Clause 2 - Safety of the Republic of Rwanda

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:33 pm on 16 January 2024.

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Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 1:33, 16 January 2024

I beg to move amendment 45, page 2, line 33, leave out “a safe” and insert “an unsafe”.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 1, page 2, line 34, at end insert—

“(1A) The Secretary of State must lay a report before Parliament no later than one year after this Act is passed, and at least once in every subsequent calendar year, on whether in the judgement of His Majesty's Government the Republic of Rwanda is a safe country.”

This amendment requires the Secretary of State to monitor on an ongoing basis whether Rwanda remains a safe country and to report the outcome to the House.

Amendment 46, page 2, line 41, leave out “not”.

This amendment would require a court or tribunal to consider review or appeals of decisions relating to the removal of a person to Rwanda.

Amendment 47, page 3, line 3, leave out “not”.

This amendment would require a court or tribunal to consider claims about actions of the Republic of Rwanda.

Amendment 35, page 3, line 4, leave out paragraph (a).

This amendment would permit courts and tribunals to deal with systematic risk of refoulement from Rwanda.

Amendment 56, page 3, line 12, at end insert—

“(d) any claim or complaint made by a person on the grounds that the Republic of Rwanda is not a safe country if the person has— participated or engaged in any activity, or made any communication containing serious allegations, which has led directly to bringing into question the safety of the Republic of Rwanda in general or in relation to that person, or

(ii) colluded or conspired with any other persons who have participated or engaged in any activity, or in any communication containing serious allegations, which could lead directly to bringing into question the safety of the Republic of Rwanda in general or in relation to those persons.”

This amendment would prevent a court or tribunal considering a claim that Rwanda is not a safe country from persons who deliberately tried to put themselves in jeopardy if they were removed to Rwanda.

Amendment 10, page 3, line 13, leave out subsection (5) and insert—

“(5A) This Act and the Illegal Migration Act 2023 will have effect in relation to removals to Rwanda notwithstanding—

(a) any provision made by or under the Immigration Acts,

(b) the Human Rights Act 1998,

(c) EU derived law and case law retained under sections 2 to 7 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018,

(d) any other provision or rule of domestic law (including any common law), and

(e) international law, including any interpretation of international law by the court or tribunal.

(5B) Nothing identified in paragraphs (a) to (e) of subsection (5A) may prevent or delay the removal to Rwanda of an individual under this Act or the Illegal Migration Act 2023, or affect the interpretation or application of any provision of this Act or the Illegal Migration Act 2023, including the actions or policies of public authorities, in relation to the removal of a person to Rwanda.

(5C) To the extent that any provision or requirement included in paragraphs (a) to (e) of subsection (5A) has been given effect to in legislation (including the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993, the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 and the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc) Act 2004), that legislation does not apply in relation to provision made by or by virtue of this Act or the Illegal Migration Act 2023 in relation to the removal of an individual to Rwanda, and shall not prevent or delay the removal to Rwanda of an individual under this Act or the Illegal Migration Act 2023.

(5D) A person or body to which subsection (5E) applies may not have regard to international law, in the circumstances mentioned in subsection (5G).

(5E) This subsection applies to—

(a) the Secretary of State or an immigration officer when exercising any function related to removing, or considering for removal a person to Rwanda under this Act or the Illegal Migration Act 2023,

(b) a court or tribunal when considering any application or appeal which relates to a decision or purported decision to remove, or to consider the removal of a person to Rwanda under this Act or the Illegal Migration Act 2023.

(5F) No inference is to be drawn from this section as to whether or not a person or body mentioned in subsection (5E) would otherwise have been required to have regard to international law.

(5G) The Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993 is amended as follows.

(5H) In section 2 at the end insert ‘except in relation to the removal of a person to Rwanda under the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act 2024 and the Illegal Migration Act 2023’.”

This amendment specifically excludes the legislation raised in AAA v Secretary of State of the Home Department [2023] UKSC 42 as potential blocks to removal and excludes from consideration any international law (including the ECHR and anything put out by its court).

Clause stand part.

Amendment 19, in clause 4, page 4, line 11, leave out from “whether” to the end of line 14 and insert

“and in what manner a person is to be removed, or considered for removal, to Rwanda under this Act or the Illegal Migration Act 2023”.

This and other amendments to Clause 4 are intended to remove the ability of individuals to block their own removal through suspensive claims and to limit such claims to rare situations where there is bad faith on the part of decision-makers in relation to decisions as to medical fitness to travel.

Amendment 48, page 4, line 13, leave out from “circumstances” to end of line 14.

This amendment is intended to allow the decision-maker to consider whether the Republic of Rwanda is not a safe country in general.

Amendment 20, page 4, line 18, leave out from “that” to end of line 22 and insert

“are expressly permitted by this Act or by the Illegal Migration Act 2023”.

This and other amendments to Clause 4 are intended to remove the ability of individuals to block their own removal through suspensive claims and to limit such claims to rare situations where there is bad faith on the part of decision-makers in relation to decisions as to medical fitness to travel.

Amendment 49, page 4, line 20, leave out from “circumstances” to end of line 22.

This amendment is intended to allow the court or tribunal to consider whether the Republic of Rwanda is not a safe country in general.

Amendment 37, page 4, line 23, leave out subsection (2).

This amendment ensures that decision-makers are still able to consider the risk of refoulement when making individual decisions on removals to Rwanda.

Amendment 50, page 4, line 23, leave out subsections (2) to (7).

Amendment 2, page 4, line 27, at end insert —

“(2A) Any review or appeal under subsection (1) may be considered only after the person in question has arrived in Rwanda.

(2B) The Secretary of State may provide any necessary technical assistance, including access to video-links, to the person in question if it appears reasonable to a Minister of the Crown that such assistance should be provided in order to enable the person in question to request a review or make an appeal after their arrival in Rwanda.

(2C) The Secretary of State may provide any necessary incidental or medical assistance to the person in question if it appears reasonable, in the circumstances of that individual person in question, to a Minister of the Crown that such assistance should be provided in order to enable the person in question to travel to, and if necessary to be looked after or quarantined following arrival in, the Republic of Rwanda.

(2D) Any decision by a Minister of the Crown in relation to subsection (2B) or (2C) shall be final for all purposes and may not be considered or questioned in any tribunal or court.”

This amendment would allow reviews and appeals to take place only after the person had reached Rwanda; allow video-links for an appeal made from Rwanda; authorise the provision of any necessary medical help or quarantine on the way and if necessary after arrival in Rwanda; and prevent the courts from questioning decisions on assistance made by Ministers.

Amendment 3, page 4, line 28, leave out subsections (3) to (6) and insert—

“(2E) No order for an interim remedy under this section may be made by any tribunal or court.”

Amendment 21, page 4, line 34, leave out from “is” to end of line 37 and insert

“expressly permitted to do so by this Act or by the Illegal Migration Act 2023”

This and other amendments to Clause 4 are intended to remove the ability of individuals to block their own removal through suspensive claims and to limit such claims to rare situations where there is bad faith on the part of decision-makers in relation to decisions as to medical fitness to travel.

Amendment 57, page 5, line 1 , at end insert—

“‘compelling evidence’ may not include foreseeable risk of any kind of harm to a person if that person has—

(i) participated or engaged in any activity, or made any communication containing serious allegations, which has led directly to bringing into question the safety of the Republic of Rwanda in the particular individual circumstances of that person, or

(ii) colluded or conspired with any other persons who have participated or engaged in any activity, or in any communication containing serious allegations, which could lead to bringing into question the safety of the Republic of Rwanda in the particular individual circumstances of that person.”

This amendment would prevent the Secretary of State, an immigration officer or a court or tribunal considering a claim that Rwanda was not a safe country for the particular individual circumstances of a person if that person had deliberately tried to put themselves in jeopardy if they were removed to Rwanda.

Amendment 22, page 5, line 7, at end insert —

“(8) The Illegal Migration Act 2023 is amended as follows.

(9) In section 8 at the end insert—

‘(18) In relation to notices under subsection (2) which specify Rwanda as the country of destination —

(a) paragraph 2(b) does not apply, and

(b) subsections (3) to (7) do not apply.’

(10) After section 8 insert—

‘8A Finality of decisions

(1) Subsections (2) and (3) apply in relation to persons named in notices as described in subsection 8(18), and all matters, decisions, or conclusions reached in relation to their selection, processing, detention, and removal.

(2) These matters, decisions, and conclusions are final, and not liable to be questioned or set aside in any court or tribunal.

(3) In particular—

(a) the decision maker is not to be regarded as having exceeded its powers by reason of any error made in reaching the decision;

(b) the supervisory jurisdiction does not extend to, and no application or petition for judicial review may be made or brought in relation to, the decision.

(4) Subsection (5) applies only in relation to decisions as to medical fitness to travel to Rwanda.

(5) Subsections (2) and (3) do not apply so far as the decision involves or gives rise to any question as to whether the decision maker is acting or has acted in bad faith.

(6) The court of supervisory jurisdiction is not to entertain any application or petition for judicial review in respect of a decision relating to a removal or proposed removal to Rwanda that it would not entertain (whether as a matter of law or discretion) in the absence of this section.

(7) In this section—

“bad faith” means dishonesty or personal malice, and does not include unreasonableness or actions taken which are inconsistent with international law;

“decision” includes any purported decision;

“first-instance decision” means the decision in relation to which permission (or leave) to appeal is being sought;

“the supervisory jurisdiction” means the supervisory jurisdiction of—

(a) the High Court in England and Wales or Northern Ireland, or

(b) the Court of Session, in Scotland, and

“the court of supervisory jurisdiction” is to be read accordingly.’

(11) After the cross-heading ‘Entry, settlement and citizenship’, insert—

‘29A Exclusion of certain provisions relating to entry, settlement and citizenship

Sections 30 to 37, and the other legislation therein mentioned or referred to, shall not apply if they have the effect of preventing or delaying any removal notified under this Act to Rwanda.’

(12) After the cross-heading ‘Legal proceedings’ insert—

‘37A Exclusion of certain provisions relating to legal proceedings

(1) Subsections (2) and (3) apply in relation to persons named in notices as described in subsection 8(18).

(2) Suspensive claims, as defined in section 38, are not available in relation to such persons.

(3) Where suspensive claims (including any appeals) have been commenced prior to the giving of notice, such claims and any pending appeals are null and void and shall not prevent removal or have any other legal effect.’”

This amendment limits the ability of courts to review, and restricts suspensive claims that may be made, in relation to the decision to remove a person to Rwanda.

Clause 4 stand part.

New clause 6—Changes to the classification of Rwanda as safe—

“(1) A Monitoring Committee overseeing removals to Rwanda must be established and maintained in accordance with Article 15 of the Rwanda Treaty.

(2) Section 2(1) of this Act does not apply if—

(a) the Monitoring Committee established under subsection (1) has formally concluded that the Republic of Rwanda is in breach of its obligations under that Treaty,

(b) the Secretary of State has advised against travel to the Republic of Rwanda, or

(c) if a court or tribunal has found the Republic of Rwanda to be unsafe in accordance with subsection (3) below.

(3) On an application for judicial review, if a UK Senior Court determines that credible evidence exists that the Republic of Rwanda is no longer safe on the basis of non-compliance with its obligations under the Rwanda Treaty, nothing in this Act shall prevent a court or tribunal from further considering an application for judicial review brought by an individual so affected.”

This new clause places the Monitoring Committee for the Rwanda Treaty on a statutory basis, and places conditions on when the classification of Rwanda as ‘safe’ can be suspended in accordance with material conditions and/or non-compliance with obligations under the Rwanda Treaty.

Amendment 28, in clause 9, page 6, line 38, after “Act” insert “except section 2”.

This is a paving amendment for Amendments 29 and 30.

Amendment 29, page 6, line 39, at end insert—

“(1A) The Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument bring section 2 into force.”

This Amendment makes the commencement of Clause 2 (Safety of the Republic of Rwanda) subject to a commencement order.

Amendment 30, page 6, line 39, at end insert—

“(1B) The Secretary of State may not make an order under subsection (1A) before—

(a) at least 30 days have elapsed since the Rwanda Treaty entered into force, and only if

(b) the Secretary of State is satisfied with the extent of the implementation by Rwanda of its domestic obligations under the Rwanda Treaty since the Treaty entered into force.”

This Amendment makes the commencement order for Clause 2 (Safety of the Republic of Rwanda) contingent on the Secretary of State being satisfied with the implementation by Rwanda of its domestic obligations under the new Treaty.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

The SNP has brought forward these amendments to this appalling Bill not because we really believe that there are improvements that can be made to it, but because that is the limitation of the process we have in front of us this afternoon. The Bill is irredeemably awful in each and every provision and clause, and in the intent behind it. And it will not work. Like the hostile environment that came before, the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 and the Illegal Migration Act 2023, which got Royal Assent only 180 days ago, it will fail to reach its objectives because it fails to engage with reality. The more I hear from Members on the Government Benches on the issue, and from the many Home Office Ministers who have come and gone, I can only feel that they just do not understand why people seek sanctuary on our shores. They are astonishing in their ignorance and baffling in the lack of effort they put into understanding.

One reason people come to the UK is its—now clearly defunct—reputation for fairness and the rule of law, which the Bill comprehensively shreds. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has highlighted the impact that all of that has had on the people it deals with, and told me about a Kurdish client who fled Iran under a death sentence from the Iranian Government. On arriving in the UK, he was issued with a removal notice to Rwanda. He said:

“The reason I came to England was that I knew I will be safe in the UK, and also, I was trapped by the smugglers…When I received the news”— that he would be sent to Rwanda—

“it felt like death again to me.”

He was relieved by the Supreme Court ruling because he thought he would be safe, but now he has had the rug pulled from underneath him yet again.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

On a point of order, Madam Chairman. The hon. Lady’s speech seems more appropriate for Second Reading. It would be helpful if she could direct her attention to the amendments, about which we are interested to hear what she has to say.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

It is actually amendments and clause stand part, so that gives a wider scope than perhaps the right hon. Gentleman realises.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has had your advice, Dame Rosie, on the subject of the debate.

To put the issue into context, every single week I sit in front of people at my advice surgery and listen patiently to the stories of the constituents who come to see me. I have read their Home Office statements: they have been through trauma, made perilous journeys at unimaginable cost, been tortured and bear the scars, both physical and mental. They have seen their relatives murdered, run rather than be forcibly recruited into an army that would kill and rape their loved ones, and been victims of trafficking and slavery. They have been unable to hide their views or their identity from those who would persecute them, and seen the stable life they had built crumble before their eyes. They never planned to be sitting on a random Friday morning in a community centre in Glasgow, in tears, before a Member of some other country’s Parliament. They do not understand why this UK Government treat them so poorly, disbelieve them, force them to wait, prevent them from working and keep them apart from the only loved ones they have left. I cannot comprehend it either.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

On that point, will the hon. Lady give way?

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I will if the hon. Gentleman can tell me why the Government treat people so cruelly, I will.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

I have been listening with interest to the compassion that the hon. Lady is expressing, but could she tell me how many illegal asylum seekers per head of population Scotland is accommodating, and how many illegal asylum seekers per head of population England is accommodating?

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

The hon. Gentleman should inform himself, because there is no such thing as an illegal asylum seeker in the first place.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

The hon. Gentleman can sit down; he has made his point.

Fellow human beings, from Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon, Tamils from Sri Lanka, Ahmadiyyas from Pakistan—all of those and more—have given me just the tiniest of insights into their lives. It is a privilege to know them and to help them as much as I can as their MP.

Glasgow is home to many different nationalities and it gives me great pleasure to attend community events and celebrate the diversity that enriches us: to learn to dance the attan sway and to teach Afghan Scots to do the Gay Gordons and Dashing White Sergeant in return; to sing, very badly, alongside the wonderful Maryhill Integration Network Joyous Choir; to share the most delicious food with AfricAlba and Africa Future; or to play football, as badly as I sing, in the refugee football tournament that is held every year in Scotland, organised by Councillor Abdul Bostani.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

On a point of order, Dame Rosie. I do not want to try your patience, but clause 2 is about the safety of Rwanda and what the hon. Lady is saying has nothing to do with that at all.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. Please can he leave it with me? It is rather discourteous to keep disrupting the debate. I assure him that I will keep a close eye on proceedings. If the hon. Lady veers off track, I will make sure she gets back on track, but can we not have the debate disrupted constantly like this?

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would like to come along to listen to Olivia Ndoti and the women at the Women’s Integration Network in Glasgow. Perhaps he will hear from people from Rwanda—this Government grant asylum to people from Rwanda, because their country is not safe.

I do not believe that anyone who supports this awful Bill can do so knowing the people it will affect. It is laid out in such cruel terms that they would remove the rights of our fellow human beings simply for seeking sanctuary and safety. It undermines our obligations under international law and denies the need for individualised protection, which is guaranteed under the anti-trafficking convention. That this Government seek to declare a country safe by legislating for it to be so is an absolute affront. Amendment 48 simply seeks to change “safe” to “unsafe”. For every decision maker to be forced to declare any country safe—regardless of the facts in front of them, regardless of their own knowledge and regardless of circumstance—flies in the face of the justice and the rights that the UK is supposed to stand for. It is illogical. Amnesty has called this “treating fact as false”.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham

Amendment 45, as the hon. Lady has just said, would permanently designate Rwanda an unsafe country. She has just complained about decision makers having to designate it the other way. Therefore, first, what is the difference? Secondly, is that not offensive to Rwanda? Thirdly, is that not worrying to the 100-plus refugees from Libya whom the UN recently settled in Rwanda? Under what circumstances would she then agree to legislation that recognised Rwanda again as a safe country?

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I believe that it is fundamentally unwise to recognise countries as safe in perpetuity, because things are unsafe. This amendment highlights the illogicality of this Bill. These things should not be legislated on at all. The hon. Gentleman mentions the Libyans who are being transited through Rwanda. They are not settling in Rwanda; they are being transited through Rwanda to other countries such as Canada.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I wish to make some progress. The hon. Gentleman will be able to contribute later on.

I wish to touch on what the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has said about this. It has reviewed the updated UK-Rwanda scheme and it says:

“It maintains its position that the arrangement, as now articulated in the UK-Rwanda Partnership Treaty and accompanying legislative scheme, does not meet the required standards relating to the legality and appropriateness of the transfer of asylum seekers and is not compatible”— it is not compatible—

“with international refugee law.”

Equally, this Bill does not have any kind of sunset clause, or a set of circumstances by which it can acknowledge a change in the situation in Rwanda. That is foolhardy, and it is bad legislation. The clauses that talk about mere monitoring of the situation do not go far enough. That is a prime example of the incompetence of this legislation and how it cannot really be made to work.

There has been ongoing tension, for example, with the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo, where recently re-elected President Tshisekedi has been quoted as saying in relation to Rwandan-backed M23 rebels:

“If you re-elect me and Rwanda persists…I will request the Parliament and Congress to authorise a declaration of war. We will march on Kigali. Tell Kagame those days of playing games with Congolese leaders are over.”

I ask Conservative Members what would happen to their precious treaty and to this legislation should such a situation escalate. None of us wants to see that, but it could happen. More importantly, what would happen in the interim to anybody the Home Secretary had sent to this unsafe situation in Rwanda? They would not be able to bring them back. That person would be stuck in a situation of conflict.

It is beyond me how Conservative Members, including former Ministers and members of the legal profession, can sign up to amendments shredding the rule of law and human rights. Our amendments 46 to 50 are, at the very minimum, an attempt to reinstate the powers of our courts and tribunals to do their work. They are the people qualified to make these decisions, and they do so for the most part with great diligence. Their services are stretched and there is much more that could be improved were the UK Government not chucking away hundreds of millions of pounds on distractions such as this legislation that they bring here today.

The Government have recently published their consultation response on safe and legal routes, following the Illegal Migration Act 2023, and it offers nothing. It offers no change whatsoever—no new safe and legal routes that would help to resolve the situation. The Refugee Council has presented a credible alternative, and the Minister could not be less interested.

I honestly do not know what to say about the amendments of the former Minister, Robert Jenrick, and his cabal. It sickens me that they would treat people in this way. Surely the only way in their minds that they can justify treating asylum seekers in this way is if they consider them to be less. If they do not matter, they can therefore be shipped off as if they were some kind of inconvenient waste. This is stirring up fear and hatred of people who only came here to ask for our protection. These are real lives; it is not some political game. I say to Conservative Members who are focused on this Tory psychodrama that this is about real people and real people’s lives. We on the SNP Benches see them as humans, just like us. Shame on all those Members.

I would like to have seen much more from the Labour party in opposing this vile legislation. Labour Members concern themselves today simply with the risk of refoulement, not the tawdry practice of offshoring asylum seekers. Labour’s new clause 6 merely seeks to monitor the shoddy deal, not to dismantle it. Last week, they would not be clear whether it was the principle of Rwanda or just the costs that they found problematic. I ask the shadow Minister, would he revoke this legislation?

We are seeing courts being overruled and people being treated as if they were less than human—as if they were not entitled to the rights that we all expect. These are dark days. This is not normal and nor should it become so. We on the SNP Benches will fight this rotten Bill all the way—today, tomorrow, and any opportunity that we get. Not in our name.

