Third Reading

Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 5:50 pm on 22nd April 2009.

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Photo of Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Baroness Royall of Blaisdon President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office) 5:50 pm, 22nd April 2009

My Lords, before the House begins the Third Reading of the Bill, it may be helpful for me to say a few words about Third Reading amendments. In line with the guidance recommended by the Procedure Committee and agreed by the House, the Public Bill Office has advised the usual channels that two amendments on the Marshalled List for Third Reading today fall outside the guidance given in the Companion and set out by the Procedure Committee. These are Amendments 3 and 4 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. On the basis of the Public Bill Office's advice, the usual channels have agreed to recommend to the House that the amendments should not be moved. As ever, this is ultimately a matter for the House as a whole to decide.

Clause 39 : Exceptions to application of this Part

Amendment 1

Moved by Baroness Hanham

1: Clause 39, page 29, line 6, leave out "prior to" and insert "after"

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 2 and wish to clarify the amendment which I moved on Report and which was voted on and has resulted in Clause 39.

When I spoke on Report, I made it clear that those whom we wished to help were those who were coming to the end of their journey towards citizenship and who were already on limited leave to remain and were poised to apply for indefinite leave to remain. As line 6 is currently worded, as a result of my previous amendment, applications submitted before the commencement of Part 2 would be assessed under current arrangements. Of course, that is exactly what would happen anyway. The concern is for applications due to be submitted just after Part 2 comes in, which, without a period of grace, could potentially be caught in the new citizenship process. Amendment 1 would therefore give, as I always intended, this period of grace after the commencement and not before it.

Amendment 2 deals with the other problem caused by the defective amendment, which referred to an application made by any person for "limited leave to remain". This should have been an application for indefinite leave to remain, a much later part of the process. A close reading of Hansard would underline the fact that I spoke to this effect on Report. I only regret that the amendments did not reflect what I was saying or what the House voted on. I hope that this clarifies the situation and that these amendments will be accepted and incorporated into the Bill, as the House voted for. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Spokesperson for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Spokesperson for the Home Office

My Lords, the amendment clearly provides that a person who is currently en route to citizenship and is within 12 months of making an application for indefinite leave to remain should continue on that path. I rise only to support the amendment and to say that I hope that, since we discussed the matter on Report, the noble Lord, who also replied then, has satisfied himself that what we are doing now fully complies with the judgment in the case of HSMP Forum Ltd—a matter that I raised both in Committee and on Report but which I am pretty certain has not been dealt with in the voluminous correspondence that we have had from Ministers. It would be useful to have on the record that the Minister has taken advice and that the Government are completely satisfied that the amendment and Clause 39 fully complies with the terms of the judgment in HSMP.

I gave the noble Lord, Lord Brett, a few minutes notice on my next point, which is that the amendment obviously implies that the route to "indefinite leave to remain" is still there following the coming into effect of Part 2, as it allows the person to make the application within 12 months. There will be changes in the rules consequent to the passing of the Bill and we want an assurance from the Minister on the record that by having the amendment in the Bill the route to ILR will be maintained.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, I heard what the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said and I accept that the amendment is technical and consequential on the first vote. On the question of the HSMP judgment referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, UKBA officials are currently analysing the details to determine the wider impact, if any, on the UKBA. It would be wrong to prejudge the outcome of that analysis.

On the ILR route, I understand that the intention of the amendments is that someone can apply under the existing naturalisation requirements in Section 6 of the British Nationality Act and that a migrant who has ILR in the UK will be deemed to have permanent residence. Their conditions will not change from what they are at present. That is my understanding. I am happy to accept the amendment but I must record that we intend to return to this issue in the other place.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, I am grateful for the sympathetic reception of these amendments.

Amendment 1 agreed.

Amendment 2

Moved by Baroness Hanham

2: Clause 39, page 29, line 7, leave out "limited" and insert "indefinite"

Amendment 2 agreed.

Clause 57 : Duty regarding the welfare of children

Amendments 3 and 4 not moved.

