Motion B1 (as an amendment to Motion B)

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill - Commons Amendments and Reasons – in the House of Lords am 4:49 pm ar 16 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Pleidleisiau yn y ddadl hon

Lord Hope of Craighead:

Moved by Lord Hope of Craighead

At end insert “, and do propose Amendment 3E as an amendment in lieu of Amendment 3C—

3E: Clause 1, page 2, line 31, at end insert—“(7) The Republic of Rwanda cannot be treated as a safe country for the purposes of this Act until the Secretary of State has obtained and laid before Parliament a statement from the independent Monitoring Committee formed under Article 15 that the Objectives referred to in Article 2 of the Rwanda Treaty have been secured by the creation of the mechanisms listed in that Article.(8) The Republic of Rwanda will cease to be a safe country for the purposes of this Act if a statement is made to Parliament by the Secretary of State, on the advice of the Monitoring Committee, that the provisions of the Rwanda Treaty are no longer being adhered to in practice.””

Photo of Lord Hope of Craighead Lord Hope of Craighead Judge

My Lords, I asked for this amendment in lieu to be put down because I believe that Lords Amendment 3C—to which I propose Amendment 3E in lieu—raised important issues to which further thought still needs to be given by the other place. If I do not receive a satisfactory reply, it is my intention to test the opinion of the House on this amendment.

My amendment as now phrased seeks to add two provisions to Clause 1. That clause states, as we know, that the Act

“gives effect to the judgement of Parliament that the Republic of Rwanda is a safe country”.

In other words, it is a country from which persons who are sent there will not be removed or sent to another country in contravention of any international law, and, further, their claims for asylum will be determined and treated in accordance with that country’s obligations under international law as well. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart of Dirleton, said on an earlier group, that provision is central to the entire provisions in the Bill—it is a crucial provision on which so much else depends.

The Act will come into force on the day on which the Rwanda treaty enters into force, which means that your Lordships are being asked to say, as a matter of judgment, that as from that very moment and without more, Rwanda is a safe country. I do not believe that, despite the assurances given by the Ministers, your Lordships have been told enough to enable that judgment to be made.

Moreover, as the Bill stands, the assumption seems to be that Rwanda will continue to be safe for evermore, for ever after, come what may. That is because the decision-makers referred to in Clause 2 are under an obligation to make the assumption conclusively that Rwanda is a safe country without any qualification whatever as to what may happen in the future. Surprisingly, no provision is made anywhere in the Bill for what should happen if the facts change and everyone can see that Rwanda is no longer safe.

I want to make it clear, as I did last time, that I do not for a moment question the good faith of the Government of Rwanda when they entered into the agreement which is enshrined in the treaty, nor in the carrying forward of the obligations which it contains, and I do not question their determination to do everything they can to make the treaty work as it is intended to do. That is what my amendment is about.

My first point is that before Rwanda can be judged to be a safe country the mechanisms in the treaty that provide for this must be put into practice. Ratifying a treaty is an important step, but it is not enough; it must be implemented before Rwanda can be considered to be safe. Under sustained cross-examination by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, questions have been asked repeatedly as to what is going on in Rwanda, and the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, said that “progress” is being made and that further developments are taking place. However, that is not good enough, and the assurances that we are given are in themselves not enough for us to make the judgment we are required to make.

That is why I am asking that Rwanda be not treated as a safe country until the Secretary of State has laid before Parliament a statement from the independent monitoring committee that the key mechanisms that the treaty provides for its implementation have been created. The monitoring committee exists; communications have been taking place between the Government and that committee. I cannot see that my amendment is placing any difficulty on the Government if their assurances to us are soundly based. It is very strange—I simply raise this as a question for your Lordships to consider—that I have been asking for this amendment for some time now, the Government know perfectly well what my point is, and yet we have still not had a statement from the monitoring committee that the treaty is being implemented. That raises a serious issue as to where we really stand on this crucial issue.

My second point is that surely there must be some way of dealing with the situation without resorting to primary legislation if for whatever reason Rwanda is no longer safe because the provisions of the treaty are no longer being adhered to in practice. Anything may happen in the future; we cannot be sure of what is going to happen three years, five years or 10 years on from now. My amendment provides that Rwanda will cease to be a safe country for the purposes of the Act if the Secretary of State, on the advice of the monitoring committee, makes a statement to Parliament to that effect. Where that will lead to is for the Government to work out if they accept my amendment. The extraordinary thing is that, without that amendment, there is no way of curing the problem without primary legislation, with all the complications that gives rise to. What I am seeking the Government to face up to is to get some mechanism in so that the matter can be dealt with without resorting to primary legislation.

