Nationality and Borders Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:30 pm on 7th December 2021.
‘(1) In section 33(1) of the Immigration Act 1971 (interpretation) at the appropriate place insert—
““justice of the peace”, in relation to Northern Ireland, means lay magistrate;”.
(2) In section 167(1) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (interpretation) at the appropriate place insert—
““justice of the peace”, in relation to Northern Ireland, means lay magistrate;”.
(3) In section 45 of the UK Borders Act 2007 (search for evidence of nationality: other premises), after subsection (5) insert—
“(6) In the application of this section to Northern Ireland a reference to a justice of the peace is to be treated as a reference to a lay magistrate.”’—(Damian Hinds.)
This clause, to be inserted after Clause 74, makes provision for various references to a justice of the peace in the Immigration Acts to be read in relation to Northern Ireland as references to a lay magistrate. This follows the general transfer of functions from justices of the peace to lay magistrates by the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002.
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
New clause 1—Prescribed period under section 94(3) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999—
‘(1) The Asylum Support Regulations 2000 (S.I. 2000/704) are amended as follows.
(2) In regulation 2(2) (interpretation) for “28” substitute “56”.
(3) Subject to subsection (4), this section does not prevent the Secretary of State from exercising the powers conferred by the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 to prescribe by regulations a different period for the purposes of section 94(3) (day on which a claim for asylum is determined) of that Act.
(4) The Secretary of State may not prescribe a period less than 56 days where regulation 2(2A) of the Asylum Support Regulations 2000 (S.I. 2000/704) applies.’
When an individual is granted refugee status, their eligibility to Home Office financial support and accommodation currently ends after a further 28 days. This new clause would extend that period to 56 days or allow the Secretary of State to set a longer period.
New clause 9—Settled and pre-settled status under EU settlement scheme: certification—
‘(1) Within granting a person settled status or pre-settled status under the EU settlement scheme, the Secretary of State must require the provision of a physical certificate to that person.
(2) The certificate mentioned in subsection (1) must confirm that the relevant person has the relevant status (settled status or pre-settled status).’
This new clause would require the Government to issue a physical certificate when granting settled status or pre-settled status under the EU settlement scheme, allowing all those with such status to provide documentary proof.
New clause 10—Asylum visa for persons in France—
‘(1) On an application by a person (“P“) to the appropriate decision-maker for entry clearance, the appropriate decision-maker must grant P entry clearance if he is satisfied that P is a relevant person.
(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1), P is a relevant person if—
(a) P is in France on the date of application;
(b) P is not a national of a member State of the European Union or a national of Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway or Switzerland;
(c) P intends to make a protection claim in the United Kingdom;
(d) P‘s protection claim, if made in the United Kingdom, would have a realistic prospect of success; and
(e) there are good reasons why P’s protection claim should be considered in the United Kingdom.
(3) For the purposes of paragraph (2)(e), in deciding whether there are good reasons why P‘s protection claim should be considered in the United Kingdom, the appropriate decision-maker shall take into account—
(a) the relative strength of P‘s family and other ties to the United Kingdom;
(b) the relative strength of P‘s family and other ties to France;
(c) P‘s mental and physical health and any particular vulnerabilities that P has; and
(d) any other matter that the appropriate decision-maker thinks relevant.
(4) For the purposes of an application under paragraph (1), the appropriate decision-maker must waive any of the requirements in paragraph (5) if satisfied that P cannot reasonably be expected to comply with them.
(5) The requirements in this paragraph are—
(a) any requirement prescribed (whether by immigration rules or otherwise) under section 50 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006; and
(b) any requirement prescribed by regulations made under sections 5, 6, 7 or 8 of the UK Borders Act 2007 (biometric registration).
(6) No fee may be charged for the making of an application under paragraph (1).
(7) An entry clearance granted pursuant to paragraph (1) shall have effect as leave to enter for such period, being not less than six months, and on such conditions as the Secretary of State may prescribe by order.
(8) Upon a person entering the United Kingdom (within the meaning of section 11 of the Immigration Act 1971) pursuant to leave to enter given under paragraph (7), that person shall be deemed to have made a protection claim in the United Kingdom.
(9) The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 is amended as follows.
(10) After paragraph 30(1)(b) of Part 1 of Schedule 1 insert— “; or
(c) are conferred by or under sections [Asylum visa for persons in France] and [Right of appeal against France asylum visa refusal] of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022.”
(11) In this section and in section [Right of appeal against France asylum visa refusal]—
“appropriate decision-maker” means a person authorised by the Secretary of State by rules made under section 3 of the Immigration Act 1971 to grant an entry clearance under paragraph (1);
“entry clearance” has the same meaning as in section 33(1) of the Immigration Act 1971;
“protection claim”, in relation to a person, means a claim that to remove him from or require him to leave the United Kingdom would be inconsistent with the United Kingdom’s obligations—
(a) under the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees done at Geneva on 28th July 1951 and the Protocol to that Convention;
(b) in relation to persons entitled to a grant of humanitarian protection; or
(c) under Articles 2 or 3 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms agreed by the Council of Europe at Rome on 4th November 1950.’
This new clause would provide for a person in France to be granted entry clearance to allow them to claim asylum in the UK in certain circumstances.
New clause 11—Right of appeal against France asylum visa refusal—
‘(1) If an application by a person (“P“) for entry clearance under clause [Asylum visa for persons in France] is refused by the appropriate decision-maker, P may appeal to the First-tier Tribunal against the refusal.
(2) The following provisions of, or made under, the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 have effect in relation to an appeal under these Regulations to the First-tier Tribunal as if it were an appeal against a decision of the Secretary of State under section 82(1) of that Act (right of appeal to the Tribunal)—
(a) section 84 (grounds of appeal), as though the sole permitted ground of appeal was that the appropriate decision-maker was wrong to conclude that P was not a relevant person;
(b) section 85(1) to (4) (matters to be considered);
(c) section 86 (determination of appeal);
(d) section 105 and any regulations made under that section; and
(e) section 106 and any rules made pursuant to that section.
(3) In an appeal under this section, the First-tier Tribunal—
(a) shall allow the appeal if it is satisfied that P is a relevant person; and
(b) shall otherwise dismiss the appeal.
(4) In an appeal under this section, in deciding whether there are good reasons why P‘s protection claim should be considered in the United Kingdom, the First-tier Tribunal shall apply section [Asylum visa for persons in France] (3) as though for the words “appropriate decision-maker” there were substituted the words “First-tier Tribunal”.’
This new clause would allow a person whose application for entry clearance under clause [Asylum visa for persons in France] has been rejected to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal.
New clause 12—Residence permits: recourse to public funds—
‘Within two months of this Act being passed, the Secretary of State must by regulations ensure that anyone holding a valid UK residence permit has recourse to public funds.’
Under this new clause, everyone holding a UK residence permit (many of whom currently have no recourse to public funds) would have recourse to public funds.
New clause 13—Undocumented migrants: access to work and services—
‘(1) The Immigration Act 2014 is amended as follows.
(2) Omit sections 20 to 47.
(3) The Immigration Act 2016 is amended as follows.
(4) Omit sections 1 to 45.’
This new clause would repeal the sections of the 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts which sought to further restrict undocumented migrants’ access to work and services.
New clause 14—Immigration health surcharge: abolition—
‘Within two months of this Act being passed, the Secretary of State must amend the Immigration (Health Charge) Order 2015 in such a way as to abolish the immigration health surcharge.’
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to abolish the immigration health surcharge.
New clause 15—Time limit on immigration detention—
‘(1) This section applies to any person (“P”) who is liable to detention under a relevant detention power.
(2) P may not be detained under a relevant detention power for a period of more than 28 days from the relevant time.
(3) If P remains detained under a relevant detention power at the expiry of the period of 28 days then—
(a) P shall be released forthwith; and
(b) P may not be detained under a relevant detention power thereafter, unless the Secretary of State or an immigration officer, as the case may be, is satisfied that there has been a material change of circumstances since P’s release and that the criteria in section [Initial detention: criteria and duration](1) are met.
(4) In this section, “relevant detention power” means a power to detain under—
(a) paragraph 16(2) of Schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971 (detention of persons liable to examination or removal);
(b) paragraph 2(1), (2) or (3) of Schedule 3 to that Act (detention pending deportation);
(c) section 62 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (detention of persons liable to examination or removal); or
(d) section 36(1) of the UK Borders Act 2007 (detention pending deportation).
(5) In this section, “relevant time” means the time at which P is first detained under a relevant detention power.
(6) This section does not apply to a person in respect of whom the Secretary of State has certified that the decision to detain is or was taken in the interests of national security.’
This new clause would prevent people who are liable to detention under a relevant power from being detained for longer than 28 days.
New clause 16—Initial detention: criteria and duration—
‘(1) A person (“P”) to whom section [Time limit on immigration detention] applies may not be detained under a relevant detention power other than for the purposes of examination, unless the Secretary of State or an immigration officer, as the case may be, is satisfied that—
(a) P can be shortly removed from the United Kingdom;
(b) detention is strictly necessary to effect P’s deportation or removal from the United Kingdom; and
(c) the detention of P is in all the circumstances proportionate.
(2) P may not be detained under a relevant detention power for a period of more than 96 hours from the relevant time, unless—
(a) P has been refused bail at an initial bail hearing in accordance with subsection (5)(b) of section [Bail hearings]; or
(b) the Secretary of State has arranged a reference to the Tribunal for consideration of whether to grant immigration bail to P in accordance with subsection (2)(c) of section [Bail hearings] and that hearing has not yet taken place.
(3) Nothing in subsections (1) or (2) authorises the Secretary of State to detain P under a relevant detention power if such detention would, apart from this section, be unlawful.
(4) In this section, “Tribunal” means the First-Tier Tribunal.
(5) In this section, “relevant detention power” and “relevant time” have the meanings given in section [Time limit on immigration detention].’
This new clause sets out the circumstances in which a person to whom NC15 applies may be held in initial detention, and the maximum duration of such detention.
New clause 17—Bail hearings—
‘(1) This section applies to any person (“P”) to whom section [Time limit on immigration detention] applies and who is detained under a relevant detention power.
(2) Before the expiry of a period of 96 hours from the relevant time, the Secretary of State must—
(a) release P;
(b) grant immigration bail to P under paragraph 1 of Schedule 10 to the Immigration Act 2016; or
(c) arrange a reference to the Tribunal for consideration of whether to grant immigration bail to P.
(3) Subject to subsection (4), when the Secretary of State arranges a reference to the Tribunal under subsection (2)(c), the Tribunal must hold an oral hearing (“an initial bail hearing”) which must commence within 24 hours of the time at which the reference is made.
(4) If the period of 24 hours in subsection (3) ends on a Saturday, Sunday or Bank holiday, the Tribunal must hold an initial bail hearing on the next working day.
(5) At the initial bail hearing, the Tribunal must—
(a) grant immigration bail to P under paragraph 1 of Schedule 10 to the Immigration Act 2016; or
(b) refuse to grant immigration bail to P.
(6) Subject to subsection (7), the Tribunal must grant immigration bail to P at a bail hearing unless it is satisfied that the Secretary of State has established that the criteria in subsection 1 of section [Initial detention: criteria and duration] are met and that, in addition—
(a) directions have been given for P’s removal from the United Kingdom and such removal is to take place within 14 days;
(b) a travel document is available for the purposes of P’s removal or deportation; and
(c) there are no outstanding legal barriers to removal.
(7) Subsection (6) does not apply if the Tribunal is satisfied that the Secretary of State has established that the criteria in subsection 1 of section [Initial detention: criteria and duration] above are met and that there are very exceptional circumstances which justify maintaining detention.
(8) In subsection (6), “a bail hearing” includes—
(a) an initial bail hearing under subsection (2); and
(b) the hearing of an application for immigration bail under paragraph 1(3) of Schedule 10 of the Immigration Act 2016.
(9) In this section, “Tribunal” means the First-Tier Tribunal.
(10) The Secretary of State shall provide to P or to P’s legal representative, not more than 24 hours after the relevant time, copies of all documents in the Secretary of State’s possession which are relevant to the decision to detain.
(11) At the initial bail hearing, the Tribunal shall not consider any documents relied upon by the Secretary of State which were not provided to P or to P’s legal representative in accordance with subsection (10), unless—
(a) P consents to the documents being considered; or
(b) in the opinion of the Tribunal there is a good reason why the documents were not provided to P or to P’s legal representative in accordance with subsection (10).
(12) The Immigration Act 2016 is amended as follows—
(a) After paragraph 12(4) of schedule 10 insert—
“(4A) Sub-paragraph (2) above does not apply if the refusal of bail by the First tier Tribunal took place at an initial bail hearing within the meaning of section [Bail hearings] of the Sovereign Borders Act 2021.”.’
In respect of people to whom NC15 applies, this new clause would require the Secretary of State to either release them, grant immigration bail or arrange a reference to the Tribunal within 96 hours.
New clause 18—Illegal immigration: offences—
‘(1) Any person who is present in the United Kingdom without legal authority shall be guilty of an offence.
(2) Any person who enters or attempts to enter the United Kingdom without legal authority shall be guilty of an offence.
(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—
(a) on summary conviction in England and Wales, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or a fine (or both);
(b) on summary conviction in Scotland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum (or both);
(c) on summary conviction in Northern Ireland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum (or both).’
This new clause would create offences in respect of persons who have entered the UK illegally or who have remained in the UK without legal authority.
New clause 19—Illegal immigration offences: deportation orders—
‘(1) Any person who is convicted of an offence under section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971 shall be subject to a deportation order unless the Secretary of State deems such a deportation order to be against the public interest.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1) above, a deportation order shall be deemed to be in the public interest unless a certificate to the contrary has been submitted by the Secretary of State to the Court.’
New clause 21—Nation of Sanctuary—
‘(1) The Secretary of State and Welsh Ministers must jointly produce guidance setting out how measures under this Act may be exercised in a way that secures compliance with—
(a) the Welsh Government’s commitment to be a “Nation of Sanctuary”; and
(b) the plan published by the Welsh Government in January 2019 entitled “Nation of Sanctuary – Refugee and Asylum Seeker Plan”.
(2) Before issuing the guidance, the Secretary of State must—
(a) in collaboration with the Welsh Minister, prepare and consult on a draft; and
(b) publish a response to the consultation.
(3) In preparing the guidance, consideration must be given to the following matters as far as they relate to refugees and asylum seekers—
(a) conditions in asylum accommodation;
(b) access to public services;
(c) access to language support;
(d) access to education and training;
(e) employment opportunities; and
(f) access to health and social services.
(4) No guidance may be published under this section unless a draft of the guidance has been laid before and approved by Senedd Cymru.’
This new clause would require the UK and Welsh Governments to jointly produce guidance setting out how measures under this Act can be exercised in a way which is consistent with the Welsh Government’s commitment of being a Nation of Sanctuary. No guidance can be published unless it has been approved by the Senedd.
New clause 23—Illegal immigration: offences and deportation—
‘(1) Any person who travels to the United Kingdom from a safe third country and attempts to remain in the United Kingdom without lawful authority shall be guilty of an offence.
(2) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable–
(a) on summary conviction in England and Wales, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or a fine (or both);
(b) on summary conviction in Scotland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum (or both);
(c) on summary conviction in Northern Ireland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum (or both).
(3) A person prosecuted for an offence under this section must be held in secure accommodation until the trial and any subsequent appeal have concluded.
(4) Following conviction for an offence under this section—
(a) a person sentenced to a fine must remain in secure accommodation until the person consents to leave the United Kingdom or until execution of a deportation order relating to the person;
(b) a person sentenced to imprisonment must be returned to secure accommodation immediately following the person’s release from prison, and must remain in secure accommodation until the person consents to leave the United Kingdom or until execution of a deportation order relating to the person.’
New clause 24—Indefinite leave to remain payments by Commonwealth, Hong Kong and Gurkha members of armed forces—
‘(1) The Immigration Act 2014 is amended as follows.
