Motion A1 (as an amendment to Motion A)

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill - Commons Reasons – in the House of Lords am 3:48 pm ar 20 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Pleidleisiau yn y ddadl hon

Lord Coaker:

Moved by Lord Coaker

At end insert “, and do propose Amendment 1B in lieu—

1B: Clause 1, page 1, line 5, at end insert “while having due regard for domestic and international law.””

Photo of Lord Coaker Lord Coaker Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Opposition Whip (Lords)

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction to this debate in your Lordships’ House. He mentioned that the amendments had been returned from the other place. I say to the Minister that, at some surprise to all of us, it has come back without a single word changed, not a single comma moved or a single full stop inserted—and the Government lecture us about constitutional convention. We have said all along, and I repeat here, that it is not our intention to block the Bill, but it is also part of constitutional convention that the other place reflects on what your Lordships have said and does not just carte blanche reject it, which is what has happened. Who is not respecting constitutional convention now?

Whatever anyone’s view, I do not believe that any of your Lordships, wherever they come from with respect to this debate, can be accused of the following, which a Conservative MP said on Monday:

“Their lordships clearly do not care about the people dying while trying to cross the channel”.—[Official Report, Commons, 18/3/24; col. 695.]

That is just not the case for any single Member of this Chamber. I believe that is not the view of any single Member of the other place or anybody who comments on it in the media. There are real differences between us about how we stop the boats. That is the debate we are having: not about whether one party or the other, or one side or the other, wishes to stop the boats but about the most appropriate way to do it.

That would have been bad enough, but we yet again see the Prime Minister’s official spokesman, as repeated in the papers this morning, saying that your Lordships are lacking in compassion. What sort of statement is that? Does the noble and learned Lord the Minister agree with the comments I just read out? I do not agree with them at all with regard to anybody in this Chamber, wherever they come from with respect to this debate. I start with that. I will be very interested in what the Minister has to say, because it is a difference not in compassion but in the way we achieve the common objectives we all have for our country.

We are also accused of trying to block and delay the Bill. Let me deal with this, because it is also a very real issue. I ask the Minister: how on earth is this Chamber delaying and blocking the Bill? The other place was supposed to be discussing anything that we pass—if we indeed do pass anything today—next Monday, 25 March. I know for a fact that Members in this Chamber, from all across the House, were being prepared for us to deal next Tuesday, 26 March, with anything that had been discussed by the other place. Those two dates have gone; they have disappeared. Noble Lords on the other side have had emails apologising that they were asked to come on 26 March when they no longer need to. What is going on? It is chaos, a shambles; we have no idea.

Did the Minister have any input into that decision? Did he know it was going to change? Did the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, know? As has happened on numerous occasions, it seems that the Front Bench in this Chamber finds out what is happening on the “Today” programme or on Times Radio. It would be interesting to know whether they knew anything about it, because the Back Benches of their own party certainly were all lined up to be here on 26 March. The serious point I am making is that the Government need to answer the question: if they are accusing this Chamber of delaying the Bill, why is it not going to be back in the other place on Monday 25 March and back here on Tuesday 26 March, when it could be dealt with again? Where is the answer to that? We are now told that it is coming back after Easter. That is not our fault; it is the Government’s management of their own timetable. They need to sort this out and try to understand what is going on.

We read that it is now 300 migrants for half a billion pounds and counting. We are apparently now having a “staged approach”, whatever that means. Did the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart, know about that? Was it his suggestion that we pay people £3,000 to go if they volunteered? It would be interesting to know where that came from.

My Motion A1 would amend Motion A. Why have I tabled it? I will start with domestic law. Noble Lords will recognise that, because I respect the constitutional conventions of this place, my amendment would no longer require

“compliance with domestic and international law”; it now asks the Government to have “due regard” to domestic and international law.

I would have thought that was a given, but of course it is not. On the front of this Bill, we read that the Government are

“unable to make a statement that … the provisions of the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill are compatible with the Convention rights, but the Government nevertheless wishes the House to proceed with the Bill”.

