Amendment 46

Nationality and Borders Bill - Committee (2nd Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 10:15 pm on 1st February 2022.

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Baroness Lister of Burtersett:

Moved by Baroness Lister of Burtersett

46: Clause 11, page 14, line 13, leave out paragraph (c)Member’s explanatory statementThis probing amendment, along with another amendment to Clause 11, would amend the list of examples of ways in which refugees, or their family members, can be treated differently depending on whether they are in Group 1 or Group 2 by removing reference to the attachment of no recourse to public funds requirements so as to probe when this requirement would be attached.

Photo of Baroness Lister of Burtersett Baroness Lister of Burtersett Labour

My Lords, it is me again, I am afraid. I rise to move Amendment 46, and I am grateful to the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb and Lady Stroud, my noble friend Lord Blunkett—who had to leave—and the British Red Cross and Praxis for their support.

Again, this is a probing amendment. Together with Amendment 54, it would delete reference to the “no recourse to public funds” condition from the listed ways in which group 1 and group 2 refugees and their families could be treated differently under Clause 11. In other words, it would remove one source of potential discrimination from the list of examples of the discriminatory treatment of group 2 refugees. It is a probing amendment because while I am totally opposed to Clause 11 standing part of the Bill, it is important that we have more information about how the “no recourse to public funds” condition will be applied.

In fact, questioning the application of the no recourse condition reinforces the case against Clause 11. UNHCR makes it clear that denying refugees recourse to public funds is a clear violation of Article 23 of the refugee convention, which states in unambiguous terms:

“The Contracting States shall accord to refugees lawfully staying in their territory the same treatment with respect to public relief and assistance as is accorded to their nationals.”

Given that Ministers constantly claim that the Bill is compatible with our international obligations, does the Minister believe that UNHCR is wrong, and if so, on what grounds?

Similarly, the JCHR points to a violation of Article 24 of the convention, which specifically cites the right to social security. It argues that the differentiation policy, including specifically restrictions on recourse to public funds

“raises serious questions of compatibility with Article 14 ECHR—the prohibition on discrimination in the enjoyment of other Convention rights.”

It concludes that the policy is

“arguably disproportionate to achieving the stated aims.”

In fact, as the committee notes, the aim of dissuading asylum seekers from travelling to the UK other than by safe and legal routes ignores all the research, including that of the Home Office, which indicates that it is rare for asylum seekers to know what support is available.

To repeat something that my noble friend Lord Rosser said, UNHCR warns:

“The adverse consequences of a ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ condition will fall not only the refugees themselves, but also on their families, including on any children who travel with them, are able to join them later, or are born in the UK. These consequences have been documented in numerous studies as well as in the context of litigation. They include difficulty accessing shelters for victims of domestic violence, denial of free school meals where these are linked to the parents’ benefit entitlement”—

—although this is currently suspended, and a very long review is taking place; this policy has been under review for 15 months now—

“and de facto exclusion from the job market for single parents (largely women) who have limited access to government-subsidised childcare, as well as significant risks of food poverty, severe debt, sub-standard accommodation, and homelessness.”

It also notes that public funds include payments specifically for children, such as child benefit, and for those in particularly vulnerable circumstances, such as carers and disabled people. It warns of the adverse consequences for integration and for local authorities which may have to pick up some of the tab for children and those with care needs.

Its conclusions chime with evidence from a range of organisations, including a recent Citizens Advice survey that documents the severe poverty and destitution caused by the rule, with children, women and people of colour disproportionately affected and with what it describes as a “devastating impact” on mental health. Likewise, the BMA has raised concerns that the rule’s effects can compound physical or mental health conditions among those with particular vulnerabilities fleeing violence or trauma.

There are real fears now that the Bill will increase significantly the numbers affected by the “no recourse” rule. There is also a lack of clarity as to whom among group 2 refugees it will be applied, both in the short term and each time their status comes up for renewal. I hope that the Minister will provide some clarity and not fob us off with the response that details will be set out in the guidance and rules that follow, as was said in the Commons.

