to a person to whom the duty does not apply. This could include the inadmissibility provisions, as amended by the Bill, in Section 80A of the 2002 Act.

The amendment from the noble Lord, Lord German, seeks to set aside the inadmissibility provisions where a person has not been removed in six months. Existing policy on inadmissibility places no such requirement that a person must be removed within six months. I cannot agree to an amendment that is more lenient than our existing inadmissibility provisions. However, I reiterate once again the core objective of the Bill: to remove illegal entrants in days and weeks, not months and years, as the noble Lord himself reminded the House. That being the case, the amendment is simply unnecessary.

For these reasons, I invite the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, to withdraw his amendment.

My Lords, obviously I find the Minister’s reply disappointing. He dangled an incentive that there might be some regulations in the future that might do something to ameliorate the provisions of the Bill—but that is not good enough. We are dealing with very vulnerable people, and if the Minister wants to threaten them by saying that we will treat them badly, because that will stop them wanting them to come, there is no point dangling some regulation for the future that might change that. That does not seem logical to me.

I wish the Minister had been with me when I was talking to a young man who came to this country when he was 15 or 16, but who would not have been able to come here under the provisions of the Bill. He was so excited to be here. He was in education and wanted to be an athletics instructor, and he was jolly good at it.

Finally, I was talking to a young Syrian outside the Palace a few years ago—again, he was 14 or 15. This may not be a very telling argument, but I will describe it anyway. He pointed at this Palace and asked me, “You know what I want to do in life?”. I said no and asked him to tell him. He said, “I want to become an MP”.

These are the sorts of people who would benefit from the amendment. It is only humane that we should pass the amendment. I wish to test the opinion of the House.

Amendment 15

Moved by

15: Clause 4, page 6, line 16, leave out “cannot be considered under the immigration rules” and insert “must be considered under the immigration rules if the person who made the claim has not been removed from the United Kingdom within six months of the day the claim is deemed inadmissible.

(3A) From the point at which the provisions of subsection (3) apply to a person, no other provision made by or by virtue of this Act applies to that person.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment would require the Home Secretary to consider a protection claim or a human rights claim if the applicant has not been removed from the UK within six months of the claim being deemed inadmissible, and disapply other provisions at this point.

My Lords, I listened very carefully to the explanation of why the Government think this amendment ought not to be accepted, on the grounds that they are going to remove people within weeks of their arrival in the United Kingdom, without any evidence. It is also the case, I think, that this House generally does not believe that will happen. As it is a backstop for the Government to save money, I think it absolutely appropriate that we do our job to help the Government along and make sure that the public finances are not screwed up in that way. Therefore, I wish to test the opinion of the House.

My Lords, there is a technical problem and it has been decided that the Division will be deferred. We will take the Division together with the next Division after the next group.

Amendment 16 not moved.

Moved by

17: Clause 4, page 6, line 37, leave out from first “claim” to end of line 40 and insert “are only to claims made on or after the date on which this section comes into force.”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment ensures that protection or human rights claims made before the Bill comes into force cannot be declared inadmissible under the Bill.

Amendment 17 agreed.

Clause 5: Removal for the purposes of section 2 or 3

Amendment 18

Moved by

18: Clause 5, page 7, line 31, at end insert “or territory”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment supplements the reference to a country in subsection (4)(b) of clause 5 with a reference to a territory, for consistency with the earlier reference in subsection (4) to a country or territory within subsection (3)(a) or (b) of that clause.

Amendment 18 agreed.

Amendment 19

Moved by

19: Clause 5, page 8, line 23, at end insert “and the Secretary of State is satisfied in relation to the proposed country of removal that it is a safe third State as defined in section 80B of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002.”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment, and others in the name of Lord Carlile of Berriew, seek to ensure that asylum seekers can only be removed to third countries or territories listed in Schedule 1 if those countries are places where they will be protected from onward refoulement in breach of the Refugee Convention and be able to be recognised as a refugee and receive protection in accordance with the Refugee Convention (if so recognised).

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, has asked me to speak on his behalf to this series of amendments. My name is on Amendment 33, and I strongly support the noble Lord’s amendments. As we all know, the refugee convention was signed by the British Government. These amendments look at a major concern about safe countries.

It is extraordinary that the Government have put 150 countries in Schedule 1, as I referred to in Committee, given that we know that only two on the list support this. We are told that, even with the additional number that the Minister has told us about, there is no agreement with the majority of countries and that some of the countries with which there are agreements, notably India, have not signed the refugee convention. How can the Government expect to send migrants and refugees to a country that has not signed it? It seems quite extraordinary. The Minister then tells us that it is such a good thing that these countries have joined. It is not only India, but I raise it as an important example.