When my original amendments were considered in the other place before Easter, they received support from three very experienced lawyers speaking from the Conservative Benches—Sir Jeremy Wright, Sir Bob Neill and Sir Robert Buckland. They directed their remarks specifically to my second point. Sir Bob Neill said:

“Facts change, and if Parliament sets itself up as an arbiter and decider on fact, it must have a means of changing its decision if the facts change … Can we find a way forward?”.—[Official Report, Commons, 18/3/24; col. 679.]

Sir Jeremy Wright said

“it is simply not sensible for Parliament not to be able to say differently, save through primary legislation, if the facts were to change” and that the Government

“should give some thought to the situation of the Bill … it must be right for Parliament to retain the capacity to reconsider and if necessary revise it

Sir Robert Buckland said that

“there is force in their Lordships pursuing that point, so that we marry up the reality with what we want to achieve legally

Indeed, when my revised amendments were debated yesterday, Sir Robert Buckland said that he still commended them. I am grateful to him for understanding what I am asking for and for supporting me.

The Commons reason set out in the Marshalled List states that my amendments are not necessary, first, because the Bill comes into force when the treaty comes into force and, secondly, because it is not appropriate to legislate for Rwanda adhering to its treaty obligations because its ongoing adherence to its treaty obligations will be subject to the monitoring provisions set out in the treaty. That fails to face up to the points that I am making on both the issues that I raise. The coming-into-force of the treaty is not enough, despite its ratification. We need confirmation before Parliament that it has been implemented before Rwanda can be considered to be safe. As for the second point, as Sir Jeremy Wright said, if the facts were to change then it is simply not sensible for Parliament not to be able to say differently save through primary legislation. The other place needs to think again. I beg to move.

Photo of Viscount Hailsham Viscount Hailsham Ceidwadwyr 5:00, 16 Ebrill 2024

My Lords, I support Motion B1, moved by the noble and learned Lord. I support both proposed new subsections within his amendment, subsections (7) and (8), but I want to focus exclusively on subsection (8), because it addresses directly what will happen in the foreseeable circumstances that Rwanda ceases to be safe. It lives in a fragile and volatile part of the world. It does not have a long tradition of democracy. The president has been there for an awfully long time. I do not regard that as a good sign. Therefore, there is a foreseeable risk that Rwanda will cease to be safe. As the noble and learned Lord said, this Bill not only does not address that point but requires future decision-makers to assume that it is safe when the rest of the world knows that it is unsafe. That is a nonsense. It is unjust and it is bad government. I am glad to say that there were distinguished voices on the Conservative Benches yesterday and when the matter was last debated, cited by the noble and learned Lord, who made these points.

I recall also the intervention of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, when the matter was debated in this House a few weeks ago. He told your Lordships that on that very morning he had heard the Lord Chancellor, Mr Chalk, say that in the event of the monitoring committee holding that Rwanda was no longer safe, there would be a parliamentary occasion. He did not specify whether the occasion would be a social one to which we would or would not be invited, nor did he tell us about the parliamentary process. I asked my noble friend the Minister whether he would be good enough to tell us what the parliamentary occasion would be. He said that he could not tell us. Well, he has now had four weeks to find out.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Llafur

I apologise for intervening, but I have not heard, either, from the Lord Chancellor as to what the parliamentary occasion would be. Can the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, help us? Has he heard what the parliamentary occasion would be?

Photo of Viscount Hailsham Viscount Hailsham Ceidwadwyr

No. I have been speculating on whether we will be asked to a party, to which we might or might not be invited, or whether there will be a parliamentary Statement or whether the Government will bring forward a Bill to repeal this Bill. There are a number of possibilities, but we have not been told and, so far as I am aware, the Minister has not been told either—though he could go and take advice from the Box, if he so chose, because he has officials in this Chamber who could doubtless advise him.