This is a really important amendment. I know my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti will deal in her Motion D1 with other aspects—I will leave her to deal with those—but the rule of law goes to the heart of this, whether it is in the later amendments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, or in the amendments that my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti and I are putting forward. The rule of law goes to the heart of this Bill.

I have referred to domestic legislation—I will be brief, as I want to test the opinion of the House—but I say this to all noble Lords: if you read this Bill, as the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, has pointed out on numerous occasions, it says:

“the validity of an Act is unaffected by international law”.

People ask, “Why is your amendment relevant?” It is relevant because the Bill says international law will not apply, and then it lists all of the conventions that will not apply. It lists them: this does not apply; that does not apply; this Council of Europe convention or this United Nations convention against torture; all of this does not apply. Then I am told that the amendment is irrelevant. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart, could explain. If my amendment is irrelevant, why is all of that included within the Bill? Why does the Bill say that this

“Act is unaffected by international law”?

It just beggars belief.

This is the really important point. What do the Government say about what President Putin is doing in Ukraine? What is the word they put before it? “Illegal”—it is an illegal invasion because it is illegal under international law. Why are we taking action against the Houthis in the Red Sea? Because what they are doing is illegal. We support all of that because what they are doing is illegal under international law. Why are we upset with what China says with respect to Hong Kong or with respect to Taiwan? Because we believe that it breaks international law. Where is our global reputation as a country with regards to the pursuit and maintenance of international law if, within a fundamental Bill of our country, we say that it will be unaffected by international law, whatever that international law says? That cannot be right. That surely undermines where we stand as a country and where our reputation is, and the proof of that is the Prime Minister of Pakistan citing the Rwanda treaty in defence of his country’s decision to expel hundreds of Afghans who had fled from the Taliban. That is where it takes us, and that is why it is so important.

That is why this statement of principle should underpin every single piece of legislation that we pass. I would have thought that most, if not all, Members of Your Lordships’ House, would have believed that, as the Government will say, this is completely unnecessary. So why on earth have we put this forward? We have put this forward because the Bill that your Lordships are discussing now explicitly disapplies aspects of domestic law and disapplies aspects of international law. That cannot be right, and as such I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Chakrabarti Baroness Chakrabarti Llafur 4:00, 20 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, in overturning our Amendment 6, which reinstated domestic courts’ jurisdiction, the Minister in the other place called it “unnecessary” and “wrecking”. Well, it cannot logically be both. Still, to assuage any genuine rather than confected concerns about delays in removal to the future hypothetically safe Rwanda, we now add the stipulation that any interim relief be for

“no longer than strictly necessary for the fair and expeditious determination of the case”.

This is a significant concession. Motion D1 effectively prioritises these cases above other vital work of relevant courts and tribunals; it is a genuine legislative olive branch to an Executive that have snapped all others in two. But when they go low, let your Lordships’ House go high. I shall, I hope, be pressing Motion D1 very soon.

Photo of Lord Carlile of Berriew Lord Carlile of Berriew Crossbench

My Lords, we have some very difficult questions to answer here this afternoon, and there are many Members of this House who may not have quite made up their minds how to vote, if the opinion of the House is sought. I shall be brief. In a few moments, I shall ask a few questions of the noble and learned Lord the Minister, which may help us reach those decisions. But I hope that I speak for everyone in this House in saying that, although we may be viscerally concerned about the provisions of this Bill, we are not here just to obstruct it; we are here to make this a better Bill, in the way in which this House is set up to do.

I will reflect for a moment on the reference of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, to the outrageous statement made by a Member of another place about compassion. If we look at this Bill and the previous related Bill together, what does this tell you about compassion? People who would, in some cases, have had a legitimate right to asylum—a legal right to asylum under UK and international law—have now been excluded from applying for asylum, even if they had been tortured in their home country, because they came here in a small boat. Compassion? Is that really compassion?