What was made clear in the Commons was that those already in receipt of Section 95 asylum support will not face restrictions on access to public funds. However, this is not made clear in the Bill itself. Can we be confident that most asylum seekers will have been in receipt of Section 95 asylum support? What about those refugees who face destitution but were not receiving Home Office support, such as those who choose not to enter the asylum support system and rely instead on informal networks of support because of accommodation being allocated on a no-choice basis? What about those who fall into destitution after being granted refugee status, which will be a greater risk as a result of this clause?

It is currently difficult to get the “no recourse” rule lifted on the grounds of destitution because the concession applies only to a minority of those affected and involves a difficult, complicated process. Citizens Advice warns that

“in our experience these limited exemptions for destitution give too little help too late”, with a decision typically taking more than four weeks, according to the Minister in the Commons. Can the Minister tell us who exactly among group 2 refugees will in practice not be subject to the “no recourse to public funds” rule? What is the Government’s estimate of the proportion of group 2 refugees who will be subject to it? What will happen when their status is up for renewal? Will the destitution exception be open to any group 2 refugee or only to certain groups, as is the case now? Will access to the concession be made easier than it is currently?

In recent oral evidence on the “no recourse” rule to the Work and Pensions Committee, the Minister, Tom Pursglove, refused to answer questions about the Bill’s implications, stating that policy work is ongoing. This elicited the response from the committee chair that, given that the Bill had already completed its passage through the Commons, surely we ought to know what its implications are—indeed. Surely by now the Home Office should be able to answer what are some pretty basic questions about how Clause 11(5)(c) and (6)(d) will work. It is crucial that we have this information should Clause 11 continue to stand part of the Bill, although I fervently hope that it will not, not only because it contravenes the refugee convention but also because it will spell hardship and insecurity for many group 2 refugees—who will be very much class 2 refugees. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Stroud Baroness Stroud Conservative

My Lords, I want to take the opportunity afforded by Amendments 46 and 54 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, to which I was pleased to add my name, to probe the Government’s exact intention regarding the outworking of Clause 10 and the application of NRPF.

I have long been concerned about the NRPF policy, but I have profound concerns about its application to group 2 refugees. According to the Home Office’s own guidance, the NRPF condition must not be applied in circumstances where a person is destitute or at risk of becoming so. Can the Minister confirm that this understanding is correct, or would group 2 refugees not be able to receive asylum support and be subject to NRPF? Can the Minister also clarify what would happen should such a person qualify for the destitution test?

There are a number of areas where I would encourage the Minister to consider the impact of applying NRPF to group 2 refugees. I know that Members of this House would be happy to work with her if that is helpful. First, on the impact on local authorities, if the NRPF condition is extended to refugees subject to the new temporary protection status, the increase in the number of individuals subject to NRPF would increase the pressure on already overstretched local authorities. Such increased pressure could lead to more families with NRPF being wrongly refused assistance by local authorities. This would have a devastating impact on the health and development of children in these families and would counter any efforts to develop integration. In addition, it would affect already vulnerable families who have the same characteristics as those who are permitted to access public funds. This is an area of concern to me: they have just arrived here via different routes, but there is no difference in their vulnerability.

Imposing an NRPF condition will cause refugees to live without access to welfare benefits and housing support. When we are considering NRPF, we often think of out-of-work benefits, but this also affects in-work benefits. You could have the extraordinary circumstance of two auxiliaries working in a hospital, one being able to claim in-work support, and the other not. He or she would not be able to survive in those circumstances, even if they were doing everything right. There is also evidence from those already subject to the NRPF condition that this restriction can cause destitution and lead children to experience homelessness, hunger and mental health conditions.

If, as seems to be the case, group 2 refugees would be subject to NRPF, this policy may not achieve its intent. I would value the Minister setting out the exact policy intent of NRPF, as I have found it hard to find what the intent of no recourse to public funds is.

My work as chair of the Social Metrics Commission, a cross-party commission which measures poverty in the UK, finds that no recourse to public funds is a significant cause in driving poverty, homelessness and destitution. NRPF has been shown to have significant mental health consequences, including for children. It makes finding stable work more difficult, accessing education harder, and securing stable housing a challenge. These are all things we want to see for this community of people.

