Motion A

Part of Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill - Commons Reason – in the House of Lords am 11:45 pm ar 22 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) 11:45, 22 Ebrill 2024

My Lords, these are the final stages of the passage of the Bill. It is not a Third Reading, but I again thank the Government Front Bench, including the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart—who is not here; I cannot see him anywhere—the Government Chief Whip, the Leader of the House and others, for the way they have conducted the proceedings of the Bill overall. It has been very much appreciated.

Although we fundamentally disagree on the Bill—the Government will now own the Bill and see how it works—I am somewhat reassured by the process that has been undertaken, unlike the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett. As a result of what we have said—and contrary to what the Prime Minister said at the beginning of the Bill’s passage, which completely dominated our discussions for much of the time—the Government have amended the Bill. It would be extremely helpful to the Government Front Bench here, and others who may be listening, to recognise that the House of Lords has a role to play. It is perfectly appropriate for the Lords to delay legislation and to say that we think the Government should think again—and even think again twice. If it had not been for us demanding that the Government think again three or four times, my noble friend Lord Browne’s amendment would not have been passed. Given the importance that everybody in this House attributes to his amendment, I would have thought that was cause for reflection on how well this system works. When I was in the other place, I saw that it irritates the Government. They feel that their elected mandate is being overridden, but actually—except in very exceptional circumstances—that does not happen.

I am sorry to reiterate this point about process, but it is really important. I do not know how many times, but I have said numerous times from the Front Bench that we will not block the Bill, as have my noble friends Lord Kennedy and Lady Smith, the leader of our party in this place. Yet we see consistently from the Prime Minister, including today, claims that Labour Peers in this place seek to block the Bill. I hope—I am not sure—that noble Lords opposite will come to this side of the House and that we will go to that side. If that happens, I hope that, when we put forward various pieces of legislation to do with trade union rights, for example, and all the other Bills that we have suggested, noble Lords will remember that the role of the House of Lords in those circumstances will be to challenge the Labour Government who I hope will come into place but not seek to block or undermine the elected will of the people. That is not what we have sought to do.

I hope the serious point that I am making about the way the political system operates in this country will be a cause for us to reflect that, in respect of this Bill, although we fundamentally disagree with it, that system has worked reasonably well, and I look forward to that happening again in the future.

The Government now own the Bill and they will see whether it works. We have arrived at a position where we have made certain demands, and they have been overturned one by one by the Government until we are left with two changes, which I think are important. First, we have mentioned the noble Lord, Lord Browne, with respect to veterans, which the Government Front Bench here also thought was the right thing to do and we helped them persuade their own Prime Minister to do that. Secondly, and not to be forgotten—it is a shame that the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, is not here, but the noble Lord, Lord Randall, would have been pleased—was the change on modern slavery. It was a modest change but an important one.

With those brief remarks, I will finish by thanking again the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, for his courtesy and all the Government Front Bench in the Lords. The Bill will now go forward, and the Prime Minister will no doubt read at great length in the papers tomorrow—he has briefed some of them already—how he got his way with the House of Lords and how he pushed aside those who sought to obstruct the elected will of the people. He will know, as will the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, and many others here, that that was never the intention of His Majesty’s Opposition, but we will no doubt read in the papers tomorrow that it was. That is not a great reflection on the way Parliament operates, and reflecting on the good way that it is operating should be the headline tomorrow.