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick Conservative, Newark 1:45, 16 January 2024

I rise to speak in favour of the amendments in my name and that of my hon. Friend Sir William Cash.

A single question—at least on the Conservative Benches—hangs over this debate: what works? It does not matter whether this is the most robust piece of immigration legislation that we have ever considered. That is not relevant. It does not matter whether this is a suitable compromise between this faction or that. That might be a noble aim, but it is not what we are here to do on behalf of our constituents today. What matters is whether this scheme works. Why does that matter? It matters because illegal migration is doing untold damage to our country. It is costing us billions of pounds. It is exploiting tens of thousands of people. It is leaving a trail of human misery across Europe, north Africa and beyond. People are drowning in the English channel and will continue to do so month after month. We must fix this problem. We in this House have the power to do so, and the responsibility is on our shoulders. The question is: are we willing to do it.

The current Bill does not work. The test of whether it works is not whether we can get a few symbolic flights off in the months ahead, with a small number of illegal migrants on them. The test is whether we can create the kind of sustainable deterrent that we set out to achieve— the sustainable deterrent that my right hon. Friend Priti Patel set out to achieve when she secured this groundbreaking deal with Rwanda. It is the kind of deterrent that protects not just this country for generations to come from the scourge of illegal migration, but the whole continent of Europe. I can tell all right hon. and hon. Members that, having spoken to almost every Interior Minister and Immigration Minister not just in Europe, but in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Turkey, they all ask, “When will you get this policy up and running? Will it work?” And they want it to work. They know that if we can create a sustainable deterrent, we will stop people coming, we will secure Europe’s borders and we will save lives. In an age of mass migration, this is one of the most important challenges that we face.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Creative Industries and Digital)

I completely agree with the right hon. Gentleman about one thing: this Bill will not work. I do not think it will work if it includes the amendments that he has tabled, either. That is because he and I have come to a completely different position on the nature of the deterrence and whether it would work at all. It seems to me self-evident that there must be an enormous deterrent if you have to get in a tiny boat, risking your life as a pregnant woman with children beside you, having paid thousands of pounds to a vile, despicable people trafficker. What evidence does he have that this plan, this gimmick, is any more of a deterrent than that?

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick Conservative, Newark

If the hon. Gentleman were right, hundreds of thousands of people would not be making that very journey every year. Millions of people in the world want to make that journey. There are thousands of people in France seeking to pay people smugglers to come to our country. The only way we will stop that is if we break the people smugglers’ business model once and for all, so that it is clear beyond doubt that if people come to this country, they will be detained and swiftly removed to Rwanda or another safe country.

Where the hon. Gentleman is wrong is that he, like those on the Labour Front Bench, believes completely erroneously that we can arrest our way out of this problem. The National Crime Agency does not support them in that contention, and I have not seen any evidence that that will work. Nobody who has looked into this problem believes that the fungible and complex gangs that stretch across Europe and beyond, which import boats for next to nothing from China, Bulgaria and Turkey, can just be arrested out of existence. Everyone says the same thing: “Create a deterrent.” That is what the Rwanda policy does.

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick Conservative, Newark

I will not give way again to the hon. Gentleman. Let me move forward and speak more directly to our amendments, because that is the purpose of today.

The amendments tabled in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone are in four groups, two of which will be discussed today and two tomorrow. They seek to address the evident flaws of the Bill, and they represent the last opportunity for us to get this policy right. I shall speak directly to mine, and my hon. Friend can speak to the one that he leads on. Mine speak to individual claims. This is a point I have made time and again.

All my experience at the Home Office teaches me that every single illegal migrant who comes to this country will try every possible way to avoid being removed. We know that; that is what they do today. It is human nature that people would do that. We have to legislate for human nature, not against it. Every legal representative and lefty lawyer will try everything they can to support those claims. We see it every time, and experience teaches us that.

The Bill improves the situation; it makes it tighter, but in respect of only the general safety of Rwanda, not an individual’s circumstance.

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick Conservative, Newark

I will give way to the hon. Lady in a moment. As night follows day, every migrant will say, “Rwanda may be generally safe”—I believe that it is—“but it is not safe for me.” That is one of the central intellectual incoherences, as the Government’s own lawyers have said, at the heart of the Bill. It envisages that Rwanda is generally safe but, for a range of unspecified reasons, foresees that it will not be safe for others. Of course, as we have seen in the past, one person will mount a successful challenge, and that will create a precedent. Every legal representative and non-governmental organisation like Care4Calais will then school everyone to make exactly the same challenge and, time and again, we will lose those cases in the courts. The Bill, in that respect, is legally flawed, but it is also operationally flawed because of that.

Let me explain to those who are, understandably, not as well versed as those of us who have been Ministers in this field: we have only 2,000 detained spaces in our immigration removal centres in this country. On a single day in August, 1,200 arrived illegally on our shores, so in a weekend, all the detained capacity in the whole United Kingdom would be consumed. When hon. Members are considering whether the Bill works, they should see it through that lens.

We have to get people out of the country within days, not months, and the operational plan behind the Bill foresees that it will take months for people to be removed from the country. What will happen is our detained capacity will be filled, and people will be bailed to hotels. They will then abscond and never be seen again. Within a single week in August, this scheme will have failed. That matters for the country and, of course, for the Government. It matters for trust in politics and Westminster, because we will have told people that it was going to work, knowing that it would not work. It also matters for all those other European countries that want the scheme to succeed in protecting our borders.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham

My right hon. Friend makes a good case for deterrents but, I fear, a bad case for his amendments. As the Home Affairs Committee found out, when the Rwanda scheme was announced, a big surge of people in Calais tried to regularise their status in France because they did not want to risk being sent to Rwanda, so deterrents do work. He has just said that this is the last opportunity to get this right. Does he not acknowledge that there is a large chance that his amendments would make the Bill unworkable, not least in the eyes of the Rwandan Government? In that case, there would be no deterrent, so what is the alternative?

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick Conservative, Newark

Let me address that question head-on. I have known my hon. Friend for a long time—he was not born yesterday. That argument is not a plausible one, in my opinion. The argument that the Rwandan Government would walk away from the scheme was raised not just at the eleventh hour, but at one minute to midnight. It is predicated on the belief that the Government of Rwanda would walk away from a scheme on the grounds that it might conceivably fall foul of the European convention on human rights, which Rwanda is not a party to, when the only reason we would fall foul of the convention would be conduct in Rwanda itself. I do not find that a plausible argument.

If that were the correct response, why then pilot a Bill through Parliament where the very front page says that the Government cannot attest to the Bill’s compliance with international law? Why would the Prime Minister say that he is willing to ignore foreign judges when his own legal advice says that that is in breach of international law? Why would we pursue a policy that the UNHCR said yesterday is, in its opinion, in breach of international law? That is not a plausible argument from the Government.

It was unwise of the Government to solicit that press release from the Government of Rwanda. I do not think that we should cast blame on the Government of Rwanda, because they are honourable people who want this scheme to work, and I have the highest opinion of our interlocutors in Rwanda. It is for that reason that I want to do what we said we would do when my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham created the scheme, which is to work with them in good faith to get the job done.

Photo of Rob Roberts Rob Roberts Independent, Delyn

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick Conservative, Newark

I will not give way at the moment; let me make some more progress on explaining the amendments, if I may.

The way that flights will work when the scheme commences is not under the Illegal Migration Act 2023 at all. The first several months of flights will involve a group of individuals whom my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham and her officials at the time selected when the Rwanda policy was first devised. Those individuals have been in the United Kingdom for years. We have lost contact with many of them and none of them can be subject to the protections in that Act.

Even if hon. Members believe that the serious and irreversible harm test within that Act is a very strict one—I will come to that in a moment—that will not apply to the flights that will go off in the months ahead. It might not apply to any flights that go off before the next general election. If we want those flights to be full of illegal migrants and for there to be a deterrent effect, hon. Members need to support the amendments I have set out, which create that strict approach.

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick Conservative, Newark

I will give way in a moment. When we come to those individuals who are subject to the strictures of the Illegal Migration Act, the Government’s contention is that the serious and irreversible harm test is a very high one. I do not think that is right. The Supreme Court’s judgment lowers the bar. The revealed preference of the judiciary is to be generous towards illegal migrants and to make the scheme difficult to operationalise. As this is the last legislative opportunity for us to tackle the issue, I suggest we get it right and narrow the opportunities for the judiciary to intervene, or else we are going to find that these flights are symbolic flights, with very few individuals on them at all.

Photo of Rob Roberts Rob Roberts Independent, Delyn

I want to touch on something the right hon. Gentleman said earlier about whether the Bill will work at all. He has often gone on the record talking about the Albania scheme, which has been very successful: there are 90% fewer Albanians coming across. In the year to September last year, 2,749 illegal migrants were returned to Albania. They did not require the amendments. The law that we currently have allowed them to be returned, and I do not remember hearing about any appeals from those people. On that basis, and given that this Bill is stricter than what we currently have, why will it not work, if the Albania scheme already works?

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick Conservative, Newark 2:00, 16 January 2024

I have heard that argument advanced before, and of course I am proud of what we have achieved with the Albania scheme, but that is to judge two quite different propositions. The Albania scheme takes somebody who is in the United Kingdom and asks them to return to their home country, which is a European, highly developed country. That is a very different proposition from enforcing somebody’s removal from the United Kingdom to a third country to which they do not wish to go. Also, as the hon. Gentleman may know, very few small boat arrivals have been removed to Albania. Almost all those individuals who have gone to Albania have been time-served foreign national offenders in our prisons, individuals who have voluntarily chosen to return to Albania and those who have been in the United Kingdom for a long time.

The success of the scheme rests on taking people off small boats, detaining them for very short periods of time and then removing them swiftly to Rwanda. For the reasons I have set out, I think that is extremely unlikely to succeed at any scale in the way the Bill is currently structured.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

I just point out to the right hon. Gentleman that people arrive in small boats because legal routes have been blocked. When it comes to his amendment in particular, clause 4 of this disgusting Bill already provides a very limited route for individuals to challenge their removal to Rwanda based on their individual circumstances, yet my understanding is that he is seeking to go even further to override individual legal protections—even decisions that contain errors would not be open to challenge under his amendment 22, as I understand it. How on earth is that fair, just or justifiable?

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick Conservative, Newark

On the hon. Lady’s first point, we have had this argument many times before, and she is completely wrong. This country is one of the world’s most generous countries in supporting those in need around the world. Since 2015 we have issued more than half a million visas on humanitarian grounds, more than at any time in our history. On her point about my amendment, it is not correct to say that we would not enable people to challenge on their individual circumstances; they could, but those challenges could not be suspensive. Individuals would arrive in the UK and within days—which is critical to the success of the scheme—they would be removed to Rwanda. There they could bring forward claims as they might wish, but it would not block the flights, and that is critical. Without that, the scheme will simply not succeed.

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick Conservative, Newark

I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman.

The amendment also says there very narrow grounds on which individuals will not be put on flights, grounds that the Home Office is very used to dealing with through fitness to travel requirements. That is a concept that is well known and understood and I am certain it would work.

What does the amendment do that is different? It narrows down the reasons for which individuals could make claims and makes the scheme legally and operationally workable for the first time. We have tried to be constructive in tabling amendments. The Prime Minister set a test for me, and for anyone who shares my determination to tackle this issue, as follows: that he would accept any amendment, whether or not it strengthened the Bill, if there were respectable legal arguments in international law in their favour. We can argue about whether that test is the right one. Personally, I feel very strongly that there are times when contested notions of international law should not surpass either parliamentary sovereignty or, above all, the interests of our constituents, and border security and national security are the prime responsibilities of any Government. But that was the test, and we have met the test.

We instructed a very eminent lawyer, John Larkin KC, former Attorney General of Northern Ireland, to provide us with an opinion. The opinion says that each and every one of the amendments in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone are compliant with international law. Unless the goalposts have been shifted by the Government, I see no reason why the Prime Minister and the Minister could not accept the amendments and enable us to strengthen this Bill once and for all.

In conclusion, at the outset I said there was one question hanging over this debate: what works? However, there is a further question: how much are we willing to do to stop the boats? How willing are we to take on the vested interests, balance the trade-offs and take the robust steps that will actually work? The only countries in the world that have fixed this problem, latterly Australia and Greece, have been willing to take the most robust action. Are we? I am. I want to stop the boats and secure our borders.

This is a difficult issue, but we are not a parish council struggling with some kind of intractable legal problem. We are a sovereign Parliament. The power is in our hands. We have agency. The law is our servant, not our master. I urge all right hon. and hon. Members to support the amendments in my name and the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone and create a scheme that works. That is what our constituents expect of us and that is the promise that the Prime Minister has made to them and the whole country.

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration)

I rise to speak in favour of amendments 35 and 37 and new clause 6, tabled in my name and the name of my right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper, the shadow home Secretary.

I start by reminding the Committee and anyone watching at home that the Labour party is opposed to this Bill in its entirety, for the simple reason that we are opposed to the Rwanda scheme in its entirety. We have been clear that we need to stop the Conservative small boats chaos and we need to fix our broken asylum system, but those aims can only be achieved by way of measures that are based on common sense, hard graft and international co-operation, as opposed to headline-chasing and government by gimmick from those on the Conservative Benches.

The Conservatives like to accuse us of opposing everything that the Government are doing to stop the Tory small boats chaos, but that is simply not the case. We on the Labour Benches fully support measures such as the deal with Albania, because that is the sort of sensible, pragmatic action that can make a tangible difference. We have repeatedly made our support for that course of action crystal clear, if only the Conservatives would care to listen. However, the Labour party will never support any proposal that is unaffordable, unworkable or unlawful.

Photo of Janet Daby Janet Daby Shadow Minister (Youth Justice)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government are being extremely neglectful with the public purse by throwing money at a Rwanda scheme that simply will not work?

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: it is quite remarkable that a party that used to pride itself on being the party of fiscal rectitude is throwing £400 million of taxpayers’ money at the Government of Rwanda for precisely nothing. So far, all they have got for it is that they have sent three Home Secretaries to Rwanda, but not a single asylum seeker.

The Rwanda plan is all of the above: it is unaffordable, it is unworkable and it is unlawful. It is unaffordable to the British taxpayer because a truly staggering £400 million of our taxpayers’ money is on the way to the Rwandan Government without a single asylum seeker landing in Rwanda. It is unworkable because we know that the Rwandan authorities are capable of taking less than 1% of the 30,000 who crossed the channel in small boats in 2023, according to the Court of Appeal. In order for a deterrent to be effective, it must be credible. Surely even the most ardent supporter of this policy would acknowledge that such a tiny chance of being sent to Rwanda will never deter someone who has risked life and limb and crossed continents to escape persecution and violence.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

The Foreign Office recently admitted that hundreds of Afghans who are eligible for resettlement have not been brought into the UK. They exemplify the need for safe and legal routes. Are they not exactly the people who are risking life and limb because they do not have access to legal and safe routes, which the Government should provide?

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration)

The hon. Lady is right. The Afghan schemes are a case in point. The Afghan relocations and assistance policy has more or less collapsed, the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme is not working at all, and which nationality is always in the top two or three that are crossing on small boats? The Afghans. It is pretty straightforward.

We oppose the Rwanda policy because it is not a deterrent; it is a distraction. It would be far better, as the shadow Home Secretary, I and others have set out many times in this Chamber, to redirect the vast quantities of taxpayers’ money being wasted on the Rwanda scheme into a new cross-border police unit and a new security partnership with Europol that can smash the criminal smuggler gangs upstream.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Social Care)

My hon. Friend is making an important point about how we need to co-operate much more intensively with the law enforcement agencies across Europe. The brutal fact is that these gangs are putting people into boats that were made for rivers, not seas, in treacherous conditions. Who in their right mind would go in one of those dinghies in the English channel right now? But people are being forced to do that by the gangs. We need to smash the gangs, and we can do that only by working with our colleagues across Europe to ensure that we bring the situation to an end.

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. If we accept that international co-operation with our European partners and allies must be at the heart of dealing with the gangs, as he so eloquently sets out, the possibility of that co-operation is fundamentally undermined when our Government are flagrantly prepared to break international law, which should underpin the trust that is a prerequisite for all such co-operation. Co-operation based on joint working and intelligence-sharing with our partners and allies is possible only if Britain is deemed a trustworthy partner.

That brings me to the third reason for our opposition to the legislation and the amendments tabled by so many Conservative Members. We find ourselves in the utterly extraordinary position of debating a Government policy that has been found to be unlawful by the highest court in our land. Amendment 35, which I will come to shortly, reflects that very fact. We find ourselves confronted by a Government who are seeking to legislate for an alternate reality. Although Ministers appear to believe that they can pass a Bill that determines that the sky is green and the grass is blue, that does not make it so.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee

Has it escaped the hon. Gentleman’s notice that one claim was dismissed by the Supreme Court judgment on Rwanda? That was an Iraqi in the case of ASM. The reason was very simple: the Court made it crystal clear in paragraph 144 of its judgment that the issue in question, as far as that claimant was concerned, was undermined by clear and unambiguous words in an Act of Parliament. In other words, the sovereignty of Parliament prevailed.

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration)

Of course Parliament is sovereign, and of course we in this place are sent here to make laws, but we must make those laws with restraint; we must make them while respecting the judicial function. The separation of powers is fundamental to our identity as a liberal democracy, so although the hon. Gentleman very often talks about the sovereignty of Parliament, it is vital that his comments are always founded on the principle of separation of powers and the checks and balances that it gives us.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

Just to tease out a little more Labour policy on the specific issue that the hon. Gentleman referred to, is he ruling out any consideration of this House determining to overturn the wrongful convictions of hundreds of sub-postmasters simply because that would set a new precedent in the relationship between this House and the courts?

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration) 2:15, 16 January 2024

Well, that is an interesting one; I did not have talking about the sub-postmasters scandal on my bingo card today. Parliament is free to legislate in any way it wishes, but it has to do so in full recognition of the view of the courts. I know that a number of eminent legal experts have raised concerns about the Government’s proposed approach on the sub-postmasters. We have to see precisely how the detail looks, and it is our duty in this Parliament to scrutinise it carefully to ensure that we are not setting dangerous precedents. I would argue that there is no doubt whatsoever that the Bill before us would set a profoundly dangerous precedent because it seeks to directly overturn the findings of the highest court in our land, and that is a toxic approach.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

Has the shadow Minister not seen all the comments and budget lines that the Government have put out stating that they are co-operating extensively and fully with continental countries in trying to crack down on the awful trade that is leading to deaths in small boats? The proof is that money is sent to France to help the French with their task. There is no evidence that they are not co-operating.

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration)

The co-operation with France is to be welcomed. The problem is that it is too far downstream. We need far better co-operation upstream, which is about sharing data and fixing the issue with the databases—the shadow Home Secretary and the Leader of the Opposition visited Europol recently to come forward with very practical and detailed plans around getting the data-sharing right. That may address the issue of the falling number of prosecutions of criminal smuggler gangs on this Government’s watch and the number of returns and removals falling by 50% since 2010. Again, we go back to the point about putting more energy and resources into the pragmatic and sensible things that can actually make a difference, as opposed to being distracted by this madcap Rwanda scheme.

It is mark of a liberal democracy that courts are independent of Parliament and the Executive. We on the Labour Benches believe passionately that that separation of powers is a fundamental and immutable element of what makes us proud to be British. Not only are we opposed to the specifics of the Bill, but we are deeply troubled by what it represents in a broader sense.

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick Conservative, Newark

Over the Christmas period, the Labour Front Benchers anonymously briefed The Times saying that they would want to pursue an offshore processing model. Is that the position of the hon. Gentleman and the shadow Home Secretary, and if so, why would they want to do something that is known to be more expensive and less effective—everyone would have to be brought back to the United Kingdom one way or another, so that would create no deterrent whatsoever—and not move forward with a scheme such as Rwanda?

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration)

I thank the former Immigration Minister for his comments. I enjoyed opposing him and, on some occasions, working with him. Look at the Ukraine scheme. That is an example of offshore processing: people’s applications were processed in Poland before they came to our country. Look at the Hong Kong scheme. There are plenty of ways of doing upstream and offshore processing. To coin a phrase, what matters is what works. What is absolutely clear is that it is difficult to imagine any scheme that could be more expensive than the Rwanda policy. I will now make some progress.

I cite the view of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law and countless other legal experts, who have stated that the Bill is contrary to the rule of law because it amounts to a legislative usurpation of the judicial function. It is an assault on our country’s constitutional conventions, which require the legislature to respect the essence of the judicial function. Moreover, there is a staggering hypocrisy at the heart of the Bill when we consider it in the context of the treaty that has been signed with Rwanda. The purpose of that treaty is to bind the Rwandan Government into respecting the rule of law, and in particular the principle of non-refoulement. How on earth can Ministers hold the Rwandan authorities to account on these matters if they themselves are so blatantly and egregiously failing to practise what they preach?

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham

It is a little disingenuous to liken this process to the Ukrainian scheme. The only criteria for the Ukrainian scheme were that a person had to be Ukrainian and come from Ukraine.

The hon. Gentleman has said that enforcement has gone down. Up to the end of November 2023, Home Office immigration enforcement arrested 246 people for people smuggling into the UK, and there were 124 convictions. That is in addition to those arrests and convictions that have happened on the continent, so in what sense are those figures declining, as the hon. Gentleman has just claimed?

