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Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 7th February 2006.

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Photo of Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) 5:00 pm, 7th February 2006

My Lords, I am grateful to follow my noble friend Lord Judd, who has a long and distinguished career and plays an important role in the Joint Committee on Human Rights. I trust that he accepts that I take very seriously the comments made by that committee and by the Members of your Lordships' House who serve on it. Where we all begin in our agreement is that we face an unprecedented threat, which is global. In this country we need to take our responsibilities to deal with such matters as seriously as possible. Clause 7 is part of that process.

I absolutely agree with my noble friend about the critically important nature of the work we do to deal with—as he described—troubled young people. I have spent many years of my life doing that, working in our communities to look at ways in which we make people feel integrated, supported and part of society, while celebrating diversity and difference as part of that. As my noble friend and other noble Lords know, in making some of our communities of young people feel that, there are particular issues of identity and how they see themselves—to do with educational attainment, integration and their relationships, even with their parents and grandparents.

My noble friend will know that some of my work in the Department for Education was involved in trying to address the concerns of some of our children and young people who felt alienated either from the education system or, more broadly perhaps, from our society. I absolutely accept the principle behind what my noble friend said. But I also accept the principle behind this clause. If the person is a threat to national security and is being removed for that reason, it is vital that removal should take place as quickly as possible. Of course, a person subject to deportation can be detained pending the hearing of their appeal and apply for bail. If bail is granted, that will normally be subject to strict conditions. However, compliance with such conditions has to be monitored and, as we know, that diverts police and security service resources from other work.

Decisions to deport individuals on national security grounds are taken only after the most careful consideration. If the assessment is that the person constitutes a threat, we think it is better to remove the person at once and readmit them if the appeal is allowed rather than to permit them to remain here continuing to pose that potential threat until after the often lengthy—frequently very lengthy—proceedings are concluded. That is what the clause seeks to do. It provides for the speedier removal of individuals who threaten this country's national security. It does this because it provides that the appeal would normally be able to be brought only from outside the UK.

In response to my noble friend Lord Judd, I do not think that appellants are disadvantaged by conducting the appeal from overseas. In the great majority of cases, much of the evidence is closed; that is, the detail is not disclosed to the appellant. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred to the role of the special advocate. The appellant of course will be able to have a solicitor to represent him or her and to deal with open evidence. I do not accept that as a principled argument against this.

I take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, particularly about my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, for I have been party to some of the discussions around these issues in my previous work at the Department for Constitutional Affairs. I take seriously our obligations under Article 3 of the Human Rights Act. It was this Government who brought that Act in. We did so in full knowledge of the commitment that we were making. We would work very carefully to ensure that people were not going to be deported where there was a threat of torture.

The memorandum of understanding is specifically designed to deal with individuals and individual cases. It is more than just a diplomatic bit of paper. It is a carefully crafted agreement, where we can achieve it, between the two nations concerning an individual about what will happen. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, describes the organisation that has been appointed thus far as one that he does not know anything about. Neither do I. But those who are involved in ensuring that we have the correct monitoring are trying to make sure that we do it appropriately and properly. With respect to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, just because neither he nor I know an organisation does not necessarily mean that it could not do a perfectly good job. Ultimately, the courts will play their part properly and appropriately in determining whether the memorandum of understanding is an appropriate agreement under which they can safely feel that a person could be deported.

We are doing everything that we can in those very few cases where we believe that there is significant risk and that we should deport someone. I go back to the point made by my noble friend Lord Judd about exporting risk, on which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has taken me to task before. Part of this is about disrupting activities. It is possible to envisage circumstances where an individual operating in this country is significantly putting us at risk, but who, operating in another country, is not, because he or she has no desire to disrupt anything in that country, no desire to disrupt the way of life of that country, and no desire to change the way that that country operates. We are therefore not exporting risk: we are disrupting activity that could be extremely dangerous for the citizens of this country. As I have said before in debate, the most important thing that a government do is to make sure that their citizens are safe. We do so in full recognition of our international obligations under the ECHR and the Human Rights Act in this country. We need to work with our international partners to ensure that we do not export risk to them, but work collaboratively with them to deal with the global threat.