Motion A

Part of Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill - Commons Reasons – in the House of Lords am 7:00 pm ar 17 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Browne of Ladyton Lord Browne of Ladyton Llafur 7:00, 17 Ebrill 2024

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti, and I thank her enormously for her words of support for Amendment 10F. I also thank her for her continued support throughout the time that I have been pressing this amendment in my preparations and other aspects of what I have been doing in your Lordships’ House.

I will speak to Motion D1 and Amendment 10F in lieu. I began my remarks yesterday with a promise not to rehearse the moral case for the amendment. I add to that the promise not to rehearse the compelling long- term strategic security case for it to protect our future credibility as an ally, nor to rehearse in detail the irrationality of the Government’s two principal lines of argument in refusing to accept the principle of exempting a small number of ill-served brave Afghan fighters, who are already here in the UK, from deportation. Rather, as this is the fifth time that I have had to make a speech in your Lordships’ House in support of a variant of this amendment, I refer noble Lords to cols. 906-08 of the Official Report for yesterday—that is for those of you who are not already word-perfect on my speeches on this.

Since yesterday the halls of this Parliament and beyond have echoed to suggestions, and in some cases reassurances, that we who support this amendment could expect a statement of assurance from the Government about the fate of this small body of brave soldiers who fought with our forces in Afghanistan and are in this dilemma, facing compulsory deportation to Rwanda, only because of our Government’s sclerosis and administrative shortcomings and the possible venal dishonesty of some forces that they served with, which have resulted in the wrongful refusal of the ARAP status that they would have been awarded and which would have included visas for them, thus enabling them to escape certain death rather than compelling them to take irregular routes here in the first place. If those assurances had been bankable, our party and I would have engaged with them. A promise of such assurances was supported by credible evidence of high-level exchanges, but that was withdrawn this afternoon. I understand that that is because of a political policy decision at No. 10 that was reflected in a statement by the Prime Minister’s spokesperson. I would read it out to noble Lords but they can read it for themselves.

We are left with the best that the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, for whom I have great regard, can offer. I will read the assurance from yesterday that he repeated today in his short, interrupted speech:

“I turn to Motion F and Amendment 10D. As we have set out before, the Government recognise the commitment and responsibility that comes with combat veterans, whether our own or those who have shown courage by serving alongside us, and we will not let them down. Once again, I 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 they receive the attention that they deserve”.—[Official Report, 16/4/24; col. 901.]

That is what we have, but I do not have any faith in the Government’s attitude to the brave men and women concerned from that assurance. I do not understand what it means. I do not take any assurance from it, given not only the way that these individuals have been treated but the way that your Lordships’ House and my noble friends have been treated over the last 24 hours. I also do not take any reassurance from it because, as a parent, a practising lawyer and a politician, on occasions in my life when I have “ensured that people receive the attention that they deserve”, it has normally resulted in me scolding them, disciplining them or telling them they were wrong and they will have to be punished. It does not seem to give any assurance that there will be any positive result; it sounds more like a threat than anything else.

As I said yesterday, now is the time to give these people the sanctuary that their bravery has earned. This worthless assurance will not do. I therefore feel compelled to test the mood of your Lordships’ House and to send the message to the other place that it is time the Government learned the political consequences of the failure either to give an assurance that is bankable or to accept this amendment. There is little, if any, support in your Lordships’ House for the failure to do so, and there is certainly no majority support in the country for us to treat these brave people this way.