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration)

There has been a 30% drop since 2010 in convictions of criminal smuggler gangs, and a 50% drop since 2010 in removals. I would be very happy to write to the hon. Gentleman with clear details of those facts—we have the receipts.

It is against that fundamentally flawed and farcical backdrop that we seek to modify the legislation that is before us today. Our amendments are an attempt at damage limitation—an effort to moderate the most egregious aspects of this nonsensical and counterproductive Bill. Our amendment 35 acknowledges that, in November of last year, the Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal judgment. It ruled unanimously that the Rwanda policy was unlawful, because there were substantial grounds to believe that people transferred to Rwanda could be sent to countries where they would face persecution or inhumane treatment if Rwanda rejected their asylum claims, a practice known as refoulement.

The reason for those concerns relates to an issue that I first raised at this Dispatch Box back in April 2022, when the Rwanda plan was first announced. When Israel signed its deal with Rwanda in 2013, many of the asylum seekers who were sent from Israel to Rwanda were routinely moved clandestinely to Uganda, and in three cases, refoulement to Eritrea via Kenya was prevented only by the UNHCR intervening. It is little wonder that the Israeli Supreme Court ruled the scheme unlawful in 2018, and it was closed down. In December, the Government signed a treaty with the Rwandan Government that says that refoulement is prohibited, and that anyone removed to Rwanda from the UK must be allowed to stay in Rwanda. Indeed, the only country to which people can be transferred from Rwanda is the UK, which under the deal must also accept some of Rwanda’s most vulnerable refugees and offenders sent back from that country.

That in itself tells a story. The fact that the UK Government and the Rwandan Government have agreed that Britain might need to take some Rwandan refugees is a stark admission that Rwanda is not a safe country for many people. Indeed, since the first £120 million payment by the British Government to Rwanda, six Rwandans have been granted safety and refuge in the UK. Then there is the tragic fact that Ministers are simply too afraid to address. In 2018, 12 Congolese refugees were shot dead by Rwandan police for protesting against food shortages. Our amendment 35 therefore permits British courts and tribunals to recognise and deal with the specific risks of refoulement associated with Rwanda by removing the relevant text from clause 2 of the Bill.

Likewise, our amendment 37 makes clear that decision makers must be able to take the risk of refoulement into consideration when processing asylum claims. The Bill designates Rwanda as a safe country, and therefore makes clear that

“Every decision-maker must conclusively treat the Republic of Rwanda” as such. It states that the Bill

“does not permit a decision-maker to consider any matter, claim or complaint to the extent that it relates to the issue of whether the Republic of Rwanda will or may remove or send the person in question to another State in contravention of any of its international obligations (including in particular its obligations under the Refugee Convention).”

However, as the Government have previously acknowledged, the facts on the ground can change, and decision makers should therefore be able to make their own judgments based on the latest court rulings. As such, we see no reason not to let decision makers do their jobs and make decisions based on all the knowledge available to them as the situation evolves, as opposed to the frankly absurd idea that Rwanda can be defined as safe in perpetuity.

I turn now to our new clause 6. The new treaty states that Rwanda is committed to addressing concerns that are laid out in the Supreme Court judgment, including refoulement. New clause 6 would help to ensure that Rwanda can be held accountable on its treaty commitments by placing the monitoring committee for the Rwanda treaty on a statutory basis, and by placing conditions on when the classification of Rwanda as safe can be suspended in accordance with the material conditions and/or non-compliance with obligations under the treaty. As things stand, the Government could vary the operating principles of the monitoring committee without it being possible for such changes to be challenged in our domestic courts. Our new clause 6 therefore addresses that unacceptable position by placing the monitoring committee on a statutory footing, making it judiciable and thus, by definition, more transparent and accountable. We see no reason why Government Members and Members across this House should oppose the principles of transparency and accountability on which our new clause 6 is based, and we hope they will join us in the Aye Lobby later.

Turning briefly to the amendments tabled by Government Members, I would point out that even one of their own colleagues, Damian Green—the chair of the One Nation group—has described many of those amendments as “authoritarian” and a betrayal of Conservative values. He is right. The Bill in its current form is already an assault on our reputation as a country that upholds the separation of powers and the rule of law, and the majority of the amendments tabled by Government Members would take us even further away from those basic democratic principles. Let me be clear: Labour Members will proudly be voting against the amendments that are being promoted by Conservative Members, because the Government’s Rwanda policy is unaffordable, unworkable and unlawful; because the Bill is an affront to the values that we hold dear; and because we will always stand up for the separation of powers, the rule of law, and ensuring that we can stand tall in the world.

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick Conservative, Newark

The hon. Gentleman is very kind to give way a second time. I have listened to him carefully, but I have not heard an answer to one of the central questions of the debate. It is the Government’s view that Rwanda is a safe country; what is the view of the Labour party? Is Rwanda a safe country? I think we would all be interested to know the Labour party’s position—I know the Government of Rwanda would be interested.

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration)

I thank the right hon. Member for that intervention. I do not think I could have made it any clearer that we believe in the rule of law and the judicial function, and when the Supreme Court of our land rules that it is not safe to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, we on the Labour Benches absolutely agree with that position.

We have seen some pretty bizarre stuff emanating from the Conservative Benches over the decades, but when the history books of the past 14 years are written, the Conservatives’ psychodramas over this Rwanda policy will surely take centre stage. Just think of the astonishing amount of Government time that has been ploughed into this unaffordable and unworkable nonsense, when Ministers and officials could have been focused on the design and delivery of the sorts of sensible, practical measures that I mentioned earlier. Just think of the vast amounts of political capital that the Prime Minister has squandered on a policy that he does not actually believe in, that his Home Secretary has privately pooh-poohed—if you will pardon the pun, Chair—and that has left his leadership in tatters.

The legislation before us is a sham, but in the interests of damage limitation, I urge Members to get behind Labour’s amendments today. Of course, most crucially, I urge them to vote down this Bill on Third Reading, and get behind Labour’s plan to deliver the security partnership and cross-border police unit that will smash the criminal gangs, defeat the people smugglers, and stop the Tory boats chaos once and for all.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee 2:30, 16 January 2024

We want the Bill to succeed. We want it to work and to do what our voters want, but at present it does not. Clause 2, as it stands, does not work, which is why I shall press my amendment 10 to a vote, supported as it is by well over 60 Members of Parliament. Clause 2 needs to be amended with clear and unambiguous words, and with a full “notwithstanding” formula, not the one currently on offer. This formula has been used throughout our legislative history, for hundreds of years, but most recently it has been enacted in our most important domestic constitutional legislation, without opposition—namely, in section 38 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020.

The sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament is democracy, and it is described in a leading case by the great Lord Bingham, our greatest modern jurist, as the “bedrock of our constitution”. Democracy delivers the wishes of the voters who elect us through the legislation that we pass as Acts of Parliament, and it is this democracy for which people fought and died. Nothing can be more important to their daily lives, including illegal immigration, and that is why this issue is so important.

However, it is also important to stress that genuine refugees are fairly protected—this country has always done that—as in the case of Afghanistan, Hong Kong and so forth. Yesterday’s YouGov poll makes it clear how strongly people feel about all this. It is a legal and constitutional, and therefore also essentially political, problem.

The reason why sovereignty is so fundamental is that the courts recognise that they have a duty to interpret, adjudicate on and obey the laws made under that parliamentary sovereignty, where legislative words are clear, express, explicit and unambiguous. Therefore, the use of a comprehensive “notwithstanding” formula, as in my amendment, would ensure that we make the Bill work in line with its intended purposes, and that it would not be frustrated by claims of international law or other contrary law.

The Bill in its current form will not prevent, as everyone knows, further ingenious individual claims, followed by further Supreme Court decisions. The recent Supreme Court judgment on 15 November 2023, as I pointed out in an intervention, makes my very point. It shows that the words in the immigration and asylum Acts at that point in time were not clear and unambiguous. However, and this is vital, it seems to have escaped many people’s notice that one of the claimants—ASM, an Iraqi—had his claim dismissed in that very judgment because, in the words of Lord Reed, the President of the Supreme Court himself,

“in any event, the principle of legality does not permit a court to disregard an unambiguous expression of Parliament’s intention such as that”—

I say this to Stephen Kinnock on the Opposition Front Bench

“with which we are concerned in the present case.”

This was emphatically because the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023 and related immigration legislation was so clear and unambiguous in that case as to require the Court to dismiss the claim of the Iraqi precisely as a matter of parliamentary sovereignty.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

My hon. Friend is doing a wonderful job, as always. Did he see the recent briefings, which seemed to come from the Government, that they are expecting a lot of cases under their law and are going to provide a lot more judges for them? Are they not telling us that this is not going to work?

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee

I am afraid to say that does appear to be the inevitable inference to be drawn from the statements that have been made. The worry is that, unless the law is completely clear and unambiguous, there is going to be more trouble, and if the Bill was to be passed with clear and unambiguous words, the Government would not need the judges that they seem to want to employ—and nor, for that matter, all the fees that the lawyers will accumulate as a result of taking part in some very spurious cases.

As I have said, the Rwanda judgment is in line with all previous judgments by pre-eminent jurists in recent generations, such as—I mention but a few—Lord Denning, Lord Reid, Lord Hoffmann, Lord Bingham and others. Months ago, I sent the Prime Minister a seven-page memorandum, each line of which set out breaches of international law in almost every jurisdiction in the world, including even the EU itself, the United States, France and Germany, where clearly apparent breaches of international law have occurred without international sanctions. As for the Vienna convention, what really matters is whether the internal domestic law is of fundamental importance in the national interest, and this illegal immigration law manifestly is.

In the UK, we have a dualist system of law in which the sovereignty of Parliament is fundamental to our rule of law and cannot be trumped by international law, the opinions or conventions of the Government Legal Service or—speaking as a former shadow Attorney General—if this be the case, even by an Attorney General. We have a dualistic approach to these matters in which domestic law and international law are seen as independent of one another. The recent Miller 1 judgment states, at paragraph 57, that our

“dualist system is a necessary corollary of Parliamentary sovereignty…it exists to protect Parliament not ministers.”

Furthermore, as Lord Hoffmann made so clear in R v. Lyons in 2002, the courts will have regard to the words of the statute, not the treaty. This is because we have no written constitution defining the internal status of international law within the United Kingdom. As Lord Bingham has said, international law is

“complementary to the national laws of individual states and in no way antagonistic to them”.

International law is not supranational, unlike European law.

British courts cannot deem a statute unconstitutional. Under our constitution, it is the King in Parliament who legislates, not His Majesty’s Government—I thought they had learned that in the civil war of the 1640s. The court does not require to have regard to functions of Government when interpreting the law. A statute, even when arising from an international treaty, will always prevail over a rule of international law. Lord Hoffmann, in the case of R v. Lyons in 2002—I will quote what he says, as I cannot improve on it—stated that

“it is firmly established that international treaties do not form part of English law and that English courts have no jurisdiction to interpret or apply them… It is not the treaty but the statute which forms part of English law. And English courts will not (unless the statute expressly so provides) be bound to give effect to interpretations of the treaty by an international court, even though the United Kingdom is bound by international law to do so... The sovereign legislator in the United Kingdom is Parliament. If Parliament has plainly laid down the law, it is the duty of the courts to apply it, whether that would involve the Crown in breach of an international treaty or not.”

Nothing could be clearer.

In Bradley and Ewing’s authoritative book “Constitutional and Administrative Law”, it is clearly stated that the legislative supremacy of Parliament is not limited by international law. The courts may not hold an Act void on the grounds that it contravenes general principles of international law. Indeed, the Labour Government in 1998 specifically reaffirmed the sovereignty of Parliament in relation to their Human Rights Act, saying that they would not seek to transfer power from future Parliaments to the courts because that would confer on the judiciary a general power over the decisions of Parliament and would draw the judiciary into serious conflict with Parliament. Their own White Paper stated of the judiciary:

“There is no evidence to suggest that they desire this power, nor that the public wish them to have it.”

I do wish the hon. Member for Aberavon was listening to this, because it is about the Labour party, and this still applies today.

Indeed, under paragraph 53 of the House of Lords Constitution Committee’s report of 18 January 2023, the Committee accepts that UK domestic law can

“diverge from obligations agreed by the Government under an international treaty, and ratified following the CRAG”—

Constitutional Reform and Governance Act

“procedures... And parliamentary sovereignty means that Parliament could legislate to ensure that domestic law differed from the requirements of a treaty.”

Paragraph 54 states:

“Parliament having enacted legislation that is not compliant with the UK’s international obligations, the courts are bound to apply that law.”

Paragraph 58 goes on to state:

“Parliamentary sovereignty means that Parliament can legislate contrary to the UK’s obligations under international law.”

There we have it. And I should add that many members of that Committee, such as Lord Falconer of Thoroton, are certainly not Conservatives or Brexiteers. So there we are—we are all agreed.

In our unique unwritten constitution, our sovereignty patently prevails over international law, which is, for example, in contrast with that of Germany. What happens there? Article 25 of its written constitution, which I have taken from an established work on public international law, states as follows—these are the words of the very constitution in Germany:

“The general rules of public international law are an integral part of federal law. They shall take precedence over the laws, and shall directly create rights and duties for the inhabitants of the federal territory.”

Similar provisions apply under the Dutch constitution, in articles 65 and 66. That tells us that there is a dualist system, and some countries take a view that is different from ours. We just happen to be on the right side of the fence. Similar provisions may be applied by specialist international lawyers, and they may seek to make out that international law in this country prevails over clearly explicit words in Acts of Parliament and parliamentary sovereignty. But no House of Lords or Supreme Court case supports that proposition.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Conservative, Torbay

I am very much enjoying my hon. Friend’s speech, as always. He gave the example of Germany, which for obvious historical reasons has imported principles of international law into its own domestic constitutional law. For example, the German Supreme Court, the Federal Constitutional Court, still reserves its right to be the final arbiter of whether, for example, European Union law is compatible with German basic law.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee

I am extremely glad that my hon. Friend has made that point, because I had the disobliging necessity to read some of the Supreme Court judgments from Germany. Sometimes—believe me—they run to nearly 1,000 pages, for the simple reason that they are struggling to find something that will support the German people, compared with some of the rules of law that are applied more generally on an international footing, which cause them so much trouble.

As I have said—my hon. Friend has just made my point for me—the European Union is in a complete mess on the issue of illegal migration, and we are well out of it. It still has the charter of fundamental rights, which we excluded in our withdrawal agreement, and legal changes to its immigration law, all of which will require hotly contested constitutional changes and referenda in its member states. It is going to be bedevilled by referenda and constitutional change, and I fear it will not succeed. Very many are up in arms about compulsory quotas and fines for non-compliance being imposed on them under the new pact on migration and asylum, which was passed by majority vote. It is noteworthy that recently the French Government defied rulings of the Strasbourg Court regarding the deportation of an Uzbek national, but they cannot apparently trace him as ordered by their own Supreme Court—[Interruption.] In reply to the barracking I am receiving, I simply point out that the relevance of this is that we are talking about our constitution, which can solve the problem, and about theirs, which cannot.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Conservative, South Holland and The Deepings

My hon. Friend is making a compelling argument about the difference between this country and those abroad who failed to take back control when we did. He will know that constitutionalists from Dicey to Denning, and from Lord Woolf to Lord Sumption, agree with him that this place is supreme. The supremacy of Parliament is at stake as we debate his amendment and the Bill.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee

I have to say, with all humility, that it is not so much that I agree with them, or that they agree with me, but that this is the law of our land. This is the rule of law as it applies to the United Kingdom, and it is a tribute to the British people that they took that decision in 2016.

As I said to the Prime Minister in December’s Liaison Committee, he can be a world leader on the issue of illegal migration, not only in the EU, but also in the United States, Canada and Australia—every country in the world. The international refugee convention, among other conventions, is seen as requiring reform. In Europe, it is clear that they need to change the European convention on human rights as well as EU immigration law, and European Union voters are voting with their feet.

Neither the Bill, nor the amendments, are in breach of the current refugee convention, as that convention does not prohibit states from outsourcing asylum claims and settlements to a third country. Similarly, the European convention does not prescribe how its rights and freedoms are to be secured. Moreover, there has been

“a fundamental change of circumstances” in the increase of illegal migration, criminality, and the deaths that those have incurred since the convention was created. It is clear that currently described “obligations” must take account of that change. We have to keep up with the times, and mass immigration is one of the main issues before all nations.

What is more important: passing a Bill that works and is consistent with the democratic will of the people, our national interest, constitutional arrangements and parliamentary sovereignty, or supporting the uncertainties and vagaries of international law? Far from diminishing our international reputation, we now have the opportunity to enhance it by demonstrating that we can deal with illegal migration by making this Bill work through our own parliamentary sovereignty. And we can bring an end to the deaths in the channel.

It has also been suggested that it is improper and contrary to the ministerial code to bring in a Bill that is inconsistent with international law—that seems to permeate the legal establishment of this country. That is nonsense on stilts, because any Member of Parliament, any unimportant Member of Parliament, as well as Ministers and any Back Bencher, can propose legislation. Indeed, private Member’s Bills are enacted frequently, such as my International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014.

The acceptance by Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton when he was Prime Minister, despite resistance from the legal establishment at the time that we could refuse prisoner voting, as insisted on by the Strasbourg Court, is well known and remembered. The former Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, the right hon. Lord Clarke of Nottingham KC, said, when we refused to accept the “international obligation” under the European Court of Human Rights to allow prisoners to vote in elections, that—sorry, I mustn’t laugh—

“prisoner voting was a particular political issue”.

What about illegal migration?

The 2023 House of Lords report makes much of the ministerial code and the civil service code, stating:

“While Parliament is ultimately responsible for the form of any legislation passed, the preparation and introduction of Government legislation is an Executive action for which Ministers, collectively, are accountable.”

It then goes on to reaffirm its

“disquiet about the constitutional desirability of Parliament legislating in violation of the UK’s international obligations” but it ignores the principles of parliamentary sovereignty where words used in Acts of Parliament are clear and unambiguous. Moreover, the ministerial code is a convention, not legislation.

Once upon a time, the ministerial code did include the words,

“an overarching duty on Ministers to comply with the law including international law and treaty obligations”,

but those words were expressly removed from the code in 2015 by the then Prime Minister. The current 2022 ministerial code, under the present Prime Minister, simply refers to “the law”. This is no accident. The Government have declined the Lords’ obligation to bring back the words “international law and treaty obligations”, and I would say quod erat demonstrandum.

The House of Lords Committee also suggested, in reference upon the Court of Appeal case of R (on the application of Gulf Centre for Human Rights) v. the Prime Minister and another in 2018 and a statement five years ago by the distinguished Lord Faulks KC, that the ministerial code still requires compliance with international law obligations. However, the Court of Appeal—sadly for it—did not deal with the issue of parliamentary sovereignty with the use of the words that were clear and unambiguous and that in any case did not concern an Act of Parliament.

The failure to pass a Bill to effectively deal with illegal migration has led to vast public expenditure, with billions on services, including healthcare, education, social care, housing, infrastructure and planning to name just a few, not to mention millions and millions on hotel bills. That is why people are so cross, as well as the fact of illegal migration. There is no reason whatever that this Bill should not expressly and clearly exclude international law for the reasons I have given. It is an affront to Parliament and to the courts to suggest otherwise. I therefore ask that my amendment be voted upon and passed by the Committee.

I strongly urge the Government to note the sheer anger and frustration demonstrated in opinion polls and public concern that we get this Bill right and make it work. If not, this anger will continue up to and including the general election. Would it not be wise for the Government to reflect on the position and see that it would be better and wiser to come forward with their own amendments and use our majority, in line with our manifesto, as granted to us by the general election in 2019? That would be in the national interest and for the sake of all Conservative Members of Parliament whose seats would be so at risk if we did not do that.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee 2:45, 16 January 2024

I start by raising my concerns with the Government about using a Committee of the whole House for this part of the scrutiny of the Bill. We had this with the Illegal Migration Act 2023. In that case, there were hundreds of amendments and the Minister just got to speak at the end for a short time. When we are debating and scrutinising such Bills, we need to do so line by line, and we need to debate and hear the argument from the Minister and the argument from the proposers of amendments. The process we are going through does not allow Parliament to conduct that effective scrutiny that we all want to see when passing laws in this place.

Turning to the Bill, when the Home Affairs Committee published our report on channel crossings 18 months ago, we were clear about the potential problems posed by the Rwanda scheme. As I have highlighted on several occasions in this Chamber, we said that the small boat crossings are an issue on which “no magical single solution” is possible and that:

“Detailed, evidence-driven, fully costed and fully tested policy initiatives are by far most likely to achieve sustainable incremental change”.

We warned that the Government risked

“undermining its own ambitions and the UK’s international standing if it cannot demonstrate” that the scheme was

“compatible with international law and conventions.”

We said that aspects of the scheme carried

“significant reputational risk for the UK”.

