Motion A

Part of Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill - Commons Reasons – in the House of Lords am 6:46 pm ar 17 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Hope of Craighead Lord Hope of Craighead Judge 6:46, 17 Ebrill 2024

My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment B1, as an amendment to Motion B.

I have asked for a further amendment in lieu to be put down, because I have raised important issues which need to be resolved before the Bill finally passes. As has been mentioned by the Minister, the Act will come into force on the day on which the Rwanda treaty enters into force. This means that your Lordships are being asked to say that, as from that very moment and without more, Rwanda is a safe country. That is not all, as Clause 2 states that from that date, every decision-maker, including the Secretary of State himself,

“must conclusively treat the Republic of Rwanda as a safe country”.

That is so, whether or not the treaty has been fully implemented, and whether or not Rwanda ceases to be safe some time in the future. The Secretary of State, just like any other decision-maker, will be locked by the statute into the proposition that Rwanda is a safe country, with no room for escape. In other words, it is no use his advisers saying that things still need to be done before all the protections and systems that the treaty provides for are in place. Nor is it any use his advisers saying that as these arrangements have broken down, Rwanda can no longer be considered safe. The Secretary of State is required by the statute to disregard that advice. He has no discretion in the matter. That is what the word “conclusively” in Clause 2 means.

The Minister has told the House several times that the Government are not obligated by the treaty to send anybody to Rwanda if the facts change. That may well be so, but that is not what the Bill says. The Secretary of State is bound by the statute to ignore any such changes. He is required by Clause 2 to treat Rwanda as safe, conclusively, for all time. If the Minister will forgive me, his head is buried in the sand, like that of the proverbial ostrich.

My amendment seeks to add two provisions to Clause 1. Before Rwanda can be judged to be a safe country, the mechanisms that the treaty provides for must be put into practice. Ratifying the treaty is an important step, but that is not enough. As has been pointed out repeatedly, the situation on the ground is still being developed. The treaty must be implemented before Rwanda can be considered safe. My amendment seeks to write into the Bill a provision whereby Rwanda cannot be 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 the treaty provides for have been created. It provides that Rwanda will cease to be a safe country for the purposes of the Act if the Secretary of State makes a statement to Parliament to that effect. In other words, it provides the Secretary of State with the escape clause he needs if he is to escape from the confines of Clause 2, should that situation develop.

I remind your Lordships of what Sir Jeremy Wright said in the other place when my amendment was being considered there on 18 March:

“But it is simply not sensible for Parliament not to be able to say differently, save through primary legislation, if the facts were to change … 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”.—[Official Report, Commons, 18/3/24; cols. 679-80.]

Developing the point this afternoon, he said that I was wrong in my then amendment to give it to the monitoring committee to decide whether Rwanda was safe, as this should be a matter for Parliament. I agree with him and, as it happens, I have already deleted the reference to the monitoring committee from this part of my latest draft. What I am proposing now is that it be left entirely to the Secretary of State to decide, although he would no doubt seek the advice of that committee.

Sir Bob Neill and Sir Robert Buckland, both of whom spoke in favour of my amendment last time, also spoke in support of it this afternoon. Sir Robert Buckland accepted that there needs to be a system by which it can be verified that the treaty has been fully implemented. He said that to do this would reduce the possibility of legal challenge. He said that a reliable method of doing this was to use the monitoring committee set up by the treaty itself. He also said that there needs to be a mechanism for dealing with the situation if Rwanda is no longer safe, without resort to the time-consuming method of primary legislation. That is what my amendment seeks to provide, and as to the question of what happens in the future, my system is flexible: the Secretary of State can come to Parliament and say that Rwanda is not safe. He does not need primary legislation, so the Act is still there, and he could come back when the situation is cured to say that Rwanda can be regarded as safe now. It provides not only an escape clause but flexibility to enable the Act to continue if necessary, without the amending legislation.

The Commons reasons set out in the Marshalled List are exactly the same as last time. They state that my amendments are “not necessary” because the Bill comes into force when the treaty comes into force, and that

“it is not appropriate for the Bill to legislate for Rwanda adhering to its obligations under the Treaty as Rwanda’s ongoing adherence to its Treaty obligations will be subject to the monitoring provisions set out in the treaty”.

No doubt that is so, but that still fails to face up to what I am saying on both points.

In short, the coming into force of the treaty is not enough. We need confirmation and verification that it has been implemented before we can make the judgment that Rwanda can be considered safe. It simply is not sensible for Parliament not to be able to say differently, save through primary legislation, if the facts were to change.

I regret that I have had to press my points yet again. It is not my intention to obstruct the operation of the Bill in any way. My amendment is necessary to make sense of the Bill. It is modest, simple and easy to operate. The other place needs to think yet again.