(2) In section 68(10), after “regulations” insert “must make exceptions in respect of any person with citizenship of a Commonwealth country (other than the United Kingdom) who has served at least four years in the armed forces of the United Kingdom, or any person who has served at least four years in the Royal Navy Hong Kong Squadron, the Hong Kong Military Service Corps or the Brigade of Gurkhas, such exceptions to include capping the fee for any such person applying for indefinite leave to remain at no more than the actual administrative cost of processing that application, and”.’
This new clause will ensure that Commonwealth, Hong Kong and Gurkha veterans applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain following four years of service will only pay the unit cost of an application.
New clause 26—Age assessments: restrictions—
‘(1) Age assessments under section 49 or 50 must only be undertaken if there is significant reason to doubt the age of the age-disputed person.
(2) A person conducting age assessments under section 49 or 50 must be a social worker.
(3) Age assessments must be undertaken in accordance with the Association of Directors of Children’s Services Age Assessment Guidance or equivalent guidance in the devolved jurisdictions.
(4) When an age assessment is conducted, a process must be used that allows for an impartial multi-agency approach, drawing on a range of expertise, including from—
(a) health professionals;
(d) foster parents;
(e) youth workers;
(g) guardians; and
(h) social workers.
(5) When making regulations under section 51, the Secretary of State must not specify scientific methods unless the Secretary of State receives written approval from the relevant medical, dental and scientific professional bodies that the method is both ethical and accurate beyond reasonable doubt for assessing a person’s age.
(6) Any organisation developed to oversee age assessments must be independent of the Home Office.’
This new clause would place various restrictions on the use of age assessments.
New clause 27—Unaccompanied refugee children: relocation and support—
‘(1) The Secretary of State must, within six months of the date of Royal Assent to this Act, make arrangements to relocate to the United Kingdom and support a specified number of unaccompanied refugee children from other countries in the European Union.
(2) The number of children to be resettled under subsection (1) shall be determined by the Government in consultation with local authorities.
(3) The relocation of children under subsection (1) shall be in addition to the resettlement of children under any other resettlement scheme.’
This new clause introduces a safe route for unaccompanied children from countries in the European Union to come to the UK.
New clause 28—Immigration health surcharge: exemption for international volunteers—
‘(1) Part 3 of the Immigration Act 2014 is amended as follows.
(2) After section 38, insert—
“38A Immigration health surcharge: exemption for international volunteers
(1) A charge under section 38 may not be imposed on persons who have leave to enter, or to remain in, the United Kingdom through a visa to work voluntarily for a period of no more than 12 months, or for such period as may be prescribed by regulations, for a registered UK charity advancing the charity’s primary purpose.
(2) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section must not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.”’
This new clause would ensure that international volunteers, including those working in health and social care, will be exempt from paying the immigration health surcharge.
New clause 29—Immigration Rules: entry to seek asylum and join family—
‘(1) Within six months of this Act being passed, under the power in section 3(2) of the Immigration Act 1971, the Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament rules making provision for the admission of persons coming for the purpose of seeking asylum.
(2) These rules shall make provision for admitting persons who have a family member in the United Kingdom who is ordinarily and lawfully resident in the United Kingdom.
(3) For the purposes of this section, a “family member” means a grandchild, child, parent, grandparent, sibling, uncle or aunt.’
This new clause would require the Government to make provision within the Immigration Rules for people to be admitted to the UK for the purposes of seeking asylum where they have a family member in the UK.
New clause 31—Route to settlement for children and young people who arrived in the UK as minors—
‘(1) Within twelve months of this Act being passed, the Secretary of State must amend the Immigration Rules so that – for persons to whom this section applies – the requirements to be met for the grant of indefinite leave to remain on the grounds of private life in the UK are that—
(a) the applicant has been in the UK with continuous leave on the grounds of private life for a period of at least 60 months;
(b) the applicant meets the requirements of paragraph 276ADE(1) of the Immigration Rules or, in respect of the requirements in paragraph 276ADE(1)(iv) and (v) of those Rules, the applicant met the requirements in a previous application which led to a grant of limited leave to remain under paragraph 276BE(1) of those Rules.
(2) This section applies to—
(a) persons who have been granted limited leave to remain on the grounds of private life in the UK because at the time of their application—
(i) they were under the age of 18 years and had lived continuously in the UK for at least 7 years (discounting any period of imprisonment) and it would not have been reasonable to expect them to leave the UK;
(ii) they were agreed 18 years or above and under 25 years and had spent over half their life living continuously in the UK (discounting any period of imprisonment).
(i) who were granted leave to remain outside the rules on the basis of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights; and
(ii) who arrived in the UK as a minor.
(c) any dependants of a person to whom paragraph (a) or (b) applies.’
Under this new clause, the route to settlement would be shortened from ten years to five years for children and young people who arrived in the UK as minors and have leave to remain on the basis of having grown up in the UK.
New clause 32—Compatibility of Part 2 with the Refugee Convention—
‘(1) The provisions in Part 2 of this Act and any subordinate legislation made under Part 2 are, so far as it is possible to do so, to be read and given effect in a way which is compatible with the Refugee Convention.
(2) Where a court is required to determine whether a provision of this part, or any subordinate legislation made under it, is compatible with the Refugee Convention, and is satisfied that it is not, then it must make a declaration to this effect.
(3) In this section, “court” has the same meaning as in section 4 of the Human Rights Act 1998.’
This new clause would ensure provisions of Part 2 were read as far as possible in a manner consistent with the Refugee Convention, and where that was not possible, this was declared by the Courts.
New clause 35—Refugee Family Reunion—
‘(1) Within six months of this Act coming into force, rules must be laid down by the Secretary of State under section 3(2) of the Immigration Act 1971 to allow any person (“P”) who has been recognised as a refugee in the United Kingdom to sponsor—
(a) any child of P under the age of 25, who was either under the age of 18 or unmarried at the time P left the country of P’s habitual residence in order to seek asylum;
(b) any parent of P;
(c) any sibling of P under the age of 25, who was either under the age of 18 or unmarried at the time P left the country of P’s habitual residence in order to seek asylum; to join them in the UK.’
This new clause would expand the range of family members who can apply to be reunited with a refugee in the United Kingdom.
New clause 36—Asylum dispersal – analysis of costs to dispersal authorities—
‘(1) Within six months of this Act coming into force, the Secretary of State must lay before both Houses of Parliament a report analysing of the costs incurred by local authorities for undertaking the role of asylum dispersal authorities.
(2) The report under subsection (1) must include a summary of submissions made by—
(a) local authorities who act as asylum dispersal authorities, and
(b) organisations acting on behalf of the local authorities.
(3) The report under subsection (1) must set out the Secretary of State’s proposals for reimbursing the costs incurred by asylum dispersal authorities.’
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament an analysis of the costs incurred by local authorities who host dispersed asylum seekers, and proposals for reimbursing them.
New clause 37—Independent Asylum Agency—
‘Within 12 months of this Act coming into force, the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament proposals for an independent asylum agency with responsibility for deciding applications for refugee status, and related protection claims.’
New clause 38—Instructions to the Migration Advisory Committee—
‘Within two months of this Act coming into force, the Secretary of State must instruct the Migration Advisory Committee to undertake the following work—
(a) a review of the minimum income requirements for leave to enter and remain as a family member of persons who are British citizens or settled in the United Kingdom; and
(b) a report making detailed recommendations on the design of a work visa for remote areas.’
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to instruct the MAC to undertake work reviewing the minimum income requirements for family visas; and on the design of a remote areas visa scheme.
New clause 40—Immigration Rules since December 2020: report on effects—
‘(1) Before this Act comes into force, the Secretary of State must commission and lay before Parliament an independent report on the effects of its Immigration Rules on the UK economy and public services since December 2020.
(2) The areas to be covered by the report must include but are not limited to—
(a) food supply;
(b) fuel supply;
(c) hospitality and tourism;
(e) social care; and
This new clause would require the Government to commission and publish an independent report on the effects of its Immigration Rules on the UK economy and public services since December 2020.
New clause 41—Asylum seekers’ right to work—
‘The Secretary of State must make regulations providing that adults applying for asylum in the United Kingdom may apply to the Secretary of State for permission to take up employment if a decision at first instance has not been taken on the applicant’s asylum application within 3 months of the date on which it was recorded.’
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to make regulations enabling asylum seekers to work once they have been waiting for a decision on their claim for 3 months or more.
New clause 42—Refugee family reunion—
‘(1) The Secretary of State must, within 6 months of the date of Royal Assent to this Act, lay before Parliament a statement of changes in the rules (the “immigration rules”) under section 3(2) of the Immigration Act 1971 (general provisions for regulation and control) to make provision for refugee family reunion, in accordance with this section, to come into effect after 21 days.
(2) Before a statement of changes is laid under subsection (1), the Secretary of State must consult with persons he or she deems appropriate.
(3) The statement laid under subsection (1) must set out rules providing for leave to enter and remain in the United Kingdom for family members of a person granted refugee status or humanitarian protection.
(4) In this section, “refugee status” and “humanitarian protection” have the same meaning as in the immigration rules.
(5) In this section, “family members” include a person’s—
(a) parent, including adoptive parent;
(b) spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner;
(c) child, including adopted child, who is either—
(i) under the age of 18, or
(ii) under the age of 25 but was either under the age of 18 or unmarried at the time the person granted asylum left their country of residence to seek asylum;
(d) sibling, including adoptive sibling, who is either—
(i) under the age of 18, or
(ii) under the age of 25, but was either under the age of 18 or unmarried at the time the person granted asylum left their country of residence to seek asylum; and
(e) such other persons as the Secretary of State may determine, having regard to—
(i) the importance of maintaining family unity,
(ii) the best interests of a child,
(iii) the physical, emotional, psychological or financial dependency between a person granted refugee status or humanitarian protection and another person,
(iv) any risk to the physical, emotional or psychological wellbeing of a person who was granted refugee status or humanitarian protection, including from the circumstances in which the person is living in the United Kingdom, or
(v) such other matters as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.
(6) For the purpose of subsection (5)—
(a) “adopted” and “adoptive” refer to a relationship resulting from adoption, including de facto adoption, as set out in the immigration rules;
(b) “best interests” of a child shall be read in accordance with Article 3 of the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.’
This new clause would make provision for leave to enter or remain in the UK to be granted to the family members of refugees and of people granted humanitarian protection.
New clause 44—Safe and legal routes—
‘(1) The Secretary of State must, within 30 days of the date of Royal Assent to this Act and annually thereafter, publish a report on—
(a) all current safe and legal asylum routes to the United Kingdom,
(b) the eligibility criteria for legal entry into the United Kingdom, and
(c) details of the application process.
(2) The Secretary of State must publish a report on its resettlement target of refugees per year, and report on this every year.’
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to publish a summary of safe and legal routes to refuge in the UK each year, alongside their eligibility criteria and application process. It would also commit the UK and Secretary of State to publishing its resettlement targets, and reporting on this annually.
New clause 45—Asylum seekers: employment—
‘(1) The Immigration Rules, as laid before Parliament under section 3(2) of the Immigration Act 1971, are amended as follows.
(2) In paragraphs 360 and 360C (right to request permission to take up employment) for “one year” substitute “six months”.
(3) Omit paragraphs 360A and 360D (which place restrictions on the employment that may be taken up).
(4) After paragraph 360E insert—
360F (none) In paragraphs 360 to 360E, the terms “asylum applicant” and “individual” mean—
(a) a principal applicant, or
(b) an adult dependant of a principal applicant in accordance with paragraph 349.”’
This new clause would permit asylum seekers waiting for more than six months for a decision on their claim to take up employment.
New clause 46—Shortage Occupation List—
‘(1) Before a Minister of the Crown makes any changes to the Immigration Rules Appendix Shortage Occupation List as provided for by the Immigration Rules, the Secretary of State must—
(a) consult each devolved authority on proposed changes, and seek their consent; and
(b) lay before Parliament an independent impact assessment of the proposed changes including, but not limited to, the submissions received from the devolved authorities under paragraph (a).
(2) If a devolved authority does not provide the consent sought under subsection (1)(a), the Minister of the Crown may not proceed with the changes.
(3) In this section “devolved authority” means the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers or a Northern Ireland department.’
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to consult and receive the consent of the devolved governments before making changes to the Shortage Occupation List in order to ensure that it allows additional flexibility and reflects the different needs of each nation.
New clause 48—Family reunion and resettlement: unaccompanied minors—
‘(1) The Secretary of State must, within a period of six months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed, amend the Immigration Rules in order to ensure that an unaccompanied minor seeking asylum in the EEA who has a family member present in the United Kingdom is entitled to claim asylum in the United Kingdom.
(2) For the purposes of this section, “family member” includes—
(a) a parent or guardian of the applicant;
(b) an aunt, uncle or grandparent of the applicant;
(c) a sibling of the applicant;
(d) the spouse of the applicant;
(e) an unmarried partner with whom the applicant is in a stable relationship; or
(f) any children of the applicant.’
This new clause would allow unaccompanied children to have access to family reunion with close relatives in the UK.
New clause 49—Co-operation with European Union on family reunion arrivals and safe returns—
‘(1) The Secretary of State must, within a period of six months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed, produce a report setting out a negotiating mandate for an agreement with the European Union setting out protocols for identifying the state responsible for determining an asylum application using a hierarchy of criteria, including but not limited to—
(a) family unity,
(b) possession of residence documents or visas,
(c) irregular entry or stay, and
(d) visa-waived entry.
(2) The Secretary of State must lay the report before each House of Parliament.’
This new clause would require the Government to produce a negotiating mandate setting out a proposed reciprocal arrangement with the European Union for safe returns and safe legal routes, to cover the issues previously covered by the Dublin III agreement which has now ended.
New clause 50—Advertising assistance for unlawful immigration to the United Kingdom—
‘(1) It is an offence to advertise by any means, including using social media, services designed to facilitate the commission of an offence under section 25 of the Immigration Act 1971.
(2) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable—
(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years, to a fine or to both, or
(b) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or to both.’
New clause 51—Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme—
‘(1) The Secretary of State must make regulations setting out the terms of a resettlement scheme for Afghan citizens known as the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (“ACRS”).
(2) There must be provisions within the ACRS to allow those who are fleeing persecution and have family members in the UK to apply for the Scheme.
(3) For the purposes of this section, “family member” includes—
(a) the spouse of the applicant;
(b) an unmarried partner with whom the applicant is in a stable relationship;
(c) any children of the applicant;
(d) a parent or guardian of the applicant;
(e) an aunt, uncle or grandparent of the applicant; or
(f) a sibling of the applicant.
(4) Regulations under this section must be made and the ACRS must come into force within 30 days from the date of Royal Assent to this Act.’
This new clause will place the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme on a statutory footing and ensure that it includes provisions for a family reunion route within it.
New clause 52—Non-UK service personnel: waiver of fees—
‘(1) The Secretary of State must, within six months of the date of Royal Assent to this Act, make regulations exempting relevant persons from the payment of fees in respect of the exercise of functions in connection with immigration or nationality under section 68 of the Immigration Act 2014.
(2) For the purposes of this section, “relevant persons” are persons who—
(a) do not hold British citizenship and are serving or have in the past served in the UK armed forces for a minimum period of five years; or
(b) are dependents of persons identified in paragraph (a).’
Amendment 8, page 14, line 4leave out clause 11.
This amendment would remove clause 11, which provides for the differential treatment of refugees depending on their method of arrival in the UK.
Amendment 114, in clause 11, page 15, line 2, at end insert—
‘(7A) Notwithstanding subsections (5) and (6), a person listed in subsection (7B) must not be treated differently from a Group 1 refugee and in particular—
(a) must not face a restriction on their leave to enter compared to any Group 1 refugee;
(b) must have access to indefinite leave to remain on the same basis as any Group 1 refugee;
(c) must not have no recourse to public funds conditions attached to any leave to enter or remain given to them; and
(d) must have access to family reunion on the same basis as Group 1 refugees.