The amendments we are debating today contain provisions that are incompatible not only with the UK’s obligations under international law, but with basic principles of liberty and freedom under common law. The amendments’ implications are therefore profound and affect every single one of us. Despite what the former Immigration Minister, Robert Jenrick said, I take in all sincerity the Rwandan Government’s view on the importance of upholding legal obligations. We can conclude that some of the amendments would prove fatal to the implementation of the Bill. Indeed, yesterday, the UN Refugee Agency declared that the Rwanda treaty and this unamended Bill are

“not compatible with international refugee law.”

I will speak to amendments 2, 3, 10, 56 and 57 and then focus my comments on amendments 19 to 22. Amendments 2 and 3 would prevent any claim based on risk derived from individual circumstances being considered until the person in question had arrived in Rwanda. That would effectively exclude the very narrow possibility for suspensive claims that the Bill currently allows, and it could result in the person being exposed to the risk on which their claim is based—including claims based on fear of persecution and torture—before it is even considered. The European convention on human rights requires

“independent and rigorous scrutiny of a claim that there exist substantial grounds for fearing a real risk of treatment contrary to Article 3”.

It also requires that the person concerned should have access to a remedy with automatic suspensive effect. The amendments would therefore be inconsistent with that requirement of the ECHR.

Amendment 10 would extend the notwithstanding provision to apply to all the Bill and the Illegal Migration Act 2023. It would effectively prevent a claimant relying on any pre-existing legal protection to prevent or delay their removal to Rwanda. The amendment would expressly allow removal to Rwanda, despite that removal otherwise breaching domestic law and despite that removal being in breach of international law. That includes fundamental human rights from which we know no exception or derogations are permitted, such as the prohibition on torture. Needless to say, the amendment is not compatible with the UK’s obligations under international law and risks undermining our international standing.

Amendments 56 and 57 would provide that courts and tribunals would not be permitted to consider a claim on the grounds that Rwanda is not a safe country where the claimant has engaged in activity or made serious allegations that have brought into question the safety of Rwanda, or colluded or conspired with others who have done the same. Worryingly, the amendment appears to exclude people who have made serious allegations about the safety of Rwanda from asylum and human rights protection. That would be inconsistent with rights to asylum and humanitarian protection under international law and could also be inconsistent with freedom of expression as guaranteed under article 10 of the ECHR.

Amendments 19 to 22 have profound implications for us all. They would prevent any individual set to be removed to Rwanda from arguing that they could not be sent there on the basis of their own circumstances. In the inevitable absence of absolute certainty that no risk to any individual could arise in Rwanda, that would mean that legitimate claims based on a real risk of persecution and human rights violations would not be heard, and that those people whose claims are unheard would be removed to face the persecution and human rights violations in Rwanda on which their claims are based. That is clearly inconsistent with the refugee convention, the ECHR and the other international legal obligations cited by the Supreme Court in its recent judgment.

Amendment 22 would prevent the courts from reviewing not only the asylum claims of individuals being sent to Rwanda, but also claims for unlawful detention, for assault in the course of removal or for discriminatory treatment in the course of the removal process. To be clear, denying those claims would be inconsistent not only with human rights law, but with fundamental principles of liberty and freedom under our common law that have been protected for centuries, including by the writ of habeas corpus. All Members who do not want to see habeas corpus sacrificed today can surely not support these amendments.

Finally, I add my support to amendments that would make sensible and logical revisions. Amendment 1 would require the Secretary of State to monitor whether Rwanda remains a safe country. New clause 6 places conditions

“on when the classification of Rwanda as ‘safe’ can be suspended in accordance with material conditions and/or non-compliance with obligations”.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Conservative, South Holland and The Deepings

The right hon. Lady will know that under this Government and previous Governments of all political colours, many people who came here illegally have been deported from this country. When that happens, it invariably does so notwithstanding claims they make about their circumstances. Sometimes, those are claims about their personal circumstances; sometimes, those are claims about the place they are being deported to and from where they come. On the basis of her speech so far, she would deport no one.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee 3:00, 16 January 2024

I do not know whether I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention, because that is clearly not what I am saying. What I am talking about—the Home Affairs Committee is clear about this—is the rule of law, recognising the international obligations that this country has freely entered into, and doing things properly and legally. That is what I am questioning, because some proposals tabled by Conservative Members go to the heart of our common law, our belief in the right to go before a judge and our belief that if one is detained, it cannot be indefinite. Those are important matters that are before us today.

I want to get a couple of other things on to the record. Going back to amendment 1 and new clause 6, while the Government have determined in the Bill that it is possible to stipulate in law that Rwanda is safe—as we know, that is to the contrary of a finding of fact by the Supreme Court—it does not seem sensible for the Government to propose that that status should be fixed forevermore, which would, by extension, make Rwanda the only country on Earth in which nothing can ever happen or change. As such, amendment 1 and new clause 6 have merit; I hope the Minister will consider them.

Amendments 35 and 37 would allow the courts to consider the risk of refoulement in decisions on removals to Rwanda. Given that the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Rwanda policy was unlawful precisely because there were substantial grounds to believe that refoulement could take place, those amendments also have merit.

I understand from media reports that when the Minister gets to his feet, he will give some undertakings about increasing the number of lower level judges—or, I should say, moving lower level judges up to the upper tribunal—to hear any appeals. That is apparently to deal with some of the concerns of Government Members. The Home Affairs Committee is concerned generally about the lengthy delays in court cases. In particular, in one of our recent reports on the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences, particularly rape, we were worried about how long it was taking for those cases to be heard.

I am concerned about the Government’s initiative—perhaps I am prejudging what the Minister will say, but it is being reported in the press—given the amount of resource and finance that will have to be put into training up 150 judges. It strikes me that they seem to be using an enormous amount of political time and resource on this policy. I look forward to what the Minister has to say about increasing the number of judges when we have so many other problems in other parts of the court system that they have not so far been able to deal with. That concludes my remarks on today’s amendments.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

It is a pleasure to follow Dame Diana Johnson, the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee. I rise to speak to amendments 28, 29 and 30 tabled in my name. Although they would amend clause 9, they relate to the operation of clause 2; hence their selection for debate today.

It is important that we focus on what clause 2 actually means, what its effect is and what the changed reality is with regard to the position in Rwanda—and, indeed, the position between the United Kingdom and Rwanda—since the decision of the Supreme Court in November and since the facts on which it based its decision, which relate to the spring and early summer of 2022. There is no doubt that matters have moved on significantly. We have not only a treaty between the United Kingdom and Rwanda, which was signed late last year, but an indication in the form of a policy document published by the Government, and indeed further information, as to the hard and fast changes that the Rwandan Government will be making to, in effect, answer the questions asked of it by the Supreme Court decision.

The Supreme Court decision really was not about the law; it was about the evidence. When we look at what the Supreme Court justices decided, we see that it was very much narrowed down to whether refoulement was still likely, bearing in mind the position of Rwanda. The Court decided that it was, and that is the sole reason why the policy was held to be unlawful. Other grounds were tendered in that case, including one on retained EU law. A specific ruling of the Court was that that did not apply; the law was clear that that part of retained EU law had fallen with our departure from the EU. Other aspects of the appeal were not ruled on by the Court. The decision was not, for example, based on compatibility with the ECHR. Importantly, the decision was not based on a challenge, which was upheld, to the legality of the removal of people to third countries.

In my view, it is neither illegal nor immoral to seek third-country assistance when it comes to this unprecedented challenge. Indeed, other European countries either are doing it or wish to do it. My right hon. Friend Robert Jenrick was right to say that other countries are looking to what happens here and to the precedent that we might set.

In setting precedents, we have to tread carefully. That is why the amendments that I tabled are very much focused on the factual reality and the need to ensure that Rwanda does indeed carry out its policies. When we look carefully at the policy statement, we see that particular tasks will need to be completed, including new operational training for decision makers in Rwanda—I think the latest figures show that over 100 people have now been trained to implement the deal—and the need for clear standard operating procedures with regard to the reception and accommodation arrangements for asylum seekers, the safeguarding of their welfare and access to healthcare.

Of course, there needs to be strengthened procedural oversight of the migration and economic development partnership agreed in 2022 and the asylum processes under it. That means that bodies have to be set up—the new MEDP co-ordination unit and the MEDP monitoring committee of experts. The involvement of experts is needed, certainly in the early days of the decision making to be made by the new body, which will be set up by the Government of Rwanda. There will be a new appeal body that consists of panels of three judges, with subject-matter experts, including Rwandan judges and judges from other Commonwealth jurisdictions. All those details are important, because they go towards answering the question, which I think will be answered in the affirmative: that individuals in the scheme will not be at risk of refoulement and, therefore, there will not be a breach of the 1951 convention.

That reality has to match the deeming provision. I know that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister will be anxious to ensure that deeming provisions do not either perpetuate or encourage legal fictions. This is difficult law, but it is not unprecedented. Deeming provisions are used often in tax legislation. The leading authority is fairly recent: Fowler v. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs back in 2020 in the Supreme Court, in which Lord Briggs made it clear that deeming provisions creating statutory fictions should be followed as far as required for the purposes for which the deeming provision was created, but the production of unjust, absurd or anomalous results will not be encouraged. That is clearly somewhere that the courts do not wish to tread or to encourage, and neither should we as a Government or a Parliament.

We must dovetail the coming into force of the deeming provisions with the reality on the ground in Rwanda, so that we create not a statutory fiction but a series of facts reinforced by statute. That degree of care does not have to take ages—it can be done in weeks, bearing in mind the quick work that has been done already. That would go a long way to satisfying the natural concerns that many of us have about the use of such provisions. We understand why they have to be made, and we do not oppose the principle of their use, but I simply caution that we take care to make sure that we get that co-ordination right.

Many of us have been down the road of discussing ouster before, and it can take many forms. There have been examples where ouster proceedings and clauses have clearly not worked, and they are not the sole province of this Government. Previous Labour Governments tried to enact bold and sweeping ouster clauses, only to find that their efforts fell flat either before the Act became law or as a result of court intervention. I think of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004, when Labour tried to be too extensive and expansive.

Experience has taught us that where we have clearly defined reasons—and, importantly, limited exceptions—ouster clauses will work. We had a recent example of that in the removal of the Cart jurisdiction in the Judicial Review and Courts Act 2022, where my hon. and learned Friend the Minister finished the job that I started. In the consultation on the judicial review, my noble friend Lord Faulks and others embarked upon those provisions at my direction. That worked—it has been tested not just in the High Court but in the Court of Appeal in the Oceana case, and it is held to be sound and watertight. Why? Because there was a clear rationale behind it, and there were limited exceptions. Herein lies the danger posed by the otherwise well-intentioned amendments by my right hon. and hon. Friends: without those limited exceptions, we are setting the Bill up to fail. That is what history has taught us.

I am a strong believer that it is from this place that the core of our constitution comes. It is from Parliament that our constitutional authority is derived. To contradict Stephen Kinnock, who in many respects couched his remarks well, we do not have a separation of powers constitution. We have a checks and balances constitution, where each part of the body politic respects each other. I do agree with him that restraint is an important principle.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Conservative, South Holland and The Deepings

My right hon. and learned Friend is making a profound and important point about the nature of the separation of powers. There is a lot of misunderstanding about it. The separation of powers is not about equal bodies or each of those bodies performing the same role. As he describes, it is entirely a matter of the balance between those bodies. This House is the body that makes laws. Judge-made law is something he and I have debated, discussed and agreed on many times, and it is invidious because, as I said earlier, this House is supreme when it comes to making or changing law.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

I entirely agree. My right hon. Friend and I are both romantic Tories of an old school, which might surprise many Members. We share that common fount of Toryism that is important to us both and, within that, we utterly respect the independence of the judiciary. It is a separate part of our constitution. To trespass upon its domain—as, sadly, in the Post Office case we have had to—is something that we do extremely reluctantly, and I hope in a very rare and unique way in that tragic and scandalous example.

As my right hon. Friend said, that does not mean that we are a carbon copy of the United States—in fact, the United States constitution is based on a misunderstanding of the British constitution. It is not right to say that separation of powers is the underlying principle. That fiction led us to error when we—to my mind, regrettably—took the House of Lords Judicial Committee out of this place and pretended that somehow it was entirely separate from Parliament.

If I may digress for a nanosecond, the point about the House of Lords Judicial Committee is that it was a body of Parliament making law. That was an elegant solution and response to our unwritten constitution. The same goes for the office that I used to hold. What a mess the previous Labour Government made of reform to the office of Lord Chancellor, which was the embodiment of the checks and balances that we have in our constitution. It is a bit of cod philosophy that is overused and is not part of our system, but I will go on to qualify that in an important way.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester 3:15, 16 January 2024

I want to bring my right hon. and learned Friend back to the amendments. Does he agree that between the absolute conviction of Stephen Kinnock and the Opposition that the Bill cannot ever work, and the absolute conviction of my right hon. Friend Robert Jenrick that it can work only with his amendments, there is a landing space where we can deliver something that will make a difference and will act as a deterrent, without getting rid of all the individual rights in our domestic and international law? That is what we should aim to achieve.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

My hon. Friend puts the point very well. There is a landing space for this policy. I disagree with Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition and their leader when he said that he would not support the Rwanda policy even if it worked. Frankly, that is an extreme position and not one that chimes at all with what the British people want, because they want solutions to these problems. This party and this Government are coming up with solutions. They might be novel or untested, but at least we are working on it.

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick Conservative, Newark

My right hon. and learned Friend is generous in giving way. With all his experience as former Justice Secretary, is it his view that the Ministry of Justice will be able to recruit hundreds of tribunal judges—from where, I do not know—and use them to process and decide the claims that will surely come from each and every illegal migrant who comes across the channel, in sufficient speed that we do not fill up our detained estate capacity and have to bail those individuals, so that they abscond, even in the peak season of August and September? His professional opinion would be much appreciated.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

I will give, if not a professional opinion, my right hon. Friend an opinion born out of experience. Anything is possible, but it is quite a task. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor will talk to the Senior President of Tribunals, Sir Keith Lindblom, about this very issue, to make sure that not just full-time but part-time tribunal chairs will be available to deal with a large number of cases. But if we can do that in immigration, can we not do it in crime as well, please? It is a timely reminder that our justice system is pretty important and, despite my best efforts to increase funding—which we did do—more needs to be done to ensure that the backlogs are dealt with. I declare my interest, and I know that my colleagues at the Bar would tell me off if I did not say that. To answer my right hon. Friend’s point, it will be a challenge and will require probably some changes to practice directions, and cases will have to be dealt with much more quickly than the status quo.

Photo of Danny Kruger Danny Kruger Conservative, Devizes

My right hon. and learned Friend is being very generous and I appreciate the speech he is making. On that last point, does he also acknowledge that the Government’s intention of recruiting a large number of extra judges implies that they expect a large number of claims to be made on behalf of migrants, rather than their being swiftly detained and removed, as we all wish them to be?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

I am inclined to be kind to my hon. Friend. It is probably not an either/or, but an and. He and the Government will want to achieve not only a further spur in dealing with current cases in the system, but any particular influx we might get because of novel points that will need to be tested. I am satisfied, having looked at the terms of the clauses currently drafted, that it is narrow. If not quite the eye of a needle, it will certainly be a pretty restrictive process. I remember feeling deep frustration at the time of covid in not seeing backlogs in the immigration tribunal come down, despite the fact that people were not coming into the country.

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick Conservative, Newark

My right hon. and learned Friend may not be aware that after has left office the current waiting time for an appeal before an immigration tribunal is 48 weeks. Given the thousands of cases we successfully cleared in the backlog—many of which, thankfully, have been rejected—that backlog is probably likely to double in the coming weeks. Currently, immigration tribunals will be taking between one and two years to hear a case.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

My right hon. Friend is right. He is building on the frustration that I had. That is not a criticism of Ministers. The way in which the Home Office was working did not seem to allow the expedition that was needed. I know that he and others have done a lot of work to improve that—by scaling up the number of officials dealing with cases and creating a sense of urgency with a wartime emergency approach that is entirely right—but I can tell him that back in 2020 I was deeply frustrated not to see a decrease in the backlogs, bearing in mind that in other areas we were actually making a difference and taking at least some benefit from the awful covid crisis. The challenge facing my hon. and learned Friend the Minister is significant and we should not pretend otherwise.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

The practice of Government, certainly over the last 14 years, has been that where there were bottlenecks—we saw them during the pandemic in the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the Passport Office and the Home Office—the answer to those questions was for Ministers to energise that particular department, recruit more people, allocate more resources and get the backlogs down. If it can be done in all those places, there is surely no reason why it cannot be done in this hypothetical instance of lots of extraneous claims by people to avoid extradition to Rwanda, given the very narrow scope allowed in the Bill.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

Where there is a will there is a way. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I do not want to detain the Committee unduly lengthily today—some would perhaps say uncharacteristically, but I really do not—[Laughter.] Self-deprecation takes you only so far in this place! I yield to my hon. Friend Sir William Cash in that department.

To conclude, the Privacy International Supreme Court case from about three or four years ago is a warning. Where Governments, with good intention, try to overreach and wholly exclude a particular judicial review approach, they will often fail. In that case, we saw an inevitable consequence of a line of thinking that has gone back in our law for about 50 or so years since the Anisminic case. We have to be alive to that reality. We should not put the courts in a position where we end up with what was a highly contested case with dissenting judgments. In the end, it gives us a very important guide on how carefully we need to approach these matters.

I will not pretend that I can ever love notwithstanding clauses. I do not like them, because they create all sorts of internal conflicts. Those conflicts are not necessarily in international law—I am less interested in that; I am more interested in conflict in our own domestic law—but anything that this House does that is ambiguous, contradictory, self-contradictory or unclear serves only to draw the courts further into the realm of politics, where none of them ever want to go.

We do not have a constitutional court in this country and I hope we never, ever see one. Because of our unwritten constitution, we are able as a Parliament to legislate as we wish. But—this is the qualification—I said on Second Reading that the principle of comity, that mutual respect that needs to exist between the arms of the constitution, is one that means we need restraint and to take care when we legislate. However grave the situation might be—previous generations faced wartime challenges—we must remember that in legislating in this place, we do not protect ourselves out of the very freedoms we cherish.

At some point there will not be a Conservative Government sitting on the Treasury Benches, but a Government of another hue. I hope, having been in my party for nearly 40 years—I am much older than I look—that we do not see that day, but a day will come when we, as an Opposition, will be worried about an overweening socialist Government that will try to impose their will through the will of Parliament and will not show the restraint that we expect a democratically elected Government to show. That is why the challenges we faced during Brexit were exceptional. I do not think that, despite the maelstrom we all went through and some of the things we had to do to get that done, we should be seeking to normalise them now.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Conservative, South Holland and The Deepings

My right hon. and learned Friend is once again right that this place should not act in an arbitrary way. I mentioned Dicey earlier and he will be familiar with Dicey’s view on that subject. But in the end our legitimacy is derived from the people and we are answerable to the people. On this issue above all others, the people expect us to stand by our pledge and to stop the boats.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

I agree with my right hon. Friend that we are not just another public agency. This is Parliament and this place has a particular status, position, responsibility and privilege—that word privilege that he and I know and cherish so much in its true sense—that means we are absolutely at the core of our democracy and our constitution. But it is also our responsibility to make sure that the legislation we pass works. I know that he and my hon. Friends who are supporting the amendments want this law to work—I absolutely accept that—but I say in all candour and frankness that I genuinely think the amendments they have tabled will make it less likely. I do not say that with any pleasure; I say it with a heavy heart. History has taught us that where, despite good intention, we end up being too expansive and we overreach, the check and the balance that exists in our constitution will then apply. All that we will do is end up having the sort of arguments about the constitution—not arcane to me, but arcane to many people—which, while important, do not solve the problem, and do not deal with the issue that is facing us as a people.

That is why I urge the Government today to ensure that the intention in the treaty becomes a reality, that Rwanda does what it says it is going to do so that we can avoid refoulement, and that we focus on the practicalities and also avoid more unnecessary legal clash. If I may paraphrase Matthew Arnold, ignorant armies clashing by night is something that we as Conservatives should seek to avoid at all costs.

Photo of Olivia Blake Olivia Blake Labour, Sheffield, Hallam

Let me begin by declaring my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, which refers to the help that I receive from the Refugee, Asylum and Migration Policy project, and my position as co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on migration.

I agree with much of what was said by my right hon. Friend Dame Diana Johnson about the process involved in the Bill and the way in which we are debating it today. This is our third immigration Bill in less than two years, and throughout that time Ministers and Back Benchers alike have engaged in progressively more inflammatory rhetoric about refugees without addressing any of the real problems in our asylum and migration system.

Let me be clear about what those problems are. The real problem has been brought into stark relief. Just this weekend five people died crossing the channel, and hundreds more have been killed making that dangerous crossing. If those desperate people survive the journey, they are forced to wait years for a decision on their claims. They are housed in uninhabitable conditions; they are unable to work and give back to our society, so they are in danger of destitution; and if they are destitute, they are forced to rely on only a small amount of support, barely covering the cost of basic essentials. The availability of functional safe routes for people is completely lacking.

Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Labour/Co-operative, Leeds North West 3:30, 16 January 2024

Many of the amendments relate to whether or not Rwanda is a safe country. Would we not be in a different place if there were a much broader range of safe and legal routes? We would not see small boats crossing the channel, and there would be no need for us to discuss whether or not Rwanda is safe, which is not helpful to Rwanda or to us.

