Clause 34 - Article 31(1): immunity from penalties

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 5:30 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) 5:30, 26 Hydref 2021

Again, I thank the hon. Members for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East and for Glasgow North East for all their hard work in this area and in producing these amendments. As they will know, the provisions they are seeking to amend are crucial to the Government’s intention to uphold the first safe country of asylum principle. In this respect, these clauses are designed to deter dangerous journeys across Europe by no longer treating migrants who come directly to the UK and claim without delay in the same way as those who do not. I am sure they will agree that we must do everything in our power to stop people putting their lives in the hands of smugglers and making extremely perilous journeys across the channel.

Amendments 157 and 158 would apply to clause 34, which is closely related to clause 10 in that it sets out the UK’s interpretation of certain criteria within article 31(1) of the refugee convention. The criteria in article 31 provide the basis for the legal framework we are using to differentiate within clause 10. The intention of the amendments is to seek statutory carve-outs from differentiation for a wide range of cohorts.

I absolutely understand where this is coming from. I would like to reassure hon. Members that the powers in clause 10 do not compel the Secretary of State to act in a certain way, and leave discretion to impose or not impose conditions as appropriate, depending on the individual circumstances. We will of course set out our policy in immigration rules and guidance in due course. The policy will be exercised with full respect to our international obligations and will most certainly be sensitive to certain types, some of which are referenced in the amendment, such as having been trafficked.

I would note that blanket carve-outs are an attractive option to ensure protection of the most vulnerable, but ultimately I do not believe it would appropriate to do this in the way amendments 157 and 158 seek. In reality, blanket carve-outs would simply encourage people coming by small boat to claim they belonged to an exempted cohort. Most importantly, this would of course prevent us from protecting those people who do genuinely have those characteristics. By creating this perverse incentive, it would also undercut the entire purpose of the policy to serve as a deterrent. Indeed, people could then simply continue to make dangerous journeys to the UK and not claim in the first safe country because they know they can avoid group 2 refugee status simply by saying that they are LGBT+ or have a mental health condition.

For all these reasons, I invite the hon. Members for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East and for Glasgow North East not to press their amendments.