Clause 59 : Extent

Amendment 5

Moved by Lord Kingsland

5: Clause 59, page 46, line 31, leave out "55" and insert "55"

Photo of Lord Kingsland Lord Kingsland Shadow Lord Chancellor, Parliament

My Lords, I shall also speak to the three other amendments in the group. They are consequential on an amendment to Clause 52 on Report, now renumbered as Clause 55. I understand that the Minister is content to let them pass. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Spokesperson for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Spokesperson for the Home Office

My Lords, as we are discussing the "Extent" clause, I wonder whether I may be permitted to take this opportunity to raise matters that were to be pursued by my noble friend Lord Wallace who has asked me to apologise for his unavoidable absence. He spoke in Committee about the power in this clause to extend any provisions in the Bill apart from "Part 1 or section 55" to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. On Monday he wrote to the Minister summarising his concerns that we did not think had been dealt with either in Committee or in the subsequent correspondence.

The Government's attention was disproportionately concentrated on the land border between the Republic and Northern Ireland as a route for illegal migration into the United Kingdom, which the Minister justified by arguing that the numbers involved in the two routes were very different from each other. We pointed out that an increasing number of illegal immigrants are clustered around the Channel ports in France. Considering the experience of Italy and Greece—the former starting 20 years ago and the latter about 10 years ago—it would be surprising if the Channel Islands remained immune from irregular migration, particularly as other methods of entry are increasingly effectively tackled. The Minister pointed out that people arriving at the Channel Islands would have already been checked by another EU country when they entered the common travel area and promised to write to my noble friend about the scale of involvement of the Crown dependencies with the EU on those matters. I do not think that he has done so, because all the ministerial correspondence has been copied to noble Lords who spoke in those debates and I am not aware of any letter on that subject.

On the other hand, we have all had copies of a letter from the Chief Minister of the States of Jersey raising the fundamental point that the constitutional relationship between the UK and Jersey is being altered by the Bill and that that their people's rights under Article 1 of the ICCPR and Articles 2 and 3 of Protocol 4 to the ECHR are being infringed. The letter from the Chief Minister said that those concerns were to be addressed by the proposal by the Government for a memorandum of understanding, which is yet another of the loose ends being left by the Bill. It would be useful if the Minister could say something on the record about those matters.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism) 6:00 pm, 22nd April 2009

My Lords, the amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, are minor and technical changes required as a result of new Clause 55. The Government support the amendments to ensure that the Bill is internally consistent and coherent when it leaves this House, although I have to say again that the retention of Clause 55 will be considered again in the other place.

In response to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, about the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, I am sorry that my letter to the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, on 30 March did not completely cover all those points. We had a discussion outside the Chamber and I believed that we had covered them. There are complexities. The build-up of people coming into Crown dependencies is a real possibility. Indeed, it is part of the reason why we propose what we do for the common travel area. It is difficult for me to give an answer on the Floor now, because the issue is complex, but I am happy to cover the detail of that inquiry in a dedicated letter to him, if I may. I am content with the amendment.

Amendment 5 agreed.

Clause 60 : Commencement

Amendment 6

Moved by Lord West of Spithead

6: Clause 60, page 47, line 1, leave out "51 (Common Travel Area)" and insert "51 (entry otherwise than by sea or air: immigration control)"

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, we need Amendments 6 and 9; they make technical changes as a result of Clause 51 being inserted into the Bill on Report. I beg to move Amendment 6.

Amendment 6 agreed.

Amendments 7 and 8 not moved.

The Schedule

Amendment 9

Moved by Lord West of Spithead

9: The Schedule, page 49, leave out lines 4 to 6

Amendment 9 agreed.

Amendment 10 not moved.

A privilege amendment was made.

Motion

Moved by Lord West of Spithead

That the Bill do now pass.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass and put on record my thanks to all Members of the House for the work that they put in to scrutinising the Bill, however painful it may have been to me at times. The debate has been useful. We have had some important debates on the future of the UK Border Agency or border force and our nationality and immigration laws; I hope that they will be taken account of in another place as it considers the Bill.

It may be helpful to the House if I take this opportunity to follow up my commitment on the future role of the chief executive of the UK Border Agency and the Director of Border Revenue. I can assure the House that under current arrangements for the UK Border Agency the Director of Border Revenue will always be its chief executive, which is an issue that we discussed at some length.