It is important for us to really understand who we are talking about. We are not talking here about asylum seekers or economic migrants. We are talking about people the Government recognise as bona fide refugees—that has already been decided—who have fled conflict, war or famine and arrived in Britain hoping to find a place of refuge. By tabling this probing amendment, I want to ensure that, purely by virtue of the route by which refugees arrive here, they will not be subject to profound insecurity, at a time when we are committed to ending rough sleeping, levelling up the UK and defining the character of the nation we want to be.

As this is a probing amendment, I ask the Minister to clarify whether group 2 refugees would or would not be able to receive asylum support. Would they be subject to NRPF, even when qualifying for a destitution test? If so, what is the exact policy intent of NRPF for this group of people? How would group 2 refugees have been provided for during Covid, when they would not have had access to furlough or universal credit? Finally, in what way is the Government’s commitment to ending rough sleeping, and NRPF for group 2, compatible?

Photo of Lord Bethell Lord Bethell Conservative 10:30 pm, 1st February 2022

My Lords, I also support Amendment 46 and the amendment in the names of my noble friend Lady Stroud and the noble Baronesses, Lady Lister, Lady Prashar and Lady Ludford. I support the call for asylum seekers who have waited six months for an official decision to be allowed the right to work. We have heard some really persuasive arguments for that, and there are a large number of them, in terms of both principle and the law. I will make the argument in terms of pragmatism.

This policy would strengthen integration by allowing asylum seekers to participate in society rather than leaving their lives in limbo. That means that people who come to this country can be treated fairly and be integrated on reasonable terms, sparing themselves a large amount of disruption, which would eventually lead to some kind of social impact. Currently, without the right to work and receiving less than £6 per day to live on, many people in the asylum system will lose hope—

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I think that my noble friend might be speaking to the next group of amendments.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green

My Lords, I rise to speak on behalf of my noble friend Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, who signed both Amendments 46 and 54, in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, and others, about no recourse to public funds. The question has been clearly set out by the noble Baronesses, Lady Lister, and the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, added a great deal to this debate, which has been very rich thus far.

I must admit to a certain sense of déjà vu, in that we have had much the same cast as in debates on the Domestic Abuse Act, discussing much the same issues around the absolute horror of no recourse to public funds. We are talking about a particular group of people in that situation now, but I state loudly and clearly: no one who is here as part of UK society should have no recourse to public funds. That is inhumane, unjust and damaging to our society for some of the reasons that the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, just set out.

It is interesting that it is almost two years since Boris Johnson claimed not to know that this status existed—that he did not know that there was such a thing as no recourse to public funds. At that time, he promised to review the policy, but I understand that there has been no overall review of no recourse to public funds, although I would be very pleased if the Minister could tell me that I am wrong about that.

But I want to add one point, which goes back to the group that we discussed before the dinner break. The Minister tried to clearly draw a line between differentiation and discrimination. I think that no recourse to public funds is very clear cut and obvious: you either have access to money, as the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, said, if you are in work and need extra support to survive and feed yourself, or you do not. How can it be anything but discrimination if you do not have access to that money, despite being in exactly the same situation as the person beside you, doing the same job?

Photo of Lord Hunt of Wirral Lord Hunt of Wirral Conservative

My Lords, I will respond to my noble friend Lady Stroud’s request to know the policy intent. Declaring my interests as set out in the register, as noble Lords may know, I have a lot of interest in what happens in our neighbouring country of France. I have been following the debates there reasonably closely over the last few weeks. In recent months, we have received more than our fair share of criticism from our French friends, who say that our asylum system is so much easier to navigate because there are so many pull factors—I recall my noble friend talking about these in her speech at Second Reading. This means that, in effect, we are a more attractive country to apply for asylum in than France, and this generates a huge amount of criticism.

My question to my noble friend the Minister is: when you look at no recourse to public funds, is that not one of the pull factors that is causing so much of this problem? I think that Clause 11 is designed to reduce those very pull factors that the French suggest are in fact causing the problem, so those of us who are for open borders should try to work this out. I always have been for open borders; I rejoice that we probably have one of the finest global multiracial societies in the world. Sadly, we do not appear to be proud of it. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, knows, I was brought up in Toxteth and went to school in Penny Lane. I love Toxteth and I am so proud of the community there, which he will know very well, because it is a viable, strong, multiracial society.