(7B) Subsection (7A) applies to—
(a) an Afghan national who is a refugee because they face a risk of persecution in Afghanistan;
(b) a Syrian national who is a refugee because they face a risk of persecution in Syria;
(c) a Uighur who is a refugee because they face a risk of persecution in China;
(d) a Christian convert who is a refugee because they face a risk of persecution in their country of nationality; or
(e) other persons who are refugees because they are outside of their country of nationality for fear of persecution for a Convention reason as set out in article 1 of the Refugee Convention.’
This amendment would prevent the Secretary of State from treating Afghans, Syrians, Uighurs and Christian converts and other people who are refugees at risk of persecution, differently from Group 1 refugees.
Government amendments 19 to 25.
Amendment 132, in clause 15, page 18, leave out lines 27 to 39 and insert—
“(a) there are in law and in practice—
(i) appropriate reception arrangements for asylum seekers;
(ii) sufficient protection against serious harm and violations of fundamental rights;
(iii) protection against refoulement and removal in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights;
(iv) access to fair and efficient State asylum procedures, or to a previously afforded refugee status or other protective status that is inclusive of the rights and obligations set out at Articles 2-34 of the 1951 Convention;
(v) the legal right to remain during the State asylum procedure;
(vi) a refugee status granted to those who are recognised as refugees that is inclusive of the rights and obligations set out at Articles 2-34 of the 1951 Convention for those found to be in need of international protection; and
(b) it is safe for the particular claimant, taking into account their individual circumstances.”
This amendment modifies the definition of a “safe third State” to limit it to States that are in fact safe, in law and practice, for the particular claimant.
Amendment 133, in clause 15, page 18, line 41, leave out “5” and insert “3”.
This amendment is consequential on a later amendment about the definition of “connection”.
Amendment 134, in clause 15, page 18, leave out lines 43 to 46.
This amendment removes subsection (6), which states that a claimant whose asylum claim has been denied by virtue of their connection to a particular safe third State may be removed to any other safe third State.
Amendment 135, in clause 15, page 19, line 2, leave out “may” and insert “must”.
This amendment would clarify that under specific circumstances, an asylum claim that would otherwise be considered inadmissible must be considered under the immigration rules.
Government amendment 26.
Amendment 136, in clause 15, page 19, leave out lines 3 to 10 and insert—
“(a) in the absence of a formal, legally binding and public readmission agreement between the United Kingdom and the State to which the person has a connection;
(b) as soon as the proposed State of readmission refuses to accept the person’s return or if the person’s readmission has not been agreed within three months of the registration of their asylum claim, whichever is sooner;
(c) if, taking into account the claimant’s personal circumstances, including their family ties to the United Kingdom and the best interests of any children affected by the decision, it is more appropriate that the claim be considered in the United Kingdom; or
(d) in such other cases as may be provided for in the immigration rules.”
This amendment broadens the circumstances in which the Secretary of State must consider an asylum application, despite a declaration of inadmissibility.
Amendment 137, in clause 15, page 19, leave out line 21 and insert—
“(a) has been granted refugee status or another protective status in the safe third state that is inclusive of the rights and obligations set out at Articles 2 to 34 of the 1951 Convention.”
This amendment would strengthen the safeguards in place before a “connection” can be relied on for the purposes of inadmissibility, so as to ensure that the right to seek and enjoy asylum is protected.
Amendment 138, in clause 15, page 19, leave out lines 24 to 32.
This amendment changes the definition of a “connection” to a safe third State by deleting the possibility of finding someone inadmissible on the basis of having been granted nothing more than protection against removal in a third State.
Amendment 139, in clause 15, page 19, line 33, leave out “3” and insert “2”.
This amendment is consequential on amendment 138.
Amendment 140, in clause 15, page 19, line 37, leave out “4” and insert “3”.
This amendment is consequential on amendment 138.
Amendment 141, in clause 15, page 19, leave out lines 43 to 45.
This amendment changes the definition of a “connection” to a safe third State so as to prevent a person being found inadmissible on the basis of a connection to a State to which they have never been.
Amendment 142, in clause 15, page 20, leave out lines 1 to 4 and insert—
“for refugee status or other protective status that is inclusive of the rights and obligations set out at Articles 2 to 34 of the 1951 Convention.”
This amendment changes the definition of a “relevant claim” to a safe third State to ensure that inadmissibility is based on access to a protective status consistent with the Refugee Convention.
Amendment 14, in clause 17, page 21, line 16, at end insert—
‘(1A) The Secretary of State may not serve an evidence notice on a person who was under 18 years of age at the time of their arrival in the United Kingdom.’
This amendment would remove the ability to serve an evidence notice on children and young people who arrived in the UK before the age of 18.
Government amendment 27.
Amendment 118, page 21, line 27, leave out clause 18.
Government amendments 28 to 30.
Amendment 119, page 24, line 30, leave out clause 21.
Government amendments 31 to 38.
Amendment 145, page 25, line 11, leave out clause 22.
Government amendments 39 and 40.
Amendment 146, page 26, line 7, leave out clause 23.
Government amendments 41 to 43.
Amendment 120, page 29, line 2, leave out clause 25.
Amendment 15, in clause 25, page 29, line 13, at end insert—
‘(2A) For the purposes of subsection (2), “good reasons” include, but are not limited to, the claimant having been under the age of 18 years at the time of their arrival in the UK.’
Under this amendment, a claimant who was under the age of 18 at the time of their arrival in the UK would be regarded as having good reasons for providing evidence late.
Government amendments 44 and 45.
Amendment 121, page 30, line 2, leave out clause 26.
Government amendments 46 and 47.
Amendment 11, in clause 28, page 32, line 1, leave out paragraph (a).
This is a paving amendment for Amendment 9.
Amendment 150, in clause 28, page 32, line 4, at end insert—
‘(2) This section and Schedule 3 will have effect notwithstanding—
(a) the Human Rights Act 1998;
(b) the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms agreed by the Council of Europe at Rome on 4th November 1950 as it has effect for the time being in relation to the United Kingdom, including any Protocol to that Convention;
(c) EU derived law and case law retained under sections 2 to 7 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018; and
(d) the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees done at Geneva on
(3) No law or requirement identified in subsection (2) shall affect the interpretation or application of any provision of this section, including restrictions on the actions or policies of public authorities.’
This amendment is to ensure that the provisions in clause 28 and Schedule 3 are not open to judicial interpretation or disapplication under the measures listed in subsection (2).
Amendment 144, page 33, line 21, leave out clause 31.
Amendment 147, in clause 32, page 34, line 24, leave out subsections (2) to (4).
Government amendments 48 to 50.
Amendment 115, in clause 39, page 38, leave out lines 15 to 23.
This amendment would remove certain criminal offences relating to entering and arriving in the UK.
Government amendment 51.
Amendment 102, in clause 39, page 38, leave out lines 19 to 23.
This would give effect to the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights to prevent ‘arrival’ in the United Kingdom without a valid entry clearance, rather than ‘entry’ into the United Kingdom without a valid entry clearance, becoming an offence.
Government amendments 52 and 53.
Amendment 116, in clause 39, page 39, line 9, at end insert—
‘(F2) No criminal offence is committed under subsections (B1) to (D1) where a person enters or arrives in the United Kingdom for the purposes of making a claim for asylum or humanitarian protection, if the person is one of the following—
(a) an Afghan national who is a refugee because they face a risk of persecution in Afghanistan; a Syrian national who is a refugee because they face a risk of persecution in Syria; a Uighur who is a refugee because they face a risk of persecution in China;
(b) a Christian convert who is a refugee because they face a risk of persecution in their country of nationality; or
(c) other persons who are in need of international protection; or who are refugees because they are outside of their country of nationality for fear of persecution for a Convention reason as set out in article 1 of the Refugee Convention.’
Clause 39 as drafted would involve the criminalisation of the arrival and entry of asylum seekers and refugees with an offence subject to up to four years imprisonment. This amendment would prevent this from happening.
Government amendments 54 and 55.
Amendment 103, in clause 39, page 39, line 30, leave out subsection (4).
This would give effect to the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights to prevent the offence of facilitating a breach of immigration law being extended to include facilitating ‘arrival’ in the United Kingdom without a valid entry clearance in addition to facilitating ‘entry’ into the United Kingdom without a valid entry clearance.
Government amendments 56 to 59.
Amendment 104, in clause 39, page 40, line 2, at end insert—
‘(10) In section 31(3) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (defences based on Article 31(1) of the Refugee Convention), after paragraph (aa) insert—
“(ab) section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971 (illegal entry and similar offences)”.’
This would give effect to the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights to extend the statutory defence based on Article 31 of the Refugee Convention to offences of illegal entry under section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971.
Government amendments 60 and 61.
Amendment 105, in clause 40, page 40, line 7, leave out subsection (2).
This would give effect to the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights to maintain the current position that the offence of helping an asylum seeker to enter the United Kingdom can only be committed if it is carried out “for gain”.
Government amendments 62 and 63.
Amendment 1, in clause 40, page 40, line 8, at end insert—
‘(3) In section 25A(3) of the Immigration Act 1971 (helping asylum seeker to enter United Kingdom), for paragraph (a) substitute—
“(a) aims to—
(i) protect lives at sea, or
(ii) assist asylum-seekers; and”’.
This amendment would add people working on behalf of organisations that aim to protect lives at sea to those who are exempt for prosecution for helping someone seeking asylum to enter the UK, as long as those organisations do not charge for their service.
Amendment 106, in clause 45, page 43, line 12, at end insert—
‘(6B) Nothing in this section, or in sections 10A to 10E, permits a person to be removed from the United Kingdom if that removal would violate their common law right to access justice.’
This would give effect to the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights to make clear that the regime for providing notice to persons liable to removal remains subject to the common law right to access justice, which in the asylum context is mirrored by Article 13 ECHR.
Amendment 107, page 49, line 3, leave out clause 47.
This would give effect to the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights to prevent it being compulsory for decision makers and tribunals to take into account whether a person has failed to cooperate with any immigration process when making decisions on immigration bail.
Amendment 122, in clause 48, page 49, line 34, leave out
“has insufficient evidence to be sure of their age” and insert
“has reason to doubt that the claimant is the age they claim”.
This amendment to Clause 48(1) would align primary legislation to current practice as set out in statutory guidance to ensure children are not subjected to age assessments if there is no significant reason to doubt their age.
Amendment 123, in clause 49, page 51, line 9, leave out “must” and replace with “may”.
Amendment 124, in clause 49, page 51, line 17, leave out subsections (4) to (8).
Amendment 125, page 52, line 1, leave out clause 50.
Amendment 126, page 52, line 22, leave out clause 51.
Amendment 13, in clause 71, page 69, line 38, at end insert—
“(c) the individual is travelling to Northern Ireland on a local journey from the Republic of Ireland.”
Under this amendment, persons who are neither British nor Irish would nevertheless be able to make local journeys from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland without the need for an Electronic Travel Authorisation.
Government amendments 91 to 93.
Amendment 9, in schedule 3, page 82, line 36, leave out paragraphs 1 and 2.
This amendment leaves out paragraphs 1 and 2 of Schedule 3 to the Bill, which would amend section 77 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (no removal while claim for asylum pending).
Amendment 10, in schedule 3, page 84, line 2, leave out paragraph 4.
This amendment is consequential on Amendment 9.
Government amendments 94 and 95.
Amendment 96, in schedule 6, page 95, line 25, at end insert—
‘(4) Authority for the purposes of subsection (3) may be given in relation to a foreign ship only if the Convention permits the exercise of Part A1 powers in relation to the ship.’
This would give effect to the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights to follow the drafting in the equivalent paragraphs of sections 28M, 28N and 28O of the Immigration Act, and ensure that enforcement action complies with international maritime law, similar to other enforcement action under Schedule 4A to the Immigration Act 11.
Amendment 97, in schedule 6, page 98, leave out lines 6 to 11 and insert—
“(a) every description of vessel (including a hovercraft) used in navigation, but
(b) does not include any vessel that is not seaworthy or where there could otherwise be a risk to the safety of life and well-being of those onboard.”
This would give effect to the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights to ensure that enforcement action such as pushbacks could not be taken against unseaworthy vessels such as dinghies.
Amendment 98, in schedule 6, page 98, line 20, at end insert—
‘(1A) The powers set out in this Part of this Schedule must not be used in a manner or in circumstances that could endanger life at sea.’
This would give effect to the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights to ensure the maritime enforcement powers cannot be used in a manner that would endanger lives at sea.
Amendment 113, in schedule 6, page 99, line 37, at end insert—
‘(13) Nothing within this Act or this paragraph B1 authorises any action or measure which is inconsistent with the United Kingdom’s international legal obligations.’
This amendment seeks to ensure the consistency of Part A1 paragraph B1 (power to stop, board, divert and detain) with the United Kingdom’s international obligations, including under international refugee law, international human rights law and international maritime law.
Amendment 99, in schedule 6, page 102, line 31, at end insert—
‘(2) Force must not be used in a manner or in circumstances that could endanger life at sea.’
This would give effect to the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights to ensure that the use of force in maritime enforcement powers cannot be used in a manner that would endanger lives at sea.
Amendment 4, in schedule 6, page 102, leave out lines 35 to 40.
This amendment would remove the provision granting immigration and enforcement officers immunity from civil or criminal liability for anything done in the performance of their functions.
Amendment 100, in schedule 6, page 102, line 36, leave out “criminal or”.
This would give effect to the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights to remove the immunity from criminal proceedings for “relevant officers” for criminal offences committed whilst undertaking pushbacks or other maritime enforcement operations.
Amendment 101, in schedule 6, page 102, line 36, leave out lines 36 to 40 and insert—
“J1 The Home Office, rather than an individual officer, is liable in civil proceedings for anything done in the purported performance of functions under this Part of this Schedule.”
This would give effect to the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights to ensure that the Home Office is liable, rather than immigration officers and enforcement officers being personally liable for civil wrongs that may occur whilst undertaking pushbacks or other maritime enforcement operations.
I am conscious of the wide interest in a significant number of these amendments, so I will predominantly focus my remarks on the Government amendments in this first instance and address other matters in the wind-up.
Our asylum system must not reward those who enter the UK illegally from manifestly safe countries where they cannot possibly still be fleeing persecution and fear. People must claim asylum in the first safe country they come to, and making a secondary and unnecessary move to the UK puts lives needlessly in danger while pushing aside other vulnerable people, including women and children.
We must break the criminal networks that facilitate illegal immigration and exploit people. People who come to our shores illegally will be treated differently. Although we cannot resettle everyone who needs sanctuary, the large numbers we resettle in the UK will be made very welcome. We will be fair but firm in how we continue to embark on this landmark reform of our asylum system.
New clause 20 is a minor, technical amendment that will ensure a small number of references to justices of the peace in immigration legislation in the context of obtaining entry and search warrants in Northern Ireland instead become references to lay magistrates. This is a simple measure that tidies up the statute book.
The Minister makes a critical point about claiming asylum in the first safe country. People traffickers rely on the idea of selling a destination, regardless of where the person starts. The measures my hon. Friend describes will frustrate the people traffickers and do a great service both to this country and to their many victims.
Not for the first time, I find myself agreeing with my right hon. Friend wholeheartedly. It is fair to say that nobody needs to get into a small boat to reach safety. France is a safe country with a fully functioning asylum system, and the same applies to Belgium, Germany and countries across the European Union.
All people do by getting into a small boat is hand over significant sums of money to evil individuals who treat people as cargo and have no regard for human life. We have to bring it to an end, which is precisely what we seek to do with this Bill. I look forward to my right hon. Friend’s support in the Lobby, as we have had throughout the Bill’s passage.
