Amendment 22

Part of Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill - Report (1st Day) – in the House of Lords am 9:00 pm ar 4 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Coaker Lord Coaker Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Opposition Whip (Lords) 9:00, 4 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, as we come to the end of today’s consideration of the Bill before us, I start with the important point that the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, mentioned. I raised it in debate on the first group of amendments, when I said that the constitutional position is that the Government have the right to get their Bill through, but the House of Lords also has a constitutional position, which is the right for it to expect that its views and the amendments that it passes are considered properly by the Government. Unless I got it wrong, the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, was saying—it is certainly what I think—that our belief is that the Government are simply saying, “We’re not going to change the Bill at all. We don’t mind what the amendments are or what inconsistencies are brought forward, or how illogical what we are saying is. Such is our determination that we are going to drive this through and use our electoral majority to do it”. To that extent, the Government are undermining the constitutional conventions on which our Parliament is based.

I have been lectured, as many of us on this side of and across the House have been, on the Government’s right to get their Bill through. Indeed, the Home Secretary was at it again this morning in a newspaper, warning of the consequences of us not allowing the Bill through. Why would the Government simply ignore what the House of Lords is saying, which appears to be the intention? It may not be the intention of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart, or the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, but it will be interesting to see what amendments, if any, the Government make in response to what has happened in your Lordships’ House in Committee and, more importantly, in the votes that have taken place today.

I would appreciate us having some understanding of the Government’s view of what is being done here. As the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, mentioned, and as I am sure many other noble Lords feel, we have a right to be heard—and, at times, for our amendments to be acted upon—rather than simply ignored and dismissed as people who do not understand the problem and are simply trying to get in the way of dealing with the boats.

I started with that important point, notwithstanding the fact that some really important points reflecting on the Bill have been made on this group of amendments, as with many other groups. This group of amendments deals with individual claims and exemptions that may be made with respect to the general principle of the law. As somebody who has great respect for the law, although not a lawyer myself, it has always been my understanding that not many good laws do not have exemptions within them. A good law may have a generality of application to the population—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart, will know this better than me, in his current position—but it will have exemptions within it because the impact of a general law on an individual may be such that justice is not served. Because of that, law therefore has to have exemptions built into it. As it stands, the Government are simply not able to have any exemptions within this. There is a blanket application of the law to particular individuals, whatever their circumstances.

We heard three very passionate and moving speakers leading on these amendments. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, supported by my noble friend Lord Cashman, outlined the circumstances that may occur with a particular social group. My noble friend mentioned the LGBT community, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, will also appreciate that. Does that need to be considered within the Bill? We will have to see, but it appears to be another thing that the Government will just dismiss.

We heard from the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, about her amendments with respect to victims of modern slavery and trafficking. People who are trafficked have no choice. They do not say “Yes, traffic me”. That is different; that is smuggling. We are talking about people who are trafficked and have no part in the decision. The Government’s Bill just does not care about that. Those people will be subject to automatic deportation or going to Rwanda. As the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, said, quite rightly, surely that could be considered for exemption under the terms of the Bill.

My noble friend Lord Browne’s amendment, supported by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, and others, pointed out that a consequence of the Bill as it stands will be that people who served this country and put their lives on the line for us will simply be treated as illegal and deported to Rwanda. Does the Minister think that is right? Does he actually agree with that? It would be interesting to know whether he thinks that somebody, as my noble friend Lord Browne pointed out, who has fought for this country, served this country and put their life on the line, and who has had to come because of the situation in Afghanistan that my noble friend outlined, should be deported. Who in this House thinks that they should be deported to Rwanda? I do not believe the Government Front Bench think that. It is a rhetorical question; I will save the Minister from answering it. If they do not think that, then they should sort it out.

We are not playing at this; these are things that affect real people’s lives. The point the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, made, is really important. What credibility will this country have if it finds itself in a similar situation in the future and says, “Work with us because we will ensure that you are protected”? What possible credibility would we have as a country or as part of an alliance? If we said to people, “If you serve with this country, do not worry about the consequences of it, because you will be protected”, what will we be able to say to them when, as the noble and gallant Lord pointed out, they simply turn around and say, “That is not what happened with those who served in Afghanistan”? Many of them were forced to stay and the consequences of that for some of them have been very severe.

The Government need to act on my noble friend Lord Browne’s amendment. We do not need warm words such as, “Yes, we need to consider this and think about it. It is a very important, interesting point that has been made”. The Government make the law. With respect to this, they should change the Bill to make sure that those people are protected and they should change the Bill in the way the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, has outlined, with respect to victims of modern slavery and trafficking. As my noble friend Lord Cashman and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, said, the Bill needs changing with respect to LGBT people—although I note my noble friend’s Amendment 33, which we will consider on Wednesday, may be a way of doing that. We will leave that for Wednesday.

This is a very important group of amendments dealing with individual claims and exemptions. This is not only about the law; it is about the way that justice works in this country. Justice demands these changes and I hope the Government respond.