So we have a real problem, and it is addressed by the amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord. The amendment has advantages, in that it does not deny parliamentary sovereignty and it retains the accountability of the Secretary of State, but it has one disadvantage in that it is silent as to what happens if the Secretary of State makes a statement to the effect that Rwanda is not a safe country. I am not quite sure what happens in legal terms at that point, but I am certain that it is an important step forward. We would be making progress if we accepted this amendment, and if the noble and learned Lord tests the opinion of the House, I shall be supporting him.

Photo of Lord Hope of Craighead Lord Hope of Craighead Judge

My Lords, perhaps I might respond to the noble Viscount. The provision in proposed subsection (8) simply states that, if the Secretary of State makes such a statement to Parliament, Rwanda will not be safe for the purposes of the Bill. I think that is as far as one can go, but if there is anything wrong with it, it is up to the Government to sort it out.

Photo of Baroness Lister of Burtersett Baroness Lister of Burtersett Llafur

My Lords, I shall speak to Motion D1. In the last round of ping-pong, my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti described her amendment in lieu as an “olive branch”. Well, this amendment is more of an olive tree, such is the compromise it represents on the original amendment passed by your Lordships’ House. In the case of an age-disputed child, the amendment would require a proper Merton-compliant age assessment to be made either by the local authority or by the National Age Assessment Board before they could be removed to Rwanda. If the assessment decided that the person was an adult, they would then be removed.

In response to the previous amendment in lieu, the Minister made much of the role of the National Age Assessment Board, spelling out in detail why it should be involved in any age assessment. The present amendment takes on board what he said and includes the board as one of two possible safeguards to prevent a child erroneously being sent to Rwanda. As such, it would help to ensure that the Government’s own intention that no unaccompanied child should be removed to Rwanda is fulfilled. The Minister emphasised this, reading out the treaty’s clear statement to that effect. He stated that,

“if an age-disputed individual requires a Merton assessment, they will be relocated to Rwanda only if determined to be an adult after that Merton assessment

The problem is that, under the current provisions, it is all too likely that an age-disputed child will be sent to Rwanda without any possibility of a Merton assessment, so the age assessment board will be redundant. As it stands, the Bill allows for the decision to be made by immigration officers on the basis of a quick visual assessment of physical appearance and demeanour, acknowledged to be unreliable by the Home Office—not a high threshold, as the Minister claimed. The Refugee and Migrant Children’s Consortium warns that

“we continually see immigration officers deciding a child is an adult on arrival and placing that child in the adult system. It is only after that age decision is challenged and a further determination is made that the child is correctly assessed to be a child”.

That is the same practice that the Minister has repeatedly said will act as a safeguard against wrongful assessment and removal.

I dealt with the other arguments put forward by the Minister at the previous stage. The key issue facing us today is whether we are prepared to ensure a genuine safeguard against a child being removed to Rwanda because of the failure to provide a proper, holistic, social work led age assessment that is as accurate as possible.

Given that it is government policy that no unaccompanied child should be removed and the further concession the amendment represents, I had hoped that the Minister might have been able to accept it. As he refuses this olive branch—or olive tree—would he at least be willing to give an assurance, on the record, that no age-disputed child will be sent to Rwanda on the basis of an initial age assessment of appearance and demeanour alone, or to accept his colleague David Simmonds MP’s urging of the Minister yesterday that the decision be made on the basis of

“a Merton-compliant age assessment that is the gold standard for determining whether a young person is an adult or, I would add, a child? This would provide a helpful basis for the meeting that the Minister kindly agreed to on Report. It would be really helpful if we—Peers who signed the original amendments, and key stakeholders on the ground—could sit down with the Minister and officials in a less polarised and contested space to discuss how current safeguards could be strengthened by non-legislative means so as to minimise the risk of a child wrongly being sent to Rwanda or anywhere else, which is a goal we all share.

Photo of Baroness Butler-Sloss Baroness Butler-Sloss Chair, Ecclesiastical Committee (Joint Committee), Chair, Ecclesiastical Committee (Joint Committee) 5:15, 16 Ebrill 2024

My Lords, since the Minister spoke about Motion E, I should like to respond to the government amendment. I am co-chair of the parliamentary group on modern slavery and a vice-chairman of the Human Trafficking Foundation. The government amendment on modern slavery or human trafficking is entirely inadequate to deal with a group of people who are victims of a crime, suffering very often serious trauma, and without control of their destiny—they arrive here without the choice to be here. They are a specific and completely different group from any other group that your Lordships have been considering. They are then sent to Rwanda or to another country.