Perhaps the most important amendment, with which I am sure the House will sympathise, is that on LGBT people. Of the 150 countries, both those that have supported this and the majority that have not, none is friendly to LGBT people, and some of them are actively hostile. It is most extraordinary that there is no provision at all for anyone in that community. I find it difficult to say this to your Lordships, but I wonder what the Government are thinking. What do they expect? Where do they expect to send LGBT people if not a single country in Schedule 1 will support them?

This series of important amendments is to make sure that the countries to which migrants are sent will be genuinely safe for the people sent there.

My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 20 and 24 to 28 in my name.

It is notable that, despite Government Ministers on the Front Bench trying to promote this Bill in such vehement terms, for the votes in this Chamber the Conservatives cannot get more than 50% of their Members to support the Government’s position. That speaks volumes.

Amendment 20 seeks to restore the fundamental principle that, if people are to be deemed admissible to be removed to a safe country, it should be on the basis of the individual circumstances of their case and after a review of the circumstances that they will face. The Government are turning this on its head, which is simply wrong. We heard earlier about the due process of law. Amendment 20 seeks to restore what the Government seek to remove—the due process of law.

Amendments 24 to 28 follow from the comments of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, on those countries in the schedule that are not party to the refugee convention—India, Kosovo, Mauritius, Mongolia and South Korea. We do not know, and the Minister will not tell us, whether we have a return and resettlement agreement with any of those countries because, as he told me earlier, these are secret agreements. What kind of arrangements do a Government enter into with another Government that would be secret? The only thing I can think is that the other Government have asked us to keep it secret, for reasons that the Minister will not divulge. But he is asking us to legislate and determine that they are safe countries.

There is an inconsistency with the Government’s position on Section 80B of the 2002 Act, which was amended by the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, over the definition of a “safe third state”. As amended, the 2002 Act is clear about what it is: a safe third state is to be judged with regard to what is relevant to the individual person. Section 80B(4) defines a safe third state, and Section 80B(4)(b) states that one of the characteristics of a safe state is that the person will not be sent to another state—refoulement. There is nothing in this Bill that will give protection to that individual.

In that same section, the refugee convention is specifically mentioned, both in subsection (4)(b)(i) and (4)(c), with regard to a criterion of safety for an individual. I regret very much that the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, is not in his place. We had a constitutional law lecture at the start of Report on the duality of the system, and if I understood correctly, we should not impose requirements on Executives with regard to international conventions. The law—and the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, was Justice Minister at the time of the 2022 Bill being taken through Parliament—states categorically that this is a requirement we have put in statute: other Executives have to be a member of the refugee convention or we will not send people to them. What kind of double standard is it that it is fine for us to insist on receiving countries adhering to the convention, but it would be fundamentally wrong for us to adhere to that same convention? This is a double standard we absolutely should not support.

I have leave from my colleagues to say that we on these Benches will strongly support Amendment 37 if the opinion of the House is tested. These aspects are fundamental to the Bill; they are about principle, but also practicalities and our standing in the world. Process of law is very important and we should protect it, and that is why these amendments should be supported.

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, I too strongly support Amendment 37 and will vote for it if the opinion of the House is tested. I would also like to support the remarks of my noble and learned friend Baroness Butler-Sloss, on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, in moving those earlier amendments, particularly as they relate to safe countries.

My Amendment 21 would insert into Clause 5 the following:

“No person may be removed to a country listed in Schedule 1 if doing so would put that person at risk due to their protected characteristics as defined in section 4 of the Equality Act 2010”.

I raised this issue in Committee and I made a long speech, but I will not detain the House for long this evening. I especially cited the example of Nigeria and I do so again this evening, not least because I heard this morning of the case of Usman Buda, a Muslim, who was murdered in Sokoto state in north-west Nigeria in the last few days, because it was alleged—I repeat: alleged—that he had blasphemed. It is just over a year since the lynching of Deborah Emmanuel, a Christian, at Shehu Shagari College of Education, again following an unsubstantiated accusation of blasphemy. Nigeria is one of the 71 countries that criminalises blasphemy. It is worth remembering that this year is the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18 of which insists that everyone has the right to believe, not to believe or to change their belief. That is why my amendment seeks to protect people who will be in danger if they are sent back to places like Nigeria because of their belief, non-belief or their desire to change belief.

