Amendment 31

Part of Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill - Committee (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords am 4:30 pm ar 14 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate Ceidwadwyr 4:30, 14 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I will speak to my Amendment 33 to Clause 2. I acknowledge the support of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford, who is in her place and may well wish to contribute later. The amendment addresses a critical aspect of our commitment to upholding human rights and the rule of law, ensuring that our legislative process remains transparent and, as was referred to recently by my noble friend the Minister, accountable and responsive to judicial declarations of incompatibility under the Human Rights Act 1998.

Before I delve into the specifics, I note that, as I stated at Second Reading, there are many tools available to our Government to alleviate the present pressures on the asylum system, but we need to know which tools to use and how to use them properly. I am pleased to take the opportunity to commend the progress made by the Government in reducing the number of small boats crossing the channel by using return agreements, dealing with backlogs, bilateral co-operation and other measures, including employing more staff and training them to interpret the criteria for granting asylum rather better than has been the position previously.

All these things have been done and are very important, but return agreements dealing with backlogs and bilateral co-operation are important. Of course, there is an issue on the questionable policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing and permanent settlement. I am concerned that there is—in some quarters, anyway—some fixation which we are having to deal with in the Bill and in these amendments, a fixation which I think is unnecessary. This amendment seeks to rectify a significant issue that arises if a court declares—I emphasise the word “if”—our legislation incompatible with convention rights, protected by the Human Rights Act 1998.

As it stands, there exists a potential for delay in addressing such declarations, which could undermine the effectiveness of our legal system, and indeed further erode public trust in our commitment to human rights. I hope that what I am going to suggest will be helpful to the Government. It is certainly not an attempt to wreck the Bill or slow it down in any way, but to address this concern, the amendment proposes that a Minister of the Crown should lay before each House of Parliament a statement under specific conditions, which are, first, if

“a court makes a declaration of incompatibility, under section 4 of the Human Rights Act 1998”,

and, secondly, if

“the Minister has not laid a draft remedial order or a remedial order before Parliament, under section 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998”.

This would ensure timely action and prevent unnecessary delays in addressing the human rights concerns that may be raised by the judiciary.

The statement required by the amendment must provide clear reasons for the Minister’s proposed course of action. Specifically, it must address whether Ministers consider there are compelling reasons for proceeding with the policy, should a declaration of incompatibility be issued, and whether they intend to make a remedial order in response to such a declaration. This transparency ensures accountability and allows Parliament, including our own House, to scrutinise the Government’s decision-making process. I know that many noble Lords have raised this as a major concern.

Furthermore, the amendment sets a strict timeline for Ministers to lay the statement before Parliament, requiring it to be done within 28 days of the court’s declaration of incompatibility. Additionally, within three sitting days of laying the statement, a Motion must be moved by a Minister of the Crown for debate in each House. The Motion must require the House to consider the statement laid before Parliament and to indicate whether it agrees with it. This ensures that Parliament promptly considers the Minister’s proposed course of action, provides an opportunity for debate and scrutiny and, importantly, ensures that the voice of Parliament is heard. We have a duty to ensure that Parliament is engaged in such circumstances. In essence, the amendment aims to prevent delay in addressing judicial declarations of incompatibility and promotes a more responsive and accountable legislative process.

This amendment not only strengthens the framework but emphasises the importance of giving Parliament—including our House—a greater role, should the courts offer a declaration of this kind. I hope that it will be considered carefully by my noble and learned friend the Minister, and not rejected out of hand.