Amendment 31

Part of Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill - Committee (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords am 5:30 pm ar 14 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Crossbench 5:30, 14 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I am absolutely not entitled to speak on the Human Rights Act, but I found that the arguments advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope, rather convincing and attractive. The House should remember that the noble Lord knows whereof he speaks—he served in the Home Office with the relevant portfolio.

I want to put in a little word for the outside world. My name is on Amendment 31, which was so well moved by the noble Lord, Lord Scriven. The reason I was attracted to his amendment was not so much because the notwithstanding clause covers the Human Rights Act but because it also covers any interpretation of international law by a court or tribunal. Of course, we have international law defined in this Bill as

“the Human Rights Convention … the Refugee Convention … the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights … the United Nations Convention against Torture … the Convention a fairly wide definition.

Prohibiting the use of any arguments derived from international law as a way of trying to override the ruling—which all decision-makers, including Ministers, immigration officers, tribunals and courts, must abide by—that Rwanda is a safe country is a fairly major thing to do.

The legal adviser to the Foreign Secretary is probably the most important official in the Foreign Office—certainly more important than the Permanent Secretary—because they have the task of trying to ensure that what this country does and how it does it remains within international law. Sometimes that brings them into conflict with the Permanent Secretary, who dreams up all sorts of wheezes that the legal adviser rules out, and the Foreign Secretary automatically goes with the legal adviser.

I am talking not just of Foreign Secretaries such as Geoffrey Howe who knew their law, but Foreign Secretaries in general. Down the years, Foreign Secretaries in this country have tended to believe that respect for the international rule of law was in the UK’s interest. The idea that one can pick and choose, dine à la carte and say “Well, we’re not going to apply that bit” is extraordinarily dangerous. The habit could catch on. We have heard already in this debate how the Prime Minister of Pakistan has noticed what we are up to in this Bill and is using it as a justification for sending Afghans fleeing the Taliban back to Afghanistan. We are setting a very dangerous precedent.

Mrs Thatcher has been referred to. Whatever arguments officials such as myself put to her, she would always say “Well, we need to stick within the law”. When we lost cases, she would say, “We can appeal if you think we have a chance, but we must respect the outcome if we lose”. As we have this debate and watch the travails in the Conservative Party, hearing moving speeches such as those from the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, and the noble Lord, Lord Deben, there is a missed procession watching us: the Carringtons, the Douglas-Homes, the Howes—and I do wish Douglas Hurd could be with us. None of these people would have allowed a Government in which they had the privilege of serving to put forward a Bill which decided that international law could be set aside.