Photo of Olivia Blake Olivia Blake Labour, Sheffield, Hallam

I entirely agree. That is an important point, and we are struggling to get much sense out of the Government on it. I have asked repeatedly whether safe and legal routes are available to people trying to flee from parts of the world where genocide has been declared, but unfortunately the answer has always been “The safe and legal routes that exist are all that we will offer.” I do not think that that is good enough, and I think we need to have that conversation about safe and legal routes.

The problems that I have listed are the real, human problems. That is the real cost to human life and wellbeing that the Government’s “hostile environment” policy brings. This Bill is another example of Ministers’ doubling down on that approach, and the amendments tabled by Conservative Back Benchers—I believe they are amendments 10, 19, 20, 21, 22, 56 and 57—take it even further.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham

As the hon. Lady knows, I agree with her that we need to extend safe and legal routes—that is why I tabled my amendment previously, which I hope the Government will honour—but does she not also acknowledge that, even if there were safe and legal routes that could be used by legitimate refugees fleeing from genuine violence and oppression, the bogus asylum seekers who do not meet those criteria would still use people smugglers? That is why we need to be able to deter and clamp down on them so that they do not set foot on our shores.

Photo of Olivia Blake Olivia Blake Labour, Sheffield, Hallam

We need the safe and legal routes first. The rates at which people are accepted as having a reasonable claim and are given a form of leave to remain in the UK are very high: in recent years, the rates at which applications are accepted have been as high as 67%. I do not believe that a large number of people are coming here illegally without good claims. Indeed, I think the opposite is true, given the evidence from our own systems.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham

That is an interesting point, but how does the hon. Lady explain the fact that France receives more asylum applications than we do but rejects twice as many? What are we doing differently?

Photo of Olivia Blake Olivia Blake Labour, Sheffield, Hallam

I would hope that our system has the trust of its politicians and is robust enough to ensure that we are making the right decisions whenever possible, although I still believe that there should be an appeals process within that system. I cannot say that the system always gets it right, and that is certainly borne out by the casework that I have seen. It is more complicated than saying, “This action will reduce this and that action will increase that.” It is a very complicated system, and the most obvious thing to say about it is that in the past few years and months the second or third highest number of people arriving here in small boats has been people from Afghanistan. We are also seeing people fleeing from Syria and from all sorts of other complex and difficult situations at the moment. That does not take away from the fact that it is not necessarily about the nation those people come from and that it is also about their individual circumstances. I have spoken a lot about the rights of LGBT people and disabled people seeking asylum and how we need to make sure that any system maintains that individual view of an individual going through our system. That is a lesson that should be learned from the Windrush review.

At its core, the hostile environment is a policy designed to make life as uncomfortable as possible for everyone who comes here and to prevent anyone from accessing the support that international law says is rightfully theirs, and now the Government are proposing to outsource what little responsibility they have taken by offloading their obligations and offshoring refugees against their will. It is no wonder that they are recklessly declaring Rwanda as safe, despite the known risks. As the shadow Minister pointed out, since the Government signed their deportation deal, six people from Rwanda have been granted asylum here in the UK. Torture persists there, along with continued risks of refoulement to third countries, which is the reason I support amendments 35 and 37.

Human Rights Watch’s reports on Rwanda as part of its World Report series published in 2021, 2022 and 2023 all include examples of torture in Rwanda. In the UN Human Rights Council’s periodic review of Rwanda published in January 2021, it was the UK Government who criticised Rwanda for

“extrajudicial killings, deaths in custody, enforced disappearances and torture”.

The country has a continued history of breaching obligations under the refugee convention, and between 2020 and 2022 the UNHCR found that Afghan, Syrian and Yemeni asylum seekers had 100% rejection rate in Rwanda. Those are statistics that I am sure people would find shocking given our granting rate. It is common for discrimination and abuse to be faced by LGBTQ+ people in Rwanda. Same-sex marriage is prohibited, and LGBTQ+ people are not protected from discrimination by any specific legislation there. All this makes a mockery of clause 2 of the Bill.

Ministers can continue to use ad hoc Bills such as this one to paper over the cracks in their asylum policy, but the truth is that the foundations of their approach are completely rotten. Rather than chasing headlines, it is time they thought again and built an asylum system that puts respect for international law and basic human dignity first.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

Immigration is quite possibly the most important issue facing this Government or indeed any Government in Europe. It is the issue of our age, and mass immigration, whether legal or illegal, is undermining trust. This debate has to be held against the backdrop of the overwhelming numbers coming into our country. Sir Roger, you and I entered Parliament on the same day in 1983. During that year, net legal migration was only about 17,000. It is now 600,000. This debate about small boats is held against the backdrop of this huge influx into our society, on which the British people have not been consulted. It is changing our society and undermining the work ethic of our own people. Too many people are languishing on benefits. Perhaps some of our public services are not paying adequate salaries. We are bringing more and more people into this country, whereas we should be encouraging and training our own people to work.

The whole small boats crisis is made much more toxic by that debate. When people say, “Well, 40,000 people a year isn’t a great deal compared with the sort of numbers coming across the Mediterranean”, we have to see it in terms of that overall debate. Unless the Government can sort this out and actually stop the boats, which was the commitment made by the Prime Minister, it will be extraordinarily politically damaging to the Conservative Government and also damaging to the public’s perception of and belief in democracy. When the Prime Minister says he wants to stop the boats, he should stop the boats. That is why, tonight and tomorrow, I will support the amendments tabled most ably by my right hon. Friend Robert Jenrick and my hon. Friend Sir William Cash. I tabled amendments 56 and 57, which I will explain in a moment.

Against this backdrop, we have an extraordinary and absurd situation in which people are arriving in Calais having travelled through an entirely safe country. There is no threat to their human rights. They may find it difficult to speak French, or they may not want to learn to speak French, and they may not be able to find a job, but they are in an entirely safe country. They are putting their life at risk—even this week, there has been an appalling tragedy—and we are encouraging the most horrible criminal gangs to get involved in this trade. They then arrive here and claim asylum.

Unbelievably, we are putting them up comfortably in hotels, which other European countries do not do. Even more extraordinarily, and I will not labour this point because I have made it many times before, such is the crisis in our hotels that the Government are now spending tens of millions of pounds on trying to convert former military bases such as RAF Scampton in my constituency—by the way, we have now been arguing about RAF Scampton for nine months and not a single migrant has arrived there. The court cases are still ongoing.

If we put ourselves in the migrants’ place, we can see that the draw factor to this country is extraordinarily high. First, we speak English. Secondly, unlike in France or Germany, they will be put in a comfortable hotel. Thirdly, they are given benefits. Fourthly, there is probably a 95% chance that they will be given asylum at the end of the process. If they have come from a hell-hole like Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan, why would they not want to take that risk? We must be mugs, frankly, and the rest of Europe must be laughing at us.

Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady Scottish National Party, Glasgow North

Sir Chris Bryant also asked that question. If it is so attractive to come to the United Kingdom and nothing else has been a deterrent—if the risk to life of crossing the channel is not a deterrent—why should the prospect of being sent to Rwanda be a deterrent? If Rwanda is a safe and secure country where they can have a comfortable life, why should the prospect of being sent there be a deterrent?

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

What is the hon. Gentleman’s solution? When Opposition Members make these arguments, they have to say what on earth they would do. I agree with the Opposition on one thing: with modern surveillance technology, drones and all the rest of it, it is a mystery why we are not managing to stop more people. With modern police efforts, it is a mystery why we cannot interdict more of these criminal gangs.

It is so easy to get involved in this trade. We close down one criminal gang, as the Opposition want to put more resources into doing, and another springs up. It is incumbent on the Opposition, given that we are such an attractive country, to explain how on earth they would stop this trade. I question whether we can proceed with the policy of keeping people in hotels, paying them benefits and approving 95% of applications when they have come through a safe country.

The problem I have with the Government is not their Rwanda policy because, looking at Australia and elsewhere, I accept that the only policy that seems to have any chance of discouraging this mass movement of people is offshoring. My argument with the Government is that, if we pass this Bill and keep passing Bills, such is the nature of our legal system that people will make spurious claims based on their political opinions, which will make it impossible for them to be put on a flight to Rwanda. That is the nature of my amendments, which is why I talk about spurious claims.

Let us consider one example. Let us suppose that I am an illegal migrant who has paid all this money to get through France. I am now going to put my life at risk, having put a lot of my personal resources into this project. I am determined that when I arrive in Dover there will be no chance of my being sent to Rwanda or anywhere else. This is so simple: people can manufacture some spurious opposition to the Rwanda regime. They can do a tweet—even I can do a tweet. They can do a tweet in five minutes saying that the President of Rwanda is a dictator who should be overthrown, and they will have done it—it will have gone worldwide. Alternatively, once they have got into this country they can simply protest outside the Rwandan embassy about the President. That sort of thing has happened outside the Saudi Arabian embassy. People can so easily concoct a spurious reason as to why, although Rwanda generally may be a safe country, they personally cannot be sent there because of what they have done—demonstrated or tweeted. That will clog up our whole judicial process.

We have already heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for Newark that in August we may have hundreds of crossings every week. Every claimant will take his case to the tribunal, where it will have to be heard, and we will have to deal with appeals. I cannot see how any of these people are actually going to be put on these flights by October, when there may be a general election. A very small number might be, but given the nature of the judicial process, the right to appeal and the ease with which someone can concoct a history of opposition to the Rwandan regime, I do not think anybody is really going to be put on a flight.

Alternatively, they can easily concoct a history of mental illness—that is so subjective. It is easy enough to find a doctor to sign a medical certificate saying that someone has a history of mental illness. It is easy to concoct a personal history. For instance, if someone comes from Iran, they can allege that they are gay. Again, no tribunal would export someone to Iran if they say that they are gay. If someone comes from Iraq, they can say that they are an activist Christian, whether or not they are. I cannot see how anybody who has the right to go through the judicial process will not do so, and given the ease with which they can create a personal history that will make their own personal circumstances impossible in Rwanda, I cannot believe that any court or tribunal will export them to Rwanda.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 3:45, 16 January 2024

The right hon. Gentleman is talking, quite ridiculously, about people concocting stories—I feel that he is perhaps concocting one himself. Will he tell me when he last spoke to an asylum seeker?

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

They may not concoct it; it may be entirely true—we do not know. However, what we all know is true is that every asylum seeker who arrives in Dover will say that they cannot be sent to Rwanda because of their own personal history, and every single one of us would do the same thing.

Last year, we had the farce of the judgment issued by the Council of Europe, which we will be discussing in more detail later. I have been a member of the Council of Europe for 14 years. We now know that this ex parte judgment, this rule 39, was perhaps not delivered according to international law, and apparently, in discussions with the European Court of Human Rights, we have now sought assurances that it is going to be tidied up. But even if our own courts allow somebody to proceed through them, with their case to be heard, even if we manage to appoint a sufficient number of judges, even if the person does not create a history and even if our own courts allow them to be put on a flight, there is this right of appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. We therefore have no certainty that these cases will not be heard and delayed.

I accept that this is the toughest Bill we have ever had. It is a good Bill in its own right. If we had produced it two years ago, we may have been getting people to Rwanda by now, but time is running out. We have perhaps nine months until the next general election. If we do not amend the Bill, we could end up in the worst possible situation, where we, as a Government, say that we are committed to stopping the boats, we have passed the necessary legislation and then we have egg all over our face because nobody is actually put on the flights. We will look extremely stupid.

In my view, the only solution is that when people arrive here, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Newark said, they are detained, but within a matter of days they are offshored, and the only justification for not being put on a flight is a proper medical condition. That is the only way we will get people on these flights.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

May I posit a slightly different approach? As my right hon. Friend says, all of us on the Government Benches want to do something about the problem. There are Opposition Members who are quite happy to subcontract our immigration decision making to the evil people smugglers operating small boats across the channel, but we are united on trying to do something. The only issue on which we differ is the extent to which we wish to override domestic and international law on individual human rights. My right hon. Friend has stood up for his constituents in their most difficult times, so he will understand that to do so would be a massive step that most of us on the Government Benches are not prepared to take.

Is my right hon. Friend prepared to see the Bill through, in the face of opposition from those who, at times, risk looking as if they are keener on putting sub-postmasters in jail than illegal immigrants, and make sure we have an option and a deterrence that will almost certainly work? Or is he prepared to sacrifice that huge step forward on the altar of an amendment to try to rule out all possibility of any individual human rights complaint being upheld?

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

To be fair to my hon. Friend, I do not like what I am suggesting, but we are faced with a national crisis and we have to look at our own experience of what has and has not worked. We all know that overwhelmingly the people who are crossing are economic migrants. They are all perfectly nice people—I make no complaint about them personally; they are just trying to get a better life—but we all know the truth is that they would do anything to avoid being put on one of these flights.

I agree with my hon. Friend that we would not normally want to circumvent human rights, but in this case we know that is what is going to happen. We are almost arguing on the head of a pin about legal uncertainties, when we know from practical experience that everybody will appeal and be able to create a credible case, based on personal political involvement, mental health or some other reason, and nobody—or only a derisory number of people—will be put on the flight. The Government should grasp this nettle and accept these amendments, although I fear they will not. If they do not, we will be in a very dangerous place in relation to public opinion.

Photo of Ruth Jones Ruth Jones Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

It is always interesting to follow Sir Edward Leigh. I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the amendments tabled by my right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary.

As we consider the amendments and new clauses before us, I start by acknowledging, as my hon. Friend Olivia Blake has done, how awful it is that more lives have been lost this weekend in the cold waters of the channel. More families are grieving while dangerous criminal smuggler gangs are making huge profits from these perilous boat crossings, whenever the weather calms. They must be stopped before any more lives are lost and that requires action, but it must be the right action.

The Tories are in total chaos about this failing scheme, which is costing the British taxpayer £400 million with more money promised, even though not a single asylum seeker has been sent to Rwanda. Every new detail of the plan is more farcical than the last and, as we know, more Home Secretaries have been sent to Rwanda than asylum seekers so far.

Even if the Tories get the scheme off the ground, it will cover less than 1% of people arriving in the country, or people in asylum hotels, making it astronomically expensive. That is why I support new clause 6, in the name of the shadow Home Secretary. This would place the monitoring committee for the Rwanda treaty on a statutory basis, and place conditions on when the classification of Rwanda as “safe” can be suspended in accordance with material conditions and/or non-compliance with obligations under the Rwanda treaty. This new clause is absolutely the right thing to do, and I urge Ministers to look at it very seriously indeed.

In April 2022, the British Government and Rwanda signed a memorandum of understanding to provide a Migration and Economic Development Partnership. It is a five-year agreement, from 2022 to 2027, and, under the deal, the UK pays Rwanda large sums of money as part of its economic development fund, which has no impact on the asylum system. In return, Rwanda has agreed to take responsibility for some of the people who arrive in the UK on small boats. Those people will be removed to Rwanda where their asylum claims will be processed, but the UK will have to pay extra costs for asylum processing, decisions and support.

In June 2022, the European Court of Human Rights issued an injunction that halted the first attempted removals until legal proceedings had concluded in the UK courts. The High Court backed the policy; the Court of Appeal declared it to be unlawful. In November 2023, the UK Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal judgment and ruled unanimously that the Rwanda policy was unlawful because there were “substantial grounds” to believe that people transferred there could be sent to countries where they would face persecution or inhumane treatment—a practice known as refoulement —if Rwanda rejected their asylum claims.

That is why new clause 6 is so important and would be a welcome addition—and a much needed one at that—to the Bill. Through our Front-Bench amendments, Labour has tried to guide Ministers in the right direction and, importantly, to stand up for our values and our commitment to the strongest border security. That is why Labour’s plan is so important and has my support.

Labour’s plan will strengthen our border security and smash the criminal gang networks and their supply chains with new powers and a new cross-border police unit, so that we stop the boats reaching the French coast in the first place. We will clear the backlog with new fast-track systems, end hotel use—saving the taxpayer more than £2 billion—and improve enforcement with a new returns and enforcement unit to reverse the collapse in returns for those who have no right to be here.

We on the Labour Benches believe in strong border security and a properly controlled and managed asylum system, so that the UK does our bit to help those fleeing persecution and conflict, but returns those who have no right to be here. That is why new clause 6 is so worthy of support from across the Committee. It means that we stay true to who we are—good neighbours, committed to doing what is right and to standing up for those most in need. That is the kind of global Britain that I am committed to.

Getting this wrong would not just be a cost to our reputation; this whole scheme has a massive financial implication too. The full costs of the Rwanda scheme have not been disclosed and what details are available have emerged in a haphazard way, through Home Office documents, official letters, comments in Parliament and a leak.

Sir Matthew Rycroft has said that he is “not at liberty” to disclose the full costs as they are contained in a “confidential” memorandum of understanding between the two Governments, saying that it was “commercially sensitive” information. He said the Home Office annual report and accounts sets out details of the costs for the relevant financial year—the report is usually published in July. However, the Government have set out the costs for future years for the UK’s security collaboration with France. In addition to payments of at least £232 million between 2014 and 2023 to combat illegal migration, the Government have agreed to pay the French sums of £124 million this year, £168 million next year and £184 million the year after. These costs were set out before the payments were made in a public document. This is why our Front-Bench amendments are so important. This Bill is way off the mark, as are the motivations behind it. Anything we can do to improve it should be a priority.

Let me turn specifically to amendments 35 and 37, which also have my full support. Amendment 37 would ensure that decision makers are still able to consider the risk of refoulement when making individual decisions on removals to Rwanda. Amendment 35 would permit courts and tribunals to deal with systematic risk of refoulement from Rwanda. Those are two important amendments, and I urge the Minister, as I did with new clause 6, to think carefully about their merits.

In 2019, the Conservatives promised to end boat crossings in six months. Since then, the number has rocketed. In January 2023, the Prime Minister pledged again to “stop the boats”, but since then, almost 30,000 people have crossed the channel—the second highest number ever. That means that over 100,000 people have made that treacherous journey in three years. The new Home Secretary said that hotel use is going down, but the number of people in asylum hotels hit a record high of 56,000 in September 2023. That is over 10,000 more than when the Prime Minister pledged to end hotel use the previous year. The British taxpayer is now spending an astronomical £8 million a day on hotels thanks to the Conservative chaos. That is £3 billion a year. Almost 350 hotels are still being used, and criminal gangs are being let off. Under the Tories, the annual profits of criminal smuggler gangs have soared from £1 million four years ago to over £100 million today, and convictions for people smugglers have dropped by a shocking 36% since 2010.

This whole situation is a mess. It is a mess for the Government, and we are all so bored of the pathetic scenes of Whips and Ministers scuttling around seeking to peel off rebels. It is a mess for our borders and a complete mess when it comes to our international leadership. The amendments I have spoken in favour of today would help make a bad Bill a little better. I urge Ministers to do the right thing and listen. Labour stands ready to help Tory Ministers finally get a grip, and the sooner the better.

Photo of Rob Roberts Rob Roberts Independent, Delyn 4:00, 16 January 2024

Good afternoon, Mr Evans, and thank you for calling me to speak in this important debate in reference to my amendments 1, 2 and 3 to the Bill and some others that I will cover during the course of my remarks. I am not a lawyer or an immigration specialist, but I have sought advice, done my research and, above all, spoken to the people of my constituency.

This is the first time that I have been sufficiently animated to speak in a debate on this issue. Contrary to what we hear regularly from hon. and right hon. Members, when I walk the streets of Delyn and speak to my constituents, almost none of them raise the issue of illegal migration as being among the things they are most concerned about. I appreciate that rural north Wales is a different place to many constituencies, but it is worth noting for the record that it is not the priority of everyone in the country. They would rather the Government spent more time improving public services, making our streets safer, returning us to a period of greater economic stability and—dare I say it—aiming for prosperity, but here we are in another effort to solve the intractable problem of small boat crossings with this Bill.

Some elements do not necessarily sit well with me, but some of the amendments, sadly, sit even worse. Some of the rhetoric that we hear on this subject is quite alarming. I have tried in my small number of amendments to apply a little common sense and compromise, neither of which appear to be in abundant supply when it comes to discussing this issue.

I listened carefully to Robert Jenrick, who is sadly no longer in his place, who spoke passionately on this issue and answered my question and others put to him in interventions very well, but I cannot help but retain a feeling of the fundamental unfairness of some of his amendments. I will expand on that later.

Turning to my amendments, amendment 1 seeks to compel the Home Secretary to confirm on an ongoing basis that Rwanda remains a safe country. I have no interest in restarting the debate about whether it is safe now; for the purposes of this legislation, we assume that it is. What I am trying to address in the amendment is the political and social instability that exists in many parts of Africa, and that regime change is more common in that part of the world than any other.

It will be 30 years this year since the horrific Rwandan genocide in 1994, and a lot of things have happened in those years, largely down to stability and the steps taken by President Kagame. It is probably worth noting that since 1994, Rwanda has had two Presidents, whereas the UK has had eight Prime Ministers of varying levels of honesty and competence. It might therefore seem unusual to table an amendment on regime change, but it is a real concern none the less.