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

My Lords, I think the noble Lord is giving way to me, and I am grateful to him. He is right: I know those communities well; I represented them, as he knows, for very many years. The question I put to the noble Lord—because I am surprised at the case that he, of all people, is putting forward—is: will he remind the House precisely how much someone has in their hand when they have recourse to public funds? What is it that they are supposed to survive upon? How much money do they actually have? If it is such an attractive pull factor, as he has described, surely we should be reminded how much money someone is expected to live on.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Wirral Lord Hunt of Wirral Conservative

It is the principle that I am seeking to deal with. The noble Lord is quite right to ask the question, and perhaps my noble friend the Minister can do some comparisons, but there is no doubt that our colleagues in France feel that one of the key perceived pull factors causing people to get involved in these very dangerous crossings is this subject of no recourse to public funds. That is the only question I am raising. We are being heavily criticised by our French colleagues for allowing ourselves to encourage pull factors to grow and escalate, and that is causing the problem to be much more serious than it was.

Photo of Baroness Ludford Baroness Ludford Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

My recollection of the French criticism is that they were criticising the ability of asylum seekers to work in the black economy—not the ability to be idle and live off the taxpayer. I imagine that any welfare possibilities in the UK would be less than in France. What they are criticising is the relative unregulated state of our employment market. Some of that criticism is valid; some is not, but we are all sometimes worried by illegal employment. That is what the French were talking about.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Wirral Lord Hunt of Wirral Conservative

When I look into the detail of the criticism, it is much wider than the noble Baroness is suggesting. Part of it must be NRPF—I am not saying it is the whole problem—and I just wish that we would address—

Photo of Lord Hunt of Wirral Lord Hunt of Wirral Conservative

I will just finish dealing with the point raised by the noble Baroness. We must ourselves try to identify what these pull factors are that cause people to risk their lives in the way that they do. It may well be that both the noble Baroness and I are right to identify certain parts of the pull factors, but of course we have to recognise that there are those pull factors.

Photo of Baroness Chakrabarti Baroness Chakrabarti Labour

Given that the Government’s position is that they are right about the refugee convention; given that they disagree with the UNHCR but have their own interpretation under which they are honouring the refugee convention; and given that the Government’s position is that it is about parliamentary sovereignty and not the sovereignty of people elsewhere, why should we be forming our interpretation of the refugee convention on the basis of French criticism? If we are worried about pull factors, perhaps we should reinstall “Go Home” vans and a hostile environment for people seeking asylum.

Photo of Baroness Stroud Baroness Stroud Conservative

My noble friend said that it would be good to identify what some of these pull factors actually are. At Second Reading, I sought to try to outline what I believed the pull factors were, and they are not things that we would want to destroy or diminish at all. My understanding of the pull factors—why people want to come to this country—is that they include our language, our culture, the rule of law, democracy, historic ties through the Commonwealth, family connections and liberty. These are the sorts of reasons why people want to come here. The small, pitiful amount of money that somebody gets to survive on is not something, when they are leaving Eritrea and thinking of the hellish journey that they are going to take, that is going to make them want to come here. It is much more likely that they experience push factors, which are war, famine and devastating impacts on their lives. We really need to understand the lives that are lived by these men and women who risk all to come here. We know that every system has elements that get exploited, but we have to make laws for the majority of people and the majority of cases, and to be the sort of nation that we actually want to be.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Wirral Lord Hunt of Wirral Conservative

Well, I agree with every word that my noble friend has just said. What I am seeking to persuade colleagues to focus on is that surely the objective—the policy intent to which she referred—is to focus our efforts on helping people via safe and legal routes. If we can deter people from coming here in small boats and by other illegal means, we can instead focus our efforts on those people who are genuinely in need. Okay, if we are not prepared to countenance NRPF, what is our answer to reducing deterrent factors—or do noble Lords simply think that this is not an issue? If that is the case, what do we say to the French, who really do strongly believe that it is a problem?

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green

The noble Lord talked about focusing on people genuinely in need and compared them with people coming by irregular routes, such as across the channel. Does the noble Lord acknowledge that more than 70% of people coming across the channel have been granted refugee status, therefore they clearly are in genuine need?

