Amendment 55

Illegal Migration Bill - Committee (3rd Day) – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 7 June 2023.

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Baroness Hamwee:

Moved by Baroness Hamwee

55: Clause 7, page 9, line 36, at end insert “and, (c) the Secretary of State has published guidance regarding what criteria will be used to determine the order in which individuals who the Secretary of State is required by section 2(1) to make arrangements for removal will be removed from the United Kingdom.”Member’s explanatory statementThis is a probing amendment regarding the process the Home Secretary will put in place to determine the order in which individuals will be removed from the UK once the duty to remove is in force.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Chair, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Justice and Home Affairs Committee

My Lords, Clause 7 relates to further provisions about removal. I have three amendments in this group. Amendment 55—I apologise for the grammatical error in it—would require the Secretary of State to publish guidance about the criteria for the order in which individuals are to be removed. It is not likely to be a tidy process and, as we have been debating for two and a half days now, an awful lot of people will be involved.

Therefore, as much transparency as possible about the process is required. For instance, will decisions be taken on the basis of how long individuals have been detained compared with others, where they have been detained, the receiving country, a mixture of all of these, or none of them? On Monday we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, about a woman who had been waiting for 10 years—sadly, not that unusual a situation. The people who will be subject to these provisions are left not knowing what is going to happen to them. The lack of certainty is, to my mind, a cruelty among many others. To know not just that the decision is unfavourable but when its implications are going to be felt in the form of removal, as distinct from detention, will be very relevant.

Amendment 55A probes the process of notifying the Secretary of State under Clause 7(3)(b) regarding a suspensive claim, that the individual P

“does not intend to make a suspensive claim” and proposes that that can be made through an immigration officer. I assume that that is the case. After all, the Secretary of State does not deal personally with every single application. However, with regard to the reference to notification being given orally, I want to raise the problem in my mind that it is too easy to be misrepresented when you make an oral representation, or simply not heard. I hesitated about tabling an amendment here because, on the other hand, I do not want to disadvantage an asylum seeker by requiring notification in writing if that is a difficult thing to do. I assume that P’s representative can give the notification on P’s behalf, but I would be glad of that assurance and also to know who that representative can be. Would it have to be a legal representative or could it be somebody who was providing support through one of the many organisations that work in this sector?

Amendment 57A would leave out the term “or indicated” in Clause 7(8). That provides for directions to transport officers about removal in a ship or whatever other vehicle

“specified or indicated in the direction”.

What does “indicated” mean? Does it mean “a ship” or “a train”? I suppose the latter would be Eurostar or perhaps a train between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic—I do not know. It seems—again referring back to the previous debate—that “indicated” is perhaps a rather loose term. I may be wrong—I will probably be told that it is used in other legislation—but I would be glad to hear from the Minister what we should understand by it. I beg to move Amendment 55.

Photo of Lord German Lord German Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I have Amendment 57 in this group, and also the clause stand part debate. I will address my Amendment 57 first, but there are serious matters in the clause as a whole which I will come back to in a moment.

Amendment 57 addresses the far-reaching and perhaps unrealistic legal obligations being placed on private actors and companies to effect removal. This includes the captain of a ship, the pilot of an aircraft, the train manager or the train driver being required to enforce removal of an individual by enforcing detention on the ship, aircraft or train, if required, to prevent disembarking before removal has been fulfilled—and also of course to do it the other way round, as these people are mandated to ensure that the person is taken by those means of transport to the country to which they are being deported.

Two things arise from this part of the clause. One is that it gives inordinate powers to the Secretary of State to requisition not just ships, boats, aeroplanes and whatever else but the services of those who run those means of transport to detain and restrain those who are being transported. I will address in a moment the criminalisation of those people in making them subject to this sort of regulation.

The Explanatory Memorandum says that the Government will procure those services by privately chartering planes or ships or whatever but, clearly, this part of the clause, as drafted, gives the power to the Government to requisition those services. The Explanatory Memorandum also says that the Government can requisition scheduled services—scheduled flights to Kigali, perhaps. There are no direct flights from the United Kingdom to Kigali, by the way, and the flights are all operated by airlines based mostly in the European Union. So the Secretary of State can intervene in scheduled flights and require that they take the asylum seeker to a destination.

The other problem is that clearly, there has been no consultation on this matter with those who are now going to be required by the Government to execute this role on their behalf. To emphasise that, I will read to the Committee the views of the UK Chamber of Shipping, the people whose vessels are likely to be requisitioned:

“We are greatly concerned about these clauses becoming law which could require the ship’s master and crew to detain passengers, something which they are not trained to do, at the direction of the Government. The clauses also seem to allow the Secretary of State to set the period for which a ship’s master is required to detain a person on board a vessel—this could potentially lead to a situation where a ship’s crew is stuck in port for an indeterminate amount of time having received an instruction to detain individuals who are then awaiting the outcome of various legal processes to determine their rights. We are concerned that this puts seafarers at much greater risk from positions of conflict and potential harm”.