This Government, and I praised them at the time, passed a brilliant piece of legislation: the Modern Slavery Act, which is admired across the world. It has been made, if I may say so, almost entirely without any effect by subsequent legislation. For the Government to rely on the Modern Slavery Act as the legislation that is taken account of is laughable. The idea the Government make, that the Modern Slavery Act provides a protection for those victims who are covered by the existing legislation, is equally laughable. I did not table again the amendment that I put at the first ping-pong, but I must say that I deplore the Government’s approach to victims of a heinous crime that is widespread across this country.

Photo of Lord Browne of Ladyton Lord Browne of Ladyton Llafur

My Lords, I will speak to Motion F1 and Amendment 10D in lieu. Your Lordships’ House will be pleased to hear that I do not intend to rehearse the moral case for this amendment in any detail. Frankly, if I have not persuaded the House of that on any of the previous occasions that I have spoken to a variant of this amendment, then I will not do so today. Instead, I shall focus briefly on yesterday’s proceedings in the other place and the reasoning of the Minister and others in refusing to accept it in its earlier version, Amendment 10C.

First, I must dispute any suggestion that mine, in any of its versions, is a wrecking amendment. Indeed, I argue that, far from being a wrecking amendment, it is calculated to improve this legislation in a very specific way and, in so doing, to protect our international reputation and our credibility as an ally in future conflicts while leaving the central policy entirely unchallenged—although I do not agree with the central policy or support it.

I take this opportunity to express my thanks to 13 senior military and security figures, many of whom are Members of your Lordships’ House, for their letter in support of Amendment 10C, which was published in the Sunday Telegraph last Sunday. As they said in this letter, without this amendment, the legislation we are considering will

“do grave damage to our ability to recruit local allies in future military operations”.

I will be grateful if, when he responds, the Minister explains why several noble and gallant Members of this House—former Chiefs of the Defence Staff and others with direct senior experience in national security issues—are wrong in that assessment and that his Government are right. If the Government simply feel that our future credibility as an ally is less important than other considerations, perhaps he could just say so openly.

Ours is a revising Chamber; this is what we are here to do. Given that we have already seen objective reality defined by governmental fiat in relation in Rwanda, I am less surprised than I otherwise might have been by the Government’s determination to construe Amendment 10C as in some way disruptive or hostile. It is neither. After all, as I have explained before, it affects only a small number of people who have given service to this country when we have asked it of them. This is a measured, limited and proportionate amendment, calculated to achieve justice for a relatively small number of people who have risked death and injury at our behest and in our interests.

As I have also explained before, in many cases it has been our own bureaucratic sclerosis, administrative shortcomings and wrongful refusal of the status that would have awarded visas to these very people, enabling them to escape certain death, that compelled these brave men to take irregular routes here in the first place. To then use the fact of their irregular arrival—the need for which is a consequence of our own failure—as a justification for their removal to Rwanda is not merely illogical but disgraceful and immoral.

The Government have offered two principal lines of argument in refusing to accept the principle of exempting this group from deportation. First, they have argued that the deterrent value of the Rwanda policy requires absolute consistency: there should be no statutory exemptions from deportation, however deserving. In response to Conservative Back-Bench voices outlining support for the principles underlying my amendment, the Minister for Countering Illegal Migration argued that it was unnecessary, given that the Home Secretary had discretionary powers under Section 4 of the Illegal Migration Act to exempt individuals in certain circumstances.

Justifying the refusal of my amendment by arguing simultaneously that clemency may hypothetically be exercised and that the deterrent effect must be adamantine is completely incoherent. The Government have had more than a year’s notice of this and of the identity of some of the people affected by the amendment. The Times, the Independent, Sky and Lighthouse Reports have all exposed the failures of our approach to the people affected. If the Government wished to offer certainty and comfort to these people, they have had ample time so to do. What faith can we possibly be expected to repose in the Government’s possible future gratitude to these brave men, given the way in which they have been treated to date? Of course, I welcome the relocations and assistance policy review, but why not simply accept the moral case, add this amendment to the Bill and relieve this and any future Home Secretary of the burden of exercising discretionary power by enshrining this exemption into law?