Government amendments 19 to 25 to clause 12 make small technical amendments to apply the provisions in the clause to asylum seekers or failed asylum seekers who are supported under existing legislation if and when uncommenced provisions come into force.
Government amendment 26 to clause 15, in respect of a “reasonable period”, will amend the provisions relating to the inadmissibility of asylum claims from claimants with a connection to a safe third country. As I have set out, the Government are clear that people should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach, rather than make dangerous journeys to the UK to claim asylum here. Inadmissibility is a long-standing process designed to prevent secondary movements across Europe. Inadmissibility measures are being moved from the immigration rules into primary legislation to support the process. We acknowledge that there are circumstances in which it may be appropriate to consider such cases here in the UK. We are removing the power to consider an asylum claim that has been declared inadmissible in the UK where it is unlikely to be possible to remove the claimant to a safe third country within a reasonable period. Instead, this will be set out in the immigration rules.
Amendments 27 to 38, 44, 45 and 91 to 93 relate to the evidence notice and the priority removal notice. The Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc) Act 2004 requires decision makers to take into account certain behaviours that may be deemed damaging to a claimant’s credibility when they assess a protection of human rights claim. Those behaviours include concealing information, obstructing or delaying the handling of a claim, providing late evidence, and not acting in good faith, along with behaviours that are designed or are likely to mislead. It is right that all decision makers, including the tribunal, should clearly set out when and how they have taken into account the claimant’s credibility when they assess a protection of human rights claim.
The remainder of the Government amendments in the group are minor and technical and make sure that all the measures that relate to the priority removal notice operate in the manner intended.
What my hon. Friend just stated is not unique to him but was stated by the former Labour Home Secretary Charles Clarke, who said:
“It is simply not acceptable to destroy identity documents, use false passports, lie about your personal history, refuse to say how you reached this country or any of the other devices which the people-smuggling gangs employ to make their money. Asylum seekers who knowingly commit such acts should lose their right of asylum in this country and be returned as soon as possible to their country of origin.”
He was right, wasn’t he?
Any right-minded or fair-minded person would think it was entirely appropriate for people to engage with the immigration system in this country in an appropriate manner that complies with our evidential requirements. People should comply in the spirit of good will, because inevitably we want to provide sanctuary to those in need of sanctuary at the earliest opportunity possible. That is entirely what our reforms seek to achieve. We also think it is right and proper—as do, I think, the British people—to remove those who have no right to be here.
If the legislation is carried in the way the Minister wishes, what impact will it have on the awful, vile trade through small boats? Will it stop it? Is there a danger that the UK courts will overturn the intent?
The measures in the Bill are significant. We have recognised—the Home Secretary has consistently recognised this and I recognise it as the Minister responsible for tackling illegal immigration—that the asylum system in this country is currently broken. The length of time it takes to process claims is unacceptable and we need to improve the situation. The Government’s intention is clearly stated: to improve the way we process claims. We expect individuals who seek to claim asylum in this country to comply with the requirements, but of course safety nets are in place, for good reasons, so that it will be taken appropriately into account if people cannot meet the deadlines. We believe that progressing on the basis of processing claims more quickly and removing those with no right to be here will make quite a significant difference. Importantly, it is also about the work that we do not just with our nearest neighbours in, for example, France and Belgium—that collaboration is important and is delivering results, and we want to secure a returns agreement that will help to build on that—but further upstream in removing those with no right to be here back to source countries.
Yesterday, in a scathing attack on this Bill, Welsh Government Cabinet Ministers issued a statement saying that the Bill undermines Wales’s desire to be a nation of sanctuary, and will exacerbate inequality and harm. In their words:
“Wales is a welcoming nation and we will always stand with those who need us the most.”
Yes, Minister, we do keep a welcome in the hillsides and valleys of Wales. Will he scrap this inhumane Bill, end the hostile environment, put in place safe and legal routes, and stop undermining the responsibilities and aspirations of the devolved nations?
The short answer to that rather long intervention is no. It is not the first time that I find myself disagreeing with Labour politicians, and I am afraid that I disagree with the Welsh Government on this point. All parts of this United Kingdom have a proud record of welcoming to this country people from around the world who are fleeing persecution and conflict; that tradition will continue, as I am sure the hon. Lady knows.
This country has to have a system that is fair but firm, and that brings to an end the abuses in the system previously and to date. Those who are not acting in the spirit that I think all of us would like to see are actually making it more difficult for genuine asylum seekers who are seeking sanctuary, and there are inevitably considerable associated resource implications.
Would the Minister just think for a moment what it is like to get into a small dinghy and try to cross the channel, and imagine what sense of desperation people must have to risk their own lives to try to get to what they believe to be a place of safety? I am not defending people traffickers or criminal gangs. I am just saying that we have created a situation, in this country and across Europe, where we leave desperate people with no alternative but to turn to ruthless people to try to get to a place of safety and contribute to our society. I ask him: has he got any humanity?
I am afraid that the intervention is a disappointing one, in the sense that I would not for a moment suggest that the right hon. Gentleman is doing anything that supports people traffickers—of course not. However, I think he is giving credence to their business model, and that is highly unacceptable and disappointing. He should reflect on his position on these matters. As I have set out, nobody needs to get into a small boat to seek to cross the channel to reach safety. The idea that anybody is in danger in France is utterly farcical. The bottom line is that France is a safe country with a fully functioning asylum system. That is a fact and he needs to reflect on it.
Of course, what the former leader of the Labour party was trying to say was that the French are failing to look after the people in their own country. In that regard, he is right, isn’t he?
It is probably fair to say that those on the Benches of Jeremy Corbyn quite regularly try to reinterpret his comments. In the end, it is highly unacceptable for anybody to get into a small boat for this purpose. I think it is fair to say that this House speaks with one voice in saying that people should not be making dangerous crossings, and we perhaps just disagree about how to render the route unviable.
The Government have brought forward a comprehensive Bill as part of the wider package of measures that we are seeking to introduce to address this issue. It is disappointing that some of us in the House seem to have quite a lot to say in complaining about our approach, but do not actually have a viable alternative to our policy.
I have sat through hours of this debate and have been shocked—although I should not be surprised—by some of the smearing and scaremongering that we have heard. Is it any wonder that we receive some of the communications that we do? There is much to support in the Bill. As the Minister says, the immigration system is clearly not working. I am struggling on one point around resettlement, on which we may be able to take more people with us. The Government have rightly promised that the Bill will provide new, safer routes that can help to address the channel crossings. Will the Minister tell us whether the Home Office now has plans, and can provide more detail on those plans, for more resettlement schemes through safe routes?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. One of the things we have been very clear about is that we want to expand community sponsorship in particular, but a number of schemes that are already being delivered are making a considerable difference. We should not forget that 15,000 people were airlifted out of Afghanistan over the summer. Nor should we forget that the BNO route in relation to Hong Kong is a valuable and important route that is helping to provide sanctuary to many individuals. That is an ambitious offer that we have made.
Is not the reality that there are people who come to France fleeing their country of origin with the desire to come to the United Kingdom? Will the Minister look at new clause 10, in the name of Neil Coyle, of which I am a co-sponsor and which puts forward a humanitarian visa scheme to enable people who are in France to start their application process off in France to come to the United Kingdom? We spoke about this in the Joint Committee on Human Rights last week and the Minister said he was going to go away and verify whether that suggestion had ever been put to the French. Has he been able to verify that for me?
The hon. and learned Lady comes to this debate with ideas and suggestions about how we tackle this issue, but I disagree with her in terms of the suggestion she makes. In order to have a system like that in place, the French would have to agree to it. I think it is fair to say that there is considerable concern about the number of movements across France as things stand already. That is where, I am afraid, her suggestion, while offered in a spirit of co-operation and trying to be constructive, falls down.
I would like to make some progress, if I may.
Amendments 39, 40 to 43, 46 and 47 clarify the Government’s intention that appeals should remain in the expedited appeal process wherever possible. The revised text, which reflects wording in the primary legislation that sets the statutory framework for tribunal rules, specifies that judges should only remove an appeal from the accelerated or expedited process where there is no other way to secure that justice be done.
Amendments 48 to 50 are minor and technical amendments to clause 34 on internal relocation. They clarify the ambiguity in the current drafting that has the potential to be interpreted in an unintended way, where an individual could only be internally relocated within a country where they had previously been in that part of the country.
The purpose of amendments 51 to 59 is to increase the maximum penalty for the existing statutory offence of overstaying, which is currently six months’ imprisonment. That maximum penalty dates back to the original legislation—the Immigration Act 1971—and is no longer considered sufficient for the present day. Given how much the world has changed over the past 50 years, the existing penalty hinders our ability to deter overstayers, and we consider that raising it would encourage better compliance. Clause 39 introduces a new maximum penalty of four years to align with illegal entry and other similar offences that have already been amended during the passage of the Bill.
In Committee, I promised to bring forward amendments to protect Royal National Lifeboat Institution individuals rescuing persons at sea and those in charge of vessels who find stowaways on board. I am pleased to say that this is now set out in amendments 60 to 63. I am grateful to Members across the House who have raised concerns in relation to this matter, and I am delighted to be able to put it beyond doubt this afternoon.
My constituency may be landlocked but I grew up on the Kent coast, where many of those who cross the channel land, and I continue to donate to the RNLI, as do many of my constituents. We all know that those who volunteer to serve do so selflessly and often leave their place of work in order to go to sea or to provide support from the land. Will my hon. Friend join me in thanking those who volunteer for the RNLI from the Dungeness, Littlestone, Dover, Walmer and Ramsgate stations?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who makes the case so eloquently for the RNLI, and sets out the incredible work that its volunteers and others do to protect life at sea, along with many other agencies, such as Her Majesty’s Coastguard, which works tirelessly around the clock, often in very difficult circumstances. I certainly join her in placing on record the Government’s thanks and appreciation for everything they do, and for the individuals in her area who do this tireless work, day in, day out, and week in, week out.
We have made the clear and unambiguous statement that people do not commit an offence of facilitation if the act is done by, on behalf of, or co-ordinated by Her Majesty’s Coastguard or an overseas equivalent. This provides protection not only for organisations such as the RNLI, but individual seafarers who respond to mayday relays.
I end by addressing amendments 94 and 95, which are among a number of measures that we are bringing forward in the Bill to strengthen our efforts to tackle clandestine migrants seeking to enter the UK in vehicles. We will work with representatives of the transport industry to devise and set out new regulations that detail how to secure a vehicle, conduct checks on vehicle security, report attempts of unauthorised access, and keep evidence of steps taken to prevent unauthorised access to the vehicle. These changes are necessary, as a high proportion of drivers and hauliers continue to fail to secure their vehicle properly, and often run the risk of being targeted by migrants who rely on going undetected. There is a human cost to this traffic. Criminal gangs are preying on vulnerable people and shipping them across the UK border like human cargo. We must all take responsibility for preventing that.
With that, I draw my remarks to a close. In the wind-up, I will be happy to pick up on the various other points that will no doubt be raised.
This Bill is a sham. It does nothing to create safe routes for resettlement, nothing to garner international support for breaking people-smuggling gangs, and nothing to support victims of modern-day slavery. Instead, the Nationality and Borders Bill creates unworkable policies, lets down victims who have been trafficked, and breaks our international obligations. The Bill is a smoke-and-mirrors trick, designed to deflect attention from the Government’s failings and incompetence in the area of asylum and refugee protection.
It is shameful that since the abandonment of the Dubs amendment, the UK has turned its back on unaccompanied child refugees and young people in need of protection. Young people are having to turn to people-smuggling gangs. We need to make sure that the model is broken. People have died during dangerous crossings, and it is important that we tackle the criminal people-smuggling gangs. To do that, we need international co-operation and greater security, and that is why Labour Members have tabled new clause 50, which would make advertising people-smuggling routes via social media an offence. If the Government are serious about tackling the gangs, we cannot see why they would have any problem supporting the new clause.
Smugglers and trafficking gangs are putting people’s lives at risk, and they use social media to promote, encourage, advertise and organise these dangerous crossings. Too often, when the National Crime Agency asks Facebook, TikTok and others to take down dangerous material, they refuse. We have to strike at the heart of this illegal and dangerous operation. That is why we propose a new, additional criminal offence; it would not replace existing offences. The new offence would make it clear beyond doubt that such material is illegal and dangerous, that we will prosecute those responsible for it, and that we expect social media companies to take it down.
It is well known that people-smugglers promote dangerous routes on social media platforms including Facebook and TikTok. They often promise easy journeys at an extremely high cost. Those who are interested may be told to send private direct messages to the smugglers, because they know that private conversations are encrypted and much more difficult for police and intelligence agencies to access. If the Government are serious about tackling the criminal gangs profiting from people’s desperation, they must take urgent action to tackle the problem online. At the moment, they talk tough, but the policing and intelligence response is failing to keep up. The Government should back Labour’s new clause 50 today. Those seeking to profit online from people’s desperation must be made to feel the full force of the law.
As everyone in the Chamber knows, the Dubs amendment was passed in May 2016 by David Cameron’s Government in the wake of an increase in refugees arriving from Europe. It required Ministers to relocate and support asylum-seeking children from the continent. It was initially envisaged that the Dubs scheme would offer settlement to 3,000 children, but the number of places was capped at 480. In May 2020, it emerged that the smaller quota had been filled, and the scheme was abandoned. Ever since, Members from across the political spectrum have warned that this bad decision would force hundreds of vulnerable children to turn to people-smuggling gangs for assistance in travelling to Britain, placing them at greater risk of trafficking.
The Government’s inaction has been deeply depressing. Ministers have shown a callous disregard for the plight of children. When debating these issues, Ministers have made the shameful claim that so-called pull factors for refugees are a reason not to help unaccompanied children to safety.
Does the hon. Member recognise that since 2015, the number of unaccompanied children arriving in the UK and going into the care of local authorities has doubled from an average annual run-rate of just over to 2,000 to significantly over 4,000, and that the Syrian resettlement scheme included an element of specifically identifying vulnerable children and bringing them to the UK as a place of safety? Does he therefore accept that it is simply not true that the Government have turned their back on refugee children?
At the moment, there are no safe routes for children to come to the UK. That is why there has been an increase in crossings and more unaccompanied children crossing.
I have heard a lot of attacks on what the Government are trying to do, and a lot about social media; now we are hearing about children. I have some sympathy with the Dubs scheme—indeed, the shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, and I previously tabled amendments in support of it—but I have not seen, in any of the amendments tabled, or heard of, in any of our debates, a single practical measure that Labour would take to deter adults from paying the people traffickers and taking to boats for these dangerous journeys. What is Labour’s plan for real solutions to a serious problem? I have not heard a single solution yet.
If the hon. Member will allow me to continue, he may be interested in what I will say on new clause 49, which addresses his point. I will try to make some progress; I was told off in the last debate for taking too long because I allowed interventions.
Labour believes that it is time that the Government showed global leadership, instead of shirking their commitments enshrined in the refugee convention. We urge them to support new clause 48, which proposes the reintroduction of Dubs.
In new clause 49, the Opposition ask the Government to produce a negotiating mandate that sets out proposed reciprocal arrangements with the EU for safe returns and safe legal routes. Such arrangements were covered by the Dublin III agreement, which has now ended. It is ridiculous that the Government are resorting to dangerous tactics such as push-backs in the channel, when we used to have civilised reciprocal agreements with our geographical neighbours.
I thank the shadow Minister for giving way, because the Minister would not. The Government seem to think that the Bill will end small boats crossing the channel, but as he said, the ending of Dublin III has increased the number of small boats making that crossing. Does he not think that, because of the Bill, we will be back here debating this in three years, when there will be even more small boats and even more children and adults dying in the channel?
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. The Bill will fail if there are not reciprocal arrangements, and that is deeply worrying. Not having those arrangements will encourage more dangerous crossings.
I will, but then I must make progress.
