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Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Volume 836: debated on Monday 19 February 2024

Committee (3rd Day) (Continued)

Clause 5: Interim measures of the European Court of Human Rights

Amendment 57

Moved by

57: Clause 5, page 5, line 13, leave out subsection (2)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would omit the provision that only a Minister of the Crown can decide whether the United Kingdom will comply with interim measures of the European Court of Human Rights.

My Lords, this part of the Committee’s deliberation is on Clause 5, “Interim measures of the European Court of Human Rights”. I will speak to a number of amendments in this group, but it is worth starting by looking at the Government’s ECHR memorandum provided with the Bill. On Clause 5, in paragraph 29 of the memorandum, the Government are very sparse in their view about their determination on interim measures. The memorandum says:

“The Government considers that the provision is capable of being operated compatibly with Convention rights”.

It does not say how the Government consider that to be the case. When the Minister responds to this debate, I am sure many noble Lords in the Committee will look forward to hearing how the Government consider that the provision can be compatible.

It is probably worth putting what we are talking about in context because, listening to some of the debate regarding interim measures, you would think that hundreds and hundreds of these are scattered around denying—as some would say—the UK courts having sovereignty in determining cases. Since 2017, there have been 660 requests against the UK for an interim injunction and only 15 have been granted—that is 2%—by the European Court of Human Rights.

It is interesting to note that, in 2023 regarding the UK, the court received 61 requests for an emergency intervention and only one was granted. We are potentially talking about only small numbers—on average, between five and six interim measures per year. We are not talking about hundreds of interim measures being ruled on and granted by the European Court of Human Rights against the UK. Of course, interim injunctions are only issued by the European Court of Human Rights pending a full judgment where the applicant faces an exceptional and immediate risk of irreparable harm in the meantime.

In Clause 5 of this Bill, it is for the Minister and the Minister alone to decide whether a person could be removed to Rwanda while their case is being decided by the European Court of Human Rights. My first question to the Minister is: in what circumstances would a Minister not wish to comply with an interim measure from the European Court of Human Rights? Are there any cases within the last four years in which the Government would have presumed not to have abided by an interim measure by the European Court of Human Rights?

Case law on the European Court of Human Rights has been clear for 20 years: failure to comply with interim measures is a violation of Article 34 of the convention, under which states undertake not to hinder in any way the effective exercise of the rights of the applicants to bring their claims before the court. Some noble Lords at Second Reading said they disagreed with the court’s view that failing to comply with interim measures was a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

However, Article 32 of the convention, which the UK voluntarily signed up to—it was not forced to do so—says that:

“The jurisdiction of the Court shall extend to all matters concerning the interpretation and application of the Convention”.

In that sense, the final arbitrator of whether a state should invoke and carry out interim measures is down to the European Court of Human Rights and not a Parliament of one of its states. That is the convention to which we signed up.

The UK has always complied with Rule 39 interim measures, bar one, and it has publicly declared the need for other states to do so in the last few years—such as Russia, in allowing some of its dissidents to be freed from jail. It is absolutely fine for us to criticise judicial decisions, but that does not mean that we do not have to follow them. Fundamental to the rule of law, and as a matter of international law, they are binding. Failure to comply with interim measures would therefore amount to a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Amendment 57, in the name of my noble friend Lord German, to which I and the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, have put our names, seeks to do one simple thing: it would omit that only a Minister can decide whether the UK will comply with an interim measure of the European Court of Human Rights. It would mean that our courts could determine whether an interim measure is an appropriate fact that needs to be taken into consideration when determining, in the limited cases that are allowed, that an individual should not be deported to Rwanda.

Amendment 59, also in the name of my noble friend Lord German, and also signed by myself and the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, would remove the requirement that a court or tribunal must not have regard to interim measures when considering applications or appeals relating to decisions to remove a person to Rwanda. The obligation to comply with interim measures is not incorporated into domestic law, but they are binding in the UK as a matter of international law. As I have already previously said, if that is in dispute, Article 32 says that it is for the European Court of Human Rights to determine the jurisdiction and implication of an interim measure. Therefore, not to decide to comply would breach international law.

Prior to the discussion on Rwanda and the removal of individuals to that country, it was not a decision to be made by the Government—the Government just complied with interim injunctions. It is worth noting that it is so unusual for this to happen that the Civil Service Code was amended last month. Previously, it said that the Civil Service must comply with interim injunctions; that has now changed to say that, if a Minister makes a decision that it should not then it will not. As I have said, it is unclear whether a Minister would choose not to comply with an interim measure. I have already asked the Minister to give an example of where that would happen.

This clause demonstrates a cavalier attitude to international law which is reckless and dangerous. This is not about a foreign court, as the Prime Minister suggests, interfering in UK law; it ensures that states respect the rights and guarantees set out in the convention, which the UK played an instrumental role in drafting and freely entered into. If we continue with what is in Clause 5, I believe that the UK will undermine its ability to champion the rule of law and human rights abroad. I beg to move.

My Lords, I have Amendments 58, 60 and 61 in this group, and I share them with the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Hale of Richmond, and the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. I shall also say a few words about Amendment 63, which I have not signed but which is proposed by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, who is sadly unable to be here today, and I said I would say something about his amendment, because I think it is very valuable to the Committee’s consideration.

Amendments 58, 60 and 61 would require the Government to comply with international law in responding to an interim measure of the Court of Human Rights. They would require domestic courts to take such interim measures into account and would disapply offending provisions in Section 55 of the Illegal Migration Act for those specific purposes.

It is difficult to contemplate why the Government want to take specific powers to disapply Rule 39 measures, given, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, and others on different days, how few interim measures have been made in the history of the convention against the United Kingdom—something to be proud of—how we have pretty much always complied with them, and how we try to take a position on the world stage to encourage others in the Council of Europe, and powers outside the Council of Europe, to comply with other international courts. I need not develop that too much further; I am sure everyone knows what I am alluding to. I find it difficult to understand.

If certain noble Lords opposite are going to pop up and say there is nothing in international law that says that you have to comply with Rule 39, one answer came from the noble Lord, Lord Scriven: it is ultimately for the court to decide whether Rule 39 is binding in international law or not. When you sign up to the club that is the Council of Europe, do you sign up to the referees of that club, yes or no?

The other thing is this. If it is not a matter of international law that we comply with Rule 39 and we just do it because we are gentlemen—and ladies and noble Lords—then why would we take specific domestic statutory powers to say we can ignore it? It seems very odd and troubling to me—but I would say that, would I not?

Even though I did not sign it, because I take a rather trenchant position on the importance of complying with Rule 39, I think it is important to expose Amendment 63 from the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. He was prepared to go a little towards the government position and to say that there might be certain circumstances where a Minister of the Crown may ignore an interim ruling of the court. Remember, the court in Strasbourg makes these only rarely, and only where it thinks there is a real danger that something so bad will happen to the person between the case being brought and a final outcome that the case will be virtually academic, to use a phrase coined earlier by the noble and learned Lord. Here, “academic” means that you will be dead before the final outcome of the case, or you will be sent for torture. That is the territory we are talking about when we talk about interim measures.

The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, is prepared to go further towards his noble friends’ position than I am. In honouring comments from the Government on previous occasions, he tabled Amendment 63, which says that Ministers may sometimes ignore interim measures but only when the Government were not allowed a proper opportunity to argue against the making of the interim measure.

This goes back to a debate that arose during the passage of what is now the Illegal Migration Act, and that now rages on in certain parts of the media and on Twitter: that the wicked old Strasbourg court is constantly granting these interim measures to frustrate our immigration controls and is doing so behind our backs—so-called pyjama injunctions. I have heard all sorts of people who do not often talk about legal process pick up this soundbite of “pyjama injunctions”. The Strasbourg court is granting these ex parte injunctions to applicants without due process—that is the argument that is being made.

The noble Viscount says, “Of course we must have due process, and therefore the Minister can ignore these measures if he thinks we’ve not been allowed due process”. Since the passing of the Illegal Migration Act, which is when this argument was first ventilated, there have been productive discussions between the Government—they are indivisible, but I am talking about that nice bit we call the Foreign Office—and the Strasbourg court, because I believe everybody agrees that there should be due process. Sometimes, you need to make an urgent interim measure to stop someone being put on a plane potentially to ill treatment or death. But, even in that emergency situation, any state or Government should have the opportunity to say, “Actually, you got that wrong, so can we return to that?”

The noble Baroness said that the Strasbourg court would make such an order only in dire straits, when there was a matter of real emergency and death was the almost inevitable result. Can she help the Committee with the reasons the Strasbourg court gave last year, when it issued the rule 39 order?

No, I will not set that out, given the hour. I am talking about the general principle here, and I will not rehearse the specific details of that interim measure. I want to focus on the fact that everybody agrees that due process requires that any state, including the UK, ought to be able to put its case, and, if it cannot do so in an emergency, it should be able to thereafter. My understanding of the Government’s position during the passage of the Illegal Migration Act was that the UK Government were in negotiations with the Strasbourg system to make sure that due process was restored. Even if an emergency interim measure needs to be made, there will be the opportunity to put the other case thereafter—that is the position we are used to in the domestic courts. That seems sensible to me.

I had an amendment to the Illegal Migration Bill, akin to the amendments I have today, and I withdrew it and did not press it at subsequent opportunities because I thought that the UK Government were entitled to have those negotiations with the Strasbourg court. Everything I read suggests to me that these negotiations have been fruitful, presumably because of the endeavours of people like the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, who spoke so powerfully about rights, freedoms and the rule of law a few moments ago.

In his reply, can the Minister tell us where we are with those discussions with the Strasbourg court? It seems to me that it would be common sense and better for everybody—not just the UK Government but other states, as well as the Strasbourg system itself, which is so important in the current dangerous times—if that mechanism worked well, so that, even if there occasionally need to be emergency interim measures, it would be clearly open to any state that felt that it had not had the opportunity to put its case to do so subsequently. An interim measure, if not needed, could be set aside. That is my first question to the Minister.

My second question is this: how can we pursue measures of this kind, taking a specific express power for Ministers of State to ignore interim measures of the Strasbourg court, when there are currently interim measures against, for example, the Russian Federation to prevent the execution of prisoners of war in the Ukraine conflict? I am becoming a little tired of hearing the Government speak with two voices: the Foreign Office voice and the Home Office voice. The poor Minister is of course a law officer and has to sit across all of this, but it is not consistent to talk about international law and how everyone must obey it, including the Russian Federation, which, while it is expelled from the Council of Europe, we say is still bound by interim measures of the Strasbourg court.

That is important because, one day, there will be a reckoning for Mr Putin and his cronies, and it may be in the ICC. It will then be relevant that there were interim measures of the Strasbourg court, and particularly relevant if they ignored them. How does that stand with what the Government propose in this Bill?

I strongly agree with the point that the noble Baroness has made. My name is to Amendments 57 and 59. It is rather appropriate that we come to these amendments immediately after the House has considered the murder of Navalny.

There is a precedent for what we are asked to do in Clauses 5(2) and 5(3)—a Russian precedent. In 2016, the Russian Parliament passed a decree enabling the Russian Constitutional Court to ignore rulings from the European Court of Human Rights. It is not a very exact precedent; the Russian Parliament was passing permissive legislation, which permitted the Constitutional Court in Moscow to ignore rulings from Strasbourg.

What we are doing is not permissive but proscriptive and prohibitive. We are being asked to ban all our courts from having regard to or paying any attention to any interim measure from Strasbourg if it relates to a decision on transportation to Rwanda. We are being asked to pass a law which bans any official from paying any attention to a Strasbourg ruling in a relevant case; only a Minister is allowed to decide whether we comply or not. There is no role for Parliament or the courts, and the role of the Executive is strictly at ministerial level. That is extraordinary.

Russia is no longer in the Council of Europe. It lost some of its rights with the second Chechen war and more with the seizure of Crimea, and after the invasion of Ukraine it lost them all. However, we seem to think that we can stay even though the law we are being asked to pass is much more draconian, trenchant, in the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and hostile to the convention than the Kremlin’s. It is a very strange fact that at this moment—

My Lords, I am listening carefully to the noble Lord. In all sincerity, what is the difference between a foreign, unaccountable and anonymous single judge in a court over which the British people have no control, accountability or democratic sanction, and some of the more unappetising and less benign regimes and legal procedures to which he refers?

The noble Lord is well aware that the Strasbourg court has decided to pass various reforms and the anonymity of the judge is a thing of the past. I am not an expert on the Strasbourg court. However, I am a believer that if we maintain that we believe in the rule of law, we cannot pick and choose which bits of international law we comply with. That is a point I put forward at Second Reading and one I feel very strongly about. I do not see how we can, in good conscience, pass Clauses 5(2) and 5(3), which is why I added my name to Amendments 57 and 59 as moved by the noble Lord, Lord Scriven.

My Lords, the words that I am about to utter are largely not mine. They are the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hoffmann, who I am delighted to see in his place, in the preface he wrote to a paper on Rule 39 written by Professor Richard Ekins, professor of law and constitutional government at Oxford, and published by Policy Exchange last year.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hoffmann said:

“A ruling of a court such as the European Court of Justice”—

though I think he probably meant, if noble Lords will forgive me, the European Court of Human Rights as his words certainly apply to it—

“is binding upon the parties only if the court had jurisdiction to make it. If it did, a party must comply and cannot complain that it was wrong. If the court did not have jurisdiction, the parties can ignore it.

The European Convention on Human Rights confers upon the Strasbourg Court jurisdiction in all matters ‘concerning the interpretation and application of the Convention’: article 32. It exercises this jurisdiction by the judgments of its Chambers, which, after submissions and argument by the parties, become final in accordance with articles 42 and 44. In this paper, Professor Ekins demonstrates that the Convention does not confer upon the Court, still less upon one of its judges, a power to make orders binding upon a Member State which require it to do or refrain from doing something on the ground that it might at a later stage be held to have been an infringement of the Convention. Not only is there nothing in the language of the Convention which expressly confers such a power but the usual aids to the construction of a treaty – the travaux preparatoires, the subsequent practice of the court – reflect a clear understanding that no such power exists.