The fact they are forbidden to apply means they are deprived of all connection with the United Kingdom jurisdiction, which has an immense tradition of judicially reviewing administrative action to ensure that those who are affected by bad decision-making can, in certain restricted circumstances, obtain redress. Before I decide how to vote in these Divisions, I would like to hear the noble and learned Lord the Minister’s answer.

The Minister also referred to the cost of hotels. Well, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said a few minutes ago, I think the figure is £592 million to keep 300 people in Rwanda for three years. That is £1.8-something million per head. I have not looked on the Ritz Paris website for some time—I may have had a meal there once at somebody else’s expense—but my recollection of looking at that website is that one could keep somebody in that hotel for three years, and have some money back, at the price that this process, as the National Audit Office says, will cost the country. Is this a fair and compassionate system, and is it a cost-effective one?

I turn to my second question. The Minister referred to the appropriate legislation to give effect to the treaty being already before the Rwandan Parliament—I think I cite him accurately. My understanding is that the Government accept that Rwanda is a democracy, so is the First Reading of a Bill, in our parlance, before the Rwandan Parliament, a guarantee of any kind that that legislation will be passed without amendment to give effect to the treaty? I do not see it that way. It certainly would be seen as an affront to both Houses of Parliament if Rwanda were to make that assumption about us.

My next question is this. What if our Government, contrary to their instincts, statements, wishes and insistence, find that Rwanda is, after all, as the Supreme Court found as a fact, not a safe country? Will the noble and learned Lord tell us what the Government would then do? How would they set about that problem? What would be the involvement of the monitoring committee? Who would decide that Rwanda was not a safe country after all? Would we simply have complacency, in which we just got on with the job of sending people, at £1.827 million per head, to Rwanda?

Then there is the treaty itself. The noble and learned Lord has said that the Government are completely satisfied that Rwanda is going to give effect to the terms of the treaty. He cannot say that Rwanda has given effect to the terms of the treaty, because it has not. We all know that. Nobody would believe—and I do not think the noble and learned Lord would claim it was true anyway—that it has given effect to the terms of the treaty as yet. Can he tell us when he expects Rwanda to give effect to all the terms of the treaty? Will he give us a guarantee—this would be very important in how we decide to vote in any Division—that the Government will not send anybody to Rwanda until they are satisfied that all the terms of the treaty have been met?

My inclination, at the moment at least—unless I am reassured by the Minister—is that we are a very long way from being satisfied that Rwanda is a safe country. There is a danger of repeating ourselves. We were treated yesterday to a short lesson and some new regulations on not repeating ourselves, particularly at the later stages of a Bill, but it is impossible not to repeat oneself on this Bill, because basically it all goes back to the principles behind the Bill. We need reassurance from the noble and learned Lord that something is being done so that, if it turns out that Rwanda really is not a safe country and/or that it has not complied with all the requirements of the treaty, people will not be sent there.

Photo of Lord Lipsey Lord Lipsey Llafur 4:15, 20 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, the phrase “the elected House must prevail” is a meme around this place. We have certainly heard it from both the Government and the Opposition, and we heard it again from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, this afternoon. Most of the time, it is completely right that we bow to the will of the House of Commons. But is it always right?

On the basis of the 25 years I have spent here, I would say that this House has three roles. There are two very obvious ones: one is amending Bills, at which we are jolly good; the other is setting up Select Committees, quite a number of which I have served on, and I would say that we are jolly good at that too. There is a third one, which very rarely comes into place, and that is this House as a backstop, challenging the Commons when it goes too far and flirts with breaking international law, usurping the role of the courts or behaving unconstitutionally in general. Does this Bill, without the amendments being put forward this afternoon, pass that threshold? I would say that it comes perilously near it.