As the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, has claimed, the Government’s new amendment on modern slavery reporting is inadequate. It undermines their own contention that this Bill must be passed unamended to preserve its deterrent effect. In making this concession, they have also—albeit tacitly—conceded the value of the scrutiny of this House. I therefore propose both to test the opinion of this House once again and to ask the other place to consider whether it is really in our moral or national interest to expose those brave men who have served with us to further uncertainty. I continue to believe—as all the time I have been advancing this amendment I have believed—that it is now the time to give them the sanctuary their bravery has earned.

Photo of Viscount Stansgate Viscount Stansgate Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, I will make one point in support of Motion F1. I yield to no one in my commitment to the democratic legitimacy of the House of Commons, but this House does have a constitutional role to play and this Bill is an example of it. We have a constitutional right and duty to make amendments to a Bill—even a bad Bill such as this Bill, which was in no manifesto—to try to improve it.

The noble Lord who just introduced his amendment referred to yesterday’s debate, from which I will read one sentence:

“My abiding concern remains for a class of people who served our country, who endured great danger in Afghanistan, who still find themselves in danger in a third country—namely Pakistan—and who may well fall foul of an entirely unintended consequence as a result of this legislation, however well intentioned it may be”.—[Official Report, Commons, 15/4/24; col. 100.]

That was said by the distinguished Conservative Member Sir Robert Buckland. If we vote in support of Motion F1, we can give Members in the other place another opportunity to think again and accept this improving amendment.

Photo of Lord German Lord German Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

My Lords, it was interesting to hear the statement from the Minister in the other place last night that, in the first amendment we are discussing in this group, Amendment 3E, we had confused arrangements between what the treaty required and what the Bill required. However, the House is absolutely clear that the Bill and the treaty are in lockstep. They are locked together not only by Clause 1(2) but by the Minister’s claims that the Government could, through

“this internationally binding treaty, show that Rwanda is a safe country, and enable the Bill to deem Rwanda a safe country

It is quite clear that the treaty and the Bill are in lockstep. Therefore, what we do and say about the treaty is just as important, because the Bill flows from it.

This House has already made a determination on the treaty. A vote of this House said that Rwanda is not safe unless certain conditions are met. The Government have already told us that they are working towards the implementation of the issues required to make the treaty operational. However, despite sustained questioning from many Members of this House, we have not been able to identify where those issues are, who has put them forward and at what point they will be operational.

Given that this House—Parliament is in the Bill and that is us, as well—has to declare that Rwanda is safe as a result of the treaty, clearly we must be satisfied that the treaty is operational in the way that has been described. That is why Amendment 3E from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, is so important. Among the issues that we now know have yet to be resolved are those on training, the implementation of appropriate systems and—I venture to say—what system there is for refoulement. We have heard no answers to those questions and there have been many more from other Members during discussions on the Bill.

The amendment from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, will provide Parliament, including this House, a mechanism for ensuring that these conditions are in place to ensure that Rwanda is safe. That is all the first part of this amendment states; we now need to know that the conditions, which the House has determined by its vote on the treaty, are in place so that proceedings on the treaty and Bill can move forward. I therefore encourage all Members of the House to support the noble and learned Lord’s amendment.

Clearly, we give the other amendments great support. On the amendment—it is almost like a thorn in the side—that is required about Afghan supporters, it is amazing to me that the Government cannot find a way of giving action to it. The Government have made no concrete proposal, other than to look at this matter sometime in the future or by some form of special treatment by a Secretary of State. Surely the moral imperative here is to help those who have helped us. Letting them down will not help us in the slightest when we might have need of support in other areas of the world. I encourage people to support this amendment too.

Photo of Lord Craig of Radley Lord Craig of Radley Crossbench 5:30, 16 Ebrill 2024

My Lords, I support the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Browne. This has been worrying many of us for a long time, and I am one of the signatories to the letter to which he referred. There is just one additional point, which has been made before but I think is worth bearing in mind. That is what the impact would be on individuals whose support we would need on some future occasion, if they felt that they would not be treated as well as they should be, and as well as we have tended to treat those who have already taken part in helping our Armed Forces on operations.