What has happened is that one of the rules which the Court has itself made to regulate its own procedures has included a power to ‘bring to the attention of the Parties any interim measure the adoption of which seems desirable’ to avoid a violation of the Convention. The existence of a power to fire such a shot across the bows is practical and sensible. It does not involve the assertion of any jurisdiction to impose a legal obligation. But what has happened in the court’s recent jurisprudence is that this advisory power has been assumed to be a power to grant legally binding interlocutory relief. As Professor Ekins demonstrates, a court cannot in this way enlarge its jurisdiction by its own bootstraps. And if the Court had no jurisdiction to make such an order, Member States are free to ignore it”.

The noble Lord, Lord Scriven, referred to Article 32, which gives the court the power to interpret and apply the convention. It does not, however, give the court the power to add something to the convention which simply is not there. As Professor Ekins said in the concluding words of his paper:

“In rejecting the Strasbourg Court’s actions in excess of jurisdiction, the UK … would not be failing to honour its international legal obligations; it would be inviting the Court to honour its own legal obligations”.

My Lords, I would like to follow those who have supported some of this group of amendments. I do not want to follow on to the territory of the European Court of Human Rights. A number of previous speakers, though not the most recent one, have expressed my views perfectly well.

I take issue, briefly, with the lamentable use of the phrase “foreign court” by the Prime Minister, which I regard as an extraordinary breach of British diplomatic history and practice. When he winds up, I would like the Minister to answer the following questions. We accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. We have no member of that court at the moment, lamentably, due to diplomatic ineptitude. Is that a foreign court? We accept the International Court’s compulsory jurisdiction, do we not? We are delighted when the International Criminal Court indicts Mr Putin for abducting Ukrainian children. Do we accept it? Is it a foreign court? We are pretty pleased when the Tribunal for the Law of the Sea rules that the Chinese are ultra vires in seizing large chunks of the South China Sea. Is that a foreign court? I could go on. We have been trying to sustain the dispute settlement procedure of the World Trade Organization against the worst efforts of our closest ally, the United States. Is that a foreign court? We accept its jurisdiction. Could we please stop talking about “foreign courts”, and realise that it is in the interests of this country to stick with the obligations it has undertaken to obey such tribunals?

My Lords, I want to speak very briefly to group 5 amendments. Specifically, I go back to the answer that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, gave to me earlier. Yes indeed, the plenary court—

It might just be helpful if the noble Lord would apologise to my noble friend, to say that he was not in the Chamber at the commencement of this group.

It was very observant of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, but I was in here. I left to get my notes that I needed, but I am touched by his interest.

On the issue from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, the plenary session on 13 November did indeed undertake to de-anonymise the individual single judges involved in adjudication, but that has not yet happened, and there is no timetable for that. So I suppose each of us is half right.

The important thing to state, again, is that the wider context, as touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, is that the public are exceedingly concerned about the issue of illegal migration. It cannot be brushed aside when we talk about arcane legal and legislative points. People are angry and they want answers. As a Parliament, we have to find a way to face up to those very difficult issues. The point I made a week or so ago is that if there is a change of government, the Labour Party is most likely going to have to face those challenges as well. Instead of just criticising the Government, it will have to come forward with some really significant proposals to address those issues.

The Strasbourg court, as it happens, has never asserted or conferred, via member states, the right to authorise the court to grant interim relief in terms of the ECHR convention treaty. Indeed, domestic courts—the Supreme Court and the Appeal Court—have found quite the contrary, as was mentioned by the noble Lord on the Cross Benches earlier.

There is a concern about this battle between parliamentary sovereignty and accountability in this House and in the other place, and the idea that a decision which could have very profound public safety ramifications—this is a tiny minority, but it could possibly—is taken in foreign court with an anonymous judge where the Government are not permitted to present evidence in a timely way. There is no real accountability. I am sorry to say that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, finds it disobliging to call it a foreign court, but that is how many voters, taxpayers and British citizens see it.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. My complaint about the use of the term “foreign court” was not due to any discomfort, but because people such as himself and the leader of his party encourage people to call courts which are not foreign courts “foreign”. They are courts of organisations which we have endowed with certain powers, and which often have British judges on their tribunals. That is my complaint.

I am always delighted to amuse the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti.

Articles 26 and 27 of the ECHR expressly limit the competence of a single judge vis-à-vis the Chamber of the Court or the Grand Chamber. I agree that in a case such as Hirst v UK (No. 2) [2005] on prisoner votes, we—as a Government, Ministers and the Executive—specifically set our face against a decision of the Grand Chamber. That was liable for criticism.

But the fundamental question here is: is the use of Rule 39 interim measures at the heart of what you would call international law? As I will set out very briefly, that is not necessarily the case, because the ECHR makes express provision for the constitution of the court and its jurisdiction. A single anonymous judge at the court breaches the limit of what the ECHR establishes as the competence of that single judge as the legal authority. Indeed, interim measures are not, in effect, de facto rulings of the Strasbourg court at all, and the Minister is therefore not in breach of “international law”. I make reference again to Articles 26 and 27 of the convention.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I am very interested in his points about international law and so on. As a matter of basic common sense and logic, does he understand why there is value in the interim measures of any court, domestic or international? Does he understand why it is sometimes necessary to have some kind of mechanism for preventing a case becoming totally academic and preventing the outcome being decided before the case has been properly and finally heard, whether in a domestic or an international court? If he agrees that there is sometimes value in that, and if he has concerns about the way the Strasbourg procedures work, does he not think that the first thing to do would be to try to negotiate reforms to those procedures, rather than just taking domestic powers to ignore them?

I say, gently, to the noble Baroness that this issue with unrestricted, unprecedented levels of geopolitical change and immigration is sui generis. Therefore, one has to see it through that prism. Yes, broadly and in principle, it is better to negotiate than to withdraw from a convention or another legal regime. But you cannot always use the case that, because Putin has been beastly, we self-evidently and axiomatically have to deal with his breach of international law. After all, invading a sovereign country such as Ukraine is a bit different from some of the other cases the noble Baroness used. It does not mean that you cannot be critical of the overall application of the legal regime we are discussing.

In fairness, my noble friend Lord Hailsham’s amendment is very fair-minded, enabling the Government potentially to present the evidence that, hitherto, they were not able to do in the 2022 case. Indeed, the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coker, is eminently sensible—actually, it is rather otiose, because one would always assume that the Home Secretary would seek the advice of the Attorney-General in proceeding in these small number of cases.

Two of the amendments the noble Baroness put forward are clearly wrecking amendments. The amendment that would disapply Section 55 of the Illegal Migration Act would specifically remove the express parliamentary sanction and authorisation of non-compliance with the interim measure, which, in itself, is a draconian move. Amendments 58 and 60 go to the heart of what we assume to be international law, in terms of what is justiciable in domestic law.

Let us be honest and put our cards on the table. This is about tying up the Bill in endless judicial reviews to stop any people being removed and to stop us tackling one of the biggest, endemic, troubling issues in politics. It is about bringing this back under the purview of domestic legislation in order to establish a roadblock via judicial review.

My final point is about the Human Rights Act 1998. It does not give legal effect in domestic legislation to the Strasbourg court’s Rule 39 practice, which is grounded in Article 34 of the European Convention on Human Rights and is not one of the Commission rights set out in Schedule 1 to the 1998 Act. For those reasons, therefore, there is a very big question mark over the use of Rule 39 interim measures. Are they really international law as we would define it? Noble Lords would be wise to consider that when they come to vote for these amendments.

The noble Lord, Lord Howard, did me the honour of quoting a passage which I had written in a foreword to the paper by Professor Ekins of St John’s College, Oxford, on the jurisdiction to grant interim injunctions. I adhere to what I said in that foreword, but I ought to go a bit further. I will not go into the reasons Professor Ekins gave. He looked into the terms of the treaty, the travaux préparatoires and what the court had been saying until relatively recently, and he came to the conclusion that it had simply invented the power to grant interim injunctions. Indeed, the court in Strasbourg does not even have the power to grant final injunctions. If it is determined that there has been a breach of the treaty, what is to be done about it is a matter for the Committee of Ministers and not for the court itself.

However, the power to grant an interim injunction is an important part of the armoury of any court. Anyone who has held judicial office will know that it usually involves not so much any question of law but a practical question of deciding what lawyers perhaps rather frivolously call the balance of convenience between facts, which means the power to balance the possibility of injustice in one direction or the other. That is to say, you say to yourself, “Well, what is the position? Assuming that he turns out to be right but I don’t stop this going ahead, what injustice will he have suffered; and likewise, if I do stop it, what injustice will have been suffered by the person who has been stopped?” You weigh these things against each other and come to a practical conclusion.

It seems to me that it was sensible for the original treaty not to have included a power to grant interim injunctions, because this is essentially a practical and local matter which ought to be considered by English courts—by the courts of this country—and particularly not by a court in Strasbourg, whose sole function is to say what the terms of the convention mean. What the convention means is what it says it means, and that is perfectly well understood. However, the power to grant injunctions seems really to be a question for local courts.

If we go ahead with Clause 5, we have the bizarre situation in which the courts are, by virtue of the other clauses we discussed earlier, prevented from themselves granting interim injunctions. For the reasons I have given, I wholly supported the amendments proposed earlier today by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and my noble and learned friend Lady Hale. They seem absolutely essential to enable our courts to give justice.

On the other hand, however, what we have is a provision by which the orders of a court which, in my view, does not have jurisdiction can nevertheless be enforced, provided that the Minister—like the Emperor at the Colosseum—puts his thumb up rather than his thumb down in relation to those particular orders. That seems an extremely strange situation. For that reason, I am unwilling to support the amendment that gives effect to the interim injunctions in our report, but I certainly supported the amendments that were moved earlier.

My Lords, I rise to speak briefly to Amendments 58, 60 and 61, to which my most reverend friend the Archbishop of Canterbury has put his name. I am very glad to be in support of the work of the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, on these amendments.

We come, of course, to the question of the place of the European Court of Human Rights. I am very grateful for the comments that have been made about that, particularly from the noble Lords, Lord Scriven and Lord Hannay, about it not being a foreign court but an international court. Earlier today, we heard from the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Hale, about the relationship that we have with the European Court of Human Rights—a relationship where we learn from the wisdom of international friends; where we bring our own wisdom and shape each other’s thinking and practice. It is a relationship of mutual respect for justice and for each other. These seem to me to be very important qualities as we look at the international situation of a very divided world today.

My most reverend friend the Archbishop of Canterbury referred in his speech at Second Reading to the danger of a “pick and choose” approach to international law, which threatens to undermine our global standing and the principle of universality. I agree. It is profoundly disturbing when, on the face of this Bill, we do not find assurance of compliance with European and UN approaches to human rights or an adequate mechanism for addressing our own processes of law and the risk of serious harm. This is about principles, values and rules to which we should aspire as the foundation of human dignity in an enlightened and humane society.

In the scriptures honoured by Jewish and Christian people alike, the prophet Isaiah speaks of one who will,

“proclaim justice to the nations”.

With this Bill, do we run the risk that countries less wedded to the rule of law and justice, seeing us as an example to follow, will do so for all the wrong and tragic reasons?

My Lords, I support the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti, and in the names of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, and the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, which are less powerful protections.

We as a country proclaim our compliance with the rule of law. We signed up to a convention that set up a court that would be the ultimate determiner of what that convention meant. That court, over a period of time, habitually issued Rule 39 statements or orders. Almost invariably, they are complied with. The court itself, in a case called Mamatkulov and Askarov v Turkey in 2005, said that those orders made under Rule 39 were binding in international law, not domestic law. If we had set up that court to be the final arbiter of what the convention meant, then we should accept it. How could I not, having heard the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hoffmann, with his leading counsel, the noble Lord, Lord Howard? They are two of the most effective advocates of their generation—therefore, not to be relied on because they are advocates, putting the contrary view.

Your Lordships’ Constitution Committee addressed this issue in paragraphs 60 and 61 of its report on the issue of what to do about Rule 39 orders, saying that:

“Arguments have been made that interim measures are not judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, such that the UK is bound to adhere to interim measures as a matter of international law”.

That is the view of the noble Lord, Lord Howard, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hoffmann, but the report states that:

“Others have expressed a contrary view. The European Court of Human Rights, drawing on Articles 1 and 13 ECHR, considers it a breach of international law for a signatory state not to comply with interim measures”.

Therefore, accepting the Howard/Hoffmann view, they have got it over the net. There is an argument that it might not be binding in international law.

The provisions of the Bill at the moment leave it to a Minister of the Crown to decide whether the United Kingdom will comply with the interim measures. When he replies, can the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart, confirm that this decision by a Minister will be subject to judicial review? Assuming that it is, presumably the Minister will regard himself as bound by the Ministerial Code. By committing himself to it, he accepts that he must comply with the law. I am very glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, in his place, because in 2015, on behalf of the Government—it has never been subsequently tested—he confirmed that despite the omission of an explicit reference to international law in the Ministerial Code, the reference to law in the Ministerial Code applies to international law.

No Minister would therefore wish to break international law. If judicial review was sought of an order by a Minister not to comply with Rule 39, it would presumably be open to the court to say that whether the Minister is acting lawfully depends on whether not to comply with a Rule 39 order is in breach of international law—for which the court could then make an interim order restraining the effect of the Minister refusing to comply with Rule 39.

The noble and learned Lord kindly referred to the Answer that I gave at the Dispatch Box, which I think was a correct analysis of the law, but I am sure that he would agree that it is important not to conflate the Ministerial Code, and the obligations placed on the Minister, with the position in our law, which is the separate law. We have a dualist system as opposed to a monist system so the fact that there is a Ministerial Code does not mean that we are obliged to follow international law, wise though it may be to do so.