The hon. Member is making his speech in a quiet and reasonable way, but does he not think the problem is that the French are refusing to allow returns? It is not this country; it is the French.
I agree with the hon. Member, but that is directly because we no longer have reciprocal arrangements. That is the crux of the problem with the Bill. We need more reciprocal arrangements with our international partners to allow other measures to be put in place.
I will make progress.
The agreements we had previously, such as Dublin III, gave people who were eligible a safe route here, and they also allowed us to send people to other safe countries when that was appropriate. It is well known that family reunion leads to better outcomes in terms of the ability of people to integrate. It is also well known that it is only with international co-operation that we can expect other countries to accept the safe return of individuals, where appropriate. We believe that new clause 49 is a sensible and proportionate measure to tackle the issues we face.
This brings me on to new clause 51, which does two things. First, it places the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme on a statutory footing to make sure that it is fully implemented. Secondly, it calls on the Government to draw up the scheme in a way that helps prevent people from being exploited by people traffickers and smugglers. The Government have accepted that safe and legal routes are important as an alternative to dangerous routes run by criminal gangs, but they have not implemented or designed safe and legal routes. That is why we propose that the resettlement scheme be designed in a way that allows those fleeing persecution in Afghanistan who have family in the UK to apply to be included in the resettlement scheme. There would be a specified opportunity for family members to apply under the scheme. The Government have already consulted on ensuring that these family members do not end up being exploited by criminal gangs, and have promised them a route to reuniting with their family members, so we see no reason why the new clause should be controversial, or why the Government would not open the scheme and allow family reunion within it.
It has been absolutely shocking to hear at first hand the stories of desperate people who are eligible to come here from Afghanistan being effectively abandoned. I have had Chevening scholars contact my constituency office who have been left without any support at all, and without any prospect of a safe route from that country. Other MPs have told me about people who have worked closely with the British but have also been left vulnerable—interpreters, women who worked as lawyers, and many others whose lives are under threat from the Taliban. Again, if the Government are serious about drawing people away from the people smugglers and offering them safe routes, then they need to get a grip of this situation.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. Does he agree that at the core of this is the poor quality of our relations with some of our nearest neighbours, and, indeed, our falling standing in the international community, which I am afraid—[Interruption.] If I may finish, I am afraid that that is a result of Government policy over the Brexit deal and a number of other matters. Does he agree with me on that point?
As I have previously said, international co-operation is at the root of dealing with the problems that this Bill will purportedly address.
I will give way one last time, but then I really must make progress.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. As a point of clarification, the comment was made in the previous intervention that Brexit was a Government policy. Does he agree that the Government were fulfilling the mandate of the British people at a referendum?
We have already had that debate—in the last Parliament. As is proposed in the Dublin III amendment—new clause 49—our safe and legal routes need to be replaced now that we have left the European Union. That is absolutely integral to making sure that we have the measures in place to deal with the problems we face.
Ministers have talked a lot about the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme, but where are the results? We have been waiting since August for the scheme to be implemented, and it still has not been. People are dying. They do not have four years to wait. It is time for action, not words.
We should be looking after people who put their lives on the line by loyally serving the nation. It is nothing short of outrageous that visas for foreigners who served in the UK armed forces cost £2,389. In 2020, there were 5,110 Commonwealth citizens serving in the armed forces. Each year, about 500 of them choose to leave, and those who choose to stay in the UK are compelled to pay extortionate visa fees. A Government consultation has, as we know, proposed scrapping the fees for those who have completed 12 years’ service in the armed forces. Labour has campaigned long and hard for that change, but we believe the proposed qualification period is far too long, and we call on the Government to right that wrong and change the period of qualification. I am grateful to the two largest veterans charities, the Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes, for their campaigning work on this issue. They are clear that they believe the current situation is gravely unfair, and it is time the Government started honouring their promise to the armed forces.
I have met many Commonwealth soldiers in my constituency, including Fijians who have worked closely alongside Welsh regiments, and others from Commonwealth backgrounds who have come to our armed forces—indeed, I think they make up something like 11% or 12% of current Army recruitment. I have heard horrifying stories about how they have been treated in relation to visas and settlement, as well as with healthcare costs. It is completely wrong for that to be happening, and for them to be treated in such a way when they have served our country so bravely.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. To ask servicemen and women to pay for the privilege of living in the country that they fought for and were prepared to defend is completely unreasonable. The current situation is embarrassing, and we ask the Government to do the right thing and waive fees for veterans seeking citizenship.
I will give way one last time, but I must make progress.
The hon. Gentleman is generous. Does Labour think there should be any limit on the number of people we invite in each year as migrants, and if so, what should that limit be?
As I have made clear, I am speaking about Commonwealth veterans who are fighting for us, defending our country. We very much support waiving the fees for them to become British citizens.
I will move on. Clause 11 is a particularly pernicious part of the Bill. As well as creating two tiers of refugees, it seeks to criminalise some refugees according to how they arrive in the UK. Criminalising people who are seeking our protection is a clear breach of the refugee convention and our obligations under international law. Let us consider the implications of that. Under clause 11, it is possible that an Afghan national facing persecution from the Taliban, Uyghur Muslims facing persecution in China, or a Syrian national facing persecution in Syria, could be criminalised. They could be criminalised merely for the way they arrive in the UK, yet their claim for asylum due to the persecution they faced has not lessened because of their means of arriving in the UK—of course it hasn’t. While the Government do little to secure safe and legal routes for persecuted groups, it is cruel to criminalise people who are escaping torture or death. Moreover, no evidence has ever been produced to suggest that such a measure will deter those irregular journeys, as the Government claim.
As a report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights pointed out, the Bill is littered with measures that are simply incompatible with human rights law and the UK’s obligations under international treaties. That is one reason why Labour believes that amendments 105 and 98 are necessary. By removing the term “for gain”, the Government are creating a situation where anyone in the channel who helps people in distress, as is their duty under maritime law, could be criminalised. That is clearly wrong, both morally and legally, and we strongly urge the Government to accept amendment 105. It is equally the case, as stated in amendment 98, that there should be safeguards against endangering life at sea. As the Joint Committee on Human Rights recommended, it must be made certain that maritime enforcement powers cannot be used in a manner that would endanger lives.
This is a bad Bill, and we hope that the Government will take heed of the amendments we support. Only through international co-operation, safe and legal routes, and targeted measures against criminal gangs can we, with our international partners, improve the current situation.
I will not take too long in my remarks, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I wish to make a couple of clear points about foreign and Commonwealth service personnel who serve in our armed forces and then have to pay to live in this country afterwards, and to use public services. There has been wide, broad, and deep support for action on this issue over the past few days, including from people who really do not like to get involved in politics. Whether it is the Royal British Legion, Help for Heroes and the veteran community or beyond, in our communities up and down the country, people recognise the morality behind the issue of charging those who serve to live in this country.
I speak to all sorts of people in the veterans community. Last night, I had a conversation with Prince Harry about this. He has contributed hugely to the veterans debate and I wanted his view. He said to me, “It’s not only morally right but would mean so much to those who have given so much.” That is not a political intervention; it demonstrates the moral purpose of this measure. It is an almost “effortless change”, as he said, for this Government to make, for us to finally see through what we have said to these people for so long. We owe it to them. They are our brothers and sisters. They have served with us over many years. I recognise that there are things going around today saying how we should not be doing this in primary legislation, for lots of reasons. I will come to that in a minute, but this has been going on for 20 years for these people, and at some point we have to grasp the nettle and make sure that we look after them.
The money is meaningless. I will address the figures that have been put out by the Government and others. On Monday, I was told that the Government could not do this because it would cost £160 million. That is garbage. Do not take my word for it; look at the Royal British Legion, which has campaigned on this issue for many years. I pay tribute to Members across the House, including those on the Conservative side, who have been Defence Ministers and have tried to deal with this problem but have hit the same issues we are hitting at the moment.
On that £160 million, the Royal British Legion has studied the figures. If someone who served in the military in this country applies for a visa, all their dependants use a special code. Someone can only use that code if they have served or they are a dependant, so we can pull the data between 2016 and 2020. It has never cost more than £1 million a year, so the majority of those fees are profit—a charge on our service personnel to stay here.
Let me address the consultation issue and the 12-year period. I do not want to air dirty linen in public, but I was there when that 12-year figure was decided on. It was done on a visit. It was plucked out of the air. There is no evidence whatsoever to back it up. There is evidence in the Department that someone from a foreign or Commonwealth country who serves in the military is likely to serve between six and seven years. Twelve years is well outside that. It is well beyond what our peer nations do, it is well beyond what our allies do, and it is incredibly unkind to these individuals who have worked and served for so long.
I have given the moral case and the financial case, but ultimately this decision comes down to Conservative Members. The whole country is aligned on this issue, and it has been for a very long time. All the political parties will support new clause 52 except the Conservatives, and we are the ones who made a promise that we would do something about this. That is unconscionable. Colleagues can of course take the calls from the Defence Secretary and others, with these figures that I have demonstrated are not true, or they can think about what they are here to do.
I am here to represent the Fijian family in Plymouth who left the military after nine years having fought in Afghanistan and Iraq; they may have been members of the United Kingdom Special Forces group—a relentless operational tempo. Finally they leave, their kids go to school and they save up for a house, but they have to pay a £10,000 bill to stay in this country that they fought for over so many years. Can colleagues really look that family in the eye and say, “No, you have to pay; we have to make a profit out of you for you to stay in this country, despite the fact that you were prepared to commit so much to the privileges and the freedoms we enjoy”?
Finally, I say to colleagues that the tide changes very quickly in politics. This issue has been around for 20 years now, and the tide changes. I know what it is like when people put the screws on and ask you to vote a certain way, but the tide changes. All we can do is what we think is right on the day. The moral and financial case for this measure has never been clearer, and I urge colleagues to consider it carefully before they cast their vote.
Rather than fixing the broken asylum system, the provisions in this part of the Bill risk breaking it all together, endangering, criminalising, delaying, warehousing, offshoring and depriving of their rights those who simply seek our protection. The Uyghur, the Syrian and the persecuted Christian I spoke about on Second Reading, as well as the Afghans who are now in danger because of events subsequent to that debate, all face those bleak impacts despite our best efforts in Committee.
Contrary to the claims that the Bill is about safe routes, it actually does not add a single one, while threatening to restrict vital family reunion rights, pushing more people towards smugglers and dangerous crossings.
I thank my hon. Friend for his forensic work on the Bill in Committee. He correctly says that the Bill does not propose any new safe legal routes, but there is one provision that does—new clause 10, in the name of Neil Coyle, of which I am a co-sponsor. It proposes having a humanitarian visa that people could apply for in France so that they could start the process of coming to the United Kingdom there. Can my hon. Friend confirm that SNP MPs will support new clauses 10 and 11?
I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for her intervention, and I am happy to confirm that the SNP will support them. Indeed, there are a range of new clauses from both sides of the House, from Back Benchers in particular, that seek to add safe routes, and they all have our support. For our part, we have tabled new clause 35, which would expand refugee family reunion in a way that this House supported in 2018 in the private Member’s Bill introduced by my hon. Friend Angus Brendan MacNeil.
Our other proposals try once more to limit some of the harm that the Bill will do at every stage in the asylum process. However, let me first welcome the amendments from the Joint Committee on Human Rights and others regarding the appalling maritime pushback clauses and the criminalisation of rescuers—provisions that risk serious harm even before an asylum seeker is able to enter the asylum process.
For those seeking asylum in the UK who do get here, is it not outrageous that they will be criminalised under an offence in clause 39 punishable by up to four years in prison? That is why our amendment 116 states clearly and simply that if Afghans, Syrians, Uyghurs, Christian converts or others are at risk of persecution in their countries of nationality, their mere entry or arrival for the purposes of seeking asylum is not a crime. Is it not extraordinary that that very idea has to be debated?
Clause 11 means that, having faced the criminal justice system, our Afghan and his colleagues will be stuck in one of the Government’s asylum warehouses. We say that we should not go down that path—a path that the Irish have just rejected as utterly failed and that brought shocking results at Napier Barracks—and that we should make community dispersal work. Our new clause 36 would ensure that dispersal authorities get the funding they need to undertake their vital role.
Clause 15 means that, stuck in that warehouse, the Syrian and his colleagues will have to wait for months on end before their asylum cases are looked at, because their claims will be deemed inadmissible under a ludicrously broad range of criteria that will allow the Home Secretary to say that another country should take responsibility—even if there is not the remotest chance of that actually happening, there is no real reason why it should happen or there are strong reasons, such as family ties, why the claim should actually be considered here. The Home Secretary could even insist that a human rights-abusing country that pays no more than lip service to the refugee convention should take charge, even when our Syrian or Afghan has absolutely no connection to that country whatever.
Amendments 132 to 142, drafted with advice from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, seek to put the necessary safeguards and restrictions in place. We are not saying that it is never appropriate for other countries to be asked to take over responsibility, but crucial safeguards must exist, and they are absolutely nowhere in this Bill. Already this year, 7,000 or so people have had their claims put on hold through inadmissibility procedures. Just 10 were removed. The remaining 6,990 are either still waiting or have been moved into the asylum process. They have been waiting for absolutely no good reason at all and almost certainly at a cost of tens of millions of pounds to the taxpayer. The whole set-up is absolutely ludicrous.
Having toughed out the additional delays, the Uyghur and his colleagues will find that it is the Home Office that finally considers their asylum claims, but we ask why. Time and again the Home Office has shown itself as not fit for purpose, which is why new clause 37 asks us to look to the Canadian model of an independent asylum decision-making body, to ensure that protection claims no longer suffer from political interference and politically motivated targets. Sadly, far from supporting independent decision making, a whole series of pernicious clauses in the Bill would see this Parliament telling decision makers what inferences to draw about evidence provided as part of a claim. We say, “Leave assessments of evidence to the decision makers who actually see it. We don’t get to see it.” That is why amendments 118 to 120 seek to remove clauses 18, 21 and 25.
By redefining parts of the refugee convention in this Bill, the Government make it more difficult for our Christian convert and his colleagues to prove their need for international protection. Amendments 144 and 147 seek to fix two of the most dangerous examples of that. The impact of clause 31 is that if a decision maker is 49% sure that a person is a Christian convert, and 100% sure that they will be persecuted and tortured to death in their home country if they are, that person will no longer be recognised as a refugee because the balance of probabilities test at the first stage is not met—49% sure that a person will be tortured to death, yet they are not recognised as a refugee.
Amendment 144 scraps that horrendous test and reverts to the existing test of a real risk of serious harm. Likewise, amendment 147 fixes provisions in clause 32 that seek to overturn important and established case law and would make it harder for people to make claims based on membership of a particular social group.
Most outrageously, the Afghan and his colleagues might have their claims considered not here at all, but at a so-called offshore centre, replicating one of the most disgraceful episodes in Australian policymaking—an episode that saw human rights abuses rife, health and wellbeing massacred, exponential costs, utterly inadequate capacity and a total policy failure that led to its abandonment. We fully support the amendments to take those provisions out of the Bill.
I have been told to be very brief, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is my hon. Friend aware of Dr Nick Martin, a medical doctor who had been in the British Navy for a number of years and worked on Manus Island, one of the offshoring projects in Australia? He describes himself as “right of centre” and not a natural refugee supporter until he saw the vile way people were treated—[Interruption.] Well, we are modelling this on the Australian system. Does my hon. Friend agree we should listen to the voices of the people who have lived through this, rather than the people who tell us it will be all roses?
The evidence about how disgraceful the Australian system was is overwhelming. My hon. Friend adds helpfully to that.
Despite all that, our Syrian, Afghan and Uyghur will almost certainly be recognised as refugees, but let us say that the persecuted Christian convert is refused because the judge is only 49% that he will be murdered on removal. Of those who challenge refusals, around 40% have been successful on appeal in recent years, but in this Bill appeal rights are restricted yet again, and certain appeal processes are accelerated.