There is also a matter of timing, which troubles me. Obviously, this was not in the Government’s election manifesto, so the Salisbury convention does not apply. How can the Government argue that they have a mandate to legislate for this policy now, forced through in the face of huge opposition in this House and elsewhere, when in six months’ time they will face the people of Britain in an election which will decide what their manifesto should be? Let them put the Rwanda Bill in their next manifesto—let them put it before the British people. The British people, who are much gentler and more sympathetic to people in the situation of those who are to be exported, will give their verdict. I may be wrong, and if the Government win the election they can bring back the Bill and it will sail through without any opposition, because it will be a manifesto pledge. To do this now, when there is more than a suspicion that it is just a device by No. 10 in a desperate attempt to pull a lost election out of the fire, cannot possibly be justified.

If the amendments are defeated today then that is the end of the story, but I hope they will not be. I dare to hope that the Commons will think again. If not, it will be for each individual Member of the House—guided, in our case, by the Whips—to decide whether or not to keep blocking the Bill.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green

My Lords, what a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, with whom I agree. I felt that the Minister’s opening remarks were so full of mistakes that I shall go through them tomorrow in Hansard with a red pen and pass them back to him, if that is all right, so he can see exactly where I think he went wrong.

It was expected that the other place would take out all our important amendments, but at the same time you have to say that it was not the move of a democratically minded Government but that of an authoritarian, tyrannical one. This Government are choosing tyranny over democracy in this instance. We now have the job of revising the Bill again. As the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, said, the British public are actually kinder and more concerned than this Government. The Government do not represent the public any more, and it is time they went.

Photo of Baroness Fox of Buckley Baroness Fox of Buckley Non-affiliated

My Lords, I am not a fan of the Bill but I think it is time for it to pass.

I want to respond to the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, who asked if it is always right that the elected House must prevail. The truth is that the elected House must prevail and that yes, that is always right. We are an unelected House. We have a job to do, but at some point it has to be the elected House that decides in a democratic society.

I want to comment on the remarks made about compassion. I too disapproved of Members of the other place who tried to suggest that anyone arguing against the Bill lacked compassion. That is a ridiculous accusation and does not hold. However, I also make the point that the inference in reply—that anyone who is trying to push the Bill at this point lacks compassion—is equally low politically. It is irritating to have a situation where people start to try to compete with each other in the kindness stakes. The big political issue is that this country has lost control of its border and the asylum system is not fit for purpose. This Bill—not one that I support—is trying to tackle that. No one is doing it because they are lacking in compassion.

There are double standards here. I have heard that anyone who supports this Bill must be verging not just on the right but on the far right, does not care about anyone crossing in the boats and is actually a racist. I have heard that said by people active in political life. I ask that, for the remainder of the discussion that we have, we take each other seriously enough not just to dole out insults but to say that, if we are genuinely committed to tackling the problem of border control, this is the Bill that is on the table now and has been accepted by the House of Commons a second time, and, even if we disagree with it, we have to go along with it.

As for the people who have argued that this was not in the manifesto, the suggestion that there is no public concern about control of the borders has no finger on the pulse of any public. However, it is true that there will be elections shortly. It seems to me that people who feel strongly that this is the worst piece of legislation ever passed will stand on that in their manifesto and will commit, here and now, to overturning the Bill once it goes through. Then we will see where the votes lie and, if the Opposition become the Government, whether they stick with that and tear up the Bill. Fair dos if they do.

Photo of Lord Murray of Blidworth Lord Murray of Blidworth Ceidwadwyr

My Lords, I rise to answer one question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. He asked your Lordships to ponder the position of the Rwandan Parliament and said that we must not second guess what it may do. What he forgot to mention is that Rwanda has a monist system, so a treaty entered into by the Government of Rwanda is capable of being relied upon in their domestic courts. As I previously informed the House, the Chamber of Deputies of Rwanda has ratified the treaty, and we now learn from my noble and learned friend the Minister that the Senate of Rwanda has also ratified it. The only matter that remains is for the president to agree the ratification and when that happens, the safeguards in the treaty will apply.

Photo of Lord Carlile of Berriew Lord Carlile of Berriew Crossbench

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way, but does his reference to the monist system and the guarantee that it goes through the courts not mean that there is no separation of powers between the political and judicial elements of Rwanda?