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

My Lords, I rise briefly to say how much I support the remarks of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, with respect to slavery, and my noble friend Lady Lister’s comments with respect to children. We will also support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, on his amendment, should he test the opinion of the House. We think it is a very sensible amendment; it simply seeks reports saying that the things that are required to be implemented have actually been implemented. One has only to look at the International Agreements Committee report, which lists out 10 things in particular that it feels should be implemented before you can say that Rwanda is safe. As the noble and learned Lord has pointed out to the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, there has been no answer from the Government, other than some vague platitudes as to progress being made and steps being taken to ensure that these things will happen, rather than that they have happened.

Similarly, we support the point that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, has made with the second part of that amendment: to actually reflect on what happens in the future should, for whatever reason, changes happen in the environment with respect to Rwanda—political or whatever—that would require Parliament to reconsider its original decision that it was safe. We very much support the amendment that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, has put before us.

I congratulate my noble friend Lord Browne on his amendment, and say how much we support it. The case was made in the Sunday Telegraph, as my noble friend pointed out, with 13 military and diplomatic leaders putting forward the case for exempting those who have served this country from the provisions of the Bill. This is something that we as a country should embrace without any debate or controversy at all. I say that because it is important that we support my noble friend Lord Browne’s amendment, but also that the size of the majority is such that the other place is forced to reconsider the bland statement it made: “Don’t worry. We’ll revisit this at the end of the deliberations we are having”. There is no certainty in what the Government are saying.

It is so important that my noble friend Lord Browne’s amendment is in the Bill. What it requires, and what the people of this country want, is not some reconsideration of the policy in future but a certainty that those who have served with our Armed Forces, or served us in whatever circumstances, can be assured that the promises made to them are adhered to and kept.

I cannot believe that we as a country would turn our back on those who have served with us. It is unbelievable that we should be in this situation. I say to the Minister and others who may feel it important that they vote with the Government that we are talking about men and women who have served our country, stood alongside our Armed Forces and served with us to deliver the objectives of His Majesty’s Government. How on earth can we think it appropriate that the provisions of this Bill and the treaty should apply to them? It is simply unacceptable. As such, my noble friend Lord Browne’s amendment gives us a way of saying to the Government: “Think again. We believe it should be on the face of the Bill”. I hope that noble Lords will support my noble friend when he tests the opinion of the House.

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My Lords, once again I am very grateful to all noble Lords for their contributions to this debate. To restate for the record, the Government’s priority is obviously to stop the boats. Although we have made progress, more needs to be done. We need a strong deterrent; we need to operationalise this partnership with Rwanda. Only by applying this policy to everyone without myriad exceptions will the deterrent work. We are not diminishing our responsibilities to provide support to those who are vulnerable, and we have ensured that the necessary support will be provided in Rwanda. We are sending the clearest signal that we control our borders, not the criminals who charge migrants exorbitant amounts to come here via illegal routes on unsafe small boats.

I will endeavour to deal with all the points that have been raised. I turn first to the points of the noble Baroness, Lady Lister. I restate for the record that as part of the process, upon arrival individuals will be treated as an adult only where two immigration officers assess that their physical appearance and demeanour very strongly suggest that they are significantly over 18 —I emphasise “significantly”. This is a deliberately high threshold, and the principle of the benefit of the doubt means that where there is doubt, an individual will be treated as a child, pending further observation by a local authority, which will usually be in the form of a Merton-compliant age assessment.

I turn to Amendment 3E from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. As he correctly pointed out, Clause 9 clearly sets out that the Bill’s provisions come into force when the treaty enters into force. The treaty enters into force when the parties have completed their internal procedures. Furthermore, the Government maintain periodical and ad hoc reviews of countries’ situations, including Rwanda’s, and that will not change.

One of the things we have discussed in previous debates on this subject is that there will be a real-time enhanced monitoring phase by the monitoring committee. The enhanced phase will ensure that the monitoring and reporting takes place in real time, so that the monitoring committee can rapidly identify, address and respond to any shortcomings, and of course identify any areas of improvement or urgently escalate issues that may place a relocated individual at risk of real harm. This enhanced phase is dealt with in paragraphs 106 to 112 of the policy statement, and I say to my noble friend Lord Hailsham that, of course, if the facts change, this means that the Government would not be obligated to remove individuals under the terms of the treaty. That may very well prompt the parliamentary occasion to which he referred. I am afraid I cannot say quite what form such an occasion may take; if I have anything to do with it, it will definitely include alcohol.