Our amendment 121 would delete the Government’s attempt to reinstate the detained fast-track process, which was previously ruled unlawful. Amendment 145 removes another expedited appeal process. It is the Home Office that needs to address delays, not our tribunals. The SNP is also fully behind cross-party attempts to place time limits on the use of detention.
Even if our persecuted Christian, after appeal, joins the others in being recognised as a refugee, the misery this Bill will inflict on them is far from complete. The group will now face all the discriminatory measures heaped on by clause 11, which empowers the Home Secretary to punish recognised refugees through the insecurity of temporary residence, through no recourse to public funds, through limited family reunion and any other form of discrimination or punishment she thinks fit. It is a truly astonishing and outrageous provision. Amendment 114 specifically exempts Afghans, Syrians, Uyghurs, Christian converts and other refugees from such disgraceful treatment, and we fully support amendment 8 to remove the clause altogether.
If our Afghan or any of the others happens to be a young person whose age is challenged, the Bill risks making life especially difficult for them, thanks to the provisions of part 4, rammed into the Bill in Committee against the advice of numerous organisations and experts. The clauses will ramp up the use of age assessments by altering established guidance on when assessments are required, requiring them even when there is no reason to doubt a child’s age. They will allow the Home Office to meddle in an area that should be a matter for child protection and safeguarding teams, and to introduce new, unsupported, inaccurate and unethical scientific methods of assessment. Our amendments 122 to 126 seek to undo the damage of those provisions and leave those with expertise, not an anti-refugee agenda, in charge.
Finally, our new clause 32 simply requires the Bill to be interpreted so far as possible in line with the refugee convention. If the Government maintain there is nothing contrary to the convention in the Bill, surely they will have no problem with that new clause? The reality is, as numerous published legal opinions show, that these provisions are a blatant assault on the refugee convention, and the most vulnerable in the world will suffer. Our amendments seek to ameliorate some of the most outrageous aspects of the Bill, but the truth is that the whole thing needs to be canned.
My amendment 150 to clause 28, using the “notwithstanding” formula, would exclude the Human Rights Act 1998, the European convention on human rights, EU and retained law and the United Nations refugee convention from judicial authority and judgment. This is all about tackling illegal immigration, which our 2019 manifesto made clear that we intended to and must resolve.
The amendment is not against genuine persecuted refugees; this is about economic migrants who claim that they are within the legal framework of protected refugees. The illegal traffickers convince them to use our human rights laws to come over to our shores in the certain knowledge that they will be protected by our judicial system. Illegal immigrants have no right to enter our borders. Despite the difficult journey that they have made to the French coast, they have no greater right to come here than any other illegal immigrant. When they come, as the traffickers have promised them, they are almost all allowed to stay under Home Office guidance and are protected by the judiciary. They then bring their families across and, with the benefits that they claim—not to mention education and housing—they enter what they believe to be the land of milk and honey. The returns are negligible because of the human rights legislation, as it stands.
Not only was the Minister not able to, but he did not want to.
This year alone, 26,000 have entered and, unless the legal loopholes are effectively stopped, they will continue to come in a tsunami of numbers next year. The Government have provided a remedy partially in this Bill but not yet regarding the full legal framework of the Human Rights Act, the European convention on human rights, EU retained law and the refugee convention of 1951, as amended with universal application in 1967 by a protocol. On EU retained law alone, I have found on the Government’s website in the National Archives that this amounts to as many as 123 directives and regulations, spelling out masses of laws relating to asylum and immigration that originated in EU law and are now on our statute book, although a few have been revoked.
The official Home Office policy guidance for asylum screening is still essentially based on the same law, and it makes for dismal reading. It is essential that that is changed. At present, an asylum claim must be registered where an individual fears persecution or serious harm of persecution for any given reason on return to their country. How to evaluate a fear varies with every individual and can in many cases be deliberately exaggerated.
To be recognised as a refugee under the UN refugee convention, the claimant can assert that they have a well-founded fear of persecution and be not only unable, but unwilling, to go back to their country of origin or habitual residence. That can be invoked on grounds which include mere political opinions. Furthermore, they can claim that they are within the judicial sphere of “the humanitarian protection policy”, and the discretion as to whether an asylum claim should be accepted is heavily weighted in favour of asylum, even if the claimants do not even use the term “asylum” when they arrive on our shores.
A paper by the highly distinguished former professor of law at Oxford, John Finnis, and Simon Murray explains in graphic terms the law and case law in more than 100 pages of detailed analysis. They conclude that the European Court of Human Rights has wrongly circumvented fundamental principles originated in the European convention on human rights and the 1951 refugee convention. They also argue that, properly interpreted, the UK and other signatory states have no obligation to let in refugees arriving at our borders en masse, have no legal or treaty obligation to accept refuges at all, and have no obligation to provide asylum for dangerous refugees, such as criminals and terrorists.
The European Court, by radical and unwarranted interpretation, has used the article 3 provisions on torture and inhuman treatment and the article 8 provisions on the right to private and family life to extend the ambit of claimants to encourage them to engage in unlawful immigration. That has been done through the formula of so-called living instruments and recent UK judicial rulings that have continuously expanded claimants’ rights within the judicial system. Claimants are granted repetitive appeals that bring the immigration system under intense pressure at monumental expense to the taxpayer, with grave political consequences on the doorstep.
We need to pull the rug from under the traffickers’ feet, save the lives of those who are exploited by them, and protect our own manifesto promises. Despite the Government’s good intentions in aspects of the Bill, we must solve the fundamental problems presented by the human rights legislation and the legal framework of the provisions that I have mentioned. We cannot continue, with unwarranted interpretation and judgments by the judiciary, to allow illegal immigration.
I seek robust assurances today from the Government to resolve the matter by legislation, and I will press my amendment unless I get them. We cannot go on kicking the can down the yellow brick road. The journey has begun, but the question is where it ends. The yellow brick road is not only in disrepair, as it was in “The Wizard of Oz”, but littered with political precipices.
I rise to speak to amendments 96 to 100 and 102, which stand in my name and those of other hon. Members. They arise from the legislative scrutiny of the Bill by the Joint Committee on Human Rights.
I remind hon. Members that the Joint Committee is a cross-party Committee with half its members from the House of Commons and half from the House of Lords. We undertake legislative scrutiny of all Bills for their human rights implications. We have taken evidence on the Bill from many people—including the Minister, for whose evidence we are grateful—and we are advised by our own legal experts.
In our report, which we published on
Our amendments 96 to 99 would deal with the major issues relating to pushbacks. The Bill provides greater powers for Border Force to “board, divert and detain” vessels. The Government acknowledge that crossings are perilous; this debate takes place in the shadow of the 27 people who drowned in the channel. The Minister was clear in his evidence to the Joint Committee that he does not want Government action to be the cause of yet more lives lost. Of course not.
Our amendment 97 would circumscribe the new powers to ensure that they could not be used against unseaworthy vessels such as dinghies. Our amendment 98 would ensure that they could not
“be used in a manner…that could endanger life at sea.”
Our amendment 96 would ensure that they could be used only in a way that complies with international maritime law, which the Government say they want to comply with. The Minister said in evidence to us that that is the Government’s intention and that they would make that intention clear in operational directions—but if the power is in the Bill, so should the protections be.
Given the Government’s intention, what reason could they possibly have to oppose the amendments? The Government have a big majority and can whip to vote them down, but the amendments have been tabled by a cross-party Committee of both Houses, they have been expertly drafted by our legal counsel, and they represent what the Government say is their intention.
The Minister is new and enthusiastic in his role. He was very forthcoming in his evidence to our Committee, and he and I have spoken about the subject privately, for which I am grateful. I offer him a bit of advice: not to be the Minister who votes our amendments down just because he can, not to be the Minister who makes his Back Benchers vote against ensuring that lives are not endangered—that is not the right thing for him to do—and not to be the Minister who gives new powers to Border Force that cost lives at sea.
Our amendments allow for the new powers, but make them compliant with international law and make them safe. The Government have no reason to oppose the amendments, so I hope that the Minister will say to his colleagues and his civil servants that he wants to reflect on them because he does not want to stand in the way of putting the Government’s intentions on the face of the Bill. If the Government do oppose the amendments, we will seek to press amendment 98 to a Division, but I hope that that will not be necessary.
May I say what a pleasure it is to follow Ms Harman, and how sad I am that she will not be standing in the next election? May I also say what a particular pleasure it was to hear my old friend the Minister make such a measured and balanced case? I was very proud of him. That does not mean that we are going to agree on everything, as he will hear in a minute, but I think that he put a very good case.
The current asylum system is broken not just for us but for most of Europe; we should understand that this is not simply a national issue. It rewards smuggling gangs who prey on the desperate, it punishes those with genuine needs through bureaucratic impediments and it pushes the most vulnerable into harm’s way. We know, of course, that thousands have arrived across the channel and dozens, at least, have died as a result. We must find a system that destroys the criminal network underpinning this crisis, vigorously pursues enhanced co-operation with the French and other European parties, and distinguishes properly between economic migrants and those fleeing persecution. At present, we do not do that properly.
I believe that the Home Secretary is entirely committed to these approaches but, unfortunately, while I think that this is a very good Bill in many ways, one element of it—offshoring—sacrifices our long-term values to short-term political expediency, with fairly little chance of success.
We agree on many things, but perhaps not on this. Does my right hon. Friend accept that, unless we get rid of the pull factor, we will never solve this problem? It is not necessary to go offshore. As my new clause 23 makes clear, it is possible to ensure that anyone who enters this country illegally from a safe country will be held in secure accommodation. The reason people keep coming here is that they know they will vanish in the community and will never be deported. Will my right hon. Friend, who is so good in so many ways, at least look at what we are proposing?
Of course I will look at it. I have said to the Ministers that much of the Bill is worth while. My right hon. Friend is right about the pull factor, and there are many other things we can do. I have had discussions with the Minister about, for example, improving our surveillance. The irony is that at the moment Frontex, using British surveillance operations, does a better job in the Mediterranean than the Home Office does in the channel. There are many things we can do, and yes, I will look at all available options, as long as they are humane.
Clause 28 and schedule 3 grant the Home Office the legal powers to create an offshore processing system. I am afraid I must say to those on this side of the House that it is based on something of a mythology. It is based on the Australian Government’s approach in 2013. Its scope would allow children, modern slavery victims and torture survivors to be detained offshore, in a place where we have little legal control. The Australian model of offshoring was seriously problematic on a humanitarian level, and the supposed deterrent effect of the policy was really down to an aggressive push-back policy. What the Australians did was push those ships back effectively into the middle of the Pacific, or Indonesian waters in the Pacific. That was the biggest impact. It relates to the point made by my right hon. Friend about the attractiveness of these things.
The Refugee Council of Australia has documented the gut-wrenching sexual, physical and mental abuse that has pushed vulnerable children toward suicide. A 14-year-old girl, held offshore for five years, doused herself in petrol and tried to set herself alight; fortunately, she was stopped. A 10-year-old boy attempted suicide three times. A 12-year-old boy, held offshore for five years, had to be medically transferred to Australia because he had tried to starve himself to death and had reached the point at which he could not even stand up because he was so weak.
Members might think that these are isolated cases, but tragically they are not. From May 2013 to October 2015, there were 2,116 documented assaults, sexual abuse cases or self-harm attempts. More than half of them applied to children. I say that more than half applied to children; only one fifth of the asylum seekers were actually children. So that is an astonishing humanitarian record for that policy.
I know there is a lot of doorstep politics involved in this, but if this were to happen on our watch, just imagine how the public would respond to serious harm being done to a child nominally in our care. Remember what happened when the Iranian Kurdish child of four was shown drowned on a Greek beach? It would be something like that, but in our own control. I do not want to see any British Government of any persuasion facing that.
I thank the right hon. Member for everything that he is doing on this. He will be aware of Madeline Gleeson, the Australian lawyer, academic and author of the book “Offshore”, who is an expert on offshoring. She said that, once we commit to something like offshoring, there is no going back, and she asked me to tell any Members who were tempted to vote for it that, even for those in Australia who opposed it, the burden on their consciences is to this day a heavy one. So will the right hon. Member join me in urging those Members tempted to vote in favour of offshoring to search their consciences and not do this to themselves or to those children?
I think everybody in this House wants to do the right thing by our own country and the right thing by vulnerable people too. I do not except anybody from that. What I am trying to do here is to let people know what will happen, before we are fixed with the system and then find ourselves defending something that may turn out to be indefensible. That is my real concern about this element of the Bill, and in my view, the biggest argument is on humanitarian issues.
Also, as Conservatives, we should think about the cost. By any measure, this will be eye-wateringly expensive. At the moment, we spend £1.4 billion annually on asylum costs. That is about £11,000 per asylum seeker. Australia has spent £4.3 billion on just over 3,000 asylum seekers. That is about £1.38 million per person. As an ex-Public Accounts Committee Chairman, I looked rather askance at that and went through it with a fine-toothed comb, and I can tell the House that it is right. If we applied that cost to our asylum situation, we would be talking about something like £34 billion or £35 billion, which is the size of the Government Department. Let us imagine that we were twice as effective as that: the cost would still be £17 billion. Are we really talking about doing something like that? The reason for this is, of course, that we would effectively have to bribe the country that would take the asylum seekers.
Is my right hon. Friend not overlooking the deterrent effect that this would have?
I hear lots of cheering. That was the argument with respect to the Australian system, but the real deterrent effect of the Australian system was the pushback. The fact is that nobody got to Australia. That was the main effect.
In the past, we have had an argument within our own party about the hostile environment. Remember the hostile environment policy that we lived with for a long time? It did not work. We tried it and it brought our reputation down, so thank you for that. My hon. Friend is right to talk about the pull effect and the deterrent effect. They are all important, but we have to do this in such a way that we can stand by and be proud of it at the end of the policy. That is why I am saying to the House now: this is what it will look like, come the day, and it is not something that I will be proud of. For that reason, I urge the House to support my amendments.
I am in favour of a number of amendments, but for the purposes of time I will largely keep my comments to new clauses 12 and 13 in my own name and new clause 14 tabled by my hon. Friend Bell Ribeiro-Addy. New clause 12 would provide recourse to public funds to everyone holding a valid UK residence permit. New clause 13 would repeal the sections in the 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts that restrict undocumented migrants’ access to work and services. New clause 14 seeks to abolish the immigration health surcharge. I am pleased these new clauses have received lots of support from Members across the House.
It will perhaps be obvious to colleagues that these new clauses are about addressing the unjust suffering caused by the Government’s hostile environment, a term used to describe all the policies that make life difficult for migrants living in the UK by explicitly and deliberately treating them as less deserving of dignity and humanity than British citizens.
My new clause 13, in particular, seeks to overturn the denial of basic human rights. Members will know from their constituency casework that the consequences are brutal and wide-reaching. The hostile environment deters people from reporting crime to the police or from calling out unsafe conditions and exploitative practices at work. It undermines trade union rights and pushes people into poor-quality and dangerous accommodation and homelessness. As new clause 14 highlights, the hostile environment even denies access to healthcare by scaring people from going to the doctor for fear of being charged or being reported, detained and deported.
No recourse to public funds, which new clause 12 addresses, abandons some migrants to having no safety net. It leaves children hungry, it pushes families into poverty and unsafe, overcrowded housing, and it means women, in particular, who flee abusive partners are not entitled to access mainstream refuges. It is breathtakingly cruel and unjust.
The disproportionate suffering that has been inflicted on migrants during the pandemic is well known, if apparently forgotten by this Government. Not only does the hostile environment produce a culture of fear that often risks the NHS being unable to do its job, but it puts all our communities in danger. Although such policies try to incentivise us to be suspicious of one another, they are not in the interest of the majority of people. It should be no surprise that the Bill is another horrifying extension of such an approach. It undermines human decency and must be opposed in every way.