Photo of Lord Hunt of Wirral Lord Hunt of Wirral Conservative

I am not disagreeing with the noble Baroness; I am just trying to get us to focus on what the Government are now putting forward as a policy intent, which is to reduce pull factors, push factors or whatever we call them. Surely, our whole objective in all this must be to help those who are really in need and to encourage them to come by safe and legal routes. That is surely what Clause 11 is all about.

Photo of Baroness Stroud Baroness Stroud Conservative

I absolutely agree with my noble friend that the objective should be to encourage people to come by legal and safe routes. However, I think that what we have at the moment is a situation whereby people are coming across in small boats because there is no other way for them to come. We have to accept the fact that the small amount of money is not the pull factor that is bringing them across. We should really consider whether we would put ourselves at risk for that small amount of money coming across the channel.

What other ways are there of doing this? My noble friend the Minister gave this House a good challenge at Second Reading when she said that all she was hearing were problems and asked: where are the solutions? At that time, one of the solutions I put on the table was a negotiated settlement with the French post the French election. Most of us would agree that, prior to the French election, we are unlikely to get a negotiated settlement, but are we really saying that, post the French election, there might not be a possible breakthrough? The diplomatic route is one that I would still be seeking to use. We as a House must be putting creative solutions on the table.

Photo of Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Chair, Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, Chair, Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee 10:45 pm, 1st February 2022

My noble friend Lord Hunt made a valuable distinction but, with respect, he did not take it through to the logical conclusion, which is that this is only an interim measure. What is attractive is our very flexible labour market. Once you are through the system, you can easily get a job—much more so than in France and continental European countries where the labour market is much more rigid. The issue that my noble friend picks up is an interim issue that will make the ultimate objective of entering the labour market flexibly once you are through the system much easier; he is therefore right that the House is unfair to say that it is not a factor. It is a factor, but one in conjunction with the other issues, particularly the flexible labour market.

Photo of The Bishop of Durham The Bishop of Durham Bishop

If it is so much more generous here, why, in 2020, did the French have roughly 150,000 asylum claims while we had 30,000?

Photo of Lord Hunt of Wirral Lord Hunt of Wirral Conservative

As with all questions affecting our colleagues in France, it is very difficult to answer that.

Photo of Baroness Lister of Burtersett Baroness Lister of Burtersett Labour

My Lords, what evidence are the French basing this view on? The academic evidence that I am aware of, and certainly the evidence that the JCHR draws attention to, does not support the view that public funds, or welfare more widely, somehow acts as a pull factor. The pull factors were set out by the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud —family commitments, language and so on—and the evidence shows that the push factors are much more important. I would be very interested to know what evidence the French base this on because it may well be just reading our newspapers, which is probably not very good evidence.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Wirral Lord Hunt of Wirral Conservative

Would the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, please ask the French?

Photo of Lord Paddick Lord Paddick Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, after the emotionally draining Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, I told myself not to get so involved with this one, but how can noble Lords not get so involved when we are dealing with measures such as this? I cannot believe that it is not also taking a toll on the Minister, who, at all times and in every circumstance, tries everything she can personally to meet and persuade noble Lords. I wanted to put that on the record in case there was any misunderstanding of my remarks on the other Bill.

Again, we reiterate that we believe that the sole determinant of how an asylum seeker should be treated by the UK are the circumstances that forced them to seek sanctuary in the United Kingdom. If they genuinely have fled war or persecution, they should be treated as refugees, with all the rights associated with that status, regardless of how they arrived in the UK. These amendments seek to clarify in what circumstances a second-class refugee, as defined by Clause 11, would have no recourse to public funds, and what would happen to those individuals in such circumstances, as the noble Baroness, Lady Lister of Burtersett, explained. The noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, articulated the consequences of having no recourse to public funds. In short, do the Government intend to make group 2 refugees—a dreadful and, we believe, illegal term—destitute and homeless, or just for them to suffer grinding poverty?