I completely agree with that. The Ministerial Code is to be enforced politically, in many respects, not by courts. However, if the position is that it is a breach of international law not to comply with Rule 39, how could a Minister be acting lawfully? I assume that this Government are committed to the rule of law and therefore if it is a breach of international law not to comply with Rule 39—which is what the European Court of Human Rights says, and we are a country that abides by the law—is it not reasonable for that to be struck down on judicial review? I could be wrong about that and would be very interested to hear what the Minister has to say about it.

My Lords, I have given notice, with the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, of my intention to oppose the Question that Clause 5 stand part of the Bill. That is because, notwithstanding the eloquence of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hoffmann, and the noble Lord, Lord Howard, its provisions are in plain breach of the United Kingdom’s obligations under international law and in breach of the rule of law.

Although complications have been cited and expanded on, the reasons for this are very simply stated. Article 32 of the convention states that the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights

“extends to all matters concerning the interpretation”


“the application of the convention”.

Critically, in the event of

“dispute as to whether the Court has jurisdiction, the Court shall decide”.

That is an approach that is not unknown to our own law in certain circumstances. Rule 39 of the rules of the European Court of Human Rights provides for the court to make interim orders. 

In Mamatkulov and Askarov v Turkey, to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, referred, which was a case decided by the court in 2005, and Paladi v Moldova, decided by the same court in 2009, the European Court of Human Rights said that the failure of a member state to comply with interim measures is a breach of Article 34 of the convention. That article states that member states undertake not to hinder in any way the effective exercise of the right of the court to receive applications from any person.

Reference has been made to a lengthy and elaborate argument in a Policy Exchange document, published in 2023 during the passage of the Illegal Migration Bill, by Professor Richard Ekins, in which he contended that the power to make interim measures was outside the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. That is the document with which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hoffmann, expresses his agreement. What is clear is that Article 32 confers on the court the right to determine the extent of its jurisdiction in the event that it is disputed. That article says so in the plainest terms, and, as a member state, we have signed up to that.

What is also indisputable, and is accepted by Professor Ekins, is that since the decision of Mamatkulov in 2005, the European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly upheld the binding nature of Rule 39 interim measures, and the UK Government have never once challenged before the Strasbourg court that decision and the binding nature of interim measures. Indeed, the United Kingdom has not only complied with such measures but called on other states to comply with them. It has supported resolutions and declarations that assume that Rule 39 is legally binding.

International law has, therefore, reached a settled state of practice and agreement between member states and the Strasbourg court. Whatever other course might properly be taken in the future—that could include matters concerning the way in which these orders are dealt with, about which the noble Lord, Lord Jackson, complained—it is clear that it would be a breach of international law and the rule of law for that settled agreement and practice to be peremptorily and unilaterally jettisoned by the United Kingdom acting alone. That is a basic principle of international law.

The wording of Clause 5 reflects similar, but not identical, provisions in the Illegal Migration Act. The challenge by Members of this House to those provisions in that Act were rejected by the Government and voted down in the other place. Should we then just placidly accept them now? I believe that it would be quite wrong to do so. This is yet another example of a blatant breach of the United Kingdom’s legal obligations. The other amendments in this group are worthy attempts to leave Clause 5 in the Bill but, in effect, to neuter its current intent and effect. My contention is that our constitutional role in this House impels us to reject Clause 5 in its entirety, and not provide it with any blanket of legitimacy, either in its current form or with amendments.

My Lords, I was in a queue waiting to pay my bill at dinner and therefore arrived a few minutes late. I am very grateful for the Committee allowing me to speak.

I listened with particular interest to two of the most distinguished lawyers in this House: the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hoffmann, with whom I sat on the Court of Appeal regularly, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton. There is undoubtedly a potential dispute. Without going into what it should be, Clause 5(2) and (3) exclude the English court. The noble Lord, Lord Jackson, complained about the international court; ought we not to be complaining that the English court is excluded?

If there is to be a dispute with the Court of Human Rights, we might bear in mind that we are a member of the Council of Europe. If we blatantly refuse to follow the ECHR at Strasbourg, we might be turfed out, like Russia. Would we want to be the second country after Russia to be excluded from the Council of Europe? Some might not care, but others might think it would not look very good.

What I am complaining about is that Clause 5(2) and (3) will stop our domestic court making a decision. That seems a very good reason to support some, if not all, of the amendments.

My Lords, these amendments all concern the response to interim orders of the European Court of Human Rights—not a foreign court, I entirely accept, but a court of which we are a member. At Second Reading, I absolutely accepted that courts, particularly domestic courts, will need to have powers to make interim orders—to stop a child being taken from the jurisdiction, or to stop someone disposing of assets, knocking down a building or any number of different matters that ought to be ruled on immediately, rather than waiting for the worst to happen.

However, the granting of such orders, particularly if they are obtained ex parte—that is, in the absence of the other side—is always subject to stringent safeguards, and none seemed to be honoured when the court in Strasbourg determined that the Government could not remove an asylum seeker to Rwanda. We still do not know who the judge was; there is no record of his or her reasons. That is why I asked the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, whether she could enlighten us as to the reasons why the order was made. She told us that they would be made only in extremis, when an individual was likely to suffer death or something similar, but there is no explanation of the reasons or any basis on which they came to that conclusion. We do not know what the reasons were.

Hence, as I think I said, many of us across the Committee agreed with what some Ministers opposite proposed last year: that the Strasbourg process for interim measures should be reformed to encourage greater transparency and the possibility of rectification, and to give states that felt they would like to correct an erroneous interim measure the ability to do so.

Indeed, but not only were reasons not given; the Government were not given an opportunity to come back on a return date, which is the norm on interim applications. All this amounts, effectively, to a breach of natural justice on any basis.

Nor is the comparison with the availability of domestic interim remedies wholly analogous, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hoffmann, said. The Government are, of course, a valued member of the court in Strasbourg. If, at a full hearing, the court determined that there had been a wrongful removal then the Government would be expected to comply, as they have always done in the past. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, made clear in his address to the House at Second Reading, and as we have already heard this evening, there is very considerable doubt, to put it neutrally, as to whether the court has any power to make such an order. Other countries are extremely doubtful about the legality of the rule. Of course there is talk of improving the procedure, as the noble Baroness said. That may or may not transpire.

But I understand—although it is a slightly peculiar provision—why the Government have decided to give the Minister the powers that he has under Clause 5. Otherwise, the whole policy could potentially be undermined by an unnamed judge’s decision, given without reasons. Even the most fervent supporter of the Strasbourg court must be a little uneasy at that state of affairs.

I do, however, echo the question asked by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer: do the Government consider that the exercise of this power under Clause 5 would be amenable to judicial review and, if so, on what grounds? The Government must have taken a view about that. The answer to the question would, I suspect, be relevant to whatever side of the argument you favour.

My Lords, as someone who was called to the Bar many years ago and has not subsequently done a great deal of law directly, I have been interested, amused and dazzled by the breadth of learning that we have heard.

I would like to make a couple of remarks. I start with what the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said. We live in a world where we have domestic jurisdiction, but also where everyday life is very significantly affected by all kinds of international agreements and arrangements, and we all benefit from that. Against that background, it is important that that system remains stable and respected; if it does not, we will all suffer.

We have heard this evening the arguments as to whether there is jurisdiction in respect of interim injunctions from the ECHR. I personally do not feel qualified one way or another to make a value judgment about that. What I do think is important is that, once you have got the interim injunction—and I heard what the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, said—that is a piece of evidence that is relevant to the issues that we are discussing.

On balance, the interim injunctions—there are not many of them, as the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, said —are evidence that something is not quite right. I am therefore concerned about the provisions in Clause 5 that we have been talking about: there will be a power with the Minister to set aside a piece of evidence, which I believe has come from a respectable source, that something is not right.

I think the remarks of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, were very important. Regardless of international law, this is important in the context of domestic law, where there is real evidence—and I think it is real evidence—that something is awry. If you are to have some provision of the kind that we are considering this evening, there has to be a presumption that it will be adhered to but also that, if you are concerned, there is some kind of mechanism to set it aside, rather than the other way around.

My Lords, as a signatory to the stand-part proposition in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, I will confine my remarks to the question of whether it is contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, and thus to international law, for a contracting state to disregard interim measures issued by the European court under Rule 39. Spoiler alert: it is, and the question is not so difficult as some noble Lords have suggested.

I declare an interest as a member of the Bar who has appeared for 30 years or so in that Strasbourg court, both for applicants and for states, and who has therefore been on the wrong end of some Rule 39 measures, including at least one which the court had to be persuaded to reverse. So I welcome the steps that the European Court of Human Rights is taking, partly at the instigation of this country’s Government, to improve its procedures and make them more transparent, including, as the court itself announced on 23 November last year, the attribution of interim measures to the judges who made them.

We have heard a lot about the Policy Exchange paper of last May. The arguments have been very well summarised in other speeches, particularly those of the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, who has spoken to them a couple of times. Happily, I do not need to take your Lordships through those arguments or, indeed, the detailed rebuttals of them, which will be found in the Bingham Centre report of July of last year. Both reports are footnoted in the Constitution Committee report, to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, has referred. The reason that I do not need to do that is that the position was made completely clear in law by the European court, in a judgment that has been referred to: the 2005 judgment of the Grand Chamber in Mamatkulov v Turkey.

It has been mentioned, but I will say a little more about it. Of the 17 judges who ruled on this issue in the Grand Chamber, a clear majority of 14 held that Article 34 of the convention, which guarantees the effective exercise of the right of application to the Strasbourg court, is violated when a state fails to comply with interim measures. For 13 of those 14, violation follows automatically from a failure to comply. The 14th thought that there was a violation if, as in Mamatkulov itself, applicants are as a matter of fact prevented from effectively exercising their right of application,

Three judges dissented: those appointed by Turkey, Russia and Liechtenstein. Their dissent is long and tightly argued. Policy Exchange would have been proud to publish it. Its authors looked at the text, the preparatory materials, state practice, the analogy with the International Court of Justice and the relevant rules of international law—all ground covered subsequently by Professor Ekins and tonight by the noble Lord, Lord Howard, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hoffmann. They accused the court, just as Professor Ekins did, of exercising a legislative rather than an interpretative function.

Court cases, unlike academic debates, produce clear winners and losers. The result of Mamatkulov, since followed in other judgments, is quite simply conclusive of the matter. The arguments advanced by the dissenting judges, and later by Professor Ekins, were decisively rejected. Why does this matter? Again, noble Lords have had reference to it: the reason it matters is Article 32 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides two things of importance. First,

“the jurisdiction of the court shall extend to all matters concerning the interpretation of the convention”.

Secondly, as my noble and learned friend Lord Etherton said:

“In the event of dispute as to whether the Court has jurisdiction, the Court shall decide”.

That is really it. The European Court interpreted Article 34 in Mamatkulov as requiring compliance with interim measures issued by the court because, as the court put it in its judgement at paragraph 125, interim measures

“play a vital role in avoiding irreversible situations that would prevent the Court from properly examining the application and when appropriate securing to the applicant the practical and effective benefit of the Convention rights asserted”.

That ruling is binding, as the United Kingdom agreed it would be when we signed and ratified the convention, including Article 32. Perhaps we should not be very surprised that a treaty means what the court constituted to interpret it says that it means. Even the dissenting judges did not suggest otherwise. They did not like the majority judgment, but neither did they describe it, in a word recently used by Professor Ekins, as “lawless”. They accepted it.

State practice since the Mamatkulov decision is supportive of it. The Committee of Ministers, of all the Council of Europe states, resolved in 2010 that

“the Court’s case law has clearly established that Article 34 of the Convention entails an obligation for States Parties to comply with an indication of interim measures made under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court”.

The requirement on states parties to comply with interim measures was reiterated in the Izmir Declaration of 2011 and the Brussels Declaration of 2015, to which of course the United Kingdom was a party. It was endorsed in very clear terms by the French Conseil d’Etat as recently as 7 December last year, when that senior court required a person deported to Uzbekistan in breach of interim measures to be repatriated at the state’s expense.

In a recent email to noble Lords, Policy Exchange described its own 2023 paper as “authoritative”. I am afraid that whoever wrote that was high on their own supply. It is supported neither by the court whose job it is to provide authoritative interpretations of the convention nor by state practice, nor even, subject to anything the Minister may say, and I will be listening carefully, by our own Government. That at any rate is what I take from the last paragraph of the ECHR memorandum on the Bill.

To throw this established position into doubt might once have been merely eccentric; in current conditions, it is positively dangerous. As recently as 2005 there was a culture of compliance. The Strasbourg court could say, in Mamatkulov, paragraph 105:

“Cases of States failing to comply with indicated measures remain very rare”.

However, the “good chaps” theory no longer prevails in the Council of Europe. Russia challenged the jurisdiction of the court in 2021 when it required Alexei Navalny to be immediately released from prison due to the risk to his life and health—interim measures strongly supported by our Government—while Poland challenged it last year when its previous Government refused to comply with interim measures relating to the politicisation of its judiciary.

Supranational courts do not have bailiffs to enforce their decisions. The fabric of international law—that “gentle civiliser of nations”, as it was once described—is easily torn but not so easily repaired. It can be torn by acts such as that which is proposed to us—acts that enable or facilitate actions in breach of international law.

Clause 5 is peculiar, as the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hoffmann, have both said. If Rwanda is as safe, as the Government invite us to declare, Clause 5 is unnecessary. If it is not safe, Clause 5 will compound the injustice of Clause 4. Either way, Clause 5 extends the damage already done by Section 55 of the Illegal Migration Act because it severs the link, praised by the noble Lord, Lord Jackson of Peterborough, between non-compliance and procedural reform. If we accept this clause, we will not only be authorising Ministers to contravene this country’s obligations; we will be handing an excuse to illiberal Governments across the continent to do the same, and worse. We should be ashamed to do so.

I am not a lawyer and I do not wish to refer to any of the legal aspects of the amendment; there has already been enough of that in the excellent contributions from noble and learned Lords. I just want to address the point about why the United Kingdom should feel that we are particularly vulnerable to this court.

