My Lords, first I must offer the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, an apology because I do not think I wrote to her on this issue. She has not missed the letter; I missed writing to her. I am sorry about that. I will make sure that I write to her after this debate because there are extensive arguments. I want to keep the argument fairly focused for this evening.
I will start with a generality. The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, was kind to say that the Government take this issue seriously. We do indeed. Only last Thursday, I was able to respond to a supplementary question from the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth of Breckland, about a report on the way that police forces deal with domestic violence. I said that the Home Secretary is committed to tackling this scourge. She has made it clear that she expects speedy action to implement the recommendations of that report.
Having said that, it does not necessarily mean that individuals who have been the victims of domestic violence should expect to be able to remain in the UK where their migration status would not otherwise permit them to do so. While I run the risk of repeating myself from last time and being quoted back yet again, as we have discussed previously there is provision in the Immigration Rules to grant indefinite leave to remain to victims of domestic violence who came to the UK intending to make a permanent life here as the partner of someone who is already a permanent resident or who, in the case of the partner of a member of Her Majesty’s forces, is prevented from applying for permanent residence during the period of service. That just reiterates the position of that particular group of people.
However, the position is different for individuals who are in the UK because of a relationship with someone who does not have the right of permanent residence. Those individuals should not have any expectation of remaining in the UK outside that relationship, regardless of the reasons for that relationship breaking down. To grant leave to an individual who is in the UK as someone’s partner but who is not settled here on a basis other than the ongoing partnership would suggest that his or her right to be in the UK was independent of that partnership, which is not the position. It would not be helpful to encourage anyone to think otherwise or, by the grant of a specific period of leave, to give false hope that they might be able to stay. However, we take a pragmatic and practical view in these cases. If a migrant no longer meets the requirements of their leave because a relationship with a spouse or partner has broken down, discretion may be used so that, rather than curtailing leave with immediate effect, the Secretary of State may curtail that leave—if I may use the word “normally”—normally to a period of 60 days. This would allow the migrant time to make arrangements to depart the UK voluntarily without being here illegally, or to submit an application to remain in the UK on another basis. That is a relevant consideration, which I hope noble Lords will understand.
The Government consider that it is fair, reasonable and proportionate to distinguish between those whose partner is here permanently and those whose partner is here temporarily and may never become a permanent resident. I acknowledge that this is a difficult area but I think that noble Lords will understand the difficulties of extending rights in this area. I consider the position that I have outlined is the right one. As I have said,
I certainly will write to the noble Baroness, with a copy to noble Lords, and will place a copy in the Library. I appreciate that this is an important issue to get right. None of what I have said dilutes our determination that we should pursue the issue of domestic violence, which ruins lives and is never acceptable. I hope that the noble Baroness understands our position and will withdraw her amendment.