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Illegal Migration Bill

Volume 831: debated on Thursday 29 June 2023

My Lords, I wish to raise how unhappy noble Lords are on these Benches and, I believe, other Benches, including some on the Government Benches. At the end of the first day on Report of the Illegal Migration Bill, after the Minister was repeatedly pressed on when the House will be given the child rights impact assessment, he said that the official position of the Government is that it

“will be provided in due course”.—[Official Report, 28/6/23; col. 791.]

That is totally unacceptable and not how the Government or any Minister of the Government should treat this House.

The assessment is an important document which your Lordships need to see to assist them in their scrutiny of the legislation. It is not right that my noble friends Baroness Lister, Lord Dubs and Lord Coaker, and noble Lords on other Benches, who have been asking for impact assessments throughout our debates on the Bill were given such a response. We must have the impact assessment next week before we conclude Report. No Member of this House should accept this totally unacceptable position from the Government.

As Opposition Chief Whip, I always try to be fair and reasonable. The Opposition, and indeed all Members, have an important role to play in scrutinising and revising legislation. The Government also have the right to get their business through; I fully accept that. But for these two essential aspects to be delivered properly there has to be co-operation, engagement and respect.

Let us be clear: this is a controversial Bill. It has gone through its First Reading, Second Reading, Committee and the first day of Report, yet we are still asking for the child rights impact assessment, and the best we can get is, “You’ll get it in due course”. That is plain wrong. I always thought that “in due course” meant getting something at the appropriate time, but the appropriate time was weeks ago.

I shadowed the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, when she was Local Government Minister and when she was Home Office Minister. She has steered many controversial pieces of legislation through this House with courtesy and respect, and always with proper engagement with the House. I have huge respect for the noble Baroness; I regard her as a friend. We work well together in our respective roles in this House—always in good spirits and in a friendly and co-operative manner. As she probably knows the Home Office better than anybody else in this House, I ask her to assist the House, get us the document we need and bring it to the House next week.

I thank the noble Lord for his kind words, which I reciprocate. I hear him, and my noble friend the Minister, Lord Murray of Blidworth, certainly heard the House last night. In the hours since the debate, he has been back to the Home Office to seek what the House requested. I can confirm that the child rights impact assessment will be forthcoming early next week and well before Report concludes, as the noble Lord requested.

My Lords, where does this morning’s decision of the Appeal Court that people cannot lawfully be transferred to Rwanda leave this legislation?

My Lords, I remain concerned about the child impact assessment. The Chief Whip said that it will come before the end of Report. The next day of Report is Monday, and the last day is Wednesday. If we do not get it until Tuesday evening, for instance, many of us who have spoken on child matters may have a very limited opportunity on the last day of Report to express any view whatever on the impact assessment. I am extremely concerned that we have not had it.

My Lords, can my noble friend clarify that the child rights assessment is cross-government and will include liaison with the Department for Education on the child’s right to a parent? It seems that in this legislation we could be dealing with a group of children in the country who have neither a corporate nor a natural parent. Is that included in the definition of the child rights assessment?

I am afraid to tell my noble friend that I have not looked at the details of the child rights impact assessment. My noble friend the Minister will deal with that, but I am sure that what my noble friend Lady Berridge said will be considered.

My Lords, will the Minister give an undertaking that, if we have discussed all the child issues by the time we get the relevant document from the Home Office, these matters can be brought back at Third Reading, once we have the relevant information?

I have this morning pledged to the House to ensure that the impact assessment is with the House early next week—I hope by Monday.