There has been reference to other countries that have had interim measures granted against them. It is of course the case that the interim measures relating to the Rwanda MEDP have a high profile. The noble Lord, Lord Faulks, seems to continue to be uncertain as to why the interim measures were given. I think he knows that, on the day that the court issued the interim measures, it also issued the statement of the decision when it notified the UK Government of the interim measures. These are public documents and they are online.

The interim measure relating to the case of NSK was put in place on the grounds that that the individual should not be removed to Rwanda until the ongoing domestic judicial review process was concluded. That is the reason the court gave for that case. I am not a lawyer and I know the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, is, but it sounds reasonable to me that while a domestic—

Just one moment—I will say what is reasonable and the noble Lord can say it is not. I think that, if there is an ongoing domestic judicial review process but the Government decide to deport that individual before it has concluded, there are reasonable grounds there. I will happily give way to the noble Lord.

With respect, a statement of conclusion does not give any of the reasons for coming to that conclusion.

Of course it is right that NSK’s application for an interim injunction was heard by the High Court—by the lead judge of the Administrative Court—and the interim relief application was refused. That was appealed to the Court of Appeal, which agreed with the single judge that there should be no interim relief. Application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court was refused by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Reed. It was only the European court that decided to grant the interim relief. It appears that our own domestic courts at all levels and at great levels of distinction were satisfied with the Government’s statement that they would return NSK to the UK in the event that his judicial review challenge succeeded. Why does the noble Lord say it is right for the European court to form a view by way of press release when our own courts, in detailed judgments, had considered all the arguments and decided the other way?

I thank the noble Lord. I said that the court issued a press release; I did not say it made a judgment by press release. I think that is taking it a little too far.

The noble Lord states that the domestic judicial processes had been concluded, but the court said that they had not. All I am relaying to the Committee is the decision that was made. In my view it is reasonable, but I am not a lawyer, as the two noble Lords are. That was the reason the court made the decision, and the Government accepted it.

The point I wanted to make is that there were five other cases that day, which are not referred to as frequently. The requests for two interim measures were granted in order for the court to consider the cases in greater detail. That is correct, yes? Two were refused, which has not been mentioned so far, and one was withdrawn because the Home Office had changed policy in the meantime. Looking at the consideration of cases on that day, I do not think you would come to a conclusion—with three accepted, two refused and one withdrawn—that there was some deliberate blocking of the measure.

That prompted me to ask what the record of the UK has been on interim measures over the last years. There have been 178 applications overall, with most of them withdrawn, since 2021. We have fared fairly well against Germany with a total consideration of 264. That compares with 478 cases for France. We are doing quite well as far as cases against the UK go. If this is judicial blocking, and therefore the motives are to empower the courts to stop what the Government want to do, we need to look at the record of the decisions.

In 2021 five interim measures were granted against the UK and nine were refused. In 2022, five were granted against the UK and 12 were refused. In 2023—the most recent data—one interim measure was granted against the UK and 13 were refused. Far from this being judicial blocking—these cases are all to do with expulsions and relocations; this is not just in general terms—the UK’s system has worked really rather well, especially when compared with those of Germany and France. I would have thought that this is something that the Government would want to protect.

My Lords, the ancient court known as the Sanhedrin, at its full complement, sat with 71 judges and had a rule that the most junior judge would give judgment first. I understand the reason was that, if the senior judges had spoken and the junior judge disagreed, that would be arrogant; if they agreed, it would be impudent. I find myself speaking after the noble and learned Lords, Lord Hoffmann and Lord Etherton, who disagreed. Therefore, whichever side of this argument I take, it seems I am going to be guilty of both. I ask forgiveness from each of them.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, I will spoil any questions as to which way I will go by saying that I respectfully agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hoffmann, and the reasons he gave for supporting Professor Ekins’ paper. It was interesting that, in opening the debate, the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, said that for about 20 years the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights has been clear. That is true, but it begs the question: since the European Court of Human Rights has been there for rather longer than 20 years, why did the noble Lord limit his position to 20 years? The answer is that if he had said “for 23 years” the jurisprudence would have said something completely different.

What is remarkable in this area is that this is not a new question. As I said at Second Reading, the question whether the European Court of Human Rights should have the jurisdiction—and this is a question of jurisdiction—to issue interim injunctions or interim measures was specifically debated by the contracting parties back in 1949, and it was deliberately not put into the text in 1950. It was a deliberate omission, not an oversight. The states considered whether the court should have the power and, no doubt for reasons similar to that set out by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hoffmann, decided that it should not. That caused no problem at all.

Year after year, the court operated perfectly well without this power. It ruled, in terms, that it did not have this power in 1991 and, a decade later, in 2001, it upheld that ruling. As I said at Second Reading, you then have a judicial volte face in 2005, and the judgment from which the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, quoted. It is an open question, and it is interesting to consider why there was this volte-face by the European Court of Human Rights. I suggested that it might have been “jurisprudential envy”, because the International Court of Justice held that it had the power to issue interim injunctions. But, of course, that is different, because the statute of the ICJ, particularly the French version, provides a basis in the foundational document of that court for it to have that jurisdictional power.

With respect, question of whether the court has a power to issue these interim measures rests on very slender foundations. How is it now said that the court has the power, and we are bound by it? The primary argument put this evening has been based on Article 32, which provides that the court has jurisdiction to decide on the operation of the convention. What is interesting about that argument is that it is not used by the court itself, which, so far as I am aware, has not based its jurisprudence on the fact that Article 32 gives it the right to say, “This is what our jurisdiction is, and this is what we are doing”. It is outside commentators who have tried to find a proper basis—because Article 34, which the court does rely on, is not one—for the court’s jurisdiction. It is rather like the archer who scores a bull’s-eye not by firing the arrow at the target, but by firing it and then drawing the target around it.

One comes to the conclusion that people would like the court to have the jurisdiction and then say, “Ah, well, there must be a basis for it—what about Article 32?” But it is not an argument that the court itself uses, and it is also a false argument. Article 32 is about disputes about the convention and its operation; they are to be resolved by the court. It is not a grant of unlimited jurisdiction to the court to defy the express terms of the convention, including Article 46.1, which says that states are bound only by final judgments and therefore, by implication, nothing else—and by the history of the convention, which, as I have set out, is contrary to the court having these powers.

Article 32 is not the “get out of jail” card. This is not a new point. A similar point came before the Supreme Court in the case of Pham in 2015—what would happen if the European Court of Justice exceeded its jurisdictional powers? The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mance, dealt with that issue in paragraph 90. I do not need to go through the answer, but it certainly was not, “Well, the European Court of Justice has a power to interpret the treaties, and if it says it has the power to do this, that or the other, necessarily it does”, which would be the analogue to the Article 32 argument.

With the greatest of respect, Article 32 simply will not do as a basis on which to found the jurisprudence of the court. Of course, there are other points to be made as to the process of the court, and those have already been set out by the noble Lord, Lord Faulks. For those reasons, the point underlying many of the amendments in this group—that the court has jurisdiction to issue these interim measures and they are binding in international law—is wrong. Therefore, these amendments ought to be resisted.

My Lords, Amendment 62 in the name of my noble friend Lord Coaker would ensure that a Minister of the Crown making a decision on an interim injunction consults the Attorney-General. This would ensure that, before making a decision on compliance with any interim measures issued by the ECHR for the purpose of blocking a person’s removal to Rwanda, the relevant Minister consults the Attorney-General, creating an additional safeguard. The noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, introduced his speech by saying he was not going to be arrogant or impudent, so I will adopt the same approach in my speech, which will be brief. I am not going to go into the legal arguments—many eminent lawyers have done that—but I am going to go into the politics and address what seems to me to be the question that has been left hanging in the air.

Yesterday morning, I watched the television and Mr Michael Tomlinson, the Illegal Migration Minister, was on our screens and he was absolutely explicit: he said that the flights will take off as soon as the Bill becomes an Act and the treaty comes into force. He said they will be going pretty much immediately. There was no question of the niceties of Rule 39 and all the other things we have been talking about; the subject simply did not come up. That is the politics of it: when the Bill becomes an Act, the treaty comes into force and those flights will be taking off.

My noble and learned friend Lord Falconer went into how the decision on Rule 39 might be made. The question he, and the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, asked, was, would it be subject to judicial review? To me, that is the question hanging in the air, and I look forward to the Minister’s answer, because as far as I can see it will be for the Attorney-General to make that decision, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, and she will be doing that as a law officer. Today’s Daily Telegraph said—I do not know how it knows this—that when Mr Tomlinson was Solicitor-General, he had written legal advice saying that it would be illegal to go against Rule 39. I know it is private advice; nevertheless, that was in today’s Daily Telegraph.

So, there are two issues. First, the Illegal Migration Minister was explicit about the flights taking off on the conclusion of proceedings on the Bill. Secondly, what is the status of judicial review of any Rule 39 decision?

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Committee for an exceptionally lively, informed and learned debate on this matter. The consideration of obligations to obtemper interim measures—interim indications from the European Court of Human Rights—seemed to gravitate around two poles. On one hand we had the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, the noble Lords, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard and Lord Hannay of Chiswick, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, and others. On the other hand, my noble friend Lord Howard of Lympne spoke powerfully, my noble friend Lord Jackson of Peterborough added his weight, and we heard supportive contributions from my noble friend Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hoffmann, who spoke from the Cross Benches offering, if I may say so, a qualified view as to the obligation to obtemper any such interim measures.

The scheme of the Bill is to enact Clause 5 to put beyond doubt that the decision about whether to comply with an interim measure, in proceedings relating to the intended removal of a person to the Republic of Rwanda under, or purportedly under, a provision of or made under the Immigration Act, is in the hands of a Minister of the Crown. The requirement for a Minister of the Crown is to exercise the decision personally, which reflects the seriousness of the decision to be taken.

The status of domestic law, as opposed to international law, was a matter of some consideration by your Lordships’ Committee. The orthodox legal position is that unincorporated international law—that is, law not incorporated into domestic legislation—is not binding on the domestic courts. Clause 5(3) goes further by preventing the domestic courts from having regard to interim measures. Domestic courts can have regard to interim measures without being bound by them, in the sense that they are not legally required to follow them.

As the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, said from the Cross Benches, the constitutional and legal position in the United Kingdom, so far as international law is concerned, is quite clear and has been reaffirmed repeatedly by the highest court in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom is a dualist state, which means that international law has effect in it only in so far as it is expressly incorporated into domestic law by or under an Act of Parliament. Once incorporated, it is just as capable of being modified as any other domestic law, and in the same way.

Nothing that I say or have said at any stage in submissions to your Lordships’ Committee should be taken as suggesting that His Majesty’s Government do not recognise the importance of international law or its relevance to governmental decision-making. We treat international law with the utmost seriousness and pay close attention to our obligations. But, in the case of this provision, the Minister will be accountable to Parliament for the exercise of that personal discretion, and each decision will be dependent upon the individual facts of each case. Nothing in Clause 5 requires the United Kingdom to breach its international obligations.

Amendments 57 and 59, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord German, and Amendment 58, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, seek to remove the statement that only a Minister of the Crown can decide whether to comply with a Rule 39 interim measure. I note first that it is important to make clear that Rule 39 interim measures are not final judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and are not binding on the United Kingdom domestic courts. I reassure your Lordships that, when the Minister is deciding whether to comply with an interim measure indicated by the Strasbourg court, due consideration will be given to the facts in the individual case and careful consideration will be made of the United Kingdom’s international obligations. Given the importance of this decision, it is crucial that we are clear in the Bill that this decision rests with a Minister of the Crown.

Amendment 59, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord German, would permit a domestic court or tribunal to have regard to an interim measure when considering an application or appeal from a person subject to removal to Rwanda. Where there is an equivalent domestic remedy, as we have provided for in Clause 4, there should be no need for the Strasbourg court to intervene. In answer to the question raised by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, it is the policy of the Bill that this should be the case and that these matters should be for the Minister.

The decision of the United Kingdom’s domestic courts to issue interim relief should be made only when they have reached their own conclusions about whether a person is at risk of serious and irreversible harm, not when the European Court of Human Rights has indicated an interim measure. These provisions are consistent with the measures introduced in the Illegal Migration Act, agreed by the House last year.

There is nothing in Clause 5 to prevent Ministers consulting Cabinet colleagues or seeking advice when appropriate so to do. It would be expected for a Minister so to do. However, this is a decision for Ministers, so I do not believe that Amendment 62, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, which seeks to introduce a requirement to consult the Attorney-General, is necessary. Furthermore, specifying in the Bill that the Attorney-General must be consulted before a decision is made would undermine the law officers’ convention, to which reference was made earlier in Committee. This is a long-standing convention whereby advice received from the law officers is not disclosed outside government. It is also the convention not to disclose whether or not the opinion of the law officers has been sought.

Why, then, does the Victims and Prisoners Bill, as presented by the Government, require the Secretary of State to consult the Attorney-General before amending the victims’ code, if there is this long-standing convention that the Government are indivisible and the Attorney-General will always be consulted on important matters? Also, why is this significant decision potentially to ignore interim relief from the Strasbourg court for Ministers and not Parliament, given that the Government’s central argument in this Bill is about parliamentary sovereignty?

I think the answer to the first point is that the Victims and Prisoners Bill relates to victims, a matter on which the Attorney-General, exercising her supervision over aspects of the criminal legal system, would be in a good position to answer. That distinguishes it from this measure. However, that is only my instinctive answer. So as not to mislead the Committee, if the noble Baroness is content then I will write to her on the topic. I am grateful for her nod of agreement. As to whether this should be for Parliament as opposed to the Executive, in the form of the Minister, I can only repeat that the scheme of the Bill and the Government’s intention is that this decision should lie with the Minister responsible.

The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, made two points, the second of which echoed the question anent judicial review posed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton. Our position is that the decision on the part of a Minister to comply with an interim measure is not amenable to judicial review. His other question related to the views expressed by my honourable friend in the other place the Minister for Immigration about flights taking off as soon as the Bill passes. While this Committee is engaged in detailed legal scrutiny, my honourable friend is speaking in public about the Bill’s policy: to see to it that these flights take off as quickly as possible and the deterrent effect of which my noble friend Lord Sharpe of Epsom and I have spoken should take effect.

