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 Coaker Lord Coaker Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Opposition Whip (Lords) 7:00, 17 Ebrill 2024

My Lords, it is a great privilege to follow the speeches that we have heard this evening. What a brilliant speech that was from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, setting out in clear and concise terms why your Lordships should vote for his Motion B1. To put it more simply, at the moment the Bill says that two and two is three and a half; the noble and learned Lord’s amendment makes two and two make four.

The Government should listen. The amendment would not delay or stop the Bill—it is not an obstacle to the Bill—but would simply make the Bill make sense. It uses the monitoring committee, set up by the treaty that the Government have put forward, to say to the Government in a very simple way, “Rwanda is now safe, because all the mechanisms outlined in the treaty have been put in place”. The Government have committed themselves to that, and if the amendment is accepted it will simply allow the monitoring committee to inform the Government of that fact.

More important, perhaps, is the second part of the amendment, whereby the monitoring committee could rescue the Government from what is in the Bill, if at some point in the future Rwanda became unsafe, by letting the Government know—or the Government themselves could act. Why on earth would the Government oppose that amendment? It is completely unbelievable that a sensible amendment like that has not been accepted.

I say to the Government—to those on the Front Bench both here and in the other place—that they should reflect properly on what the noble and learned Lord is saying. I hope that your Lordships will reflect on the words before us. We will certainly support his Motion B1.

The other brilliant speech was that of my noble friend Lord Browne on Motion D1. I have said this before, and I say it again, with a lot of regret. I do not blame the Minister or the others on the Front Bench, but it is inexcusable for the Government to say, 24 hours ago, to His Majesty’s Opposition and others that we could expect something to be done about this amendment —that we could almost accept that it would be accepted, changed and put into the Bill—only for us to find out, when we woke up this morning, that nothing like that had happened. I am not talking about the Front Bench in this place, but that is a terrible way for the Government to behave. It is inexcusable for us to be told what we have been told.

The Minister has carried on with the Bill for months now. He has included us, talked to us and treated us with respect. But somewhere along the line, those on the Front Bench here have been told what to do by somebody. We would like to know who. Who has turned around and said that my noble friend Lord Browne’s amendment is unacceptable? Who in this House believes that we do not have a moral duty to those who stood by our Armed Forces, fought with our Armed Forces and in some cases died with our Armed Forces, and did all they could to ensure that the values of this country and the coalition that operated in Afghanistan were as successful as they could be? Who on earth in His Majesty’s Government has decided that those people do not deserve the protection of my noble friend’s amendment?

This is an astonishing situation. It is wrong. It is morally bankrupt. The Government have failed in their duty to protect those they promised to protect. That cannot be right. I say to noble Lords opposite, particularly when they are asked to vote on my noble friend’s amendment, that this is not only to do with whether they are Conservative, Labour, Liberal or Cross-Benchers, or of no persuasion at all. It is a matter of standing up for the moral certainty of what His Majesty’s Government, of whatever colour, stand for—that when they give their word to other countries, and to those defending the freedoms, the democracy and the values that we care for, those people can trust that word. The Government of today are breaking their word to those veterans, and that is what my noble friend Lord Browne’s amendment seeks to address.

The amendment from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, is important from a legislative and a moral point of view. My noble friend Lord Browne’s amendment speaks to what sort of country we are and what sort of country we would want others to see us as. How on earth can we stand in the corridors of power of the various international institutions and have the moral certainty and the moral position that we would all want?

I do not believe that those on the Front Bench here agree with their own Government on this. Their Government are asking them and all their Back-Benchers to vote for something that is morally bankrupt—something that goes against what we promised those who stood with us in Afghanistan. We promised that we would protect them—but we are not going to do that, because my noble friend’s amendment will not be passed if we send it to the other place and those there do not give way. We are not going to exempt them from the provisions of the Bill. It does not matter what political party you stand for; that cannot be right. I ask and urge every Member of your Lordships’ House not only to consider the noble and learned Lord’s Motion B1 but, when we come to my noble friend’s Motion D1, to consider what the consequences will be for this country if we cannot ensure that our word is our bond.