When the Minister replies, will he say also how the Bill is compatible with Section 4 of the Equality Act 2010? Especially in light of what the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, said a moment ago about amendments affecting people because of their orientation, it is clearly in breach of that and of Article 18, for reasons of faith. That is enough on that subject for now. It is an issue we can return to later in our proceedings, when we come to not just safe countries but how we deal with people with these protected characteristics.

My Lords, I rise to address Amendment 37 in my name. I am extremely grateful to those who have co-signed: the noble Lords, Lord Cashman and Lord Scriven, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. This amendment addresses the countries specified as appropriate for removal in Schedule 1. A number of those countries are shown as not safe for women, but none of the specified countries or territories is shown as unsafe for any other diverse or minority group.

The amendment introduces a new clause after Clause 6, in which Schedule 1 countries in respect of which members of the LGBTQ+ community have a well-founded fear of persecution are specified, and to which they must not be removed. Secondly, provision is made for there to be no removal of anyone, whatever their background or ethnicity, for example, to countries where there is a proposal to commence proceedings under Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union. Finally, subsection (2) of the new clause empowers the Secretary of State by regulation to add to or remove such countries or territories.

In order to sustain this amendment, I need to refer briefly to the reasons why each of the countries mentioned in the amendment as being hostile and unsafe places for LGBTQ+ people are indeed unsafe. I will refer to Home Office country of origin information, Home Office country policy and information notes, known as CPINS, and independent reports. I will deal with this very quickly, and I will start with Brazil. According to Agência Brasil, the dossier on murders of and violence against Brazilian transvestites and transsexuals compiled by ANTRA—the National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals—states that 131 trans and transvestite people were murdered in Brazil in 2022, making it the country with the most deaths of people from this community for the fourteenth consecutive year. Gambia is accepted as unsafe for LGBTQ+ people by the Home Office in its February 2023 CPIN. Ghana is accepted by the Home Office as unsafe for LGBTQ+ people in its May 2022 CPIN. In Jamaica, a number of cases have been decided that establish it as unsafe for people from the LGBTQ+ community, including the major case of Brown v the Home Secretary, a 2015 decision of the Supreme Court. In Kenya, decided cases—in particular, a well-known case concerning Kenneth Macharia, a gay rugby player, which was decided by the tribunal and not appealed—have established that Kenya is unsafe for members of the LGBTQ+ community. There was a more recent decision to the same effect by the Upper Tribunal in February this year.

In Libera, same-sex sexual activity is criminalised under Liberia’s penal code. In October 2020, the Home Office country background note accepted that there was state persecution of LGBTQ+ people in Malawi. The Justice Minister in Mauritius has stated that he will pursue the adoption of legislation to criminalise same-sex conduct. In Nigeria, the criminal code states that anybody found guilty of sodomy shall be liable to up to 5 years of penal servitude. There is a lot to be said about Rwanda; I am going to confine my comments for the moment, but I may need to supplement them later. It is sufficient for the present purposes to say that the current Foreign Office travel advice, as of May this year, is that homosexuality is not illegal in Rwanda but remains frowned upon by many. LGBTQ individuals can experience discrimination and abuse, including from local authorities. There are no specific anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBT individuals. Critically, a United States State Department country report on Rwanda, published in March this year, said that there is abuse and violence against LGBT people, with no adequate response by the Rwandan Government.

There are a number of independent reports by, for example, Rainbow Migration and Human Rights Watch, about the persecution of LGBTQ+ people in Rwanda. I emphasise that trans women are particularly exposed to abuse and persecution in Rwanda. That is well documented. Finally, in Sierra Leone there is criminalisation of any sexual act.

That deals with the first part of the amendment. It would be contrary to the convention, it would be wholly unjust and a travesty in every moral sense to remove members of the LGBTQ+ community to any of those countries I have mentioned.

The next part of the amendment concerns countries in relation to which there is a proposal to commence proceedings under Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union. Article 7 applies where there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a member state of the values referred to in Article 2, which provides that the union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. Currently there are proposals for proceedings in relation to both Hungary and Poland. For that reason, those two countries are inappropriate places to be described as safe.

The omission of any reference to countries which are facing proceedings under Article 7 is quite remarkable, bearing in mind that Clause 5(5) provides that exceptional circumstances which prevent removal to a country listed in Section 80AA(1) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, which deals with the inadmissibility of certain asylum and human rights claims—so-called safe states—include where P is a national of a state which is the subject of proceedings under Article 7(1) of the TEU. Moreover, in the debate on the Nationality and Borders Bill on 3 February 2022, the then Home Office Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, accepted that due to Article 7 TEU proceedings, both Hungary and Poland would not come within the inadmissibility criteria for EU asylum claims.