Why is it not susceptible to judicial review? Ouster of the courts normally involves at least a provision in a Bill. There is no such provision here. Ousting the courts by a statement from the Dispatch Box in the House of Lords is very unusual.

My Lords, I am not in a position to go into detailed discussion on this point, but I have given the Government’s position on the amenability of judicial review in relation to these decisions.

I undertake to correspond with the noble and learned Lord on that.

Amendments 58, 60 and 61 would bind the United Kingdom Government, preventing a Minister of the Crown or discouraging domestic courts from considering the individual facts of the case or the determination of the domestic courts as to whether a person would face a risk of serious and irreversible harm if returned to Rwanda.

The amendments would also require the United Kingdom courts to take account of an interim measure issued by the Strasbourg court, potentially supplementing the ECHR’s decision, rather than making their own independent finding about whether a person would face a real risk of serious and irreversible harm.

Finally, the disapplication of Section 55 of the Illegal Migration Act would lead to a conflict between the duty to remove established by the Act and the effect of an interim measure issued by the Strasbourg court. That would create uncertainty as to which will prevail.

Clause 4 includes a specific provision enabling the United Kingdom courts to grant an interim remedy preventing removal to Rwanda where it is satisfied that a person would face a real, imminent and foreseeable risk of serious and irreversible harm. Those measures have been designed to ensure that our courts are not out of step with the Strasbourg court; the serious and irreversible harm test is broadly the same that the Strasbourg court applies. Clause 4 would have our courts apply the same test as the Strasbourg court when considering the position of a person who might be sent to Rwanda. There is no reason why the United Kingdom courts, which we would expect to be in possession of all the evidence and facts in the case when making such a decision, cannot be relied upon to reach their own decision rather than being required to have regard to another court which may not have complete information on the case.

The Government submit that these amendments risk hampering or thwarting our efforts to stop the boats and to remove people with no right to remain in the United Kingdom.

There have been references from various quarters about the absence of my noble friend Lord Hailsham today. I indicate to the Committee that he was courteous enough to contact me directly and let me know what the position was. He has tabled Amendment 63, which relates to rules governing Rule 39 procedures. In support of that, the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, was the first to make inquiries of the Government as to what the position is in relation to the changes in the procedures. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, who also discussed this. On 13 November 2023, the Strasbourg Court announced proposed amendments to its rules and practice concerning interim measures, including the naming of judges who make the decisions on interim measure requests, interim measures communicated as formal decisions, considering state representations before interim measures are indicated, and parties being able to request reconsideration of an interim measure.

The noble Lord, Lord Faulks, referred to his observations at Second Reading, expressed again today, concerning the differences between procedures when interim remedies are sought in our domestic courts and the case that is hitherto applied in the European court. I do not intend to repeat in any detail the points the noble Lord made. The point was that in relation to that case, as the noble Lord described, there was what amounted to a breach of natural justice, as it would be identified in a domestic court, as the United Kingdom was unable to put its case. As the noble Lord pointed out, in the domestic sphere, a person is able to seek and be granted an interim remedy.

I am grateful that the Minister was kind enough to inform the Committee about the November reforms from the Strasbourg court, so surely all these natural justice concerns have now been met.

I gave the noble Baroness a list of the recommendations, or the proposed amendments to the rules, but I do not see them as answering all of the concerns which the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, expressed, and with which I agree. The question of the ability to go to court directly after an indication has been made, or an interim interdict or injunction in our jurisdictions has been granted, and to argue the point with the court, does not form part of the reforms to the direct ability to challenge which the Strasbourg court has announced.

The rules will also confirm the practice of the Strasbourg court of granting measures in exceptional circumstances where there is a risk of irreparable harm. The United Kingdom has responded formally to the court’s consultation on these measures. While we welcome the review conducted by the court and the changes to be implemented, this does not remove the need for Clause 5—that interim measures should be decided on by a Minister of the Crown and that the court must not take them into account.

To conclude, Clause 5 makes it clear that it is for a Minister of the Crown to personally make the decision about whether to comply with a Rule 39 interim measure indicated by the Strasbourg court. The Minister will be accountable to Parliament for the exercise of that personal discretion. It makes it clear that domestic courts may not have regard to the existence of any interim measure when considering any domestic application or appeal following a decision to remove a person to Rwanda in accordance with the treaty. On that basis, I invite the noble Lord, Lord German, to withdraw his amendment.

The Minister said, and I agree, that nothing in Clause 5 requires the United Kingdom to breach its international obligations. Does he agree that, if a Minister, in compliance with Clause 5, decides not to comply with an interim measure, that would place the United Kingdom in breach of its international obligations, or have the Government thrown their lot in with the dissenting judges and with Policy Exchange?

My Lords, ultimately the matter for the Committee to take into account—I appreciate that I am not giving the noble Lord an answer—is where this leaves our domestic obligations, not our international ones.

Surely it is relevant to this Committee, if we are being invited to pass Clause 5 into law, to know whether or not, in the Government’s view, it will enable or facilitate a breach of international law by a Minister acting in reliance on it. The Minister does not seem to be able to tell us whether he takes that view or not. I read the human rights memorandum as taking the orthodox view that there is a breach of our international obligations when interim measures are disregarded by a Minister. Is the Minister telling us that the position has changed since that memorandum was drafted?

My Lords, in addressing the Committee, I outlined that the position in relation to international measures is that they must be incorporated into domestic law before they take on binding character for our domestic courts.

I do not believe there is any dispute in this Committee about the proposition that the Minister has just delivered himself of. However, we are not talking about domestic law; we are talking about international law. If the Minister cannot answer the question now, will he add it to what is, I am afraid, the lengthy list of questions on which he has kindly offered to write to the Committee in due course?

My Lords, in view of the hour and the information which I have to hand, and given the stark terms in which the noble Lord expresses himself, that might perhaps be the better course.

Is it not the case that the answer to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, is that it depends? We know from the Policy Exchange paper and many other sources that there have been many cases where Rule 39 indications have not been complied with by states parties, including France, Italy, Albania and Slovakia. It all depends on the circumstances, does it not?

I am grateful to my noble friend but the answer “it depends” renders the matter, to a certain extent, even more complicated and emphasises the number of considerations that I will have to take into account in writing to the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich. While I am grateful to my noble friend for his contribution, my undertaking to write to the noble Lord remains in place.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this predominantly technical debate on the view of the UK’s legal position if it were to ignore an interim measure from the European Court of Human Rights. The final intervention from the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, and the Minister’s answer leave me just as confused as when we started the debate. It reminds me why, after I graduated 40 years ago, when I was offered the chance of becoming an NHS manager or going to law school, I chose to become an NHS manager. That was hard enough.

Clearly, noble and noble and learned Lords have raised several issues, but because of the lateness of the hour, I will not repeat them all. There is the issue of judicial review, which is quite bizarre. If a Minister’s sole decision on such an important issue cannot be judicially reviewed, particularly if the position is completely irrational, I think most noble Lords would agree that it would be easy for international law to be broken and for the individual to have no recourse even to our own domestic courts. As many noble Lords have said, the perverseness of Clause 5 as it stands is that it is preposterous that even our own domestic courts are ruled out from making any interim judgments. The Minister has not been able to give any convincing answer as to why that is.

A number of noble and noble and learned Lords asked this question in different ways, which the Minister, in answering, still ignored: if an interim decision is of such a serious nature, why would a Minister of the Crown wish to ignore it? It is hard to conceive why a Minister would wish to do that, particularly if there is no judicial review. It makes the individual completely reliant on a rational Minister making a decision devoid of the policy of the Government, which is absolutely central to stop the boats. It gets the Minister in a political and legal position that is highly suspect both for the individual on the receiving end of the decision and for the Minister having to make it. I am absolutely convinced of that, based on the views that have been raised.

Of all those views raised, the explanation of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, about the judgment and Articles 32 and 34 is one that I felt was definitive, as, I think, did many other noble Lords. However, the Government refused to accept that and continue to insist that Clause 5 is not in breach of international law and is not in any way a dilution of the separation of powers. I believe that this issue will come back on Report, and quite rightly so. Depending on what the Government say, I am sure that it will be a bone of contention for the House. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 57 withdrawn.

Amendments 58 to 63 not moved.

Clause 5 agreed.

Amendments 64 and 65 not moved.

Amendment 66

Moved by

66: After Clause 5, insert the following new Clause—

“Reporting requirementWithin 60 days of this Act receiving Royal Assent the Secretary of State must provide a written report to Parliament setting out— (a) the number of individuals relocated under the Rwanda Treaty,(b) the current location and immigration status of any individuals relocated under the Rwanda Treaty.”Member’s explanatory statement

This new Clause requires the Secretary to report to Parliament on the operation of the Rwanda Treaty.

My Lords, with Amendments 66 and 67 we get to the meat, in many respects, of the Bill. We also start to try to understand why the Committee has debated at great length many issues of principle, and the contrast between the views of those who see it as perfectly reasonable for this House to overturn the opinion of the Supreme Court and those who think it raises issues of very serious constitutional principle.

It is important that your Lordships understand why the Government are going to such great lengths to give effect to the Illegal Migration Act and to pass this Bill. I have asked the Minister a couple of times now and he will have to come forward with numbers as I have been unable to understand quite what difference this will make.

The first thing is that it is necessary for there to be a reporting requirement, as in Amendment 66, where the Government have to come forward with various numbers with respect to the numbers of individuals who will be deported and what will happen to them when they are in Rwanda. But, for me, Amendment 67 goes to the nub of it. We have heard many of the legal objections, which we support, but we also believe that the Government have yet to persuade any of us that the Act will be workable. In fact, we know that many Ministers have described it both in private and public as unworkable and have criticised it, saying that they do not know why the Government have put all their eggs into one basket and are obsessed with Rwanda, with no visible impact on what has been happening.

Let us see whether the Minister can help us out here. Under the provisions of the Bill and its relationship with the Illegal Migration Act, we know that, despite whatever the Government have done, at a cost of nearly £400 million, no asylum seekers have yet been sent to Rwanda. Given that we have this huge investment of effort, can the Government tell us the number of individuals whom they expect to send to Rwanda? The Appeal Court said 100; Ministers have said a few hundred. What is the actual figure? I say to the Minister that there will be a working paper in the Home Office even if he says the answer is unclear. There will be a working assumption; the Government will have had talks about how many individuals they expect to send.

We know that the Government want a flight off. They do not care how—they just want to get one off as soon as possible so that the Prime Minister can pose with the plane in the background. What is the timetable? Will we have one flight or a couple of flights every week? This is why we have bothered with the Bill; we have had three days in Committee in the House of Lords, it went through the other place, and we have a couple of days coming up on Report. What is the purpose of that apart from being able to say that a plane will take off?

Can the Minister say how many asylum seekers are due for deportation under the Illegal Migration Act? Originally there was going to be a retrospective element to that Act from its First Reading. An amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, got the Government to agree that it would be from its enactment. That was some time in the middle of July, I believe. What is the number of asylum seekers who have come by irregular routes and who are now subject to deportation from this country? I saw in the Daily Telegraph today that it was 33,000. Is that wrong? If it is wrong, what is the figure? Michael Tomlinson MP, the Minister responsible for illegal migration, was asked on television yesterday whether it was 22,000. He did not say it was not 22,000; he made some reference to whatever, but he did not say it was not that. I calculated that the number of small boat arrivals since then is 16,628, so is it 33,000, 22,000, 16,628 or another figure? If it is another figure, how many of those asylum seekers who have arrived through these irregular routes do the Government expect to send to Rwanda? If the Government are driving a coach and horses through many of the democratic principles of this country, we would like to know why we are doing it. What is the purpose of it?

We have had great legal arguments—very, very important legal arguments—but I want to get down to the nitty gritty here. Why are the Government bothering? How many asylum seekers are there who should be being deported under the Illegal Migration Act? How many do they expect to send to Rwanda? What is the timeline for it? All of us want to understand what is going on. That simply goes to the heart of it. We need some numbers from the Government and some explanation of what is actually going on. That is the purpose of my Amendments 66 and 67. I beg to move Amendment 66.

My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 76A, in my name and in the name of my noble friend Lady Hamwee. This is a probing amendment to allow the Minister to expand on some of his helpful comments in an earlier group with regard to how the monitoring committee and the joint committee will operate.

When we started the Bill and I first read the treaty, I was not at that stage quite appreciative of how significant the monitoring committee and the joint committee would be when it comes to making decisions about the preparedness of when Rwanda would be a safe country. I was not aware at that stage, when I read the treaty, because at that stage, I was not aware that I was a decision-maker as to whether or not Rwanda would be safe. According to the Advocate-General, however, I am a decision-maker because I am a Member of Parliament and it is now a decision of the court of Parliament: this creature that has now come up from the grave to sit in judgment of a third country’s record on safety.

It is also relevant because the monitoring committee and the joint committee will be the supervising bodies, to some extent, with regard to the overall operation of the start to the end of the relocation processes. The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, is absolutely right: we do need more information about it, because we are gradually learning about what some of the estimates may be for the numbers to be relocated.

The Hope hostel in Kigali can accommodate 200 people, with an average processing time of a fortnight. On the previous day of Committee, we did the maths, as the Americans say. Well, we can do some more maths now, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has helped us. If we believe the Daily Telegraph, which occasionally is a reliable journal of Conservative thinking in this country, if there are 30,000 people, on the figures given by the noble Lord, Lord Murray’s, impact assessment of the Illegal Migration Act, which, of course, we will take as read, that is £5.6 billion plus the £400 million down payment, so a neat £6 billion.

