Clause 30 - article 1(a)(2): reasons for persecution

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 5:13 pm ar 26 Hydref 2021.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) 5:13, 26 Hydref 2021

Clause 30 aims to clarify an area where there has been a degree of contradiction and confusion. There is a clear mismatch between how the concept of “particular social group” is set out in current legislation, Government policy and in some tribunal judgments, against the interpretation taken in some case law. That is unhelpful for all those working in and engaging with the asylum system, and who most of all want clarity and consistency. Defining how key elements of the convention should be interpreted and applied is vital in creating a robust system that can generate consistency and certainty, which ultimately will drive efficiency. I trust that members of the Committee will agree with that principle. The historical confusion demonstrates perfectly why what we are doing in this clause is so important and is a desirable law reform.

I cannot agree to the change proposed by the hon. Gentleman. First, it is important to state that the conditions set out in the clause reflect current Government policy; it is not a change. The amendment would mean that a group need only meet one of the conditions to be considered as a particular social group. That significantly broadens the scope of who may be covered by the convention. It would erode the concept that people deserve and need protection based on fundamental characteristics that go to the core of who they are, such as their faith or sexuality. It proposes instead to broaden the definition to cover potentially transient factors that can perhaps be changed, but that fundamentally misunderstands the very basis of what it means to be a refugee, as envisaged by the refugee convention, and why we have a system to offer protection. I hope my explanation has reassured colleagues across the Committee, and I urge the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

The hon. Gentleman has mentioned established case law on the correct definition of “particular social group”, so I will say something briefly about that. As with many of the key concepts of the refugee convention, case law has developed over the years on how to apply the term “particular social group” for the purpose of considering whether a claimant has a convention reason. Despite significant judicial interest in the interpretation of “particular social group” in case law, there is no established case law on the point. There is, however, conflicting tribunal-level case law and obiter comments by the House of Lords in the case of Fornah. Consequently, the clause seeks to provide clarity on the UK’s interpretation of a particular social group, to ensure that it is applied consistently among decision makers.