In 2021, coups d’état ousted four Heads of State in sub-Saharan Africa. Elected leaders in other African nations were accused of enacting a more authoritarian approach, presumably to stave off a similar rise of forces against them. Between 2017 and 2019, President Bouteflika of Algeria, President al-Bashir of Sudan and President Mugabe of Zimbabwe were ousted after a combined 90 years in power. In a paper released two years ago almost to the day, experts from the London School of Economics and Political Science showed that,

“their removal, rather than a direct consequence of mass protests and economic downturns, was the culmination of ripened factionalism, which had blossomed after the leaders’ attempts to centralise power.”

That simply illustrates the potential volatility of politics in the region and the rationale behind my amendment. It is not an onerous requirement that the Home Secretary must lay before the House a report every 12 months confirming that Rwanda remains safe. As a responsible partner to various international agreements and conventions, it would seem the least we should do in that regard.

I will take amendments 2 and 3 together, as they are related, as well as commenting on other amendments on the same issue. As a layperson who is not legally trained in any way, but hopefully has a decent dose of common sense, I find it unthinkable that individuals against whom any kind of judgment is made would not be allowed the right to appeal against that judgment. That type of thinking puts our legal process back 100 years; it is frankly beneath us and beneath what this Parliament should stand for.

We have in this country a robust and well-established legal system, from magistrates to county court, Crown court, High Court, Court of Appeal and finally the Supreme Court, with various tribunals and other such devices for specific purposes. As a matter of law and simple fairness, we allow people to question and appeal. Shoplifters can appeal. Car thieves can appeal. Abusers can appeal. Perpetrators of domestic violence can appeal. Rapists can appeal. Murderers can appeal.

I have listened carefully to the arguments of some of my colleagues, both personally and what has been said in the House and in various media outlets. I feel compelled to conclude that the trend towards dog-whistle politics and putting the label of enemy on people where no such label needs to apply seems to have got the better of some people. I point out to colleagues that although it is often the noisiest voices that call for migrants simply to be rounded up and shipped out, the noisiest voices are almost certainly not the voices of the majority of the people of the United Kingdom, which is and always has been a welcoming and kind country to those in need.

We can point to all manner of schemes to show that that has been the case. Even recently, between 2015 and June of last year, more than 179,000 people arrived in the UK from Ukraine. Over that same period, more than 123,000 people have come to the UK on the basis of being granted British national overseas status and more than 50,000 people have come as part of the Afghan and Syrian resettlement programmes. We are a kind and supportive country to those in need—but have we become what many consider to be a soft touch? Perhaps in some ways we have.

I look at the movement of people in two distinct ways: they are either moving away from something or moving towards something. What I mean by that is that some people are, as we all know, in a horrific situation. Whatever people think of the Government in the UK, it does not carry out large-scale attacks against its own people, as we have seen in Syria, and the Government of the UK does not routinely persecute and incarcerate people who dare to speak out against them. Of course we recognise that people in many places across the world need to flee. They need to move away from that situation.

Where I end up, however, and where I have sympathy with some of the arguments made by those on the right among Conservative Members, is that there is a clear and distinct dividing line between someone moving away from danger by necessity and someone moving towards something else by choice. That is where much of the message is lost and drowned out by noisy activists on both sides, when a calm and common-sense approach to thinking about the problem would make it very clear. Those people I mentioned earlier, in danger and in fear of persecution, incarceration or worse, must of course do all they can to remove themselves from that situation and to save their lives and those of their families. I have absolutely no problem with that.

Where the problem lies, however, is that once there is no danger and the fear of persecution, incarceration or worse has passed, movement is out of choice rather than necessity. People are then moving towards something they consider preferable, rather than away from danger—the danger is over. I completely understand the arguments and the confusion about why people need to move from France, a perfectly safe country. Aside from the occasional street protest, and baggage handlers battering luggage when they actually turn up for work, France is a civilised, modern and, above all, safe country where people are not in danger, so people who come from there are no longer seeking to escape but are in fact moving towards something preferable. That is where the arguments of certain charities and some Opposition Members sadly lose their credibility.

The problem is that, once they have made that journey across the channel, they are our responsibility, and we simply cannot send them back unless France agrees to take them, which it will not—why would it? Aside from the fact that the French have no desire to increase their own problem, we have just spent the last decade calling them and their friends everything under the sun and saying that we do not want anything more to do with them, so of course they are not inclined to help us deal with this problem.

What do we do when we cannot just send people back and have to deal with the situation ourselves? We have heard many Opposition Members say that we cannot do this or that, but no one has said, “Here is what we would do instead.” Many people have said throughout the debate that there is no capacity in the UK—that we do not have enough houses for everyone, or enough doctors, dentists, hospitals schools or general infrastructure for even our existing population—and they are right. Relocating asylum seekers to a safe third country is a long-established mechanism used all over the world—it is nothing new—but I do not like the push for a lack of due process in order to remove people’s rights in favour of speed, expediency and a populist movement.

Amendments 2 and 3 would balance those competing needs by allowing for appeals if they are heard remotely from Rwanda post-deportation, which seems perfectly feasible. If covid taught us anything helpful, it was that we could be a lot more flexible in our use of technology than we had been. Since 2020, courts have been rapidly moving online: the cloud video platform was introduced in response to the pandemic, and a video hearing system is already being used nationally in tax and property tribunals, as well as in Chester Crown court, not far from my constituency. By all accounts, it works seamlessly and is a great success. His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service plans to transition to a new service of video hearings covering more areas, so it seems perfectly reasonable for the same technology to be used to hear appeals against asylum decisions.

As the Government have considerably narrowed the eligibility of appeals in clauses 2 and 3, the chance of any eligible claim rearing its head is negligible, so there is no reason that individuals cannot continue to be removed before having their appeal heard via a Government-established video conferencing facility in Rwanda. I am aware of the established principle laid down in law, in the European convention on human rights, that people cannot be removed to Rwanda if there is an imminent and foreseeable risk of serious and irreversible harm. The Government rightly need to pay heed to that situation, as the UK is very much a signatory to the ECHR—a situation that should not even be considered for change.

As the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Dame Diana Johnson, mentioned, it would not be appropriate simply to ignore that rule. I thank the Minister for the time he took to address that concern in relation to my amendment and to explain why he did not feel that my proposals would be possible. I completely accept his explanation and am pleased to have had it confirmed by the right hon. Lady earlier, but I hope that a simple common-sense approach will be taken in the aftermath. For example, colleagues have expressed concern that women who are heavily pregnant might be able to appeal on the basis of being unfit to fly. I hope that the process will recognise that anyone determining themselves fit enough to take a 30-mile journey across a dangerous sea in a barely floating craft that could capsize at any moment cannot then claim to be unfit to take a flight in perfectly comfortable and safe conditions.

The Government have rightly narrowed down the possible reasons for appeals so much that I am astonished that there are still people who are arguing it is not enough. Once again, we allow murderers to appeal. We remain a civilised society; we cannot simply rule it out. We hear all the time about people being wrongly convicted of things: we have spent the last few weeks hearing about a bunch of people who were wrongly convicted in the Horizon scandal. I do not believe for a second that anyone in the House would have denied them the right to appeal, so I implore colleagues not to lose sight of their humanity. The grounds for appeal are so narrow that they will hardly ever apply.

I have spoken for plenty long enough, apart from to say that amendments 56 and 57, which stand in the name of Sir Edward Leigh, are also eminently sensible and would close another potential loophole. I hope upon hope that colleagues will be able to see the wood for the trees on these issues, understand that entirely taking away the right of appeal would be an affront to our legal framework, and not obstruct the Bill any further.

Photo of Michael Shanks Michael Shanks Shadow Minister (Scotland) 4:15, 16 January 2024

It is a pleasure to follow a contribution that was slightly more rational than those we have heard from a number of Members on the Conservative Benches during today’s debate. This is my first Committee of the whole House, and it has been an interesting experience. We have had 17th-century constitutional and political lectures, analysis of the US constitution and, really interestingly, the suggestion from a number of Conservative Members—which slightly lets the cat out of the bag—that this policy is all about the upcoming general election and how quickly we can get flights off the ground before that happens. We have heard very little about whether the Bill actually contributes to an effective immigration strategy.

I rise to speak in support of new clause 6. I have spoken in various other debates on this legislation and outlined my objections. It is a fundamentally ridiculous proposition that is becoming increasingly ridiculous as we see the Tory psychodrama playing out in front of us—slightly less dramatic this time than it was in December, but I am sure that will change—and pulling the Bill in two completely opposing directions while the Government still claim that it is an entirely workable policy. It has the dubious distinction of being a policy that is both utterly immoral and completely ineffective, at the same time as costing an extraordinary amount of money. It is seemingly not even supported by the Prime Minister, yet here we are, debating amendments that will take the Bill even closer to breaching international law—if it does not already—and further diminish Britain’s standing in the world. The Bill should be voted down on Third Reading, and from the looks of the Tory chaos it might well be, but for now we have an opportunity to try to make it a little better with some safeguards.

In my view, new clause 6 should be completely uncontroversial. If the Government genuinely believe that Rwanda is a safe country—if they believe it is able to meet all the expectations placed on it in the Rwanda treaty—why should there be any hesitation at all about putting the monitoring committee on a statutory footing? That would ensure that Rwanda’s status as a safe country can be suspended if the facts change—if we uncover additional evidence that perhaps it is not a safe country, if the political situation changes, or if the Foreign Office changes its travel guidance. Surely those are basic things that would lead us to question the safety of Rwanda.

It is on that evidence base that I will focus my remarks. As has been discussed, clause 2 of the Bill is an attempt to replace facts with legally binding fiction. The Bill might be said to legislate for a lie—to make something that is not true on the evidence we have seen true in the eyes of the legal establishment. It was Orwell who wrote:

“In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it…the very existence of external reality…was tacitly denied by their philosophy.”

We are in that situation now: “Forget the evidence to the contrary. Just take our word for it: this is fact.” Through new clause 6, we have an opportunity to ensure that if evidence of human rights abuses or the mistreatment of migrants were to emerge, there is a mechanism to suspend the Government’s alternative truth and make legal decisions in our courts on the basis of reality.

It is risible that this is even debatable. Given the security situation near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi, which the Foreign Office, in its own international travel guidance today, says makes Rwanda “unstable”, is it not a sensible precaution to introduce a protection saying that if the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office were to advise against travel to Rwanda, the statement that Rwanda is a safe country for migrants should be suspended? Otherwise, we have a Bill that the Government seek to make into law that simply says that in perpetuity, no matter what, Rwanda is a safe country.

The 137 pages of the Home Office’s information note on human rights, which it published this week, make for interesting reading. I spent some time reading all 137 pages, and I encourage Members to do so, although I wonder how many have. In some ways, when I was reading it, I was surprised that the Government had actually put it on their website, given the litany of evidence it presents on why Rwanda cannot in all seriousness be declared a safe country. It details examples of the state prosecuting political opponents, deaths in police custody, unofficial detention facilities, police torture, ill treatment and torture in custody, the recruitment of child soldiers as recently as last year, and countless other breaches of human rights law. It also covers the questionable strength of Rwandan Government institutions to challenge those breaches, so I do wonder whether the Government have read their own evidence pack.

To add to that, this week the UNHCR has provided further evidence, updated just yesterday, that the UK-Rwanda scheme does not meet the required standards relating to the legality and appropriateness of the transfer of asylum seekers. It states that the scheme is therefore

“not compatible with the international refugee law.”

It cites numerous concerns about fair and efficient procedures in Rwanda for handling asylum applications and the continued risks of refoulement, and it concludes that this

“undermines the universality of human rights, has implications for the rule of law both domestically and internationally, and sets an acutely troubling precedent.”

The evidence is clear on the Government’s own website that Rwanda cannot be defined as a safe country, but even if we were to accept that it is a safe country, surely new clause 6 gives scope in the future should circumstances change—even if it is the Government who decide that—to suspend the idea that it is a safe country and allow the courts to make their own decisions.

Although voting down this entire Bill on Third Reading is the right course of action, we should at least try to do what we can to make it slightly more sensible—to oppose some of the amendments tabled by Conservative Members that would take us even further towards breaching our international obligations, and to support amendments that seek to make it slightly more sensible. New clause 6 is a sensible amendment that I would encourage Members to vote for.

This Bill must be defeated and the policy it seeks to enact must be abandoned. It is hugely costly and it is ineffective. With the news this week that, as Members have said, five more people have been tragically killed in the freezing cold waters of the channel trying to make their way to this country, it is time to move beyond these gimmicks and the appeasement of the extremes in the Conservative party and to deliver some workable policies.

Photo of Simon Clarke Simon Clarke Conservative, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland

It is a pleasure to speak in the debate. I rise to speak in support of the amendments standing in the names of my hon. Friend Sir William Cash and my right hon. Friend Robert Jenrick, who I believe has shown considerable political and personal courage during the course of this legislation to date.

I want to open my remarks by saying how strongly I believe in the principles of the Rwanda scheme. It is imperative that we break the business model of the people smugglers in a way that means the trade is not merely dented but ceases. We have heard platitudes, I fear, from Opposition Members about how if only we worked a bit more closely with the European law enforcement agencies, everything would resolve itself. Of course, would that that was so.

I can testify not only from my own time in Government but from having spoken to Ministers in the Home Office both currently and previously that a litany of work is under way to make sure that we bear down on this evil trade, and it has had some success. Crossings are down by approximately a third on their peak in 2022, and there has been enforcement action ranging from the French coast right through to dinghy sales in Bulgaria, which testifies to the fact that the UK is working at pace with our partner agencies to try to end these crossings. However, unless we address the root causes, we will always be left dealing with the consequences of the problem. That, I am afraid, is not acceptable to me and, much more importantly, it is not acceptable to my constituents or to the people of this country.

Just this weekend we had, as Michael Shanks said, a tragic reminder of the human cost of allowing this trade to persist. Clearly it also has serious consequences for the United Kingdom. It makes a mockery of our border security and damages social cohesion. The accommodation costs alone of our asylum seeker population are somewhere in the region of £8 million a day, and that is before the through-life costs of these people being in this country. It also compromises our security, as the awful murder in Hartlepool a few months ago made clear. We do not know—we cannot know—who is coming into this country, and that is a serious and substantial risk that it is incumbent on us to acknowledge.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Newark alluded to, the test that faces us as legislators is simple: will this legislation work? It is not, “Is this legislation the strongest ever?”, although for the record it is, but it is still likely to prove insufficient. Still less is the test, “Is this as far as the Prime Minister is willing to go?” There is a crisis of faith in our politics. That boils down, as it has done for a number of years, spanning the Brexit debate and the causes of that, to whether we as Members of Parliament mean what we say. Is our word worth anything? Are we capable as a country of asserting our national sovereignty? Are we as a country capable of policing our borders?

I welcome the fact that the Government have decided that we now need to derogate from parts of the Human Rights Act 1998, which is welcome, brave and commendable. We now need to follow that logic to its conclusion. As amendment 10, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone, sets out, we should set out clearly and unambiguously that this Act will have effect notwithstanding the Human Rights Act. We must also close the loopholes that regrettably remain in the legislation. We have proposals to do so, with an accompanying legal opinion from John Larkin KC, the former Attorney General for Northern Ireland.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Newark set out eloquently a few hours ago, we must in particular strengthen provisions against individual claims, as opposed to the general principle of the safety of Rwanda. It is welcome that we are asserting that, but it will be critically undermined unless we can stop the profusion of individual claims that will materialise, not least with the help, I am afraid, of the creative legal fraternity, if we do not close off that route.

Contrary to what Mr Roberts said a few minutes ago, we are not excluding appeal rights entirely. If, for example, someone is seriously ill, they will not be eligible for removal to Rwanda under the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone. However, we must make it clear that we will not tolerate the abuses—and they are abuses—that we witness day in, day out under the current system.

We must also make clear in the Bill that rule 39 interim injunctions from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg will not have automatic binding effect. That is something that I think many of us regarded as a settled issue. Anyone who watched the Prime Minister’s appearance on the Kuenssberg show on the BBC just 10 days ago will have seen that he was unable to offer that guarantee. He was unable to offer it in good conscience, because here we enter the contested territory of what the Attorney General is prepared to sign off and what the ministerial code will allow. That goes to show precisely why the issue is so pressing. If we do not assert it as a sovereign Parliament in the Bill, it is highly likely that the issue will rear its head again in the months ahead.

Failure to close the loopholes will mean that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Newark said, we will face pressing operational problems that will significantly impair, and perhaps totally frustrate, our ability to pursue what this side of the Committee wishes to deliver. Our court system will be overwhelmed, our detained estate for asylum seekers will be overwhelmed, and the public’s patience will be exhausted. We have marched the British public up this hill not once, but twice already and failed both times. This is our third attempt. The Government’s own estimate, as we know, is that as we stand today, the Bill’s best chance of success can be rated at around 50:50. That is simply not adequate.

We hear today that 150 judges and their courts will be made available to process appeals arising under the legislation. Apart from being one of the most effective devices I can conceive of to worsen our existing court backlog, that is simply confirmation of the scale of the problems that the Government anticipate as a result of what will happen under the Bill as drafted. I do not know where we will find these judges, and it would be helpful if the Minister—I hope he knows that I have an enormous amount of personal and professional respect for him—could elucidate that in his remarks. I do not know from which cases they will be diverted, and I certainly do not know at what cost that will all be accomplished, but it is not a tenable strategy for us to set aside such a huge amount of court time when we can act now to prevent spurious abuses being sustained still further.

As my right hon. Friend Sir Edward Leigh said, this is our last chance to act in this Parliament. We have tried on multiple occasions. Despite the valiant efforts of my right hon. Friend Priti Patel, my right hon. and learned Friend Suella Braverman, my right hon. Friend Kevin Foster and for Corby (Tom Pursglove) and others, we have not succeeded. It comes down to this fundamental question: in whose interest do we sit here? Do we legislate today? It is clearly in the public interest that we sit here.

I warned in the debates on Brexit, which I had hoped were relegated to the annals of history, that the House was playing with fire. If mainstream democratic politicians do not or cannot resolve the problems that face this country, our political process will, I am afraid, move inextricably to the extremes. We have heard a lot of rhetoric—it is rhetoric—from those on the Opposition Benches about the extremeness of the position we are advocating. Trust me: it will be as nothing compared with who will sit on these Benches if we fail in our task, because we are at the limits of the tenable when it comes to the feelings of the British public.

If the Labour party wins the general election that will be held later this year—I freely admit that the polling at the moment suggests that it will, in large part because of the frustration, frankly, that the British people feel about this issue—it will have to confront these same problems. If it is not willing to act any more than we have been willing to act, it will be eaten by this issue just the same. It is a certainty that we have to slay this beast, if it is not to destroy all the mainstream centre ground of British politics and leave it in the hands of people who will advocate genuinely radical and unacceptable solutions.

Photo of Rob Roberts Rob Roberts Independent, Delyn 4:30, 16 January 2024

My right hon. Friend is making a powerful speech. I am curious, and it is possibly my procedural unawareness that leads me to ask this question, but if this Bill is voted down tomorrow evening on Third Reading, is it not the case that we will not be able to bring anything else back within this Parliament, on the basis that we cannot ask the same question twice if it has already been negatived? He said that it is not an ideal Bill, it is flawed and its success is 50:50 at best, but if he votes it down, there is surely a zero per cent. chance of anything happening.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee, Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee

Order. I remind Members that when intervening they should please look forward, so that their voice, mellifluous as it may be, can be picked up and the Hansard reporters can get the words down accurately.

Photo of Simon Clarke Simon Clarke Conservative, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. It is possible to bring back a Bill on this issue, providing there is a substantial difference in what is brought forward from what we are debating. I would argue that a Bill that was not focused, as this one is, on the general safety of Rwanda, but on the wider enforceability of our immigration law could be brought forward in this Session.

It was a regrettable farce—I use the word advisedly—in the previous Parliament of which I was a Member that the overt bias of the then Speaker, Mr Bercow, meant that we were frustrated when we attempted to deal with this issue in the context of Brexit. If the Government do not support amendments to the Bill—I hope they will—I do not anticipate that situation arising in what would be the happy event of their coming forward with a new Bill that goes further on these points so that they can command the support of the whole of the Conservative party.

Photo of Simon Clarke Simon Clarke Conservative, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland

I will not give way further on this point. We are clearly keen as a Conservative party to deliver on this problem in a way that will satisfy the British public.

The Prime Minister has said that he will do “whatever it takes”. Unfortunately, I do not believe that, as of this moment, we are set to do whatever it takes to stop the problem. I can vote for this legislation only if I believe genuinely and sincerely that it will resolve the problem and I can look my constituents—the people who send me here—in the eye and say, “This is going to fix it”, because I have done so twice before and let them down. I urge my colleagues to reflect carefully on that.

The Prime Minister has confirmed that the general election is likely to be held in the latter half of this year. I am afraid that, by that time, there will have been contact between this Bill and the reality of our court system, and I do not think the outcome will be a pretty one. There will have been time for it to be tested and, I fear, for it to fail. At best, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Newark observed, we are likely to see a few token flights setting off—not the automatic deterrent that will be required to change the incentives. The expectation for a young male who is in essence an economic migrant in all but name seeking a better life in the UK needs to be that he will be detained and removed. That, and that alone, is what will change the incentives driving this trade. That is not what is set to be delivered by the Bill.