Photo of Lord Deben Lord Deben Ceidwadwyr

Will my noble friend give way on that point? My first problem with the Bill is that I am asked to say that something is safe when it is clearly not safe, and the Government have said that it is not. What I am really asked to say is that after all this has happened it will be safe, but the Government do not seem to explain to me exactly what will happen before we get to that.

I have another problem: how can I possibly vote that it will always be safe? I am not very keen on lawyers, but surely it is a very simple matter of saying that if the monitoring committee recommends to the Secretary of State that Rwanda is no longer safe, the Secretary of State can in fact change the situation as regards Rwanda. It seems very simple to me. If I had been the Minister, the first question I would have asked my civil servants is, “What happens if the situation changes?”, and my civil servants would not have left that room until they had given me an answer. How did he allow his civil servants to leave the room?

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My Lords, I have already stated that the Government would not be obligated to remove individuals under the terms of the treaty if there has been a change, unexpected or otherwise, in the in-country situation in Rwanda.

Photo of Viscount Hailsham Viscount Hailsham Ceidwadwyr

The Minister uses the phrase “not be obligated”. That just means they do not have to do it, but it does not alter the legal position.

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My Lords, I understand the definition of the word “obligated”.

The Bill builds on the treaty and the published evidence pack and makes it clear in UK law that Rwanda is a safe country, and it does address the concerns of the Supreme Court. The courts have not concluded that there is a general risk to the safety of relocated individuals in Rwanda. Rather, the Supreme Court’s findings were limited to perceived deficiencies in the Rwandan asylum system and the resulting risk of refoulement should any lack of capacity or expertise lead to cases being wrongly decided. My noble and learned friend Lord Stewart of Dirleton and I have dealt with exactly where Rwanda is in terms of ratification and so on. The Court of Appeal unanimously upheld the High Court’s finding that a policy of removing individuals to safe third country where their asylum claims would be determined did not breach the UK’s obligations under the refugee convention, and the Supreme Court did not disturb that finding. The Supreme Court recognised that changes may be delivered in future which could address those concerns, and those changes are being delivered.

Turning to Motion F1, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Browne, and spoken to powerfully, if I may I say so, by other noble Lords, I again reassure Parliament that once the UKSF ARAP review has concluded, the Government will consider and revisit how the Illegal Migration Act and removal under existing immigration legislation will apply to those who are determined ARAP eligible as a result of the review, ensuring that these people receive the attention they deserve. I will go a little further here and say to the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, that there is no intention to turn our backs on those who have served.

Finally, I am sorry to hear that the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, does not like the Government’s amendment in lieu, but I am afraid there is very little else that I can say on that subject.

Photo of Baroness Butler-Sloss Baroness Butler-Sloss Chair, Ecclesiastical Committee (Joint Committee), Chair, Ecclesiastical Committee (Joint Committee)

Before my noble and learned friend sums up on his Motion, I say to the Minister that he has not answered the question about what happens if there is a change in Rwanda and it is no longer safe.

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I beg to differ from the noble and learned Baroness. I appreciate that it is a difficult place to be, but I think I have answered the question. As I have said before on a number of occasions, the Government are not obligated to send anybody to Rwanda if the facts change.

Photo of Lord Hope of Craighead Lord Hope of Craighead Judge

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. Picking up immediately on the point the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe of Epsom, has just made, he said that if matters change the Government would not be obligated by the treaty to remove people to Rwanda. The problem for the Minister is that Clause 2 states:

“Every decision-maker must conclusively treat the Republic of Rwanda as a safe country”.

That is without any limit of time. Furthermore, the Minister might care to read the clause more carefully, because the words “decision-maker” include the Secretary of State himself, so he is obligated by the statute to assume that Rwanda is a safe country. Whatever the treaty may say, the statute binds him to do that. This is a ludicrous situation that the Government, for some strange reason, refuse to address. The situation requires being looked at again by the other place. Therefore, I wish to test the opinion of the House.

Ayes 266, Noes 227.

Rhif adran 2 Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill - Commons Amendments and Reasons — Motion B1 (as an amendment to Motion B)

Ie: 264 Members of the House of Lords

Na: 225 Members of the House of Lords

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw


Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw


Motion B1 agreed.