That is from the chamber of shipping, which obviously has not been consulted. We have also received a letter from the RMT that makes the same points.

The issue here now is: why has this power been taken? The situation is very similar to that in the Nationality and Borders Bill, which, Members of the Committee will remember, would also have criminalised seafarers who perform humanitarian rescues of persons in distress at sea and bring them to the UK, but those provisions were dropped from that Bill because these people should not be criminalised in this manner.

My first question to the Minister is: if it was determined and agreed by Parliament that this sort of clause was not required for the Nationality and Borders Bill, what is different now? How are the circumstances different? Is it because there are many people—airline pilots or crew, perhaps—who have not been willing to deport people in the manner the Government propose? Secondly, is it because the Government are not intending to provide anyone to accompany these people on their journey but are expecting them to be dealt with entirely by the crews of existing means of transport?

It is beyond my ability to understand why this law is now being put in place when it was previously deleted from an Act that had some of the same intentions. It seems to me that this is an unworkable section of the Bill, particularly in respect of people’s understanding of how they are to be expected to carry out jobs for which they have received no training, in which they have no experience and which they may find morally repugnant.

The second issue relates to what happens in respect of legal aid or support. My noble friend Lady Hamwee raised this issue but I want to take it a step further in terms of the process when a person arrives in the United Kingdom. I will give one example and one generality. The first stage is to understand at what point the letter or instruction of inadmissibility—whatever format it will take—is given to the person concerned. Also, who is going to give it to them and in what languages will it be given? There is no point in people being told this in English when their first language has no connection with ours. This situation, people being given information of which they have no understanding, has been criticised before.

I would like to ask a question about a case. Take a young lady who has escaped from South Sudan out of fear and gone to Kenya. She then takes a flight from Kenya to the United Kingdom; there are such direct flights. According to Schedule 1, Kenya is not a place that is safe for women. If that is the purpose of the schedule and the Government say that it is not safe to send women to Kenya, then Kenya is not a safe country. Therefore, the third condition under Clause 2 does not apply because the person has not come from a safe country. Perhaps the Minister would like to explain when he will reverse this situation. He has the schedule in front of him; that obviously must make it work. On the question of when people get advice, would that young lady coming from South Sudan via Kenya directly to the United Kingdom be able to get immediate advice, as she will obviously be seeking asylum in this country?

The other issue we face is people who are inadmissible on the other side. They will also need some advice and support regarding whether they should make a substantive claim. The timescale we are given in this Bill is very short indeed: eight days. Does that eight-day period start from the date on which people are given their statement of inadmissibility to the country, or when they are given a notice of deportation and removal from this country? When does that period start and when will they be able to get that aid? At the moment, it is unclear from this legislation at what point they will be able to get assistance.

We have here a selection of cases to which we do not know the answers. It is not clear from the legislation before us what the answers are but, clearly, there are people who will need assistance and advice, whether regarding the language used or the quality of the notices provided to them. How that advice is to be provided and who is to provide it are important pieces of information, but the clear message I am asking the Minister to give us today is this: when will those people have access to the sort of assistance we need to provide to comply with the legislation? Also, will the eight-day rule be shortened if notice is given too late, the date of inadmissibility being some days after they arrive?

Photo of Lord Davies of Brixton Lord Davies of Brixton Labour 5:45, 7 June 2023

My Lords, the following group, which I will lead on, deals specifically with the impact of this legislation on workers in the transport industry. I have one question on Clause 7(8) which places responsibilities on

“owners or agents of a ship, aircraft, train or vehicle”.

These responsibilities are onerous. Have the Government consulted the people involved and made an assessment of the impact? Will those issues be dealt with in the awaited impact assessment?

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green

My Lords, this Bill is about removing rights and making life as miserable as possible for some of the most vulnerable and desperate people in the world. I find it impossible to understand how we have ever come to this point. Part of this process is removing human rights with regard to access to the courts—removing the courts’ ability to intervene when the Government act unlawfully. How can that happen? How can this come to us in any sort of legislation? Detaining and deporting people without providing them with any legal advice, or even any information about how to obtain legal advice, all contribute to this denial of human rights.

I was in Belgium for a few days last week. I speak decent French and some German and there were times when I could not understand a word anyone was saying. The idea that we might not help people in a language they can understand and communicate in astonishes me.

We are in an absurd situation where murderers and paedophiles could be more kindly treated by the law than, for example, a desperate family who arrive in a small boat from across the channel.

Then there is the outrageous Clause 7. This is bonkers. When I first read it, I had to laugh—it sounds like something a two year-old might come up with. It says that the Secretary of State can commandeer

“any ship, aircraft, train or vehicle”.