For all those reasons, I hope that the House will support the amendment.

My Lords, I apologise for interrupting my noble friend. The machines to record the votes have basically stopped working. I have spoken to the usual channels, who have agreed that we will defer all Divisions—but not the debates—until Monday.

My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 37. I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, for a very clear exposition.

Broadly speaking, I support the amendment, although I shall not be voting for it for the reasons I will now give. I concur also with the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, about Christian and Muslim persecution in Nigeria, which remains a constituent country in Schedule 1.

The amendment is doing a lot of heavy lifting. Notwithstanding my support, I have some significant questions as to whether it should appear in primary rather than secondary legislation, because it is very detailed and because there are other groups that are suffering persecution which could also be included. That does not take away the very real concerns articulated by many noble Lords about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who may face persecution when returned to some of these countries.

I have a very significant issue. I genuinely hope that when those who tabled the amendment respond to the Minister they will disabuse me of any misapprehension about it, particularly with regard to subsection (1)(c). It seems to me that it is constitutionally unprecedented to put in primary legislation an amendment which is largely dependent on the time-limited, opaque legal process of a foreign legal entity—in this case, Section 7 of the Treaty on European Union. We are relying on the procedures of the European Union and how it handles ongoing and potentially continuous infraction procedures under that part of the treaty as a determinant of whether we include it in the Bill. That is completely unprecedented.

I can understand the points that noble Lords have made about Poland and Hungary, but those legal processes have not yet run their course and are still ongoing. That is a matter for the European Union rather than the United Kingdom.

How wide and prescriptive would this amendment be? Would infraction procedures begin against Latvia, Bulgaria, Malta and Romania? This can be incorporated over a period in secondary legislation in a statutory instrument, rather than on the face of the Bill. I say very gently to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, that he was not as clear and emphatic in his explanation and rationale for that part of his amendment as he was in the earlier part, that it is of course axiomatic that a number of people, because of their sexuality or gender preferences, would face persecution.

For that reason, I feel uncomfortable about supporting the amendment and will support the Government if they oppose it. I would be extremely grateful if those who tabled the amendment would address the issues that I have.

My Lords, we cannot countenance a situation in which people who sought asylum here because of a well-founded fear of persecution in their country of origin are then removed to a third country where they may face a similar, or even greater, level of risk. For that reason, I join others in supporting Amendment 37.

It was my privilege earlier this year to be invited to attend a reception on the Parliamentary Estate, where I met a group of LGBTQI+ women who had sought and gained asylum in this country. Their stories were harrowing. By contrast, their efforts to rebuild their lives here in Britain were inspirational.

It seems to me beyond any doubt that the threshold of safety must be different and, indeed, higher for people like these women—people who are persecuted on the basis of their sexuality or their gender identity. Putting it bluntly, if His Majesty’s Government’s travel advice to British tourists is that they should not be open about their sexuality when visiting certain countries, two things surely follow. First, those same countries are not places to which we should remove LGBTQI+ people; secondly, the Bill must provide explicit protection to that end. The noble and learned Lord’s amendment achieves that aim, and unless the Minister can offer equally concrete protections, I hope that your Lordships’ House will support it at such time as the voting machines are resurrected from the dead.

My Lords, I speak in support of the amendments in this group, particularly the amendment to which I have added my name and which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, so eloquently expounded, as did the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. We have of course addressed, and will continue to address, vulnerable people in all the categories affected by the Bill. We have done so consistently—for example, for pregnant women and vulnerable children, as we have done today, and for others. When it comes to protecting the vulnerable, that is arguably how a country is judged, so we make no omission when dealing with Schedule 1.

As was said earlier—I will be brief—there are 63 countries that currently criminalise people merely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In a country such as Uganda, for example, for you to know that somebody is in a SOGI minority, as the UN refers to it, and not to report it to the authorities is to face two years in prison. If in Uganda you rent a home to a homosexual person, you can face up to 20 years in prison. Some 63 countries criminalise; now seven have the death penalty. The reality of state discrimination, as has been said, is death, mutilation, persecution, blackmail and coercive rape. I remember David Kato, the Ugandan activist murdered some nine or 10 years ago; his murderer has still not been brought to justice. Lives are being denied, blighted and criminalised.

We raise this issue because within Schedule 1 the majority of those countries that criminalise and offer the death penalty are on the list and there are currently no protections. We have sought reassurances throughout—at Second Reading, in Committee and now—but reassurances there have come none.