The Minister, in an earlier group, outlined the very high cost of accommodating existing asylum seekers in hotel accommodation. We know, through the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, that the Home Office decided on the most expensive and least efficient means by which to accommodate asylum seekers. Nevertheless, that is £2.9 billion a year—so, on any reckoning, the number of those who will be relocated to Rwanda will take at least a decade at a cost of at least £6 billion. There is no means by which the Government can have a more effective way for the British taxpayer than efficient accommodation and processing here in this country. There is no way the Government can square any of it to make the Rwanda scheme cheaper for the British taxpayer.

Ultimately, we are looking not just for value for money but for whether we can make the decision that Rwanda is safe and the mechanisms are in place.

Before the noble Lord moves on to the other bits, can he give us some estimate of how much it will cost the British taxpayer if he and his friends succeed in perforating this Bill like a sieve so that it has no deterrent effect and we have an ever-growing number of people coming here having to be put up in hotels at immense cost to the UK?

I am grateful to the noble Lord, who has been here during the various days in Committee. He will have heard last Wednesday what the Government’s own estimate is regarding the deterrent effect of the Illegal Migration Act. That ranges towards the top element of deterrence of 50%. That is not ours or the Opposition’s but the Government’s estimate of the likely impact of the Illegal Migration Act, and that is the mechanism by which this is brought about. A 50% deterrence would be roughly 16,000 people.

Well, that is the deterrent effect. Assuming that of those who are coming, 50% on a regular basis are deterred, then over the long term there would still be 50% coming by boats. That is not my estimate, it is the Government’s estimate.

Before I give way, presumably what the noble Lord wants to get to is a deterrent effect of 100%, so that the boats are stopped, which is what we all want. But so far I have not found anything in any government documentation of policy that says that anything they are going to do will bring about 100% deterrence. Has the noble Lord found it?

I asked the noble Lord for his estimate of what will happen if we have no deterrent effect and there is an ever-growing number of people crossing the channel. Is it possible even to reach a figure? It must be enormous.

The Permanent Secretary at the Home Office was unable to do so. That is why he sought ministerial direction. Home Office civil servants sought ministerial direction because the Permanent Secretary said that the Government’s policy was not proven value for money.

I will address the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, and then happily give way to the noble Lord.

The valid question is, “If this Bill will not work, what would work?” We know that this Bill will not work, so the better deterrent effects are those policies such as relocation and resettlement agreements, which comply with international law and have policing mechanisms attached to them. That is called the Albania deal. I am sure that the noble Lord will agree that this has been a success.

From a sedentary position. I agree with the noble Lord. I think Hansard picked it up: a successful 90% deterrent. The noble Lord heard me at Second Reading saying that we welcomed the Albania deal. An internationally legal, efficient, effective resettlement and relocation agreement is what works. This is not any of those. I happily give way to the noble Lord, Lord Murray.

It is very interesting that the noble Lord should refer to the effectiveness of the Albania arrangement. The document that the noble Lord likes to refer to in relation to the ministerial direction on deterrence came before the Albania deal, the 90% drop and the tangible evidence that deterrence works that we saw as a result of the Albania deal. We can extrapolate from the experience of the Albania deal to say that deterrence will work more generally if we can be sure that a significant proportion of those crossing the channel in small boats are sent to Rwanda for third-country processing.

Even for the noble Lord, it is a bit of a leap to say that a negotiated relocation agreement with Albania has been a deterrent because they may have thought we were going to send them to Rwanda. Even factually, I am afraid that he was incorrect. The noble Lord knows that the ministerial direction sought on the migration and economic development agreement with Rwanda was specifically for this Rwanda agreement. He also knows that when the Permanent Secretary was giving evidence in December, after the Albania agreement was agreed, he said that no circumstances had changed with regard to his view for value for money for this agreement. The Permanent Secretary still believes that the Rwanda agreement will not propose to be value for money. I agree with the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office.

The monitoring committee will have eight members, as the Minister said, and its terms of reference are online. The Minister said earlier that it would be independent of government, and that is true to an extent—if you think that four members being appointed by one party and four by another constitutes independence, because when it is being established, each party will appoint them. The key thing from our point of view is the ability of the monitoring committee to, as the Minister wrote in a letter to me,

“ensure all obligations under the treaty are adhered to”.

It will not, because it cannot—the monitoring committee has no powers of enforcement. It will be able to refer aspects it considers important to the joint committee, but it is under no duty to publish any of those recommendations or any of its findings, which can be significant. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart of Dirleton, said, the safeguards that must be in place as far the Government are concerned will be considered to be in place only if the monitoring committee has said that they are in place. We in Parliament will not know; but we are supposedly the decision-makers when it comes to whether Rwanda will be safe.

The joint committee, under Article 16, can make only non-binding recommendations to the parties. So, there is a monitoring committee that does not have a duty to publish its findings and cannot ensure adherence to the treaty. It can make only recommendations to a joint committee, which can make only non-binding recommendations, and which itself is not duty bound to report to the body that is apparently to be making the decisions: Parliament.

I asked how we would then change this if the circumstances changed. Even if we in Parliament found that out from a monitoring committee and joint committee that do not report to us, how would we change it? The noble and learned Lord rightly said that no Parliament can bind its successors. That seemed to imply that a future Parliament could change this arrangement. Well, it cannot, because, of course, no Parliament can bind its successors, but no Parliament can bind a Government on making or ending treaties—that is a prerogative function. How can we in Parliament change the treaty if we decide that Rwanda is no longer a safe country? I hope the Minister can explain that to me when he winds up.

My Lords, I want to speak in support of Amendment 67, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. I have listened to the last hour or two—I have lost count of how many hours of debate there have been—and have restrained myself, perhaps uncharacteristically, from intervening. There were contributions from, for example, my noble friend Lord Anderson, who has great experience, having appeared in courts in which I have not; from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, who has been a very senior Minister; and from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hoffmann, who has given judgment in some of the relevant cases. I thought I would leave it to them to deal with the legal aspects.

I come to this as a lawyer who has spent 38 of the last 40 years as a Member of one or other House of this Parliament. I am concerned about the balance between the legal position created by a piece of draft legislation and the role that we legitimately have in these Houses, particularly in the other place, which is more democratically accountable than we are, although we are reluctant to deny at least some level of democratic accountability.

I do not understand this concept of deterrence. There are two views on deterrence, and they are simply stated: either you believe that the provisions are deterrents, or you believe they are not. You can actually make pretty respectable arguments both ways. It seems to me that the deterrent that would stop people coming in small boats is to deal with the cases efficiently, which has not been done at least until very recently—in other words, to ensure that those who make what might well in the vast majority of cases be unjustifiable and inadmissible requests to be allowed to remain in this country, leave this country, after due process, as quickly as possible—and to ensure that Parliament retains some oversight so that it can see that the new law is being dealt with in a way of which we are not ashamed and that accords with British legal standards. Amendment 67, which I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, will allow me to say is modest, would at least allow Parliament to have that oversight of public spending and the way a new and unusual law operates to ensure it is fair and that there is value for money.

There are some very odd things about this Bill. If noble Lords look just for a moment at Clause 5, it encourages the question: when is a Minister of the Crown not a Minister of the Crown? It provides the following in relation to interim measures:

“It is for a Minister of the Crown (and only a Minister of the Crown)”—

it is very unusual to see a sentence such as that in a statutory provision—

“to decide whether the United Kingdom will comply with the interim measure”.

There you see the language of judicial review: he or she is only a Minister of the Crown because you can judicially review a Minister of the Crown. But then your eye wanders down to Clause 5(4)(b):

“a reference to a Minister of the Crown is to a Minister of the Crown acting in person”.

So he is actually a Minister of the Crown who is not a Minister of the Crown; he is acting in person, so that means, I assume, that you cannot judicially review the decision he has taken, because although he happens to walk into this building as a Minister of the Crown, this decision is taken as though he was sitting in their sitting room in East Cheam or wherever they happen to live.

That is an interesting thought, but I wonder whether it underlays this provision. I had assumed, until the noble Lord spoke, that it is drafted in that way to exclude the Carltona principle—namely, to prevent a civil servant acting in the name of a Minister of the Crown.

That may not be the reason why it has been so drafted, but it is my interpretation of one of the consequences of that drafting.

The point I am making is that that construct, whereby a Minister of the Crown is a private person only for the purposes of that clause, seeks to exclude Parliament’s oversight of the actions of that person. At least Amendment 67 makes a respectable attempt to ensure that parliamentarians in both Houses can review the potential operation of certain issues under this Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, raised the issue of numbers—very well, if I may say so. The leader of the Opposition, who was a young barrister in my chambers at one time and was noted for his determination and accuracy, told the nation that about 100 people would go to Rwanda. Others have suggested a figure of about 200. Would the Minister be kind enough to confirm the actual number of places that exist in Rwanda for people who would be sent there under this Bill? I believe it to be certainly less than 200, but that is based only on attempting to find out the figures through various articles I have read online. If we are really talking about fewer than 200 people, then what is all this about, and why is Parliament not to be allowed to draw the country’s attention to the fact that this is really a pig in a poke—a political construct designed to deceive people into believing that it will stop the boats—and take appropriate parliamentary steps? That is not what will stop the boats.

My Lords, the poke is very difficult to interrogate. One of the provisions of the treaty is about reception arrangements and accommodation, which goes to the point that the noble Lord has just made. I hope that the Minister will agree with our Amendment 76A, which is about transparency and the workings of the treaty. It is only through the joint committee that we could have any hope of understanding the day-to-day implementation of the treaty. It is only if we have something like Amendment 76A—we are not wedded to the particular drafting of it—that we will be able to understand. We need a reporting mechanism to Parliament in order to scrutinise, which is one of the major reasons that we are here, what actually happens—if it ever does happen.

My Lords, are we not in danger of simply adding to the bureaucracy of the Bill by demanding an extra measure of reporting or an extra way of scrutinising? We have Questions four days a week, we have Questions for Short Debate. There is hardly a debate I have been in that did not end with a noble Lord’s question to a Minister about one matter or another, seeking precise information.

My Lords, it is certainly the case that we ask for a lot of information, but if there is no obligation on the Government to provide the information, where do we go from there?

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this relatively short debate. Just for the record, I point out that my noble friend Lord Hailsham extended the courtesy of letting me know that he would be unavailable today, which I appreciate.

This legislation builds on the Illegal Migration Act 2023, the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, and other immigration Acts. It does not seek to replicate the provisions of the Illegal Migration Act for other case types. It is limited to the issue of the safety of Rwanda and makes some consequential changes to give proper effect to the presumption that Rwanda is a safe country.

The Government are considering plans for delivery of the provisions of the Illegal Migration Act in light of the Supreme Court judgment. Provisions in the Illegal Migration Act to support removal of people to Rwanda whose asylum and human rights claims are inadmissible will be commenced after Parliament has given its view on the safety of Rwanda.

As drafted, Amendment 67, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asks for information normally used only for internal government planning. This is not information that is normally shared since it is not Parliament’s role to examine the details of internal operational planning, nor is it necessary to meet the Government’s primary objective of ensuring that flights can relocate people to Rwanda.

However, I can confirm that, where claims are declared inadmissible for those who are subject to the duty to remove, the Government will provide support and accommodation in line with Section 9 of the Illegal Migration Act. Furthermore, in response to both Amendments 66 and 67, once the partnership is operationalised and flights commence, as soon as practicable following Royal Assent, removal data will be published online in the usual manner as part of the quarterly immigration statistics.

With regard to reporting on the current location and immigration status of any individuals relocated under the Rwanda treaty, it would be wholly inappropriate for the Government to report on personal data pertaining to the locations of relocated individuals in this manner. We believe that is also unnecessary. As we have set out, the treaty provides that no one relocated will be removed from Rwanda except, in very limited circumstances, to the UK. We have also been clear that anyone relocated who wishes to leave Rwanda voluntarily is free to do so.

The UK and Rwanda will co-operate to ensure that removal contrary to this obligation does not occur, which may include systems for monitoring the locations of relocated individuals. However, this would be with their express consent only and would, of course, not be for wider sharing or publication. This is in addition to the robust monitoring mechanisms already in place via the monitoring committee to ensure the effective operation of the partnership in practice and the well-being of those relocated, the findings of which will be reported in line with the agreed procedures set out in the monitoring committee terms of reference and enhanced monitoring plan, which, as set out earlier in this debate, are published online.

I turn to Amendment 76A, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis. The terms of reference set out clearly that during the period of enhanced monitoring, the monitoring committee will report to the joint committee, which is made up of both UK and Rwandan officials. This is set out in Article 15(4)(b), in accordance with an agreed action plan, which will include weekly and bi-weekly reporting, as required. As per Article 15(4)(c) of the treaty, the monitoring committee will make any recommendations to the joint committee which it sees fit to do. The monitoring committee will otherwise produce a formal written report for the joint committee on a quarterly basis over the first two years of the partnership, setting out its findings and making any recommendations.

Following notification to the joint committee, the monitoring committee may publish reports on its findings as it sees fit. At least once a year, it will produce a summary report for publication. I have set out that the treaty includes enhanced provisions to provide real-time independent scrutiny of Rwanda’s asylum procedures aimed at preventing the risk of mistreatment contrary to Article 3 of the ECHR before it has the chance to occur. This addresses the findings in the Supreme Court proceedings that under the previous arrangements, as set out in the memorandum of understanding, the work of the monitoring committee would necessarily be retrospective. The treaty further provides at Article 15(9) for the monitoring committee to develop a complaints system that can be used by relocated individuals to lodge confidential complaints regarding alleged failure to comply with the obligations agreed, and that the monitoring committee will investigate all such complaints received directly during the enhanced three-month monitoring period.

Since the partnership was announced, UK officials have worked closely with the Government of Rwanda to ensure that individuals relocated under the agreement will be safe and that their rights will be protected. For example, the treaty sets out at paragraph 3 of Part 2 of Annex B a new process for Rwanda’s first instance body, responsible for making decisions on claims for refugee or humanitarian protection status at first instance. These changes, which will require the introduction of a new domestic asylum law, will move Rwanda’s asylum system to a caseworker model and address the Supreme Court’s conclusions as to the system’s capacity.