I assume these measures are supposed to be a deterrent, but I ask noble Lords to put themselves in the position of a genuine asylum seeker in a migrant camp in northern France, considering what their next move should be. Would they feel that they would be better off destitute and homeless in France, or destitute and homeless in the United Kingdom, where they speak the same language, for example, or have friends or relatives? Would they believe, despite the Government’s best efforts, that they would still be better off in the United Kingdom than in France, for the reasons that the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, listed so clearly?

Can the Minister answer this question? Are the Government really on a race to the bottom with other countries, such as France, to see who can make life more intolerable for genuine asylum seekers? The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, raised the issue of France. I agree with my noble friend Lady Ludford: my understanding was that the French were complaining that it was easier to work illegally in the UK than in France, which was why people were coming to the UK. My understanding is also that the benefits given to refugees in France are higher than in the UK, but I stand to be corrected. Having asked the Minister that question, with some trepidation I await the Government’s response.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

My Lords, one of the ways that the Government can differentiate under the Bill between group 1 and group 2 refugees is to apply “no recourse to public funds”. The two probing amendments in this group would remove that provision. I listened with interest to what the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, had to say, as I did to my noble friend Lady Lister of Burtersett in moving the amendment. The noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, asked what the policy intent of NRPF is—I think she asked that twice during her contribution. Having heard the view of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, I will be interested to hear what the Government’s view is of the policy intent behind no recourse to public funds being applied to group 2 refugees.

We fully agree with these amendments, which are probing. A question was put to the Minister, and I simply want to support that ask of the Minister to set out in detail when the Government would consider this an appropriate differentiation to use, and in what cases. To whom within group 2 refugees do the Government expect this differentiation on no recourse to public funds to be applied, and in what circumstances? Against what criteria will that decision be made?

We are not talking about applying no recourse to public funds to persons without a valid refugee claim or economic migrants. Clause 11 applies solely to people the Government recognise as refugees with a valid right to be here and to seek safety. Bearing that in mind, it would be interesting to find out in what circumstances they think it appropriate to apply no recourse to public funds to people in the group 2 category.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

My Lords, I thank noble Lords for explaining their Amendments 46 and 54. As I have said elsewhere, I hope I can reassure the Committee that the powers under Clause 11 are both broad and flexible.

To come first to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, there is no obligation to exercise the provisions and, where they are exercised, there is no requirement to do so in any particular way. We will of course produce guidance and rules in this respect in due course, but those products will reflect the flexibility in the clause by providing appropriate discretion to take into account people’s individual circumstances.

The same therefore applies to no recourse to public funds. Details will be set out in due course, but I reassure noble Lords that we will take particular care to take into account relevant factors when considering the imposition of the condition, if it is imposed at all, including the impact on families, children and other vulnerabilities that have been raised elsewhere. In addition, we are mindful of potential impacts on local authorities and wider civil society. The policies in the Bill are of course subject to an impact assessment in any event. I stress that no one will be NRPF if they would otherwise be at risk of destitution. If they are, they can apply for a change of conditions to remove the condition.

I shall pick up on a few points. The first was about the policy intent, which is to disincentivise dangerous journeys. My noble friend Lord Hunt of Wirral is right: we have to disincentivise people from risking their lives.

My noble friend Lady Stroud talked about safe and legal routes. She was probably not in the Chamber when I laid out absolutely all of them. I refer her to the letter I sent to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, setting all of them out, including several routes for family reunion; I hope she will take a look at that. I commend her on coming up with the solution, yet again, of working with the French. I agree that we need to work not only with the French but with other countries because this is a global problem that now requires a global solution from each and every state on the globe.

I turn to push factors versus pull factors. Push factors do not explain secondary movement, there is no doubt about that. If push factors were all, people would stop in the first safe country that they reached—that is an absolute fact. We must keep all options on the table to stop illegal migration. I hope, but doubt, that I have reassured the noble Baroness that I appreciate and understand her concerns, and the requisite levels of discretion and sensitivity will be exercised with respect to—

Photo of Baroness Stroud Baroness Stroud Conservative

I thank my noble friend for giving way. I would like to clarify one point. I think she is saying that the removal or application of, or access to, public funds is discretionary. If that is the case, who has the discretion to apply or withdraw them? It is unusual for the welfare state to be quite so discretionary and, in effect, subject to subjective judgment. It would help to have clarity as to who can say this person will have access to public funds and that person will not.