Photo of Lord Murray of Blidworth Lord Murray of Blidworth Ceidwadwyr

No, that is simply not the case at all. What the noble Lord appears to suggest is that there is a confusion in the Rwandan constitution; I do not see that at all. The point is that they have agreed that treaties will have a kind of direct effect in domestic courts and once ratified, that is indeed the case. The concern by which he sought to encourage noble Lords to support the Motion before us today is, I suggest, simply not on a secure foundation.

Photo of Lord Green of Deddington Lord Green of Deddington Crossbench

My Lords, I will speak only once in this debate and very briefly, as usual. I should just mention my interest as president of Migration Watch UK. We have been pressing the Government for three years to get a hold of asylum but, regrettably, the situation has deteriorated greatly. There is something missing from the discussion of this subject, and that is the public. There have been plenty of very interesting and capable legal arguments—I do not touch on any of those—but we must not forget that very substantial numbers in this country are concerned about what is happening now on our borders. The Government need to get a grip and if they do not succeed, the next Government will have to tackle it so let us not be too legalistic. Let us see if we can find a way through.

Photo of Lord Stewart of Dirleton Lord Stewart of Dirleton The Advocate-General for Scotland

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords for their contributions to this debate, as I am for their contributions throughout the progress of the Bill through your Lordships’ House, but these amendments do significant damage to the core purpose of the Bill. In relation to political language, I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said from the Front Bench but on this subject, I wish to do no more than echo the wise and temperate words of the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley. Her observations, as she said, come from someone who is not a supporter of the Bill, but she spoke about the manner in which arguments should be conducted, and the manner in which this House should treat the views of the other place—not a tyrannical assembly, contrary to the view expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, but elected Members representing their constituents.

In relation to Section 19(1)(b) of the Human Rights Act, which the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, addressed from the Front Bench, the matter is touched on in the response to the Constitution Committee which the Government have issued. The use of a Section 19(1)(b) statement does not mean that the Bill is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. There is nothing improper or unprecedented in pursuing Bills with a Section 19(1)(b) statement; it does not mean that the Bill is unlawful or that the Government will necessarily lose any legal challenges on human rights grounds. Parliament intended Section 19(1)(b) to be used as it is included in the Human Rights Act 1998. All such a statement means is that the Home Secretary is not able to state now that the Bill’s provisions are more likely than not compatible with convention rights. A range of Bills has had Section 19 (1) (b) statements in the past. As we discussed at an earlier stage, that includes the Communications Act 2003, passed under the last Labour Government.

The noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, extends an olive branch, as she puts it, and I think the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, came back on that. But the other place saw these provisions, olive branch though they may be. I do not for a second seek to challenge the noble Baroness’s assertion that she is attempting to improve the Bill, but what the other place recognised was that these provisions are integral to the functioning of the Bill. Therein lies the deterrent effect by which the Government intend that illegal crossings of the channel should come down and be deterred altogether.

The noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, in his desire to be jocular at the expense of the Government and the Bill, overlooks the deterrent effect of the Bill. He cites the figures that will be expended in the Rwanda system but, of course, the objective His Majesty’s Government have with this Bill is to deter crossings. His Majesty’s Government would be entirely delighted if no one were ever to be sent to Rwanda, because the deterrent effect was effective.

We have spoken at length about the assurances given between His Majesty’s Government and the Government of Rwanda, and I do not intend to go any further on that. The noble Lord also went rather too far when he said that the Supreme Court had determined that Rwanda was unsafe. No such finding was made; the finding bore on the risk of refoulement, a matter addressed in the treaty and debated at length with noble Lords.

The noble Lord asked wherein lie the safeguards once the Bill is in place. The answer to that, of course, is in the monitoring committee made up of independent persons, and the extensive presence of UK civil servants assisting with it.