In the absence of amendments being brought forward and supported by the Government, I will not be able to support the Bill. More than that, I will vote against it on Third Reading. I say that with real sadness but with total determination that we as a Conservative party should show that we are honest with the British people about the nature of the crisis we face, and that we are determined to do everything in our power to resolve it. Short of that, this legislation cannot have my support.

Photo of Jane Stevenson Jane Stevenson Conservative, Wolverhampton North East

I rise to speak to the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend Sir William Cash and my right hon. Friend Robert Jenrick. Those of us in this place who are not learned Members have had interesting conversations in the past weeks and months with learned colleagues on both sides of the argument on the Bill. Some want it toughened and some want it slightly softened, but all of us are united in wanting a Bill that works and allows the Prime Minister to deliver on his promise.

I absolutely trust the Prime Minister’s commitment to ensuring that we can stop the boats. I believe that the Rwanda policy can be a deterrent to people. If their expectation is that they will not succeed and they do not have a right to remain in the United Kingdom, they will not pay their money to a person who promises they can succeed. I am grateful to my learned colleagues for putting forward their opinions. If that has shown me anything, it is that lawyers like to talk and argue, and it is in their interests to do so, so we cannot pass a Bill that enables lawyers to bat cases around indefinitely and allow appeals to be lodged—enough to make the policy ineffective.

My constituents find it ludicrous that they elect Members to come to this place and act in their interests, yet we do not seem to be able to do that. I think the small boats trade is raised with me on the doorstep more than any other issue. It is an evil practice on so many levels. These are people making money from others’ misery, and they are putting lives at risk. As I have said before, it is perverse, because a fair and just asylum system should not be reliant on a person’s ability to scramble thousands of miles—across a continent—and to pay people smugglers. It is absurd to any rational person.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

The hon. Lady says that the asylum system has limitations, but does she accept that the only way legally to claim asylum in the United Kingdom is to put feet on these shores? There is no asylum visa, and the Government have not proposed any new safe and legal routes to allow people to come here.

Photo of Jane Stevenson Jane Stevenson Conservative, Wolverhampton North East

Another absurdity that my constituents raise with me is that Opposition parties seem to speak for the rights and interests of 8 billion in the world above the rights of the people who elect us to serve here. I invite the hon. Lady to intervene again, because I do not ever hear a sensible limit. I will come to international development later in my remarks, but undoubtedly, many more people would have the right under the current framework to claim asylum here than we could ever possibly hope to accept into the United Kingdom. Does she have a number that she thinks would be acceptable? At what point is this argument exhausted?

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

The hon. Lady’s point is quite absurd. Nobody is saying, realistically, that 8 billion people are coming to the UK. The vast majority of people who flee their countries stay in a neighbouring country. They do not go any further because they want to return home. The UK takes a very small percentage of that number, and those who come often do so to reunite with family and for safety, because there are people already here who can look after them and support them.

Photo of Jane Stevenson Jane Stevenson Conservative, Wolverhampton North East

I fundamentally disagree with the hon. Lady. Scotland does not have the same issues as many English places, and I do not think that Scotland has taken its fair share of asylum seekers in recent months. Globally, we need to look at a bigger reality. Our responsibility in this place is to look forward. The Rwanda Bill will be a deterrent. If it succeeds, it will put people off making those perilous journeys and break the evil, perverse model of people smuggling.

We need to look at the wider framework as well. I had an interesting visit to Washington last year, when I met many people, including from the Word Bank. If anyone has not read its report last year on global migration trends that it anticipates over the coming decades, I invite them to read it. We also met the United States Agency for International Development. My profound belief is that the answer for the world is not to empty the less affluent bits into the stable, affluent bits. Mathematically, if nothing else, that cannot work.

Now is the moment for us to consider a much wider picture and to question the whole framework, much of it devised for a European issue 70 years ago. We live in a very different world. Twenty years ago, information was not available to people living in developing countries. The internet was not there. They had no idea how to get from point A to point B, who to pay, what to say and what to expect when they arrive. We are living in a totally different world. I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to dealing with that. In December, he spoke to the Fratelli d’Italia conference in Rome, where he was quite clear, on breaking the business model of the criminal gangs, that

“if that requires us to update our laws and lead an international conversation to amend post-war frameworks around asylum, then we must do that. Because if we don’t fix this problem now, the boats will keep coming and more lives will be lost at sea.”

I wholeheartedly agree.

I am well known in Wolverhampton for telling my Labour council to get a move on, and on this issue I turn my fire, briefly and in a friendly way, on the Prime Minister. He should get a move on. He should be leading that global conversation. It is one that so many countries are ready to have. The United States is ready to have it, and most European countries are looking to our policy to see if it will work, They accept the mathematical and social reality, and that is what our constituents want.

I will conclude, as I do not wish to speak at great length. I thank all colleagues who are trying to strengthen the Bill. I want it to be as robust as possible, because we need it to be fit for the crisis we face. It is a crisis and my constituents certainly want to see results, so I will support the amendments. I also want to put on record my wholehearted thanks to the Prime Minister for his determination to sort this issue out.

Photo of Miriam Cates Miriam Cates Conservative, Penistone and Stocksbridge

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Jane Stevenson. She made a fantastic speech and got to grips with the heart of the issue.

I rise to speak in support of the amendments in the name of my hon. Friend Sir William Cash and my right hon. Friend Robert Jenrick. In particular, I want to speak to amendments 19 to 22 to clause 4, in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Newark. Taken together, they will prevent individual migrants blocking their removal to Rwanda by using the UK courts to make claims over months and even years. The Bill already blocks claims relating to the general safety of Rwanda in particular, but it does not stop individual challenges like those that stopped the flight in June 2022, which ended up with the case that went to the Supreme Court last year.

As drafted, the Bill states that for an individual to avoid deportation, there must be compelling evidence that they would come to serious and irreversible harm if deported to Rwanda. That sounds like a very high bar, but in reality all that would be required is a doctor’s certificate certifying mental health problems if they were taken to Rwanda. Indeed, that is what happened in June 2022 to a couple of dozen people sitting on the flight on the tarmac. Nothing in the Bill materially changes that fact in terms of individual claims.

Even if claims are eventually not accepted, they still clog up the courts. They can still end up on appeal and, as we have heard, that can be for a matter of years. The Government said last night that they will increase, I think by about 150, the number of judges on the tribunals. All that shows is that the Government expect a large number of individual claims. If the Bill, as drafted, blocks individual claims as the Government suggest, why would they need additional judges to move through the courts? The questions raised by my right hon. Friend Sir Simon Clarke, about where the judges would come from and what impact that would have on our wider courts system, are very valid.

If individual claims clog up the courts for months or even years, then even if they are not ultimately successful they will automatically weaken the deterrent effect of the Bill. The whole purpose of the Rwanda plan is to be a deterrent, and deterrents only work if the same action is always followed by a consistent response. It is the same with the criminal justice system and the same with parenting. Effective deterrents are by definition fair, because they treat everybody equally. Some of those opposing the amendments are normally highly in favour of equality. The amendments make it equal: everybody who arrives here illegally will be detained and deported. That is how we create an effective deterrent.

I readily admit that the Government have made progress and I warmly welcome all the progress that has been made: the deal with Albania, the upstream work with Bulgaria, and the attempts to help the French prevent more boats from launching in the first place. But to actually stop the boats, which is the Prime Minister’s pledge and the pledge we as a party have made to our constituents, migrants in Calais and the international criminal gangs must know beyond doubt that anyone arriving illegally in the UK will swiftly be detained and deported.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East is absolutely right; criminal gangs and migrants have smartphones. They can tell instantly which routes are available, where the boats are, how much they have to pay, what different countries’ asylum systems look like and what different countries’ benefit systems look like. They have an instant trade in information. A deterrent can only work if everyone knows beyond doubt that that is exactly what will happen to everyone who lands on our shores.

Photo of Lia Nici Lia Nici Conservative, Great Grimsby

I commend my hon. Friend for all the work that she has been doing in this regard. Does she agree that the reason we need to strengthen these clauses—this is why I will support the amendments—is that the whole purpose of the majority of people who come here illegally is to claim asylum in order to prevent the possibility of deportation? The Home Office’s own figures show that when that process has happened, 70% of those people abscond. We need to stop that now.

Photo of Miriam Cates Miriam Cates Conservative, Penistone and Stocksbridge

I entirely agree. The problem is that Britain has become known as a soft touch, partly because of the delays in our courts, partly because of the generosity that has led to the housing of migrants in hotels, and partly because our acceptance rate is very high compared with those in other countries. If the Bill is to serve as an effective deterrent, we must remove the limitations of the current scheme by ensuring that everyone who arrives here illegally is swiftly detained and then deported.

The amendments argue that individual migrants should not be able to make suspensive claims—they should not be able, in British courts, to claim against deportation—but should retain those rights when they arrive in Rwanda. We are not talking about removing those individual rights to claim asylum, or even to be sent back to the UK in some circumstances. However, it is essential for that process to happen offshore, in the third country of Rwanda, because it is the deportation that is the deterrent. That is why the amendments are so necessary for all individuals, except those who are unfit to fly or in respect of whom obvious mistakes have been made. Of course they should not be put on planes to Rwanda, but the amendments would make it consistent for all others to be sent there.

As I have said, the point of this is a deterrent, but there is strong opposition to the amendments—on the Opposition Benches, obviously, but also among many on these Benches. Let me draw their attention to a poll published last night in The Telegraph, which showed that in nearly every constituency swift detention and deportation is the most popular way of dealing with illegal immigration. It is the preferred option for a large proportion of the general public. While various interpretations of international law and its application may be strongly contested in Westminster, as we have heard today, the need for secure borders is not a contested idea in the country as a whole.

The British people are generous and compassionate. They support managed schemes to welcome refugees, as we have seen over the past few years. However, when they see tens of thousands of mostly able-bodied young men coming from France, which is a safe country, taking physical risks to cross the world’s busiest shipping lane in dinghies, and then being housed in hotels at great expense to taxpayers—and when they see some of those people absconding and some committing horrific crimes, and then hear Westminster commentators saying that because of international conventions we cannot deport them—they ask, “Are you serious?” Are we, indeed, serious in saying that we cannot do that?

Most ordinary people in this country do not lie awake at night worrying about our standing among elite international lawyers. They lie awake at night worrying about security, crime and the cost of housing, all the issues that are made significantly worse by the abuse of our asylum and immigration system—because, without doubt, our system is being abused, and will continue to be abused unless the Bill is strengthened to limit those suspensive claims so that all the people arriving on our shores illegally are treated in the same way, and are detained and deported.

The fact is that weaknesses are always exploited. That is a sad fact of history and human nature, and those who do not believe it are, I am afraid, naive. We must deal with the reality. My right hon. Friend Sir Edward Leigh put it very well: many of us would behave in exactly the same way in these circumstances, if we saw what was available in the UK and compared it to a life in another country, and if we knew that it was easy to come here, tie up the courts for a long time and, potentially, abscond. Many would do the same, because that is human nature. The reality is what we have to deal with.

This is a matter of responsibility. The responsibility of the British Government is the safety and welfare of the British people. It is not our responsibility to rehouse everybody in the world who would like to leave their own country and come to ours. We can absolutely sympathise with their plight as individuals, but it is simply unrealistic to say that the UK has a responsibility to any asylum seeker anywhere in the world who would like to come here. We have a responsibility for our constituents; other Governments have a responsibility for theirs. If they are not engaging with that responsibility correctly, that is not our fault.

Photo of Jane Stevenson Jane Stevenson Conservative, Wolverhampton North East

Would my hon. Friend agree that a focus on foreign aid and a united effort—[Interruption.] I thank Alison Thewliss for shouting at me. Does my hon. Friend agree that there should be a united focus on helping safe developing countries to benefit from giving these people asylum? They could make good lives there, with education and good prospects for their children. That is the way forward rather than this mass influx into the UK.

Photo of Miriam Cates Miriam Cates Conservative, Penistone and Stocksbridge

I agree with my hon. Friend, who of course is right. One of the many solutions to this problem is to improve conditions in some of the countries from which people are fleeing, but we also have to be realistic. We cannot solve all the problems in the world. We are speaking about illegal migration, but there are also ethical issues with legal migration. Taking large numbers of well-trained, well-educated young people from developing countries into our NHS and our workforce is not helping the countries that they are leaving. The ethics of the whole immigration debate need careful scrutiny in both directions.

I shall come back to my point. Yes, we should be compassionate and yes, we need well-managed schemes for taking refugees, but it is not the responsibility of the British Government to rehouse everybody in the world who would like to come here. That does not mean that we do not have sympathy for the plight of individuals, but the definition of responsibility and accountability matters, and our responsibility is first and foremost to our constituents and the welfare of those in the UK.

I support these amendments and I will be voting for them tonight because the Bill must work. It must work to provide an effective deterrent; it must work to secure our borders; it must work to prevent people smuggling; and it must work to show the British people that their elected representatives really do take their concerns seriously.

Photo of Matt Warman Matt Warman Conservative, Boston and Skegness

I want to begin by talking about the remarkable contribution of my hon. Friend Sir William Cash, to whose amendment I wish to speak. In a constituency such as mine, which voted overwhelmingly for Brexit, the work that he has done over many decades is appreciated, and it is something that has served the national interest, so I am somewhat nervous about criticising amendment 10. None the less, I know that he and I, more than anything else, can disagree courteously, which is perhaps more than I and many others have managed with some Brexiteers who have perhaps got too much credit for a project that has now run its course.

I could talk a little about why I worry that a Bill that is already judged to have a 50:50 chance of success could, in the pursuit of toughening it up, be driven to having a far lesser chance of success. The people who say that they want it to work, and to work quickly, in fact run the risk of driving it into the courts, seeing it fail and seeing us as a party take less of the action that is so clearly in the national interest.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee

Having looked at my amendment carefully, has my hon. Friend observed that the only way to guarantee that this Bill will be satisfactorily regarded by the courts is if the sovereignty of an Act of Parliament is combined with clear, unambiguous words that improve the Bill? That does not mean that it will not go through; it means that it will go through and the courts will accept it.

Photo of Matt Warman Matt Warman Conservative, Boston and Skegness

I would agree with my hon. Friend that the Bill could go through, but that does not guarantee legal success, as he knows. He is right to say that there is a respectable legal argument to be made for it, but a respectable legal argument does not guarantee success. I want, not least because of the poll that he and others have cited, to see us taking clear and effective action on this. To be successful, that clear and effective action must be able to survive the potential legal challenges. I argue in favour of the tightrope on which the Government are walking not because I lack conviction but because I want to see action as quickly as possible on an issue that, I hear from my constituents day in, day out, has a clear and real impact on their lives.

Only yesterday, the Home Office announced that it is closing another two hotels in my constituency that are being used to house asylum seekers. The global migration crisis is on the doorstep of constituents in Boston and Skegness, which is why we must tackle it effectively. I will take no lectures from anyone in this Committee on my personal commitment to tackling this issue, and I want the Government to stay on the tightrope and to get on with addressing this vital matter.

I fear the signals that amendment 10 would send, as it would mean this country is able to ignore more of the European convention on human rights, more of the refugee convention and more of a whole host of international agreements. Surely, having helped to write those agreements 70 years ago, this country has a duty, as my hon. Friend Jane Stevenson said, to see them reformed and improved. Spain, Germany, Italy and France do not think the refugee convention is working for them either, and I do not think it is working for this country or for my constituency. I want to see it reformed and improved because, more than anything, the refugee convention is not working for refugees. The role of this great country surely should be to stay at the table and to work within a global system. The ECHR, the refugee convention and a whole host of other international agreements need to be better, and we have already seen some positive reforms, but we could see more if we stay at the table.

If we say those rules should not apply to us, we would be sending a signal that we are stepping back from that conversation. We would be saying that we are resiling rather than wanting to see reform. We would be saying that we want to back out rather than back ourselves in having a place in the world and a place at the table.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee 5:00, 16 January 2024

I hope my hon. Friend noticed that I said that changes to the European Union’s charter of fundamental rights and the European Court of Human Rights will ultimately lead to constitutional referenda and amendments, which would not only take a long time but might be impossible.

Photo of Matt Warman Matt Warman Conservative, Boston and Skegness

I fear that some of what my hon. Friend says is correct, but it is also true that we lessen our ability to make that case, on our own behalf and in the global interest, if we step back. I want to see Britain leading that conversation and taking its place at the table. If we can do that, we will be able to construct a global system today, just as we did 70 years ago. It worked then, and we need a system that works now.

The more we send a signal that says Britain is stepping back, the less we have the right to make the case, and making that case is surely in the interest of all our constituents. My hon. Friend is right that it will take a long time, but he surely has to acknowledge that we must have that long-term view, because this global migration crisis will be with us for decades. If we step back, we will have less right to influence that conversation.

Photo of Lia Nici Lia Nici Conservative, Great Grimsby

I thank my hon. Friend and near constituency neighbour for giving way. I am sure his constituents are in the same frame of mind as mine on how illegal migration is having a detrimental effect on our communities. Does he agree that that is why it is so important for us to be able to have these wider discussions, and for the Government to take our amendments seriously? It is only by having robust discussions on the options and amendments that we want the Government to consider that, internationally, we can get to the place he talks about.

Photo of Matt Warman Matt Warman Conservative, Boston and Skegness

I agree up to a point, but the Government can go only so far before they lessen their chances of getting the Bill through successfully in terms of potential future legal challenges. This is about the practicality of delivering a Bill and about Britain’s place on the world stage, which should allow us to continue to play a leading role in reforming those vital conventions and international agreements.

Does the Bill work? Does it go as far as it can without fundamentally jeopardising its chance of legal success? Yes, it does. It walks a tightrope. I know that my right hon. Friend Robert Jenrick says that there is legal advice supporting his position, and I would like to see it, as I am sure the Government would. However, that practical issue of whether the Bill can work is a tightrope that the Government have to judge. I accept that the Bill goes as far as it can—for me, in some ways, it goes too far. Some Conservative Members have said that it goes too far for them but that they are prepared to support it because of the importance of the issue.

Beyond that, we need to address Britain’s place in the world and our role: our ability to help shape a new set of conventions that work not just for us or for countries that share our values and share this problem, but for the countries that people are fleeing from. We have an opportunity to reform that global system and we lessen our ability to do so if we say that we are able to stand apart from its rules. That is a balance we can strike, and if we are optimistic about Britain’s future place in the world, we should be saying that we stay at that table, not that we resile from it. That is why I will support the Government in seeking to rebuff the amendments and to get on with addressing this vital issue, because it will establish Britain as a country that is committed to those commitments that we made some time ago and helped to draw up. It will also demonstrate that we are committed to going as far as possible in pursuit of challenging a vital issue that affects all our constituents. I look forward to the Government’s winning the vote this evening.

Photo of Michael Tomlinson Michael Tomlinson Minister of State (Minister for Illegal Migration)

What a great pleasure it is to follow my hon. Friend Matt Warman. I believe it is the second time I have done so on this Bill, and I will try to emulate his courteous exchanges with colleagues. I enjoyed his exchanges with my hon. Friend Sir William Cash and with his near neighbour, my hon. Friend Lia Nici, because it is with such courtesy that we can still have a robust discussion about this vital issue. We have had a wide-ranging debate and I am grateful to all right hon. and hon. Members for their contributions.

As Alison Thewliss had the lead amendment, I start by making some overarching remarks in response to her amendments. This House has a fundamental choice: we can legislate, as the Government propose, to end the perilous journeys being made across the channel, by enabling Parliament to confirm that, in the light of the treaty that the Home Secretary signed on 5 December and of the updated evidence, the Republic of Rwanda is a safe third country, or we can put into statute a scheme that is riven with holes by amendments tabled by right hon. and hon. Opposition Members that make the Bill simply unworkable.

The new legally binding treaty with the Government of the Republic of Rwanda does respond to the concerns set out by the Supreme Court. It also reflects the strength of the Government of Rwanda’s protections and commitments, both to this scheme and to the rule of law—I will return to that point later in my speech. Let there be no doubt that our Government are focused and determined to stop the boats. We have made progress, but we must be enabled to finish the job.

Clause 2 creates a conclusive presumption that the Secretary of State, immigration officers, and courts and tribunals must start from the basis that Rwanda is safe. It is right to say that it will not send someone to another country in breach of the refugee convention. The Supreme Court’s ruling on the Rwanda policy recognised that changes could be delivered in the future that could address the conclusions they came to, and we have been working closely with Rwanda to address those issues. When considered together, the treaty and the evidence of the changes in Rwanda since the summer of 2022—I will come back to that evidence in relation to points picked up by right hon. and hon. Members during the debate—mean that we can confidently conclude that Rwanda is a safe country.

Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady Scottish National Party, Glasgow North

If Rwanda is a safe and secure place in which asylum seekers can live comfortable and productive lives, why should the prospect of being sent there be a deterrent?

Photo of Michael Tomlinson Michael Tomlinson Minister of State (Minister for Illegal Migration)

The deterrent is because they are seeking to come to this country and not Rwanda. I hope the hon. Gentleman listens to the evidence that I am about to set out. He has sat through a fair amount of the debate and I always enjoy taking interventions from him, so I encourage him to consider the evidence as I progress with my remarks.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee

As he heard, I made reference to the Rwanda judgment and the case of ASM, whose claim was dismissed because of the sovereignty of Parliament in the context of immigration laws that were revoked under the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023. That is a perfect example of what the courts will do under paragraph 144 of the judgment. Does he accept that it is the sovereignty of Parliament that led the Court to make that decision, as it itself stated?