Photo of Baroness Ludford Baroness Ludford Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

Before the Minister answers—I am sorry to prolong the debate; I was going to leave this point until group 8 on the right to work—she talked about pull factors being an absolute fact, but the Migration Advisory Committee said in its annual report in December:

“To the extent that the Home Office has robust evidence to support a link between the employment ban and a pull factor, they should of course make this evidence publicly available for scrutiny and review. That is how good policy is made.”

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

I thank the noble Baroness, but I disagree.

To answer my noble friend’s intervention about who decides, it is caseworkers.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

I may have misunderstood the thrust of what the Minister has said on behalf of the Government, but it came over to me that the reason why we have no recourse to public funds is to disincentivise dangerous journeys—that is, people will know that there is no recourse to public funds, and if they know that it may make stop them making those journeys.

If that is the case, why cannot the Government tell us the circumstances in which no recourse to public funds will apply? Their response has been, in effect: “Someone will draw up guidelines later on, but we do not know at the moment what they will say or the circumstances in which there would be no recourse to public funds.” In that situation, it just is not credible to say that something where the Government do not know how it will be applied would act as a disincentive on dangerous journeys.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Wirral Lord Hunt of Wirral Conservative

It removes the guarantee.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department 11:00 pm, 1st February 2022

Yes, my noble friend is absolutely right. It is not unusual for guidelines to be drawn up after legislation has been brought in.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

It is true that it is not unusual for guidelines to be drawn up subsequently but, presumably, in including the provision in the Bill, the Government had at least some idea of the circumstances in which it would be applied. The answer I am getting now is that they cannot tell us any circumstances in which it will definitely apply.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

It might be helpful to the noble Lord if I outlined situations in which it might be applied, as opposed to putting them in the Bill. I am very happy to go away and look at that and write to him with some examples of where it might be applied—I get his point on that.

Photo of Baroness Lister of Burtersett Baroness Lister of Burtersett Labour

I thank all noble Lords who have spoken. There have been some very powerful arguments for the amendment. I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud: she put it better than anyone else could, drawing on her knowledge of these issues. I thank the Minister but I must say that I am disappointed. The whole point of the amendment was to try to get a bit of clarity—my noble friend Lord Rosser has been trying, without success—but, to be honest, I am none the wiser now than I was at the beginning as to who will and will not be subject to the “no recourse to public funds” rule.

The noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, made the point that discretion involves subjective judgment. I have been involved in social security for a long time. There was a reason why we reduced the element of discretion in it: because subjective judgment may be used in ways that we do not feel very happy with. It can be negative as well as positive. All that we know about the culture of disbelief in the Home Office, the refugee system and so on does not fill me with great hope.

I am glad that the Minister said that she will write to my noble friend; I hope that she will copy it to everyone who has taken part in this debate. I hope that she will look at Hansard and the questions I asked to see whether she can answer some of them. If she cannot, it suggests that, as my noble friend said, this has been put in the Bill without a clue as to what it will actually be used for—and that is not good.

Photo of Lord Paddick Lord Paddick Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I am sorry to intervene, but will the Minister include in the letter to noble Lords how this measure, which will be broad and flexible—I think that is what she said—and at the discretion of the Home Office, will amount to a deterrent?

Photo of Baroness Lister of Burtersett Baroness Lister of Burtersett Labour

That is a very good question, but it has taken away my train of thought. What I wanted to say was that this really is not good lawmaking. The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, quoted the Migration Advisory Committee, which I was planning to quote as well in relation to the right to work, and pointed out that it is not good policy-making not to provide evidence. The Minister said she disagreed, but I hope she did not disagree with the fact that one should provide evidence for policy, which is what I challenged the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, about. I would be very interested to see this evidence the French are using. I do not think it exists.

Anyway, it is late. I am disappointed, because I am none the wiser as to how this potentially very dangerous power, which could cause immense hardship if we are not careful, is going to be used. But I hope that the Minister’s letter will show some clarity about how the Government are thinking about how they plan to use this power. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 46 withdrawn.

Amendments 47 to 55 not moved.

Clause 11 agreed.

House resumed.