In respect of the new children's duty, which is something very good that has come out of our discussion and into which we all want to claim input, I commit to the House that the UK Border Agency will continue to review and update how it collates and updates its statistics and guidance. We can do better and we are putting in a lot of effort to do better to underpin the new duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of all the children with whom UKBA comes into contact. I have asked the agency to set up a round-table discussion involving representatives of the major children's charities to examine what information is currently available on children who are detained, what periods are involved and the reasons for their leaving detention. I am grateful for the House's indulgence in letting me record those points.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, I thank both Ministers. Some of our debates have been long and some have been complex; many of them have resulted in copious letters. Some of the issues that arose as a result of those letters will now have to be dealt with in the other place, since they have not been dealt with here, but, nonetheless, we are grateful for the courtesy of ensuring that the answers, if not available in this House, will be available subsequently. I also thank the Bill team that has helped the Ministers. My noble friend Lord Marlesford may want to intervene briefly before the debate comes to an end, but I look forward to seeing how the Bill ends up in the other place.

Photo of Lord Ramsbotham Lord Ramsbotham Crossbench

My Lords, before we close, I thank the Minister for the statement that he has just made about the two amendments that I could not move. They were discussed in Committee but, unfortunately, through the many and various changes to the programming it was impossible for me to be in the House when they were moved on Report. They are both important. If I may make one correction to what was said, I am very glad that there is a round table to discuss statistics, but I notice that that is with the charities. However, this does not just affect the charities; all sorts of other people need the statistics. That includes local government, social services, health care, education and the UKBA itself. It is essential that the round table approaches the problem of what data everyone needs to enable them to process what is required and then establishes a means of making those data available. I also thank the Minister for a most useful meeting on Monday night on behalf of my noble friends Lady Howe and Lord Listowel, who were both there. It was a useful way of moving ahead and I am most grateful that the statement that has been made resulted from it.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

My Lords, on the assumption that we shall hear one or two more words from the Minister, can he give us any information on the much needed and long-awaited simplification Bill, which will bring together these numerous statutes bearing on immigration and asylum?

Photo of Lord Marlesford Lord Marlesford Conservative

My Lords, it would be a pity if this Bill left the House without it being recorded that at least some of us feel that it is not doing all that we hoped that it would. When the scandal of the Pakistan student visas broke over Easter, I was astonished to hear Mr Phil Woolas, the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration, claim on the radio that the Conservatives were opposing the e-Borders system. We have been urging such a system for years, yet the system as designed does not deal with the problem. It will not deal with it even when it comes into force in two years' time.

The passport system in this country is still extremely leaky. The Government opposed my only amendment, which would have made it necessary for applicants for British passports to declare what other nationality of passport they held or acquired. The Minister admitted in his Second Reading speech that there were a number of other passport-related issues. He said that,

"some issues need to be looked at closely".—[Hansard, 11/2/09; col. 1208.]

We have heard no more from him on that. I will not go through them.

I have a final, very general point to make. The Home Office is crucial to the defence of the borders of the realm and it needs to be under much stronger political control than it is at present. Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department is one of the great offices. It has been occupied in the past by major political figures. One only has to think of names such as Gladstone, Morrison, Butler and Jenkins. No one is under any illusion that the Home Office is an easy department for Ministers to control. To be effective, the Secretary of State must be a big fish in the turbulent Westminster and Whitehall waters. Now, we have only a minnow, and a naughty minnow at that. I suggest that in his remaining months in office the Prime Minister finds from the admittedly rather limited pool of talent on the government Front Bench in another place someone who can take over the Home Office and start to put serious reforms into place for the control of our borders.

Photo of Lord Kilclooney Lord Kilclooney Crossbench

My Lords, I briefly place on record my view that the Bill does not adequately address the problem of non-European Union citizens arriving in the Republic of Ireland and then moving freely into the United Kingdom through the common travel area. Until Her Majesty's Government get the agreement of the Republic of Ireland to apply the same controls of entry into the Republic of Ireland that now apply at airports and ports in the United Kingdom, the gap will still exist.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Spokesperson for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Spokesperson for the Home Office

My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Brett, for the extreme courtesy with which they have examined everything that we have had to say on this Bill and for the meetings outside the Chamber, including those that we had with the Bill team, which have been enormously useful in clarifying some of the issues in the Bill.

The Minister mentioned in particular what he had done in relation to children. We can be reasonably proud of that. I certainly hope that it will enable us finally to ratify the international Convention on the Rights of the Child. It would be useful if the Minister could say a final word on that subject.