Let me finish with the words of a young Ugandan, Arthur Kayima, who said this, yesterday, here in Parliament:

“Without a Mother I grew up as a very vulnerable child and as if that was not enough, as a child, signs of not being straight were just too visible”.

Growing up in a country like Uganda, he said, being considered gay is to be considered evil—

“a curse, an abomination and a dangerously unforgiven sin”.

He continued that the President of Uganda, Museveni,

“signed into law the world’s harshest anti-LGBT+ law, which allows the death penalty for homosexual acts, long serving in prison for promoting homosexuality or renting a room to a gay couple (20 years in prison)”.

Without any reassurances, Uganda is on the list in Schedule 1.

That is the reality of being in a country with homophobic laws: those words, spoken by a man seeking asylum in the United Kingdom. No LGBT person should be sent to such a country, and that is one of the many reasons why I support Amendment 37, in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton.

My Lords, I will briefly remind the House why this set of amendments is extremely important. I particularly support Amendment 37.

The thing to remember—I remind us all—is that the Bill automatically detains everybody who arrives irregularly. All those who arrive irregularly and are detained will then, at some point, as far as the Government are concerned—although this is unclear—be deported. There will be thousands upon thousands of people detained and then deported.

The amendments are extremely important, therefore, because if we are saying that thousands upon thousands of people are to be automatically detained and then deported, is there not a responsibility to ensure that the places where those people are to be deported to are safe? This puts an increased burden upon us to ensure that that is the case. As it stands, the Government will reply by saying that Clause 5(5) refers to “exceptional circumstances”, and that therefore there is no need for the worries and concerns expressed by a number of noble Lords, including the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, because if anybody faced deportation to a country which was not safe, the exceptional circumstances would protect them.

I think what noble Lords are saying is that that is not good enough. It is not sufficient and it does not give the protections that we would all expect. Look, as an example, at what Amendment 37 rightly seeks to do. Without it, there is no guarantee in the Bill that somebody who arrives here irregularly, is detained and then deported, will not be deported to a country where their rights as a gay person would not be respected. In fact, it is worse than that. As we heard from my noble friend Lord Cashman, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, and others, not only would they not be safe but it is clear, according to many studies, that they would be persecuted for their sexuality. To be generous about it, that cannot be what the Government want. I do not believe that the Government would want that, and yet under the Bill that is precisely what could happen.

Amendment 37 is particularly important, because although there are exceptional circumstances, it would be left to the discretion of the Home Secretary at the time, and therefore this provision needs to be put into the Bill. I would say that we have a moral obligation to ensure that, if we are going to deport thousands of people—if our Government are going to pass legislation which allows not thousands but tens of thousands to be deported—it is even more incumbent upon us to ensure that the countries to which they would seek to return those people are safe.

My Lords, these amendments go to the issue of whether it is safe to remove a person to a country listed in Schedule 1. It remains the Government’s view that these amendments are not necessary. I will briefly set out why that is the case.

It is not the case that anyone who meets the conditions in Clause 2 can be sent to any of the countries listed in Schedule 1 without further ado. In the case of a national of a non-Section 80AA country, were they to make a protection claim or human rights claim they could not be returned to their home country. In speaking to his amendment the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, itemised a number of the countries with which he has particular concern. For the sake of brevity, I will answer by reference to a single example, but that example covers the list: a Gambian LGBT person fearing persecution if they were returned to Gambia would not be so returned if they make an asylum claim.

The point was taken up by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester. The noble Lord, Lord Cashman, spoke with power and made specific reference to an individual example, and the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, returned to the point when summing up. However, I reiterate that an LGBT person fearing persecution if they were returned to their own country would not be so returned if they make an asylum claim.

In the case of a national of a Section 80AA country, the fact that they have raised a protection or human rights claim against their country of nationality would not be a bar to their removal to their home country, unless the Secretary of State considers that there are exceptional circumstances why they cannot be removed there. The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, in summing up from the Opposition Benches, drew our attention to the concern that that might lay open this serious matter to the idiosyncrasies of a particular Home Secretary, but I urge your Lordships to consider that the countries with which we are dealing here are EU and EEA countries, plus Switzerland and Albania, all of which, we maintain, are clearly safe. That said, if it was considered that there were exceptional circumstances, they would not be removed there and would instead be removed—

I have listened intently to the argument that was presented, particularly by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, and I just make a very simple proposition. Would it not be much safer to adopt Amendment 37, rather than leaving it to individuals as to whether they make an asylum claim and in what circumstances? That is why I ask the Minister to think again about this.