The fact this is all in the context of the ongoing tragedy of people drowning in the English channel is chilling. That such people now potentially face jail sentences if they survive such precarious journeys, as well as an even more hostile environment, is catastrophically wrong.
I emphasise the humanity that runs through the amendments I am supporting today. We have to stop the political immigration game of misinformation and cynicism that has such horrendous human cost. There is no doubt that one of the reasons we are seeing scenes of desperate people trying to cross the channel is the lazy but deadly anti-migrant political agenda that closes off safe routes to the UK.
One of the biggest myths perpetuated by politicians is that they are too afraid to talk about migration when, in fact, the opposite is true. The more politicians talk about being tough on migration, the more they just talk about being tough on migration. For decades the rate of lawmaking in this area has exceeded the rate of lawmaking in every other social policy area.
When people repeat half-truths and inaccuracies and attempt to utilise society’s fears, prejudices and anxieties for opportunistic so-called political gain, a climate of acceptance is created for such ideas at all levels of society. The mainstream media must also reflect on the role of their focus on numbers and their use of words such as “flood,” “influx” and “waves.” I am sorry that Sir William Cash used the word “tsunami,” which is a disgrace.
Yet it is simply untrue that Britain takes in more refugees than everywhere else, and research shows that two thirds of asylum seekers crossing the channel in boats, for example, are finally granted asylum by the Government’s own measurements. Yes, we need solutions to the soaring inequality, the suffering and the frightening covid death toll over which this Government have presided, but we do not need suspicion and scapegoats. Wherever we are from, we all need a roof over our head, food to eat, healthcare and basic human kindness and solidarity. Surely the true measure of a civilised society is not in its hostility but in its humanity.
I commended these new clauses to the House.
I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests in respect of the support I get from the Refugee, Asylum and Migration Policy project. It includes a cross-party group of MPs who, to follow on from the comments made by Apsana Begum, absolutely seek to take the toxicity out of this debate, to find consensus, to be careful in the language we use, and to find agreement and, indeed, pragmatic solutions. When it comes to crossing the channel in small boats, we certainly need pragmatic solutions.
I absolutely commend my hon. Friend the Minister for his comments about seeking to smash the evil trade in people. That is what we must do, because the traffickers regard human life as absolutely worthless. They seek to provide crossings to the highest bidder, and no consideration whatever is given to people’s safety. I thank my hon. Friend for his engagement on this subject, and for listening to my real concerns about some of the clauses.
It is interesting that when we talk about immigration, we often find ourselves with strange bedfellows—I will be completely candid about that. It is not often that my right hon. Friend Mr Davis and I find ourselves in absolute agreement; however, as might be expected of the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, I share a great many of his reservations about not only the moral principle but the practical impact of the policy of offshoring.
I have sought assurances from my hon. Friend the Minister about whether the offshoring policy will apply to children. I very much hope that an assurance that it will not will be included in the Bill, and that we will not seek to remove vulnerable young people to any other country, whether it is a member of the refugee convention and signatory to the European convention on human rights or not. I also seek assurances from my hon. Friend that we will not seek to offshore women, who will perhaps be pregnant women. If pregnant women are making these dangerous crossings, what are we doing to make sure they are safeguarded and not shipped off to another country? That is crucial.
My right hon. Friend speaks with great passion on this issue, and I am grateful for the constructive way in which she has gone about raising concerns in this policy area. I wish to emphasise that we will always act in accordance with our international obligations, and to be very clear that unaccompanied asylum-seeking children will not be subject to inadmissibility or transferred for offshore processing. It is also important to say that we will not split family units, because that would be contrary to our international obligations.
I hope my hon. Friend the Minister will not mind my instantly picking up on the fact that he very specifically said that “unaccompanied” asylum-seeking children would not be sent offshore, and that we would not split families. I also seek his assurance that we will not send whole families to have their claims decided offshore, and a further assurance that unaccompanied asylum-seeking children who have been accepted into the asylum process will not fall out of it again once they turn 18. To me, it is absolutely imperative that if somebody’s claim is to be decided here, it should be decided here, not diverted midway through the process because they pass an arbitrary age.
I have real concerns about the creation of two tiers of asylum seeker. I tend to use this illustration. We saw horrific scenes in Afghanistan when female judges and female Members of Parliament sought to flee that country. We have put in place some schemes—it is important to emphasise that they are not yet up and running—around the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme. Let me draw for the House the image of one female judge who comes to this country under that scheme when it is up and running. She is accepted into our country and is promptly given indefinite leave to remain and the right to work. A second female judge arrives on a small boat, but otherwise the circumstances are the same, in that she would be at risk if she returned to Afghanistan. We seek to offshore her. It causes me real concern that we will create a two-tier system in which people with identical claims to safety—at identical risk from the Taliban—are treated very differently.
I wish to raise concerns about where we might send people. I do not presume to know which countries the Home Office is in discussions with, but they might include Albania, which is in mainland Europe and not part of the European Union. There is already a well-established route from Albania to this country in the back of a van. We could be in a situation where we pay a third country a significant amount of money to accept someone into their asylum system—this is different from the model outlined by my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden—but they are then refused. At that point, what is there to stop that person seeking to come back to this country immediately? There could be some sort of circular trade, in which people end up back on our shores, whether in the back of a van or a small boat, and so the cycle goes round and round.
I have some experience as a former Immigration Minister, so I know full well that at this time of year, there is a very popular journey using the return flight to Tirana. [Interruption.] I can see that you want me to hurry up, Madam Deputy Speaker, so I will. There is the question of whether people might see an opportunity to head off to a different country, and then end up back here, whether their claim was accepted or denied in that third country.
We must get the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme up and running, and make it effective. We should also fulfil the commitment we made to vulnerable people when the vulnerable persons resettlement scheme and the vulnerable children’s resettlement scheme came to their conclusion. We cannot talk about safe and legal routes unless we actually have some, and it is imperative that we have them.
I am now stretching your patience, Madam Deputy Speaker, but let me finally address the comments of Ms Harman about push-back. I was the Immigration Minister who rejected that idea because I thought that it was too dangerous to do in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the country, with vulnerable and overladen boats carrying women and children, in choppy seas. We should think very carefully before going down that route, because no Minister at all wishes to be responsible for more loss of life in the channel.
Order. I will have to implement a three-minute limit; otherwise, we simply will not get people in.
This Bill is literally inhumane: it dehumanises asylum seekers, puts lives at risk and turns people into criminals for simply attempting to exercise their basic human rights. But the UK Government are not going to let small matters such as fundamental human rights, the rule of law and natural justice get in the way of their hostile environment, and their attempts to exclude practically anyone who is not a tax-dodging billionaire from settling on these shores. We keep hearing, “The asylum system is broken” from those on the Government Benches. Well, how did that happen? The Government have been in power for 10 years, and the environment has only become more hostile. Perhaps a different approach is needed.
It is for that reason that I support the right to work outlined in new clause 45, in the name of my hon. Friend Carol Monaghan. The right to work is a human right. It is in the universal declaration of human rights, and although it might be denied, it cannot be taken away. Lots of us heard that last week from people who had travelled from Glasgow and the Maryhill Integration Network to speak to us about the issue. They want to work, contribute and share their skills.
Instead of people being a cost to the system, we should let them contribute to the system. Instead of them receiving meagre, insulting support payments from taxpayer, we should let them become taxpayers, but that is not something that the Government are interested in. I do not know when a Government Minister last had to sit in a constituency surgery and look at a biometric card that says, “No right to work” or “No recourse to public funds”. It is one of the most heartbreaking things that Members of this House have to do, and it is a complete insult, because being able to work is a human right.
I also support new clause 9 on EU certification, which was tabled by Dame Meg Hillier, because it would correct another historical wrong. I have constituents who have had emails saying, “Congratulations, you have your settled status. By the way, this email is not proof of your settled status.” Quite how they are supposed to prove that status if they do not have the documentation is beyond me, but it is all part of a Home Office agenda that does not want people to make the United Kingdom their home.
The Government want to close borders, shut down routes to citizenship and send a general message that says, “Unless you have lots of money, you’re not really welcome here.” How can the UK ever be the first safe country of arrival? We are surrounded by water. It is simply not possible. That approach would mean that practically everyone turning up here to claim asylum—whether on a ship or small boat or at an airport—would become a criminal. That is rejected by people in Glasgow North and across Scotland. I look forward to the day when we can have an open, generous, accessible pathway to asylum and citizenship, for those who want to take it up, in an independent Scotland.
It is not just the asylum system that is broken; it is also the immigration enforcement system. Last year, the Public Accounts Committee reminded us that the immigration enforcement directorate has 5,000 staff and costs £400 million a year to run, but that every year for the last several years, there have been fewer enforced removals and fewer voluntary returns. In 2019—the last year for which figures were available—there were only 55 convictions for all immigration offences, yet we know that there are probably 1.2 million illegal immigrants in this country. I therefore ask the Minister: what is happening to the published aim of the immigration enforcement directorate, which is,
“to reduce the size of the illegal population and the harm it causes”?
The reason why I tabled new clause 18—I much appreciate the support of the 17 colleagues who have signed it—it is that it would make it clear that it is a criminal offence to be in the United Kingdom illegally. Most people find it amazing that it is not already a criminal offence. It is a criminal offence to watch a television without a television licence, but not to be in this country without authority. My new clause would change that and address the issue of all the people who are here unlawfully.
Sky News has suggested that there may be about 87,000 new illegal immigrants coming in each year. Very few of those, relatively speaking, are failed asylum seekers. There is a much bigger problem of clandestines—those arriving without documents—and there is a very large number, estimated to be 66,000, of people who stay beyond any visa entitlement. We have to deal with the wider issue of illegal migrants and enforce it properly.
I will be prioritising people who have tabled amendments.
Before I speak to my new clause 9, I want to associate myself fully with the comments of Caroline Nokes. In normal times that might surprise people, but I think she put very eloquently the real challenges and issues of offshoring and pushing back.
New clause 9 calls on the Home Office to fill the gap between the digital-by-default proof of status under the EU settlement scheme and the reality of people’s lives. It is typical of the Home Office to have set up a system that does not understand the interactions that people will have to have while proving their status. I thank the Minister for speaking to me about this, and for his letter of today.
Let me give some facts. I represent over 10,000 EU citizens in Hackney South and Shoreditch; my right hon. Friend Ms Abbott represents many thousands more. In my constituency, they are 8.5% of the population. Some 60% of Roma people are unable to access digital proof, and there are other groups who have real problems with digital access. Let me mention just some of the cases in my case load. An EU citizen living in my constituency who visits France weekly for work is interrogated by Border Force every time she arrives back in the UK. Another constituent has parents in their 70s who struggle to understand the complex process of proving their status digitally. Another case involves a freelancer who has had to prove his identity to every new employer, which can be every five or six weeks. The website is sometimes down, and many employers just do not want to engage, so he has lost money.
Another constituent works for a charity working with the Roma; it gave the figure of 60% of Roma people finding it difficult to access digital proof. I thank the3million, which has written to me since I tabled the new clause and explained many of these situations, which I do not have time to go into, but I reiterate the concerns of my constituents.
I say to the Minister, whose job I did just over a decade ago, that we are not so far apart on this. I, too, support methods that take us away from the old Immigration and Nationality Directorate letters, which many of my constituents still come to surgeries with in their wallets, folded up until they are falling apart. They are not a great way of proving one’s status in the UK. People lose passports. There are gaps in the system. We have seen with the covid app how we can make a difference by combining digital and paper.
An app-based solution was helpfully suggested by the3million. Having held my role, the hon. Lady will know the usual sorts of security caveats that we would add, but it is certainly something we will look at.
I thank the Minister for that—it is a bit of a breakthrough. It is important that the Home Office remembers that people will lose records. When they are travelling, they will be in places where there is no wi-fi through which they can access information. A time-limited document that they at least have the option to have on paper would be a very welcome move.
On the basis of what the Minister has said—I will watch him like a hawk on this—I will not press my new clause to a vote, but the hon. Members who signed it have a very strong interest in this. We are talking about EU citizens who have made their life in this country, and we need to give them the comfort that they deserve, so that they can go about their ordinary lives easily and effectively.
I rise to comment on new clause 52. This is important, because in April 2019, I wrote a letter with the former Member for Bridgend, Madeleine Moon, to the then Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend Sajid Javid, and then to his successor a few months afterwards. In that letter, we called for a waiver of fees for Commonwealth servicemen and women. The new clause rightly amends that to all non-UK citizens in the new clause, which is effectively the core of what the new clause of my hon. Friend Johnny Mercer calls for. It is good to see him in his place this evening and back in the House. I welcome that.
There are some realities that make it difficult for us to vote for the new clause, not least the fact that it does not need to be in primary legislation. The amendments can be made outside legislation through immigration and nationality fee regulations, and when it comes to sums of money, it is important that it is done that way.
I remind Ministers that in that letter, I highlighted the point that the current situation
“irks many members of the public that our nation looks mean spirited to those who volunteered to join us”,
and potentially put their lives at risk. The letter was signed by 130 MPs, including three Secretaries of State in the current Government, 10 Ministers, including the Veterans Minister, my hon. Friend Leo Docherty, and one Whip. This letter—this belief—has a considerable amount of moral support around the House.
I suspect that the Minister will say that the Government need to respond to the consultation that they held earlier this year and that this is not the time to divide the House or to make rapid decisions, which I totally understand, but I hope that Ministers will confirm this evening that they will look at this very closely, with a clear understanding of the support around this House for the moral principle at stake. I hope they will come back to the House when they respond to the consultation so that we can have a full debate on it then. I hope at that stage we will be able to support changes that they make that will enable non-UK citizens to carry on serving in our armed forces.
It goes without saying that if colleagues can take less than three minutes, we will get more people in.
No pressure, Madam Deputy Speaker. I rise to speak in support of new clauses 10 and 11 and amendment 8 in my name. I do not say this lightly, but there is a deep wickedness at the heart of this Bill, matched only by its stupidity, because of its reliance on a bogus narrative that we are being—whatever the language used—“swamped” by asylum seekers.
Let us have some facts that might help Back Benchers on the Government Benches. First, 2% of the world’s population lives in the United Kingdom, and 0.65% of the world’s refugees are in the United Kingdom. We are not taking our fair share; we are not overwhelmed. We take fewer the half the number of asylum seekers we did 20 years ago. We are 17th in the league table—lower mid-table—of countries in Europe when it comes to taking asylum seekers per head of population. Germany takes three times more and France takes two and a half times more than we do.
We hear from the Minister that our asylum system is broken. Yes, it is, but not because it is deluged by too many asylum seekers, because evidentially that is not true; it is broken because of incompetence on the part of the Home Office. The Government’s argument is the equivalent of blaming patients for NHS waiting lists. It is unacceptable and it is wrong.
The numbers crossing the channel are tragic and awful, and it is obvious why it is the case. It is because we have seen a clampdown, because of covid and security, on people crossing the channel through other unsafe routes, such as the channel tunnel and ferries. As the narrower routes across the channel have been more heavily policed, what have we seen people doing? We have seen people taking more dangerous routes. The evidence shows us that when a route is closed off, people find further, more unsafe routes, so the Government’s policy will see more people dead in the channel. That is clearly what will happen unless they introduce safe routes. [Interruption.] There is a whole lot of rhetoric about safe routes and no action whatever.
Order. I think all this shouting across the Chamber is not doing anybody any favours.
Members on the Government Benches can shout, but they are literally voting for something that will see more people dead in the channel. This Bill is a charter for the people traffickers, and the only answer is safe routes. If we offer them the humanitarian visa as a safe route, we offer them the opportunity to do something that is not just morally right, but would actually solve the problem we are seeking to solve. The reality is that we have here a room full of comfortable people creating a two-tier asylum system that will decide between the deserving and undeserving asylum seeker. That is not just morally wrong but against international law. It is undermining Britain’s international standing and weakening our position on a range of issues while doing something morally shameful and undermining everything it is to be British.