The UK Government have already worked with Government of Rwanda to build the capacity of their current asylum system. This work has included agreeing detailed standard operating procedures, reviews of contracts for services the Government of Rwanda have procured—for example, with accommodation facilities and medical insurance companies—and new or revised training programmes. The Home Office has also conducted ground visits, detailed guidance reviews, table-top exercises and walk-throughs to map out the end-to-end process of this partnership and better identify prospective areas for strengthening. This is in addition to ongoing training and capacity building for Rwandan officials within the refugee status determination process. Home Office officials are working on a daily basis with the officials in Rwanda to deliver this partnership.

I do have an answer for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, as to how the joint committee can report to Parliament. It is not the answer that he will want, but it is all I can say at the moment. The joint committee is due to meet this week, when discussions on treaty implementation will continue. Senior Home Office officials will be in attendance, and I hope to have more to say on this before we get to Report.

The question that is being asked all the time is: how does Parliament keep it under review and raise the question that the country is no longer safe? That is not an answer.

Sorry, but it is not an answer at all to the question: how does Parliament in some way or another keep the question under review? The Minister has given an answer to a completely different question.

I do not believe I have, my Lords. What I am trying to say here is that the joint committee has to make reports to Parliament in order for Parliament to keep it under review. That is what is under discussion at the meeting this week. So it does answer the question—perhaps not in the way that the noble and learned Lord would like, for which, obviously, I apologise.

I am grateful for that comment. Just for the record, it is 11.13 pm on the last day of Committee, and it might be that the Government are thinking about something that we have been talking about. I thank the Minister for that. We will have an update with regard to how the joint committee operates. However, in order for Parliament to make its judgment, it must have access to independent information. The joint committee is the two Governments, so it does not really meet the criteria of Parliament making a judgment on the basis of Rwanda being safe, if the only information that we can use to make that judgment is that of the Government of Rwanda.

My Lords, we have gone into the operation of the joint committee and various other bodies in considerable detail today, so I am not going to rehash those now. I am sure we can refer back to the record.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked me about the timetable. Obviously, I would say this, but the treaties need to be ratified and laws need to be passed, so I am afraid I cannot give a timetable at the moment.

With regard to numbers, as we have discussed many times before, the scheme is uncapped so I cannot provide a commentary on the possible likely numbers.

Again, I say to the noble and learned Lord that we had a lengthy debate about that a couple of weeks ago on the International Agreements Committee report, and those are the steps that will be required of the Government. Also, as discussed before, the Government of Rwanda still need to pass their new laws in order to be able to ratify the treaty.

I am not sure that is an answer. Apart from the passage of this Bill, which is the only thing that Mr Jenrick’s statement referred to for what was required for the UK to ratify the treaty, what else is required?

I am sorry, I disagree. I think I answered the question about what has to happen in order for the treaty to be ratified. It was under discussion at considerable length in the International Agreements Committee debate that we had three or four weeks ago, whenever it was.

The Minister has just said that the numbers are uncapped, but in the walkthroughs and exercises, some of which have taken place in Uganda, someone will have told the Government how many spaces are currently available in Rwanda. How many spaces are currently available in Rwanda?

My Lords, I do not have the precise number. I will find it and write to the noble Lord. As I say, the fact is that the scheme is uncapped. In a perfect world, we would not send anyone to Rwanda because the deterrence would work. Surely that is the point, as alluded to by my noble friends Lord Lilley and Lord Murray, and indeed by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, who pointed out that deterrence is entirely a binary argument. The Government take one view and others take another.

I think I have answered most of the questions—or at least I have tried to, although I appreciate not necessarily to all noble Lords’ satisfaction. We will have more to say before Report. The Bill buttresses the treaty. Alongside the evidence of changes in Rwanda since the summer of 2022, it enables Parliament to conclude that Rwanda is safe and provides Parliament with the opportunity to do so. For the reasons I have outlined, the amendments are not necessary, and I therefore respectfully ask noble Lords not to move them.

My Lords, I do not often say this to the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, but that was a really disappointing response, partly because the Committee is seeking numbers and information and numbers were there none. The Government will have assumptions about what is happening. The other place has spent months and months debating Rwanda and this place has spent months doing so too; we have spent weeks on this Bill, including three days in Committee.

What I was asking with Amendment 67—and I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Carlile and Lord Purvis, for their support—was what the Government’s assumption is about the number of people who are going to go to Rwanda. It is no answer to say that the numbers are uncapped. That is a Civil Service response; it is what you say when it is difficult to answer and you do not want to do so.

Well, it is someone’s idea of how to answer that particular question, but it is not an answer.

I worked out the number of small boat arrivals myself, simply by counting the Home Office’s own statistics from the middle of July to the end of 2023, which came to over 16,000. According to the law that the Government have passed, all those people are waiting to be deported, but the only answer that the Government give is Rwanda.

The noble Lord, Lord Lilley, is quite right to make the point about Albania. Albania works because it is Albanians being sent back to Albania. It is not a Rwandan deal with people from all over the world supposedly being sent to a third-party country. I quite agree with respect to that. If the Government had other treaties like this one organised, they would not have half the problems that they do, so the noble Lord is right to make that point.

The Minister has made no attempt to say the number waiting for deportation under the Illegal Migration Act. I worked it out for myself by looking at the statistics. If I can work it out using the Government’s own statistics, why can the Minister not come to this Chamber and tell us what the number is? Where are they? We read time and again that the Government have lost most of them or do not know where many of them are. That was part of the purpose of what I said.

I want a timeline because I am interested. If this is the only thing the Government are saying is going to work with respect to dealing with the small boats crisis and it will act as a deterrent, surely, we deserve some idea about the Government’s timeline. If it is going to act as a deterrent in the way the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, said, then people would know that there will be planes every week taking hundreds of people. We read from the Court of Appeal that Rwanda can only take a few hundred people, yet there are tens of thousands waiting to be deported. That is not a policy; it is a gimmick. It is a way of trying to pretend that something is going on.

I will give way in a moment.

Why can the Minister not give us some numbers and facts? That is all we were asking for. I hope and I would expect, frankly, that we get a bit more about the numbers the Government are working towards. They will have working assumptions they are working towards, and this Chamber deserves to know what they are.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I bet if he were to ask the Australians their estimate of the number they would have to send to Nauru before it had a deterrent effect, they would not have been able to give a figure. They would have probably given a figure that was much larger than what turned out to be the case. I can, in the privacy of this Room, since no one will report it, say from speaking to civil servants about the Albanian situation that they were expecting to have to deport far more people before it had any effect. It started to have an effect even before they had deported one new person; they were only deporting people who arrived before the agreement took effect.

I have agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, about Albania. There is no question between us about Albania. Of course, it acted as a deterrent, because it was a situation in which Albanians leaving Albania to come to this country knew that they were going to be sent back there. We got an agreement between the UK Government and Albania. It was a proper returns agreement that people knew was happening, so it had the deterrent effect the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, is hoping for.

I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, is fully aware that the people he is referring to are economic migrants who have no right to be here. Therefore, a proper returns and resettlement agreement is completely legitimate. They are not asylum seekers.

With respect to the answer the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, gave us and the amendment I was speaking to, this Chamber deserves more numbers from the Government. We need to understand what the Government are doing. The whole government policy on small boats is built on deportations. If you ask the majority of people in the country, they would expect that the Government are going to deport thousands upon thousands to Rwanda. The reality is that there will be a few hundred at best. What sort of policy is that to deal with the scale of the problem the Government face? We deserve better than that. I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 66 withdrawn.

Amendment 67 not moved.

Amendment 68

Moved by

68: After Clause 5, insert the following new Clause—

“Return of individuals due to serious criminal offences(1) A Minister of the Crown must lay a statement before Parliament within 30 days if both of the following conditions are met—(a) the Secretary of State has approved a request from the Republic of Rwanda to return to the UK a person previously relocated under the terms of the Rwanda Treaty, and(b) the person specified in paragraph (a) had their permission to remain in the Republic of Rwanda revoked owing to the person’s participation in serious crime.(2) If Parliament is notified of the conditions being met as set out in subsection (1)—(a) a motion must be moved by a Minister of the Crown to be debated on the floor of the House of Commons, and(b) the motion must require the House to—(i) consider the statement laid before Parliament under section (1), and(ii) consider whether or not as a result of the contents of the statement, there should be a suspension of the Rwanda Treaty.”Member's explanatory statement

This new Clause would ensure that Parliament is notified of any individuals involved in criminal activity who are transferred from Rwanda to the UK, and that the House of Commons is able to both debate the case and discuss its implications for the future of the Rwanda scheme.

My Lords, this is a very small amendment. I tabled this amendment because I read that, according to what the Home Secretary said, it will be possible for people who have sought or been given asylum in Rwanda to be returned to this country if they are guilty of a serious offence.

Can the Minister say whether the Government have any idea of the numbers that they expect to be returned, or is it just a small number, as the Home Secretary said? What is the definition of a serious crime that would require somebody to be returned to the UK from Rwanda? Can we refuse somebody who is in Rwanda and the Rwanda Government are seeking to return on the basis that they have been guilty of a serious crime? Can the UK Government refuse to accept them back from Rwanda, if that is the case? If they are successfully returned to the UK from Rwanda because of the serious crime that they have committed, or the national security threat that they pose, what is their status when they are back in the UK? If we chose to do so, would we be able to deport them to another country?

This is a probing amendment; I was just curious, when I heard the Home Secretary talking about the possibility of criminals who had been deported to Rwanda being returned to the UK. It would be helpful to have a few answers to those questions. I beg to move.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for Amendment 68, but I cannot support its addition to the Bill. We do not consider such a change necessary, as individuals would be returned from Rwanda only in extremely limited circumstances, which we have agreed to in this legally binding treaty.

The first question that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, posed was to ask the Government again for numbers, as he had in the previous amendment. I do not think that any attempt to estimate likely numbers of people committing serious crimes is something that the Government could be expected to provide. If somebody who has been relocated to Rwanda commits a very serious crime, there is a chance that they could have their status revoked. In these limited circumstances, they may be removed to the United Kingdom, but only after they have served any prison sentence in Rwanda. This will ensure the non-refoulement element of the treaty will not be breached.

Could the Minister define the prison sentence? Is it any prison sentence, or is it a sentence of two, four or five years?

The provision in the treaty is reserved for the most serious crimes—one punishable by five years or more imprisonment.

The amendment would necessitate, in the rare event of such returns to the United Kingdom, parliamentary consideration as to whether the Rwanda treaty should be suspended. However, it does not follow that, because an individual is returned from Rwanda to the United Kingdom because of serious criminality, the whole treaty is called into question. The return of individuals to the United Kingdom, including in these circumstances, is envisaged expressly by the treaty. It would be an example of the treaty functioning as it should, not a reason for its suspension.

The Minister quite rightly says that it is in the treaty—under Article 11, I assume. But that article says that the person will come back to the United Kingdom only with the relocated individual’s consent. If that consent is not given, what happens in this instance?

I will have to revert to the noble Lord with an answer to that question, which is a hypothetical situation I had not considered.

The Government have set out the expense caused to the British taxpayer of billions of pounds in relation to illegal migration. As my noble friend Lord Sharpe of Epsom has pointed out on more than one occasion, our primary concern is the dreadful cost in life that it is inflicting. That is why we need bold and novel solutions towards ending it. Deterrence is a key element of the Rwanda partnership. Ultimately, we need to stop people making dangerous and illegal journeys across the channel. It is vital that we can show those who enter the United Kingdom illegally that they will not be permitted to remain here, thus breaking the model of the people smugglers and helping us to put an end to their vile trade. I therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I am grateful also to the noble Lord, Lord True, for his encouragement—I have about half an hour now.

The serious point is that that was very helpful. This is a niche little amendment, but it is quite important. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, because I had not actually picked that up. It is a niche amendment but this is worth asking questions about, to get some detail from the Minister, and I am grateful for his response. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 68 withdrawn.

Amendments 69 to 76A not moved.

Clause 6 agreed.

Clause 7: Interpretation

Amendments 77 to 79 not moved.

Clause 7 agreed.

Clause 8: Extent

Amendment 80 not moved.

Clause 8 agreed.

Clause 9: Commencement and transitional provision

Amendments 81 to 90 not moved.

Amendment 91

Moved by

91: Clause 9, page 7, line 2, at end insert—

“(3) This Act expires at the end of the period of two years beginning with the day on which it comes into force.(4) But the Secretary of State may by regulations made by statutory instrument provide that subsection (3) is to cease to have effect and that this Act is accordingly to continue be in force.(5) Regulations under subsection (4) may not be made unless a draft of the statutory instrument containing the regulations has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.(6) A draft under subsection (5) may not be laid before Parliament unless the Secretary of State has laid before Parliament a report based on evidence obtained by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that the Government of the Republic of Rwanda is fulfilling its obligations under the Rwanda Treaty.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment would insert a sunset provision for the Bill to expire two years after commencement unless Parliament decides that it should remain in force and the Government has produced a report containing evidence that the Rwandan government is fulfilling its Rwanda Treaty obligations.

My Lords, in moving Amendment 91 I am grateful to my friends the noble Lords, Lord Scriven and Lord Blunkett, for their support. The noble Lord, Lord Scriven, is in his seat and the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, was in touch with me today to apologise for not being able to be here this evening.

I want to keep my comments as short as possible, given the hour and the fact that some of the issues have already been debated in Committee. However, there is merit in discussing the value of a sunset provision, now that each of the Bill’s clauses has been scrutinised.

The fundamental issue, which I fear has not yet been fully addressed by the Government Benches, is that we are being asked to make a permanent judgment on the safety of Rwanda on the basis of the yet to be implemented arrangements outlined in the treaty. This is, of course, against the opinion of our highest court. Furthermore, it is simply not arguable on any rational basis that Rwanda is safe at present, when, as the Minister himself has conceded, Rwanda is moving towards having the required protections in place.

At present, it remains the opinion of this House that the treaty should not be ratified until Parliament is satisfied that the protections it provides have been fully implemented. This amendment simply probes what other mechanism could be used to enable Parliament to revise or review its judgment on the safety of Rwanda, if the Government do indeed proceed with ratification.