My Lords, the Government Front Bench will reflect, as your Lordships would expect, on submissions made on the Floor of the House at this stage. With respect to the noble Lord, I will defer my consideration of that point until later in my submission and will take matters in a different order. I will return to that point.

My Lords, I accept the principle of non-refoulement to a country—a Ugandan going back to Uganda—but there is the wider issue of a gay Ugandan being sent to a country such as Gambia or Kenya. I seek reassurances on that.

I hope to be able to provide that reassurance. Again, with reference to the important point that the noble Lord takes up, which is fully appreciated by the Government Front Bench, I will refer to that in the course of my submission to your Lordships.

I repeat: if it was considered that there were exceptional circumstances, a person would not be removed to his home country. Coming as quickly as I may to the point just raised in an intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, the country to which they return would be a country considered to be a safe one. A person would not be removed to their home country but at the same time would not be removed to a country where they would be exposed to the same level of risk as they would by dint of their sexual orientation.

If we were to seek to remove a third country’s national to any of the countries listed under Schedule 1 and that country were prepared to admit them, those persons would have the opportunity to make a serious harm suspensive claim. Clause 38 makes it clear that persecution and onward refoulement are examples of harm that constitute serious and irreversible harm for the purposes of such a suspensive claim. Such an individual would not be removed to that country if their claim was accepted by the Home Office or upheld by the Upper Tribunal on appeal. So I submit respectfully to the House that the Bill already provides for individual assessments—the very individuality for which the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, called in his powerful submission on these important matters. The Bill already provides for that degree of consideration of individual facts and circumstances for which the noble Lord, among others, has called. As such, I consider that Amendment 20, advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, is unnecessary.

The Minister might be able to help me. Where does the Bill outline the process for that individual review of the individual circumstances?

My Lords, in the making of the serious harm suspensive claim, those individual circumstances would be outlined.

My Lords, the claim can be made only after the notice is provided, but the Minister just told us that there would be an individual process before the notice was provided. Is that correct?

My Lords, I do not think I did. The point I am making is that the serious harm suspensive claim in connection with Clause 38 makes it clear that persecution and onward refoulement are examples of harm that constitute serious and irreversible harm for the purposes of such a suspensive claim. Hence there is consideration of individual facts and circumstances.

On Amendments 19, 21, 24 to 28 and 37, I make an observation, namely that much in Clauses 5 and 6 and Schedule 1 draws on existing immigration law dating back some 20 years. To that extent, the provisions contained therein are not new; they provide necessary clarity as to the country to which a person may be removed.

As regards the consideration of the status of countries as places to which persons can be removed safely and which are on the safe list, that list has been added to over the years. It is instructive that some of the countries added to the safe list in terms of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 were added during the period when the party opposite was in power: in 2003 Albania and Brazil; in 2005 India, Ghana for men and Nigeria for men; in 2007 Gambia for men, Kenya for men, Malawi for men, Mali for men, Mauritius, Montenegro and Sierra Leone for men—I merely exemplify. I reiterate that these are not novel provisions. They provide the necessary clarity as to the country to which a person may be removed.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, raised a matter concerning the nature of the—

I am grateful to the noble Lord for his assistance. I refer him to the equality impact assessment we have published, which in short order answers his question. Again, I am grateful to him for helping me out in my difficulty there.

After today’s debate, before we reach group 17 and my Amendment 163, which is on safe routes but which also incorporates this idea of using protected characteristics as contained in the Equality Act 2010, perhaps the Minister can give some further consideration as to whether that might be a useful criterion to use as and when the Government decide on the formula that we use for safe routes.

My Lords, in the face of that characteristically thoughtful and constructive suggestion, I am happy to assure the noble Lord that we will consider that between now and the point he refers to in relation to his forthcoming amendment.

On Amendment 37, tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, I know that he has had the opportunity to discuss this amendment with the Attorney-General, my learned friend in the other place. Following that discussion, I will make one further point that I hope will reassure the noble and learned Lord. If the open expression of a person’s sexual orientation would prevent them living in a specified third country without being at real risk of serious and irreversible harm, they would meet the threshold for a serious harm suspensive claim as outlined in Clause 39, and the principles enunciated by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in the case of HJ (Iran) would be upheld.

I am grateful for what the Minister just said in relation to the ability of an openly gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual person to live in a particular country. If, acting in that open way, they had a well-founded fear of persecution, as I understand it the Minister is saying that that would satisfy serious and irreversible harm. That is not apparent in the Bill, and to make that clear would itself require an amendment to Clause 38, which we will come to in due course.