I rise in support of amendment 150 in the name of my hon. Friend Sir William Cash, to which I am a signatory. Before I turn to that, I welcome Government amendments 60 to 63 and pay tribute to the Border Force, coastguard, RNLI and search and rescue organisations operating in Dover and Deal and across east Kent who, day after day, month after month and year after year put their lives on the line to save those at peril on the sea.
It is an uncomfortable truth but a truth all the same—and one on which Tim Farron is wrong—that every person put in peril by the people smugglers is already safe on land in France and in many other countries before France. When we remember the 27 people who recently died, as well as the many other lives lost, we must be united in this place to do whatever it takes to stop more lives being lost in the English channel.
The second uncomfortable truth is that, whatever Opposition Members way wish to say, there are safe and legal routes to come to this country. The Bill shows compassion to those most in need of assistance and prioritises them over people who choose unsafe and illegal routes of entry. Clauses 29 to 37 make it clear that refuge will always be available to people persecuted by reason of their religious, political or other beliefs, their race, their ethnicity or their sexuality. It is right to prioritise protection of those most in need of it.
The third uncomfortable truth is that it is possible to have help for those people in greatest need and to have strong borders. It is possible to have help for those who need it and to ensure that our country has strong and secure protection. It is vital that that is supported in the Bill.
Finally, I turn to the refugee convention, which is now 80 years old and out of date. With some 80 million displaced across the globe, we need a new global compact —a COP26 for the migrant crisis—to ensure that we finally work together globally to put an end to the migrant crisis and the small boat crossing routes that are leading to lost lives in the English channel.
I am sorry, but I am going to put a two-minute limit on speeches. I know that will not be popular, but I will not get everyone in anyway. I am sure that our next speaker, who will be the last on three minutes, will try to stick to two.
I will do my very best, Madam Deputy Speaker. I rise to speak to new clause 44 on safe and legal routes, which is tabled in my name, and new clauses 15 to 17 on a statutory limit on immigration detention, which I tabled with Richard Fuller. I pay tribute to him for his work on the issue.
New clause 44 goes to the heart of the Bill’s supposed objectives, which are predicated on stopping irregular arrivals of asylum seekers by encouraging those fleeing war and persecution to access safe and legal routes. However, the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme announced as urgent in August is still not operational, the Syrian scheme has closed, the gateway scheme is not operational and the UK resettlement scheme that opened in February with a commitment to resettle 5,000 people in year one has taken just 770 people. It is a cruel deceit to say that the Bill’s measures encourage the use of safe and legal routes if we have no such meaningful routes.
There is much in the Bill to be concerned about, such as differentiation of refugees in contravention of international law, offshoring of processing claims away from protection, pushing back rubber dinghies and risking lives. Importantly, the Government’s own impact assessment says that the evidence base for such measures is “limited” and that they
“could encourage…cohorts to attempt riskier means of entering the UK.”
However, that is all justified in the name of encouraging safe and legal routes. The Government must face up to their responsibility and deliver those routes.
On new clauses 15 to 17, we are seeking to place a statutory limit on immigration detention and to respond to a missed opportunity in this Bill. I was the vice-chair of a cross-party inquiry over eight months in 2014, with parliamentarians from both sides of the House and all main parties—there were more Government Members than there were Opposition Members—as well as a retired Law Lord, a former chief inspector of prisons and, of course, the hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire. Our recommendations, which included the limit on detention contained in new clauses 15 to 17, were endorsed by this House in September 2014, so it is disappointing that we are still debating them seven years on.
This is not a particularly controversial proposal. We are unusual in this country in having no limit. During our inquiry, we spoke to a young man who had been trafficked from the Cameroon-Nigeria border. He had been beaten, raped and tortured, and he had made an irregular route to this country on a false passport. He had been detained for three years in contravention of the stated aims of the Home Office that those who have been trafficked should not be detained, that those who have been tortured should not be detained and that detention should be for the shortest possible period. Time and again, we were told that detention was worse than prison, because in prison someone knows when they will get out, but that sense of hopelessness and despair leads to hugely deteriorating mental health.
Order. I am sorry, but time is up.
The Pope was recently in Greece, and he criticised European Governments for their lack of humanity to migrants. Normally I agree with the Pope, and it is his job to stand up for the poor and the dispossessed of the world, but—leaving aside the fact that if Greece accepted 100 a day, 1,000 would come tomorrow, and that if it accepted 1,000 the next day, 2,000 would come the day after that—there are countries in the world in such an appalling mess, such as Syria, Iraq, Libya and Somalia, that there is no limit to how many people would want to come here.
The people crossing the channel are not the world’s poorest. They are paying £6,000 or £7,000 to get here. They are not the world’s poorest people; they are economic migrants. If we are weak as a Government, we are actually being inhumane. We are putting people’s lives at risk because more and more people will come to our shores and risk the channel. So to be kind, it may be a cliché, but we have to be tough and we have to get rid of the pull factor. There is no point in going on blaming the French. Of course, we would like them to take people back, but they probably will not.
We have to get rid of the pull factor, and that is why I have put forward new clause 23. The only way we are going to stop this is if we put economic migrants who enter this country illegally in secure accommodation. They know that they can vanish in the community, there is a minuscule chance of their being deported, and they have better chances and better job prospects here than in France and elsewhere, so the Government have to get firm and tough on this. By the way, according to the law of the sea, it would be perfectly legal for them to escort economic migrants back to the shores of France with Border Force vessels. I say to the Government: act now, get tough, or people will die.
I have to say there were a lot of myths and misunderstandings in that last contribution.
I want to speak to amendments 113 and 13 in my name, and to endorse new clauses 10, 11 and 28, of which I am a co-sponsor. Amendment 113 prohibits the UK from acting in breach of the UK’s international obligations. In particular, the notions of pushback and offshoring are the most extreme manifestations of the hostile environment, and there is the scapegoating and dehumanisation of those fleeing war and persecution.
Amendment 13 is on an entirely different issue that has not been touched on in the debate, nor indeed was it much in Committee. It relates to electronic travel authorisations, and in particular what is going to happen about movement on the island of Ireland. These authorisations will be required for all non-Irish visitors who wish to enter the United Kingdom, including via the land border.
While the Government insist that there will be no routine immigration checks on the land border on the island of Ireland, these requirements will nevertheless create new bureaucracy and legal uncertainty for thousands of EU citizens—and, indeed, other non-British and non-Irish residents south of the border—who cross the border often on a daily basis, whether for family visitation, to work, to shop, for healthcare, for education or for leisure. Indeed, there are some circumstances where the straightest route between two points actually involves crossing into Northern Ireland, sometimes on several occasions.
The Government might say that they are committed to no new checks, but people will be placed in legal uncertainty and, if there is any interaction with the UK state, major consequences may flow from that. The potential repercussions could be as severe as people going to prison. This is not practical on the island of Ireland, and I urge the Government to reconsider what they are doing in terms of electronic travel authorisations.
The UK has a long-standing reputation as a beacon of human rights, but we in the House must recognise that we have enormous discretion under international law, and indeed under domestic law, regarding how we exercise our responsibilities. Many of the controversies around the Bill are about the operations, rather than the legislation itself. Having sat on the Joint Committee on Human Rights as we took evidence on a number of these issues, it is clear that there are matters of opinion about whether pushbacks, for example, which are freely used by Frontex, the European Union border agency in the Mediterranean, are for or against and within international law.
I share the concerns expressed about the methods currently available to science, and I agree we would not wish to see those used at present. I agree, however, that it should be open to the Home Office, should effective scientific methods be developed, to use such methods for the purposes of age assessments. I welcome the engagement of the Minister, and other Ministers, on those issues.
I will conclude with two points. First, I agree strongly with my hon. Friend Mrs Elphicke on the point about needing a new COP26 on the issue of global migration. The world is changing, and the challenges faced by asylum seekers and the numbers on the move mean we must update the way we respond, in partnership with our allies. Finally, I will comment on some of those international obligations, which are often heavily criticised. The UK is rarely referred to the European Court of Human Rights for any breach of our laws, and we are rarely criticised. Indeed, the findings of that Court are not binding on the United Kingdom. As a champion of human rights we should be proud of the UK’s record in that respect, and we should renew our dedication to being a beacon of human rights in the future.
The asylum system certainly is broken, and this is not the Bill to fix it. On the Afghan resettlement scheme, where is it? How can we trust the Government to deliver any of these programmes, or anything to fix our asylum scheme, if we cannot even come up with that scheme, after many months, and after all of us in the House having received desperate emails from people in Afghanistan who were under threat? I agree with new clause 52, which would waiver visa fees for Commonwealth veterans. We ask them to put their life on the line as members of our country, yet we do not pay their pensions, and we do not allow them and their families visas to say that they are citizens of this country. What more can we ask?
I really want to focus on family reunion. I have stood in the camps of Calais and seen people smugglers wandering around, very maliciously. I have seen the people smugglers about whom so much is made, but it will not be measures in this Bill that sort them out. One missing area is that of family reunion. One of those 27 men, women and children who tragically died in the channel was Harem Pirot. He was fleeing for his life from Iraq, to reach his brother, Anwar, a Sheffield graduate living in Cambridge, who then had to go to Calais to identify his brother’s body. We could cut so many smuggling routes if we were to allow family reunion, yet there is nothing in the Bill about that. Such a measure was promised after the EU Withdrawal Bill, and I talked about it in my maiden speech. It was promised when we discussed the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020, and it was promised in the new plan for immigration that there would be a safe and legal route for refugees, and for people fleeing for their lives to whom we can offer safe harbour. Family reunion needs to be put back into the Bill for it to work in the way it is intended.
Order. I will now call the Minister, but I am sure he is aware that there may be people who might like to intervene.
I thank hon. Members for their contributions to the debate and for the way in which most of those contributions were expressed. We are dealing with difficult matters, on which Members have strongly and deeply held convictions.
As I have said, it is vital that we do everything in our power to break the business model of evil criminal gangs and reform the broken asylum system. I am conscious of the time constraints, but I will address a number of amendments that have sparked a lot of today’s debate.
Let me start by addressing amendment 150 tabled by my hon. Friend Sir William Cash on removal to safe third countries. My right hon. Friend John Redwood also raised that, and I know that my right hon. Friend Sir John Hayes has been following it. My right hon. and hon. Friends are absolutely right in the sentiments that they have expressed in the amendment. I thank them for their full support on the policy intention, including on third country processing of asylum applications.
There is a recognition that certain existing laws may prevent the Government from achieving our aim to remove those with no legal basis to remain in the country. The legal barriers associated with the removal of failed asylum seekers and foreign national offenders are well known. That is why there is work under way across the Government to look at the further legal barriers to removal.
I therefore reassure my right hon. and hon. Friends, and colleagues more widely, that there are no insurmountable domestic legal barriers to transferring eligible individuals overseas under an asylum processing arrangement. Schedule 3 to the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004 allows the Secretary of State to remove an individual with a pending asylum claim from the UK to a safe third state if a relevant certificate is issued. The Bill amends section 77 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 to make it easier to remove someone to a safe third country without having to issue a certificate.
Obviously, the Bill complies fully with our international obligations, but the Home Secretary fully agrees with the sentiment that is expressed through amendment 150 about the challenges that frustrate the will of the British people in terms of our ability to remove people with no right to be in the UK. I can therefore confirm that the Government have imminent plans to consult on substantial reform of the Human Rights Act, which will be announced imminently in Parliament.
The Home Secretary also recognises my right hon. and hon. Friends’ concerns about aspects of the ECHR and other international agreements. I can therefore confirm that we are committed to reviewing and resolving these issues with the urgency that the situation warrants.
I am listening carefully to my hon. Friend. He says that the Government are committed to resolving these difficulties. Can he confirm that by “resolving” these difficulties, he means that the Government will be legislating so to do?
I refer my right hon. Friend back to the point that I have already made. We intend to consult on substantial reform of the Human Rights Act and will set out our plans imminently in that regard.
Work is under way to develop a new phase of measures to ensure that the clauses in the Bill are not undermined and that legal processes cannot be instrumentalised to circumvent the will of the British people. As we have said, the Government have imminent plans to consult on reform to the Human Rights Act, which are under consideration as we speak. Likewise, work is under way in relation to resolving the question of retained EU law.
It sounds like the Minister is announcing something a bit more radical than perhaps we had anticipated in relation to the Human Rights Act. Can he confirm that the Government are still committed to remaining a signatory—a full signatory—to the European convention on human rights?
The point that I would make is that the Government will set out their intentions in due course. I think it is right not to pre-empt. It is important to make sure that this House is kept updated as to that work, and we will be very clear in our intentions.
It is extremely encouraging news that the Government are going to—at last, I have to say—consider the Blair legacy of the Human Rights Act, but to substantially reform it will require legislation. That much is implicit, is it not?
As I say, Ministers will come to the House with further details in due course.
Work is under way in relation to resolving the question of retained EU law, led by Lord Frost, with input from the Attorney General and the Ministry of Justice. For these reasons, I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to withdraw their amendment 150.
I turn to new clauses 18 and 19 on illegal immigration offences, tabled by my hon. Friends the Members for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope) and for Kettering (Mr Hollobone). I hope that they and other hon. Friends supporting the new clauses will recognise that, as part of our groundbreaking new plan for immigration, the Government have sought robust changes to the law around illegal entry and similar offences through the very Bill we are discussing today. The Bill, which my hon. Friends seek to amend, already addresses and indeed exceeds the changes proposed in new clause 18.
Let me turn now to new clauses 24 and 52, tabled by the hon. Members for Enfield, Southgate (Bambos Charalambous) and for Halifax (Holly Lynch), my hon. Friend Johnny Mercer, my right hon. Friend Sir Iain Duncan Smith, my hon. Friend Tom Tugendhat, my right hon. Friend Mr Ellwood and Dan Jarvis. As both new clauses regard settlement fees for non-UK members of our armed forces, I would like to debate them together. It is a fact that our Government and our nation highly value the service of all members of the armed forces, including Commonwealth nationals and Gurkhas from Nepal.
I am pleased to hear how valued members of our service community are. This is a good opportunity for the Government to give way on new clause 52, tabled by myself and Johnny Mercer. Can the Minister give an assurance that the Government will support it?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for making his case in the eloquent way the House is so used to. Members will be aware of the measures that the Home Secretary and the Defence Secretary announced in the summer for Gurkhas from Nepal, who have a long and distinguished history of service to the UK, both here and overseas. We also remain extremely grateful for the contribution made by former British Hong Kong service personnel. That is why the Ministry of Defence, together with the Home Office, ran a public consultation between
Many Ministers before my hon. Friend—many Defence Secretaries and many Prime Ministers—have said, “We feel”, “We value” and “We are adamant that we are proud of our armed forces.” However, a Fijian family in Plymouth is still being split up because the visa fees have not been sorted out. Tonight is an opportunity to go beyond meetings and words and to actually waive visa fees, which everybody, irrespective of party, knows is the right thing to do. Whether the Government will do that will test their character.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend and note the conviction with which he speaks about these matters, and I reiterate the offer that we have made to meet next week to discuss them. He will appreciate that the consultation has been ongoing and that we would expect to hear more on that in short order.
I would like to pick up on the proposals tabled by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which Ms Harman presented to the House—I would like to say how sorry I was to hear that she will be standing down from the House at the next general election. It is fair to say that the Committee has raised important matters, and I would respond by saying that we have always acted in accordance with our international obligations in relation to matters at sea. On the international convention for the safety of life at sea and search-and-rescue operations, that has consistently been, and will continue to be, the position in the work that we do.
I want to conclude by again thanking hon. Members for their proposals and the lively debate we have had today. Following the tragic events in the channel over the last few weeks, I know that all Members take this debate with the seriousness and concern it deserves. However, the only way we will solve these long-term problems is by delivering a long-term solution. Ultimately, that is exactly what this Bill delivers.
Question put and agreed to.
New clause 20 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.