This is not a wrecking amendment; rather, it enables the Rwandan partnership to continue if the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees can confirm that Rwanda is fulfilling its obligations under the Rwanda treaty, even if, on these Benches, we do not believe this to be an approach befitting our nation’s values.

I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of the UK or Rwanda in trying to fulfil these obligations, and they may well provide the basis for a future assessment of the safety of Rwanda, if fully realised. But good faith is no basis for a sound legal judgment, and this amendment therefore provides Parliament with the opportunity to revisit the issue after a fixed period. At present, the evidence simply is not there that the necessary steps have been taken to ensure that the treaty protections will be in place to protect a very vulnerable grouping from injustices.

The treaty itself envisages initial shortcomings, for which increased monitoring is proposed. UNHCR has yet to observe substantial changes in the practice of asylum adjudication that would overcome the concerns of the Supreme Court. Two years, then, seems a plausible timeframe in which to operationalise the required changes, given that the Minister has stated at the Dispatch Box that the Rwandan authorities are expediting the changes that are needed.

Importantly, the terms of reference for the monitoring committee also stipulate that it will cover the first two years of the partnership. If it is the opinion of the Government that a sunset clause is not necessary, I give the Minister another opportunity to answer the question posed by many in this Chamber: how will the Government ensure that the obligations of the treaty—here I quote the treaty—

“can both in practice be complied with and are in fact complied with”?

This is an even more critical question, given that any recommendations arising from the monitoring arrangements in the treaty are non-obligatory.

I remain of the belief that it is not the role of Parliament to impose a factual and legal determination on all courts, for the fundamental reason that—I hope noble Lords will forgive me for stating the obvious—declaring another nation state safe does not in fact make it so. But, if the Government are choosing to place what some have called a “judicial blindfold” on our courts, we must explore what independent and expert scrutiny can come to bear on the question of the safety of Rwanda. Other noble Lords have commented on what might be an appropriate mechanism, and I implore the Government to give due consideration to this. Surely, we cannot leave a conclusive legal fiction on the statute book, irrespective of the evidence.

By signing off Rwanda as safe without a method to evaluate whether the treaty has been fully implemented, we will expose asylum seekers to a real risk of refoulement, especially given that there is limited suspensive legal remedy for those facing removal. This is no light matter, given that they may go on to face torture or serious mistreatment, from which they once fled—a trauma that cannot be undone. Providing no legal or parliamentary accountability for the terms of the treaty is both absurd and an abdication of our nation’s commitment to justice. I therefore hope that a solution can be brought forward, ahead of Report, to this unprincipled omission. I beg leave to move my amendment.

The right reverend Prelate obviously speaks with the authority of the Church of England. Is it the view of the Church of England that Rwanda is not safe?

My Lords, I cannot speak on behalf of the Church of England. We are not whipped on these Benches, and I speak for myself. I do not know for certain whether Rwanda is safe or not, and our courts seem to think they cannot state whether it is safe or not. I suggest that we need to review that in two years when we have more evidence.

My Lords, I am sorry to detain your Lordships at this late hour. I shall try to be very brief. This amendment, particularly proposed new subsection (6), is remarkably similar to an amendment put forward earlier in Committee by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, which I characterised as outsourcing decision-making to the UNHCR. I had a little spat with the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, about that and the right reverend Prelate, who spoke in favour of the amendment, denied that it was outsourcing. Very graciously, the noble Baroness intervened to say that that was the effect of her amendment and that she would consider making it, in her words, less rich when she brought it forward on Report.

This amendment falls into exactly the same trap. In proposed new subsection (6), on the renewal of the Act after two years, the decision is again outsourced to the UNHCR. I will not go through all the reasons I gave in my earlier speech as to why that is entirely inappropriate but, for those same reasons, this amendment is also completely inappropriate.

My Lords, I will briefly comment on the relationship between Rwanda and the United Kingdom contained in the treaty. A lot has been said about the treaty being inadequate and how it depends on what happens in future. The noble and learned Lord took a certain amount of flak during earlier debates in Committee when he was asked what the treaty is doing if Rwanda is safe. He suggested that it might make it safer. The rather scornful response to this observation was somewhat unfair. The treaty contains a number of obligations and is entirely typical of treaties in that respect. These obligations use the word “shall” and are directed to future activity.

The general principle of international law is that a treaty is binding on the parties and must be performed in good faith. That principle is embodied in the maxim “pacta sunt servanda”. We take that very seriously. If a party breaks the terms of a treaty, provided there has been a fundamental change of circumstances, as the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties makes clear, the treaty in effect comes to an end. The noble Lord, Lord Clarke of Nottingham, spoke of the possibility of a coup and seemed to suggest, as the proposer of this amendment did, that because Parliament had determined that Rwanda was safe, we would be stuck with that determination.

I respectfully disagree. The treaty bears close reading. I will not refer to it at this stage of proceedings, but Clause 8(1) makes its nature clear, Articles 14, 15 and 16 concern the arrangements for monitoring and Article 22 provides a dispute mechanism. Further, the treaty will end on 13 April 2027 in any event. These seem to me to be sufficient safeguards built into the treaty, but if there is a coup or a fundamental change of circumstances, or any Government think that Rwanda is unsafe, the treaty can be brought to an end, at least until a subsequent agreement has been reached. To suggest that Parliament must somehow not be satisfied that there are obligations in international law seems to me unreal.

I respect the noble Lord and am listening carefully to what he is saying, and as always, he makes well-considered arguments. I have a genuine question. I agree with everything he said, but only the Executive, under the prerogative power, would be able to make the judgment to end that treaty. Parliament cannot do it. Is that correct?

The noble Lord is entirely correct about the prerogative, but Parliament, perhaps unusually, in considering this Bill has the opportunity to see the treaty and the obligations contained within it. Parliament should look at those obligations and see whether it is satisfied with the terms of the treaty and whether it provides sufficient safeguards. These are relevant factors for Parliament to consider but, ultimately, I accept that the noble Lord is right—it is for the Executive to decide.

I am very grateful to the noble Lord for giving way again. In essence, that was my argument in the previous group when it came to the necessity for us to have the information for the monitoring committee and the joint committee, given the circumstances, to allow us to form that view. Ultimately, we do not have the power to bring the treaty to an end or amend it because it is a prerogative power. We are, therefore, very limited as to what we are able to do if there are changes of circumstances in Rwanda that our Government and their Government do not then wish to change within the treaty.

That shows very little faith in a Government of whatever colour. This particular Government will take a view as to whether or not there was a breach of the treaty in relation to the various safeguards contained within it. The Opposition are proposing to repeal the legislation in any event, so the matter might well disappear as a result of such an Act. We must credit the Executive, however, with the power to review and seriously consider if there was a sufficient change of circumstances—a coup, for example—to warrant a different approach.

My Lords, I strongly support the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford in moving the amendment. We have gone through, in some detail, the question of when this Bill is going to become law and whether it will become law before the changes are effected as a result of the new treaty.

Noble Lords will remember that the Home Secretary is asking us to bear in mind the key part of his evidence that the position has changed since the Supreme Court judgment: namely, the treaty for the provision of an asylum partnership, which was laid before this House in December. Obviously, it is only when the provisions of that treaty are implemented that the position will have moved on from what the Supreme Court found, because the Home Secretary quite rightly is not challenging the finding of the Supreme Court; he is saying the position will change when the treaty is given effect to.

Obviously, this House is very sceptical of what Ministers are saying about when the treaty changes take place. Earlier in the afternoon, Ministers were unable to identify when the law in Rwanda would be changed to give effect to it. Ministers were not able to tell the Committee at all when the monitoring committee was going to recruit a support team, independent experts were going to be appointed to advise the first instance body, and all the other things set out in paragraph 19 of the International Agreements Committee report. We have no idea at the moment whether this Bill will be brought into force before the changes envisaged by the agreement and therefore the place will then become safe, so I am very surprised the Government are willing to go ahead with it before the changes are implemented.

That is the beginning. As far as the end is concerned —as this amendment is concerned with—Ministers will be aware that the agreement that gives effect to the changes, which remedies the problems identified by the Supreme Court and accepted as problems by the Government, ends on 13 April 2027, unless the agreement is renewed. I assume, though I invite Ministers to confirm, that if the agreement with Rwanda is not extended beyond 13 April 2027, it is the Government’s intention that the Rwanda Bill will come to an end. If that is not the position, how on earth could the Government contend that Rwanda continued to be a safe country after 13 April 2027?

In any event, the possibility of changes of circumstances are something that Parliament should be able to debate. The two-year sunset clause the right reverend Prelate is proposing is a means by which that debate could take place. Everybody who has debated the Bill in this House agrees it is a very grave thing that the Government are seeking to do by promoting the Bill. The idea that it is a permanent state of affairs that can never be looked at again without the consent of the Executive promoting another Bill is an inappropriate way to deal with it.

For all those reasons, I submit that this Committee should agree to the amendment proposed by the right reverend Prelate. However, I am extremely interested to know what the answer is to the position if this agreement with Rwanda is not extended beyond 13 April 2027.

My Lords, I have added my name to this amendment. Because of the lateness of the hour, I will not repeat any of the arguments for why the amendment is needed. I will add an extra point, again looking at the treaty. It was partly alluded to by my noble friend Lord Purvis of Tweed. Amendments to the agreement are by executive order. This Parliament is being asked to say that Rwanda is safe. Rwanda is safe on the basis of this treaty; that is the basis on which this Parliament is being asked to say that Rwanda is safe.

However, Article 20 on amendments to the agreement states:

“This agreement may be amended at any time by mutual agreement between the Parties”.

Therefore, tenets that are deemed to make Rwanda safe based on the judgment of the Supreme Court could, by executive order, be amended. This Parliament would not be able to change its view that Rwanda is safe. The treaty could be changed.

Therefore, when this treaty falls on the date that has been said in two years’ time, it is quite right that this Parliament should therefore be able to look at everything in the round, including any amendments to this treaty, to determine whether Rwanda is still safe. That is why this amendment is needed.

Once again, I thank noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. As we have heard throughout today’s debate, we have to do more to break the criminal gangs’ business model, and to deter illegal migrants. These journeys are extremely dangerous. People have lost their lives attempting to cross the channel, as is well reported. These journeys are also unnecessary, as those making these crossings are coming from safe countries, such as France, where they could have claimed asylum. I say respectfully to the right reverend Prelate that that is surely the fundamental issue.

While the Government have made progress towards stopping the boats—with small boat crossings down by a third in 2023, while the numbers of illegal migrants entering some European countries have risen by 80%—we still need to do more. By delivering our key partnership, relocating people to Rwanda and not allowing them to stay in the UK, we will prevent people making these dangerous crossings, and we will save lives.

I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford for tabling Amendment 91, but we do not think it is necessary. It is clear from the evidence pack that the Government published on Thursday 11 January, and from the treaty itself, that Article 15 of the treaty enhances the role of the independent monitoring committee, ensuring that obligations under the treaty are adhered to in practice. I am sorry that I will be going over some old ground, but, as my noble friend Lord Howard pointed out, this is not dissimilar to some earlier amendments.

We have repeatedly made clear that the monitoring committee will have the power to set its own priority areas for monitoring, unfettered access for the purposes of completing assessments and reports, and the ability to publish these reports as it sees fit. Crucially, the monitoring committee will undertake real-time monitoring of the partnership for at least the first three months. This period of monitoring can be extended if required. The monitoring committee will be able to urgently escalate issues prior to any shortcomings or breaches placing a relocated individual at real risk of harm. This will include reporting directly to the joint committee co-chairs within 24 hours in emergency or urgent situations.

To expand on the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, I also refer the right reverend Prelate to my remarks earlier. Article 4.1 of the treaty sets out clearly that it is for the UK to determine the timing of a request for relocation of individuals under the terms of the agreement, and the number of such requests made. This means that the Government would not be obligated to remove individuals under the terms of the treaty if there had been, for example, an unexpected change to the in-country situation in Rwanda. As is the case in many scenarios, the Government would be able to respond and adapt as necessary and there is therefore no need to include a sunset provision as suggested.

Rwanda has a long history of supporting and integrating asylum seekers and refugees in the region; for example, through its work with the UNHCR to host the emergency transit mechanism. A specific example of Rwanda’s successful work with the UNHCR is the memorandum of understanding between Rwanda and the UNHCR to host a transit facility in Gashora for asylum seekers fleeing civil war in Libya, which has operated since 2019.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, is correct: if the agreement is not extended beyond the date he mentioned, in effect, it dies. Rwanda has a strong history—

As I understand it, yes.

Rwanda has a strong history of providing protection to those who need it, and it currently hosts more than 135,000 refugees and asylum seekers who have found safety and sanctuary there. The terms of the treaty we have negotiated with Rwanda address the findings of the UK domestic courts and make specific provision for the treatment of relocated individuals, guaranteeing their safety and protection. I invite the right reverend Prelate to withdraw her amendment.

Before the Minister concludes, I would be grateful if he could say what the mechanism will be for ending this legislation, if the treaty is not extended. Could he also answer my noble friend’s question on amendments to the treaty? It is long-standing practice that amendments to a treaty must come before Parliament through the CRaG process. Can he confirm that that would be the case?

My Lords, I am not expert on treaty law but, as far as I understand it, that is the case. I am afraid that I do not know the process behind the noble Lord’s question; I will have to find out.

My Lords, I am grateful to those who have participated in this debate. Given the late hour, I hope they will forgive me for not going through the particulars; I am sure that everybody wants to get home at this stage.

It has been genuinely very interesting to hear the different perspectives on this matter. I am not yet entirely convinced; I want to reflect on this and speak to others about whether we might come back to this on Report. For now, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 91 withdrawn.

Clause 9 agreed.

Amendments 92 and 93 not moved.

Clause 10 agreed.

House resumed.

Bill reported without amendment.

House adjourned at 11.57 pm.