But I am left, I am sorry to say, somewhat perplexed by the Minister’s analysis of the application of Article 7 proceedings against a particular country. In asking this question of the Minister, I can deal with the point from the noble Lord, Lord Jackson. There are two different situations under the Bill under which the issue of removal arises. The first, which is found at Clause 5(4), is where the person

“is a national of a country listed in section 80AA(1) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002.”

That renders inadmissible certain asylum and human rights claims because they are deemed to be safe states.

My first question is: does the Minister not agree that that is quite different from the case that the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, raised, where a person is not from a country listed in Section 80AA(1) but from another country? There is a separate provision for that in relation to removal to a Schedule 1 country. Does the Minster not agree that, although Clause 5(5) deals with the Section 80AA point, there is no equivalent to that exception in relation to a situation where somebody comes from a non-EU country that is a non-safe place and the consideration is now to move that person to a Schedule 1 country? What my amendment is dealing with is not the Section 80AA situation but the situation categorised by the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, where a person from a non-safe European state comes here and is threatened to be removed to a Schedule 1 country. All I said—and I am asking the Minister to acknowledge this—is that there should be a similar provision for that situation, for the exclusion of those countries that are facing proceedings under Article 7. That is it.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, of course, for his intervention. It seems to me that the point he raises is one that calls for a degree of interpretative scrutiny that I do not think I am in a position to give at this stage from the Dispatch Box. I wonder if he would be content were I to undertake to write to him on the point that he raises.

I am grateful for the Minister writing, but at the moment it seems to me that the Minister has not really addressed my point about the need for such a provision and the exclusion of such countries. On that basis, I would be minded to press the amendment.

My Lords, I suspect that nothing I could say from the Dispatch Box will alter the fixed purpose of the noble and learned Lord in any event, but I do repeat my undertaking to write to him on the topic.

I was about to address the matter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, in relation to secret agreements. The Government must retain, I submit, the ultimate discretion over the amount and detail of any information shared with Parliament, but the Government remain committed to principles of transparency and positive engagement. This is considered on a case-by-case basis, finding a balance proportionate to the level of public interest.

If that is the case, by definition, these agreements will not be treaties, and these agreements will not have gone through the CRaG process, and therefore they will not be binding.

My Lords, I repeat the point. The Government retain discretion to enter into agreements and discretion in relation to the level of detail to be shared.

I am so sorry to interrupt the Minister again, but could I ask a straightforward question? What is the view of the Government about countries they are referring to that have not joined, or have not signed up to, the refugee convention?

The straightforward answer to the noble and learned Baroness’s question is that we are content to treat with countries that have not signed up to the refugee convention.

On Amendments 29 to 36, the Secretary of State may add a country to Schedule 1 by regulations only if satisfied that there is in general in that country or part of it no serious risk of persecution and will not in general contravene the United Kingdom’s obligations under the human rights convention. In so doing, the Secretary of State must have regard to information from any appropriate source, including member states and international organisations. The views expressed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on a particular country, among other sources of information, will therefore be considered before a country is added to Schedule 1.

In response to the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, our contention is that, when considering adding a country to the list in Schedule 1, we need to consider the position in the round. We do not live in a perfect world, so it is reasonable to assess a country on the basis that they are generally safe and to consider the possibility of adding to the list only a part of a country.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, raised the matter of Rwanda. In relation to protections for LGBTQ+ persons in that country, the constitution of Rwanda includes a broad prohibition on discrimination. Rwanda does not criminalise or discriminate against sexual orientation in law, policy or practice.

My Lords, where does the Minister get the evidence to say that, in practice, as opposed to what is written in the constitution, there is no persecution? There are numerous independent reports and newspaper reports, as well as the Foreign Office’s own advice, to indicate that there is a real risk of persecution in Rwanda, especially for trans women.

As the noble and learned Lord will be aware, the Rwanda litigation found it to be the case that Rwanda was safe. Beyond that, in relation to the sources of information, the Government operate on the basis of information gathered by their officials, discussed with Ministers and considered in relation to legislation to be put forward.

On that point, can the Minister tell the House whether we should take any notice of guidance from the Foreign Office on whether countries are safe to visit?

The guidance furnished by the Foreign Office to British citizens for travelling is a separate matter from the guidance upon which the Government are relying in the present case. I can see that that clearly has not impressed the noble Baroness, but none the less it is the position.

