Amendment 31

Part of Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill - Committee (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords am 5:00 pm ar 14 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Baroness Lister of Burtersett Baroness Lister of Burtersett Llafur 5:00, 14 Chwefror 2024

I am sorry, but I was only quoting—I know it was a majority vote and that the noble Lord did not vote for this bit—from the Joint Committee on Human Rights report, which still stands, even though it was a majority vote for that particular paragraph. Perhaps I will leave it to the lawyers, if I have not quite got the legal point.

The Constitution Committee comments that disapplication of HRA provisions is of “considerable constitutional concern”, and invites us to

“consider the potential consequences of undermining the universal application of human rights”.

The UNHCR expresses its deep concern at the exclusion of asylum seekers from some of the human rights protections, not only because it

“undermines the universality of human rights” but because of its

“implications for the rule of law both domestically and internationally”,


“an acutely troubling precedent”.

Universality means all humans, regardless of their immigration status. In the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, universality principles stem from recognition of the

“inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members”— all members—

“of the human family”.

As I said at Second Reading, breaching this principle speaks volumes as to how the Government see asylum seekers, for they are, in effect, being treated as less than human.

I make no apology for repeating these points from Second Reading, because even though a number of noble Lords raised their disquiet about the disapplication of the Human Rights Act, the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, did not address our concerns in his closing speech or his subsequent letter to Peers.

The closest the Minister came in the debate was perhaps to do so implicitly, when he dismissed in a peremptory manner the advice of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which was established under the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to

“review the adequacy and effectiveness in Northern Ireland of law and practice relating to the protection of human rights”.

When challenged by the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, who is no longer in her place, as to whether he had actually read the commission’s advice, he responded that

“the Government take a different view to those opinions”.—[Official Report, 29/1/24; col. 1099.]

The commission’s opinion, which is perhaps better described as formal advice, concludes that the Bill

“does not consider the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, and the integral role of both the Human Rights Act and ECHR in the complex fabric of the NI Peace Process and devolution”.

Indeed, it warns that it

“appears to be incompatible with obligations under the … Agreement”.

That position is echoed by the Human Rights Consortium in Northern Ireland. In its view, these proposals

“represent a violation of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement by effectively limiting access to the Human Rights Act … for those seeking refuge in Northern Ireland. They also represent a violation

The JCHR saw these concerns as “serious” and, by a majority, reported that

“The Government has not adequately explained why it considers those concerns are not merited”.

It therefore asks for

“a full explanation of why it”— the Government—

“considers the Bill to be consistent with the Windsor Framework and Good Friday Agreement before … . Report stage”.

I am not quite sure which Minister will be responding, but will the noble and learned Lord undertake to provide such an explanation? Can he please explain why we should put more faith in the Government’s interpretation of the implications for the Belfast/Good Friday agreement than those of both official and unofficial human rights watchdogs in Northern Ireland? That is all the more so given the Constitution Committee’s invitation to us

“to pay particular attention to the constitutional consequences … for the Good Friday Agreement”,

and the questions that it raises about the compatibility of Clause 3 with ECHR rights. I know that the question of Northern Ireland came up late on Monday, but it was from a rather different perspective.

Finally, more generally, can the Minister tell us what he thinks the universality of human rights actually means? What is the Government’s justification for breaching this fundamental tenet of human rights?