In relation to that, the terms of reference of the monitoring committee will include monitoring compliance with assurances given in the treaty and associated notes verbales, and reporting to the Joint Committee on its findings, such as on the implementation by His Majesty’s Government and the Government of Rwanda of the obligations of the treaty; reception conditions; accommodation; processing of asylum claims; and treatment in support of relocated individuals at all times while they remain in Rwanda. It may publish its reports following notification to the Joint Committee. It is expected to report any significant issues to the Joint Committee straightaway. It may provide advice or recommendations to the Joint Committee on actions that should be taken to address identified issues. It will monitor complaints handling by His Majesty’s Government and that of Rwanda, and it will develop its own complaints system to allow relocated individuals and their legal advisers to make confidential complaints regarding any alleged failure to comply with the obligations of the treaty, including as to treatment of relocated individuals or any element of the processing of their asylum claim in accordance with the treaty. Therein lie the protections.

The noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, spoke about the duties of this place in relation to the other place and urged the House to consider taking steps to prevent these measures coming in. He urged a future Conservative Government—the one who will take their place after the next election, I venture to suggest—to bring them forward as part of their manifesto. I hear what the noble Lord says and note his genuine commitment to the constitutional proprieties and workings of this place. However, this Government do not intend to stand idly by. We must address the problem of fatalities in the channel now.

Along with other countries with similar constitutional arrangements to the United Kingdom, we have in this country a dualist approach whereby international law is treated as separate to domestic law; international law is incorporated into domestic law by Parliament through legislation. The purpose of this Bill is to invite Parliament to agree with its assessment that the Supreme Court’s concerns have been properly addressed and to address the measures in the Bill accordingly.

In relation to the nature of our monist system, where the manner in which the United Kingdom approaches these things is not shared and where international treaties are incorporated directly into domestic law, I happily adopt the observations of my noble friend Lord Murray of Blidworth in his intervention on the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew. The noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, spoke usefully about the public’s perception of this matter. The Bill prevents domestic courts and tribunals granting interim remedies on matters relating to the general safety of Rwanda. It makes it clear that there is very limited scope for individuals to challenge their removal to Rwanda.

The Bill will enable us to create a deterrent only if people can be returned swiftly to their home country or removed to a safe third country. To permit that to happen, we must end the cycle of late, repeated and spurious legal challenges. We must make it clear that, on the basis of the published evidence pack and the internationally binding treaty, Rwanda is a safe country which will offer the necessary protection and support to those who are relocated there. These amendments would simply perpetuate that cycle of legal challenge and render the Bill worthless.

Ours is a strong track record of rights, liberties and protection of human rights internationally, and this Government are committed to enhancing that record. Although some of the provisions in the Bill are novel, the Government are satisfied that the Bill can be implemented in line with convention rights. Noble Lords will know and have heard in the course of our debates on the Bill that Australia has taken a similar approach with Nauru, and we now know that other countries are exploring similar models—for example, Italy, which has announced a partnership with Albania.

Noble Lords from various sides of the House have spoken about the need, ultimately, to address these matters on an international, global basis. The Government share that aspiration, but steps must be taken now. As I said in response to the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, we must urgently address the matter of fatalities in the channel through people attempting to cross illegally. The Bill will do that.

Photo of Lord Coaker Lord Coaker Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Opposition Whip (Lords) 4:30, 20 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, I thank everyone who has contributed on this group of amendments. I will say just one particular thing. This is not an argument between people who want to stop the boats and those who do not: it is an argument about how we do it. The Government need to listen to what has been said, rather than just set up these artificial targets. We of course want to deal with the boats as much as the Government do, but my amendment to Motion A, on which I will test the opinion of the House, seeks to do it in a way that is consistent with the traditions of our country and with the laws, both domestically and internationally. I wish to test the opinion of the Motion A1.

Ayes 271, Noes 228.

Rhif adran 1 Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill - Commons Reasons — Motion A1 (as an amendment to Motion A)

Ie: 269 Members of the House of Lords

Na: 226 Members of the House of Lords

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw


Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw


Motion A1 agreed.