Illegal Migration Bill: Compatibility

Home Department – in the House of Commons at on 20 March 2023.

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Photo of Marion Fellows Marion Fellows Scottish National Party, Motherwell and Wishaw

What recent assessment she has made of the compatibility of the Illegal Migration Bill with the refugee convention.

Photo of Anum Qaisar Anum Qaisar Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development)

What recent assessment she has made of the compatibility of the Illegal Migration Bill with the European convention on human rights.

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I refer the hon. Lady to the statement in my name that appears on the front of the Bill. I would add that I am satisfied that the provisions of the Bill are capable of being applied compatibly with the human rights convention and compliant with our international obligations, including the refugee convention.

Photo of Marion Fellows Marion Fellows Scottish National Party, Motherwell and Wishaw

Apparently the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees does not agree with the Home Secretary. They have said that this legislation amounts to an “asylum ban”, adding that it would be a

“clear breach of the Refugee Convention”.

Does the Home Secretary not realise that the very nature of human rights is that they are universal and that it is not for Governments to pick and choose which rights apply to which groups of people?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I refer the hon. Lady to article 31 of the refugee convention, which makes it clear that there is not an absolute duty on states to offer provision to asylum seekers, particularly if they have come from a safe country. It is important to note that the Bill applies to people who have come here illegally from a safe country. It is important that we instil a framework that enables us to detain and swiftly remove them so that we can stop the boats and stop the people smuggling gangs.

Photo of Anum Qaisar Anum Qaisar Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development)

When introducing the Bill, the Home Secretary said that she was

“confident that this Bill is compatible with international law.”—[Official Report, 7 March 2023;
Vol. 729, c. 152.]

She then immediately confirmed that she could not make a declaration of compatibility under section 19 of the Human Rights Act. That followed her previous comments that she thought that it was less than 50% compatible. Can the Home Secretary please confirm to the House today which of these three views she holds?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I do not think the hon. Lady has quite got the point of the Human Rights Act. Section 19(1)(b) is designed for exactly these purposes. Although the Government believe our provisions are capable of being compliant with the Human Rights Act and the European convention on human rights, we are, none the less, testing legal arguments and legal bases, and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, a previous Labour Administration also introduced legislation carrying such a section 19(1)(b) statement.

The SNP is all talk and no action. Although Scotland makes up 8% of the UK population, only 1% of the UK’s asylum seekers are housed in contingency accommodation in Scotland. It is very easy for the SNP to make all the right noises, but it has taken zero action to stop the boats.

Photo of Richard Fuller Richard Fuller Conservative, North East Bedfordshire

The 1951 convention and the 1967 protocol are fundamental foundations of how humanity deals with refugees at times of crisis, but there are questions to be asked about whether the convention and the protocol remain robust enough, effective enough and sufficient to meet the challenges of refugees in the decades to come. Will my right hon. and learned Friend have the courage, as Home Secretary of the United Kingdom, to lead international discussions on this topic?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend makes an incredibly powerful point, and I agree with his sentiment. The historic conventions to which we subscribe are fundamentally challenged by modern travel and a global migration crisis in which more than 100 million displaced people are on the move today. It is right that western and democratic nations, which take pride in our duty and track record of offering refuge to vulnerable people, start a conversation to ensure that we strike the right balance.

Photo of Aaron Bell Aaron Bell Conservative, Newcastle-under-Lyme

I am a strong supporter of the Illegal Migration Bill, on the grounds that it is the only practical solution to stop the wicked people-smuggling trade across the channel. Does the Home Secretary agree not only that those who compare this Government’s policies to those of 1930s Germany are appallingly ill-informed, but that it represents a grotesque slander against the victims and survivors of the holocaust?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Many people have commented on this. All I will say is that people who resort to such analogies have already lost the argument.