Photo of Michael Tomlinson Michael Tomlinson Minister of State (Minister for Illegal Migration)

As my hon. Friend knows, he and I agree on a great deal and I have paragraph 144 engraved on my heart. We have had a number of exchanges about that paragraph, and it is clear that the Court will not disregard an unambiguous expression of Parliament’s intention, as set out in paragraph 144. I will come back to the comments made by my hon. Friend a little later in my speech.

Since the evidential position considered by the courts in summer 2022, there have been further specific information, evidence and assurances from the Government of Rwanda that explicitly address the challenges raised by the claimants and the UNHCR in the litigation, and the findings of the Supreme Court, following its judgment in November. My right hon. and learned Friend Sir Robert Buckland mentioned the evidence and the importance of looking at it, so it is worth setting out some of that here, at least in outline.

First, let me set out the headlines from the world rankings. The World Economic Forum global gender gap report ranked Rwanda 12th in the world for gender parity. Interestingly, it ranked the UK 15th. Secondly, Rwanda’s overall score in the World Justice Project’s rule of law has increased consistently from 2019 and 2023, and Rwanda ranked first in its region and 41st out of 142 globally. I will come back to that important point and provide more detail. The World Bank scored Rwanda 16 out of a maximum score of 18. That is just some of the evidence.

The Government published a policy note on the date of Second Reading and it has been updated this month. There are country information notes on Rwanda’s human rights and asylum system, and on the evidence provided by the Government of Rwanda and the UNHCR. A lot of that evidence is substantial and helpful, but we have not cherry picked evidence, unlike some Members. Other material has also been published. It is worth considering that evidence because that is what has changed since summer 2022.

Photo of Lia Nici Lia Nici Conservative, Great Grimsby

Perhaps I am being facetious, but seeing as so many illegal migrants are fleeing France, should we think about a safety of France Act next?

Photo of Michael Tomlinson Michael Tomlinson Minister of State (Minister for Illegal Migration)

My hon. Friend might have been a touch facetious in her intervention—she herself said it, otherwise I would not have dared to say it—but I understand what she says. Suffice to say, we are confident in the safety of Rwanda and the aim of the Bill is to prevent domestic courts and tribunals from considering claims that relate to the general safety of Rwanda, hence clause 2 and the points raised by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Swindon about the evidence, the treaty and the fundamentally changed situation.

Let me turn to the hon. Member for Glasgow Central and her amendments. She is right that the amendments seek to undermine the core objectives of the Bill.

Photo of Michael Tomlinson Michael Tomlinson Minister of State (Minister for Illegal Migration)

The hon. Lady has been straightforward about that; she is nodding. We are agreeing yet again during the course of these exchanges. It will do nothing for her street credibility in her constituency, but we are agreeing at least on that point. Her amendments would undermine the provisions aimed at narrowing the grounds on which people can challenge their removal to Rwanda in courts or tribunals.

The treaty agreed by both countries makes it crystal clear that asylum seekers sent to Rwanda are not at risk of being returned to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened—known as refoulement. Article 10(3) spells that out very clearly. We therefore do not accept that there is any risk of refoulement given that article, given those reassurances and given the treaty. This point also relates to amendments 35 and 37, tabled by the Opposition.

I remind Opposition Members that the Government of Rwanda, the African Union and the UNHCR have signed an agreement to continue the operation of the emergency transit mechanism centre in Rwanda. By temporarily accommodating some of the most vulnerable refugee populations who have faced trauma, detentions and violence, Rwanda has showcased its willingness and its ability collaboratively to provide solutions to the refugee situations and to crises.

The policy statement that was published by the Government set out further evidence on that very point, and it might be worth dwelling on that for a moment or two. In November 2021, the Government of Rwanda set out the details of the emergency transit mechanism. The agreement has attracted EU funding, which will support the operation of the ETM until 2026.

On 9 February, the EU announced a €22 million support package for the scheme, which the European Union ambassador described as a

“crucial life-saving initiative to evacuate people facing major threats and inhumane conditions in Libya to safety in Rwanda. It is a significant example of African solidarity and of partnership with the European Union.”

He continued:

“We are grateful to the Government of Rwanda for hosting these men, women and children until such time, durable solutions can be found.”

That is further evidence of the safety of Rwanda—not in the future but now—and further evidence for the hundreds of thousands of refugees that Rwanda is welcoming and already hosting, and that it has over the years.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend Sir Edward Leigh for tabling his amendments. I listened intently as he spoke. The Bill allows the decision maker to consider whether the Republic of Rwanda is a safe country for the person in question only when the individual has presented compelling evidence relating specifically to their individual circumstances, and only when their claim does not relate to the risk of onward removal from Rwanda. We all share my right hon. Friend’s desire on this, but there is already a high bar, both legally and evidentially, for making a successful individual claim, and clause 4 sets that out. If people try to use this route without compelling evidence, they will have their claim dismissed by the Home Office and be removed.

My right hon. Friend mentioned people concocting and fabricating evidence, but, of course, that is the exact opposite of compelling evidence. Concocted evidence cannot amount to compelling evidence. It cannot be merely a bare assertion; it cannot even simply be a tweet, as he set out.

I am grateful to Mr Roberts for his amendments, his exchange and engagement and his constructive remarks. He was the first out of the blocks to get an amendment in. I am grateful to him for the way he set out amendment 1. We do assess that Rwanda is safe for those being relocated there for the reasons that I have given, but the terms of the treaty that we have negotiated with Rwanda address the findings of our domestic courts and make specific provision for the treatment of relocated individuals, guaranteeing their safety and protection. The implementation of those provisions in practice will be kept under review, exactly as he asked for. The independent monitoring committee, whose role was enhanced by the treaty, will look at it and ensure compliance with the obligations agreed.

I also say to the hon. Gentleman that it is worth considering article 4 of the treaty, because that means that in many scenarios, as is already the case, the Government can and will adapt and respond as necessary. On his other amendments, it is right that an individualised claim cannot be considered to the extent that it relates to whether Rwanda will, or may, remove or send the person in question to another state in contravention of its international obligations. That is already there, and there is only an extremely limited route for individual challenge. However, removing judicial oversight until after a person has been removed to Rwanda in its totality and preventing interim relief even if they can show—however unlikely—a real, imminent and foreseeable risk is unlikely to be compatible with convention rights.

It is important to note that just this week—in fact, last night—the House passed legislation to add India and Georgia to the list of safe countries to which we will be able to return nationals with no right to be here. It is also worth pointing out that the Labour party is so divided on this that they could not even agree among themselves that India and Georgia are generally safe countries. It is no wonder that they cannot formulate an immigration policy.

I turn to some of the evidence from the World Justice Project’s rule of law index 2023, which mentions Rwanda. In fact, it lists 142 countries, from Denmark at No. 1 all the way down to the bottom. It is important to note that Georgia appears at No. 48 on the list and India at No. 79. The House has already passed legislation confirming that they are safe countries.

Photo of Martin Docherty Martin Docherty Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence) 5:15, 16 January 2024

On India, Jagtar Singh Johal has now been detained for over six years. Is the Minister saying that India is a safe country for every UK national?

Photo of Michael Tomlinson Michael Tomlinson Minister of State (Minister for Illegal Migration)

No, I am saying that this House passed legislation last night stating that India is generally a safe country for the purposes set out in the legislation. I point out—I am grateful to him and other hon. Members who are listening—that India happens to be 79th in the global rankings. Vietnam, where we regularly return citizens to, is 87th. Albania, which we have mentioned and I will come back to, is 91st, and Rwanda is 41st on that list. It is marginally lower down the rankings than Poland, comparable to Romania and higher than Croatia, Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary and all these other countries that are safe, strong international partners of this country. That is the evidence that has been published and that is before the House, and that evidence shows compellingly that Rwanda is a safe country.

I turn to amendments 19, 20, 21 and 22 and amendment 10. I thank my right hon. Friend Robert Jenrick for his engagement and remarks—he is absolutely right. He set out the moral imperative that we need to act and limit individual claims, and I agree that we need to focus on what works.

As I said earlier, I agree with much of what my hon. Friend the Member for Stone said. He is right about dualism and sovereignty. We may, indeed, debate sovereignty again tomorrow when we come to clause 1. There is a lovely accord between him and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Swindon on the very point of sovereignty, and doubtless we will debate that again. Where I respectfully disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stone is in his assessment of whether the Bill will work. As drafted, this legislation is clear and unambiguous. Parliament is setting out the law clearly and it will work.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee

I merely repeat the point that parliamentary sovereignty has to be combined with clear and unambiguous words. The word “notwithstanding” is hallowed; it is in the withdrawal agreement of 2020 and it makes the wording absolutely clear. Otherwise it is not clear and the courts could rule against us—as they did, conversely, on the Rwanda judgment, where they agreed that clear and unambiguous words are necessary and essential with regard to claims under matters relating to this Bill.

Photo of Michael Tomlinson Michael Tomlinson Minister of State (Minister for Illegal Migration)

I am grateful for the intervention, and I agree with my hon. Friend: he is absolutely right about clear and unambiguous language. However, clause 2 as drafted is clear and unambiguous; if I may say so, it is simply a different way of saying the same thing. Either we have a deeming clause that deems Rwanda to be safe, or a notwithstanding clause. Clause 2 has the joy of both a deeming clause and a notwithstanding clause. It is clear, it is unambiguous and the courts will follow it.

My right hon. Friend Sir Simon Clarke passionately believes that this is the right policy, and I agree with that. He mentioned that it is important to tackle the root causes and that we must not allow this evil trade to persist, and I agree with him entirely. He asked about the courts and the tribunals, as did the Chair of the Select CommitteeDame Diana Johnson—and my hon. Friend Miriam Cates. A written ministerial statement was laid earlier today, and I encourage my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland to consider the detail of it. He is right that more judges are being recruited.

It is important to say that deployment of the judiciary is of course a question for the independent judiciary—that is absolutely right—but more are being identified and trained, and I encourage my right hon. Friend and other right hon. and hon. Members who mentioned that to look out for the Lord Chancellor’s written ministerial statement, published today.

Photo of Sarah Dines Sarah Dines Conservative, Derbyshire Dales

Will the Minister clarify whether, if the Government can, as reported in The Times and The Daily Telegraph, find as many as 150 extra judges, we could perhaps divert that judicial capacity to prosecute some alleged rapists and murderers here in the United Kingdom? Will he clarify and exemplify what he means and whether those reports are true?

Photo of Michael Tomlinson Michael Tomlinson Minister of State (Minister for Illegal Migration)

My hon. Friend is right and I sense, understand and share her passion for resolving the issues in relation not only to the tribunals but to the courts. I know her background and passion for ensuring that the backlog in the court system is dealt with, and she knows my position on that as well. I encourage her to look at the detail that the Lord Chancellor set out in the written ministerial statement. It is right to say that it is in response to the Illegal Migration Act 2023, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Newark and my right hon. and learned Friend Suella Braverman took through the House, and it is right to say that it is there to ensure capacity in our tribunal system. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend Miss Dines—there was an exchange on this in the debate—that we must ensure that that capacity is there in our court system as well.

Photo of Rob Roberts Rob Roberts Independent, Delyn

Before the Minister moves on from the contribution of Sir Simon Clarke, I intervened in his speech to say that my opinion was that if the Bill was voted down tomorrow on Third Reading, no similar Bill could be brought back because it would be an issue the House had already dealt with. The right hon. Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland was of the opinion that a substantially different Bill could be brought back. The problem is that if the House declines all the amendments, as it is entirely likely to do, presumably any future Bill that was brought back would include all those amendments. Therefore, as the House will have substantially dealt with all those issues, if the Bill is voted down tomorrow, it will not be able to come back in any form.

Photo of Michael Tomlinson Michael Tomlinson Minister of State (Minister for Illegal Migration)

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate my determination to get the Bill through. I am the Minister for this Bill, and I am determined to get it through today, tomorrow and at its further stage.

I thank my hon. Friend Jane Stevenson for her constructive speech and the constructive tone that she adopted during the debate. She is right: we are united in wanting to make the scheme work. I am very grateful to her for mentioning the Prime Minister’s words in Italy, which bear repetition. He said rightly:

“If we do not tackle this problem, the numbers will only grow…If that requires us to update our laws and lead an international conversation to amend the post-war frameworks around asylum, then we must do that. Because if we don’t fix this problem now, the boats will keep coming”.

My hon. Friend was right to echo those words, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to re-emphasise them now.

Photo of Tom Hunt Tom Hunt Conservative, Ipswich 5:30, 16 January 2024

It has been explained that the grounds for individual appeals are exceptionally narrow, so why are 150 judges needed?

Photo of Michael Tomlinson Michael Tomlinson Minister of State (Minister for Illegal Migration)

As I said in response to a previous intervention, they are being stood up in relation to the Illegal Migration Act 2023, which was taken through by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fareham and my right hon. Friend the Member for Newark, in anticipation of the work that will need to be done—that is sensible governance, dare I say it. My hon. Friend Tom Hunt is right to take me back to individual claims, which I will now turn to in the few minutes I have left.

The legislation provides that a court may grant interim relief only where there is

“a real, imminent and foreseeable risk of serious and irreversible harm”.

There must be credible evidence of that; there cannot simply be a bare assertion. Clause 4(5) cites the Illegal Migration Act, which my right hon. Friends took through last summer. It is worth pointing out that section 39 of that Act sets out an extremely narrow range of circumstances in which an individual claim can be made. I encourage right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the Committee to look at section 39 of that Act and just how high the threshold for serious and irreversible harm is set.

Let me turn briefly to new clause 6, which was tabled by Opposition Members. I was intrigued to hear the shadow Minister state that the purpose of the new clause is to invite further legal challenge. That seems to be Labour’s plan—to invite further legal challenge. That is the purpose of new clause 6, and it is the exact opposite of the purpose of Conservative Members. We want this to work.

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration)

The Minister is simply misrepresenting the purpose of new clause 6. Its purpose is to put the monitoring committee on a statutory footing so that it can potentially be subject to our domestic courts. I do not know whether he thinks that our domestic courts should be lower down the pecking order than the courts of Rwanda.

Photo of Michael Tomlinson Michael Tomlinson Minister of State (Minister for Illegal Migration)

I am grateful to the shadow Minister for his intervention. When he was setting the policy out in his opening remarks, he said that it would invite further legal challenges. Those of us on the Conservative Benches want to shut out legal challenges; those on the Opposition Benches want to encourage further legal challenges.

The Government have delivered a plan for immigration that will work. It builds upon the excellent work of my right hon. Friend Priti Patel—the champion of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022—and of my predecessors, my right hon. Friend the Member for Newark and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fareham, who worked incredibly hard to deliver the long-awaited Illegal Migration Act, the toughest piece of immigration legislation until the Bill before us.

Just look at Albania. Our successful deal with Albania, which started with small numbers, has now removed nearly 6,000 people with no right to be here. We know that deterrence has worked because small boat arrivals from Albania are down by 94%. Legal challenges have not successfully stopped the flights to Albania. Those flights have not been stopped; in fact, not a single case of Albanian small boat arrivals has reached a substantive hearing at the upper tribunal in the past year.

We on the Conservative side of the Committee are united in our determination to ensure that the Bill works. As drafted, it creates an ever-tighter test than for illegal migrants facing removals to Albania. Our Rwanda Bill is tougher, tighter and goes further. We have a plan to stop the boats, and I invite hon. Members to back it.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

What a despondent, pathetic, ridiculous Bill this has been, and what a grim debate it has been to listen to. We have heard a wide range of speeches, most of which, I am afraid to say—I am putting it politely—were absolute guff. The UK is not looking to accommodate 8 billion people—of course it is not. Most people in small boats are not economic migrants; we know that, because the Home Office grants them asylum.

The only Member, I believe, who mentioned the people whom this Bill will affect was my friend Olivia Blake, who talked about the impact it will have on real people, on their lives and their futures. As far as I can establish, not one of the Conservative Members has ever met or spoken to an asylum seeker, or has any conception of the struggles they have been through, because they were not able to cite a single one sitting opposite them in their surgeries. Asylum seekers have done them no personal harm, yet they seek to ruin their lives. To make it light for a second, my hon. Friend Ronnie Cowan, who ended up being crocked at the refugee football tournament he played in, does not bear any ill will towards the asylum seekers who played in that game. I think he mostly bears ill will towards me for forcing him to play in it, not the asylum seekers and refugees whose silky skills outclassed us on the football pitch. I encourage Members who want to learn a little bit more to sign up for the refugee football tournament, which will be coming up before we know it.

The UNHCR does not buy the Government’s assurances. It has been very clear that nothing that has been said or done has changed the situation. The UNHCR says that the Rwanda partnership treaty is not compatible with international refugee law, and that we cannot declare Rwanda a safe country in perpetuity. I do not believe that we should be declaring any country a safe country in perpetuity, as my hon. Friend Martin Docherty-Hughes said in relation to India, where Jagtar Singh Johal is still being held in arbitrary detention with no effort from this Government to see justice done for him.

This scheme fails in many respects. It is an affront to human rights, to the dignity of individuals and human beings, and to the international obligations that this Government have claimed they hold dear—they ask other countries to abide by international conventions and rules, yet undermine those rules when it suits them. There is a practicality issue as well. The Independent has just published some figures that the Committee may find interesting. Over the past five years, Rwanda has assessed only 421 asylum cases in total, and has refused two thirds of those cases. Many of those people are from Afghanistan and Syria, and have an indisputable case for their asylum claim to be heard. We know that Rwanda has form in not upholding its obligations: when it had a deal with Israel, it did not uphold those obligations, and nobody has given any evidence that anything has changed since the Supreme Court’s ruling on this issue last year.

Turning to the issue of deterrence, which many Conservative Members have mentioned, 70,000 people have crossed the channel since the Rwanda deal was signed. If that deal were any kind of deterrent, it would have had some kind of effect, would it not? That has not happened, and in any event, this Government seek to remove to Rwanda only a couple of hundred people out of that 70,000. They are absolutely incompetent in bringing this Bill before us today. It is a toxic distraction from a failing Home Office and a failing Government. They should do the work, process the cases, and give refugees and asylum seekers the dignity and safety that they so richly deserve.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division number 46 Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill: Committee: Amendment 45

Aye: 66 MPs

No: 335 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

Tellers

No: A-Z by last name

Tellers

The Committee divided: Ayes 66, Noes 337.

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed: 10, in clause 2, page 3, line 13, leave out subsection (5) and insert—

“(5A) This Act and the Illegal Migration Act 2023 will have effect in relation to removals to Rwanda notwithstanding—

(a) any provision made by or under the Immigration Acts,

(b) the Human Rights Act 1998,

(c) EU derived law and case law retained under sections 2 to 7 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018,

(d) any other provision or rule of domestic law (including any common law), and

(e) international law, including any interpretation of international law by the court or tribunal.

(5B) Nothing identified in paragraphs (a) to (e) of subsection (5A) may prevent or delay the removal to Rwanda of an individual under this Act or the Illegal Migration Act 2023, or affect the interpretation or application of any provision of this Act or the Illegal Migration Act 2023, including the actions or policies of public authorities, in relation to the removal of a person to Rwanda.

(5C) To the extent that any provision or requirement included in paragraphs (a) to (e) of subsection (5A) has been given effect to in legislation (including the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993, the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 and the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc) Act 2004), that legislation does not apply in relation to provision made by or by virtue of this Act or the Illegal Migration Act 2023 in relation to the removal of an individual to Rwanda, and shall not prevent or delay the removal to Rwanda of an individual under this Act or the Illegal Migration Act 2023.

(5D) A person or body to which subsection (5E) applies may not have regard to international law, in the circumstances mentioned in subsection (5G).

(5E) This subsection applies to —

(a) the Secretary of State or an immigration officer when exercising any function related to removing, or considering for removal a person to Rwanda under this Act or the Illegal Migration Act 2023,

(b) a court or tribunal when considering any application or appeal which relates to a decision or purported decision to remove, or to consider the removal of a person to Rwanda under this Act or the Illegal Migration Act 2023.

(5F) No inference is to be drawn from this section as to whether or not a person or body mentioned in subsection (5E) would otherwise have been required to have regard to international law.

(5G) The Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993 is amended as follows.

(5H) In section 2 at the end insert “except in relation to the removal of a person to Rwanda under the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act 2024 and the Illegal Migration Act 2023”.”—(Sir William Cash.)

This amendment specifically excludes the legislation raised in AAA v Secretary of State of the Home Department [2023] UKSC 42 as potential blocks to removal and excludes from consideration any international law (including the ECHR and anything put out by its court).

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division number 47 Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill Committee: Amendment 10

Aye: 68 MPs

No: 527 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

Tellers

No: A-Z by last name

Tellers

The Committee divided: Ayes 68, Noes 529.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Division number 48 Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill Committee: Clause 2 stand part

Aye: 331 MPs

No: 261 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

Tellers

No: A-Z by last name

Tellers

The Committee divided: Ayes 331, Noes 262.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.