As the Minister implied at the end of his remarks, there is an enormous amount of work still to be done when the Bill goes to another place. We have just talked about loose ends that have been left by the proceedings in Committee and before that have not been fully resolved. We have an enormous task in front of us, but this is part of the general phenomenon of putting more and more matters of substance into secondary legislation and guidance. We are simply part of that process. On the whole, however, we can be very grateful to the Minister for the care that he has taken in responding to every point that has been raised by the Opposition on this Bill.

Photo of The Bishop of Lincoln The Bishop of Lincoln Bishop

My Lords, I spoke on the Bill at an early stage and made the plea that we as a nation should attempt at least to treat our borders as meeting places rather than barriers. The Bill has been significantly improved during its progress through this House, not least by the general spirit that seems to reflect a desire around the House for us to move towards that kind of understanding of our relationship with our borders and with those who seek to enter this country, especially those who seek citizenship.

We must encourage the Minister and the Government, as the Bill proceeds to the other place, to honour that spirit. The Bill is in a better condition now than when it first came to us, but—this is my final plea to the Minister—as it is reviewed in the other place in the light of what this House has decided, the Government should reflect not only the letter of what we have done but the spirit in which we have done it. I thank the Minister and those who have responded courteously to me and others when we have asked these questions. Our questions have been heard, which also reflects the spirit in which the debate has been conducted. I want to acknowledge and affirm that spirit while retaining a degree of anxiety about whether this country is not still governed by a spirit of hostility rather than hospitality when it comes to those who seek to share our life and all that we hold prime and dear in this country of ours.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism) 6:15 pm, 22nd April 2009

My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their kind words. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, and a couple of other noble Lords thanked the Bill team. I also thank it for its very hard work. I know that it tried very hard to answer all the questions that had been asked. The noble Baroness talked about the copious number of letters that have been written. I do not think that I have ever written or signed off such immensely long letters before. Some important points were made. They have been very useful and I am glad that they are now being put on the record so that they can be seen. I absolutely agree that there are issues that will need to be addressed.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for his input. I know that changing the times of some of the debates meant that he could not be here for some of the substantive discussions. I know that he has a great interest in this area, as does the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. I absolutely take the point about the charities. This will be done not only with them but with a whole raft of organisations and agencies that need to be involved. It was brought home to me that, when children are put into local authority care, it is no longer recorded that they are immigrants. Therefore, if the children go missing, the statistics are not recorded. This is exactly the sort of thing that we have to get right. I absolutely agree that we have to resolve this.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, touched on the simplification Bill. The Bill that we have been discussing is a small Bill, but it raises a couple of issues that I was keen to get through before the summer, but we can see the complexity. That is why the simplification Bill has taken so long, but I absolutely agree that it is required. This is not the only area that needs simplification, but the draft Bill is planned for the autumn and we will be able to move forward from there.

The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, talked about the scandal of Pakistani student visas. I do not think that he was in the House when I talked about the incident in the north-west and how much we have done in the past two years. We have done a huge amount. As I say, it was an area that I identified when I did my study in July 2007. This has been tightened up dramatically. The changes that we have made are significant and we now have a good handle on this. The situation is getting better all the time. I am glad for the support for e-Borders. It will make a huge difference, which I am glad about.

We have tightened up on passports. I would be stupid to say that we are right in every area—I do not believe that. We have work to do. We must do it and I am in dialogue with the people involved. It is not precisely my area, but I know that we need to tighten up some things there.

On what was said about my right honourable friend Jacqui Smith, I have worked for many people in my life and I have been very impressed by her. All sorts of extraordinary things are said about the Home Office. I had never been in the Home Office, but I had been in the MoD and the Navy. I went there expecting some appalling establishment, but was very pleased by the quality of the people there. There are some excellent people, some good people and one or two bad people, as in every other place in which I have ever worked in my life. Overall, I am rather impressed by what goes on there and I do not believe for one second that it deserves the bad press that it gets. It has some good people who are working very hard on what are sometimes almost intractable problems. I think that they do very well.

I could not agree more with the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, about the risk posed by the CTA loophole. I am sure that we will come back to that after the Bill is considered again in the other place. We have only to look at the risk that we face. That really worries me, which is why we may need to adjust this and do it slightly differently if we can. I really worry about that.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for his point about children. I understand that we have basically satisfied the requirements of the UNCRC, but I absolutely agree that there is more to do. We should be proud of what we have done in this House in that area because it is quite a step forward. I am very pleased with that.

Bill passed and sent to the Commons.