Why would the Minister tell me, and others who identify as LGBT, that it is not safe to go to a country because we would be in fear of our safety, yet deport to that country an LGBT national from another country having decided that they would be safe and not in fear of persecution? What is the difference?

Can the Minister give clarification? The context is that one is a British citizen and the others are not British citizens, and therefore their standards are different. That must be the interpretation: that the Government have a benchmark for British citizens but a completely different benchmark for those who are not British citizens. Can the Minister please explain this much lower benchmark?

In setting the benchmark for countries that are safe for persons to be sent to, the Government are looking at it from the point of view of the objectives of the Bill. We are not looking at it from the point of view of British citizens travelling abroad.

The Bill already includes adequate safeguards to protect those in fear of persecution based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or other protected characteristics, or those who are fearful of onward refoulement. I say again that these amendments are unnecessary, and therefore invite the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, to withdraw Amendment 19. Although we will not be voting tonight, for reasons explained, I urge the noble and learned Lord and other noble Lords—

Can the Minister give clarification on the point I raised that he has not replied to—the interaction not with Section 80AA of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, which will be amended by this Bill, but with the definitions of a safe third state under Section 80B of that Act? How will they interact? The asylum claims by persons with a connection to a safe state has the definition, as I referred to, of a safe third state under the 2002 Act. That is not being amended by this Bill. The definition of a safe third state in the 2002 Act, which will still be on the statute book, unamended by this Bill, states that the safety is defined if they will receive protection in accordance with the refugee convention. How will they interact? We have the 2002 Act still on the statute book, where a state that is not a signatory to the refugee convention is defined as a non-safe state, but, as the Minister has told us, under this Bill the same is not being applied.

My Lords, as I stated at the outset, the position is that the provisions for the ability of people to bring applications for serious harm suspensive claims allow for scrutiny of the safety of any location to which a person would be sent.

I was on the point of saying that, although we will not be voting this evening, I none the less urge the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, and other noble Lords not to press their amendments.

My Lords, I thank everyone who has spoken on this group. In relation to Amendment 19, it is not proposed to test the opinion of the House.

Amendment 19 withdrawn.

Amendments 20 and 21 not moved.

Amendments 22 and 23

Moved by

22: Clause 5, page 8, line 31, leave out from first “claim” to end of line 34 and insert “are only to claims made on or after the date on which this section comes into force.”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment ensures that the removal provisions in Clause 5 only apply to those who make protection or human rights claims after the Bill comes into force.

23: Clause 5, page 9, leave out lines 2 to 4 and insert “the date on which this section comes into force.”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment ensures that Clause 5 only applies to protection or human rights claims made on or after the date the Bill comes into force.

Amendments 22 and 23 agreed.

Schedule 1: Countries or territories to which a person may be removed

Amendments 24 to 28 not moved.

Clause 6: Powers to amend Schedule 1

Amendments 29 to 36 not moved.

Amendment 37

Moved by

37: After Clause 6, insert the following new Clause—

“Restrictions on removal destinations: LGBT persons(1) Where the Secretary of State is required by section 2(1) to make arrangements for the removal of a person from the United Kingdom—(a) trans men and women must not be removed to Brazil;(b) LGBT persons must not be removed to Gambia, Ghana, Jamaica, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Nigeria, Rwanda or Sierra Leone;(c) no person may be removed to a territory or country listed in Schedule 1 (Countries or territories to which a person may be removed) if the exceptional circumstances specified in section 5(5)(b) apply to that territory or country.(2) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend subsection (1) to—(a) add or remove a country or territory, or part of a country or territory;(b) reflect changes made to Schedule 1 by regulations made under section 6.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment would prevent LGBT people being moved to countries where they have a well-founded fear of persecution; or to a country which is subject to proceedings under Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union, as is currently the case with Hungary and Poland, and as is recognised as inappropriate by the existing Clause 5(5).

I thank all noble Lords who have spoken and the Minister for what he said. I am afraid that I am not persuaded that the Minister has fully grasped the difference between the two types of people I have mentioned—those who come from a safe place and those who do not come from one of these Section 80AA places and who could be removed to somewhere within Schedule 1. He has not explained why it is acceptable for women—one group—to be identified and excluded in relation to countries in Schedule 1 but for not another diverse group which faces persecution. So far as the evidence is concerned, I think he challenged only Rwanda on that. I have already explained that in the light of all the independent evidence I do not accept that Rwanda is not a hostile place for LGBTQ+ people, particularly for those who are trans. On the basis of that, I shall seek to test the opinion of the House.

Consideration on Report adjourned until not before 9.28 pm.