So the border patrol—or whoever it is—can stuff people into somebody’s car and say, “Right, you are responsible for them. You get them out of the country”. It is astonishing. Who wrote this? How does this come from a Government whom we sort of hope might be able to tough it out for the next few months—actually I do not want them to tough it out; I want them to go. Presumably, this Government do want to tough it out, so why bring this sort of rubbish to this House? It is actually quite offensive.

In Clause 7, they are asking ordinary citizens—the British public—to act as border enforcement agents. I do not think any of us would want to do this, even the most rabid ERG member you could possibly think of. This is part of the problem with the Bill. It is not going to help the situation in any way at all. Is it designed to pander to the extreme right wing of the Government, so that they can say they are doing something and perhaps retain those votes? I have no idea. The thought processes are beyond understanding. Clause 7 is unbelievably bonkers.

It shows how this Government are trying to exploit Just Stop Oil, asylum seekers or people such as that to make the public think they are actually doing something about the problems these people are facing. I really hope that we defeat quite a lot of this Bill before it gets much further.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Labour

My Lords, what rights people have when they come into this country—unlawfully, the Government claim, although some of us would disagree—is surely an essential part of this Committee’s consideration of the Bill. I know the Minister is a member of the Bar and has practised in criminal courts and elsewhere, so he will understand instinctively how important the question of rights is for people who have just come into this country, often in a destitute state.

We know that later in Committee we will debate legal aid and the Lord Chancellor’s duties. Those are important matters to be considered then but I wonder, given the speeches that have been made on this group, whether he has something to say about the Government’s attitude towards the rights of people whom he or others may not like, but who do have rights when they arrive in this country. Do we just say that there are no such rights—no right to any advice or legal aid, if that is necessary, because they deserve what comes to them—or do we take the more sensible and British attitude that anybody who ends up on our shores and is in trouble should be entitled to some advice?

Photo of Lord Balfe Lord Balfe Conservative

My Lords, broadly speaking, I support this Bill, but there are many things in it which give me cause for concern and we have now hit one of them. The noble Lord, Lord Davies, mentioned it—the extent to which the state can co-opt unwilling people to implement its legislation. Regarding those who happen to be the driver of a train or pilot of an aircraft that has on board what we are now going to determine is an illegal immigrant, how can we force such people to act as agents of the state in detaining them?

The noble Lord, Lord Davies, mentioned that this will come up in the next group but it is an important, fundamental point. I am not talking about the refugees but the many trade unionists who will be horrified at the thought of being co-opted as almost part of the police. This is not on. Before the Bill moves to the next stage, I hope the Government can come forward with some proposals which will exempt ordinary workers from becoming its policemen.

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

My Lords, the amendments in this group all seek clarification of various issues. My noble friend Lady Hamwee rightly asked what priority is to be given to removals under the Bill, bearing in mind that the uncertainty is very corrosive of people’s mental health. She asked how P will give notice to the Home Secretary and spoke about the dangers inherent in oral notice being given. She said that that could easily be regarded as giving notice that they do not intend to make a suspensive claim, and she spoke about the danger of language difficulties, misinterpretation and so forth.

My noble friend Lord German and other noble Lords raised the question of requiring private individuals to carry out enforced removals. Most, if not all, will not have been trained in or compensated for undertaking the risks associated with forcibly removing people from this country. He also asked a very important question about consultation. Who has been consulted: trade unions, to which the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, referred, or the commercial organisations that are going to be required to undertake this work? There are other uncertainties, as my noble friend Lord German set out. It would be most helpful if the Minister provided answers to these questions.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, has a habit of saying what many of us are thinking, but we may not be prepared to stand up and use her exact words. What I would say about Clause 7 is that it smacks of desperation.

Photo of Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Shadow Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 6:00, 7 June 2023

My Lords, this group centres around Clause 7, as we have heard, and seeks clarification on procedures which outline the provisions about removal. There are several smaller amendments by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord German, on the details of removal. Probably the most important amendment is Amendment 55, in the name of the noble Baroness, which would ensure that the Government produce guidance on the criteria by which individuals will be prioritised for full removal.

In her very extensive introduction, the noble Baroness asked who P’s representative can be when going through this process. Should the representative be a lawyer, someone from an NGO or some other status of representative? If I might be allowed a short recollection, I sat in on an immigration tribunal at Hatton Cross as a member of the public. I was astonished that neither the applicant going through the immigration tribunal process, nor their representative, spoke English. That was the reality of the situation that I witnessed. I very much hope that, in the sorts of examples that we are talking about in this Bill, P will be properly informed about the processes that they are going through, that they know what their rights are and that they can make their decisions as appropriate.

Amendment 57, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord German, is about the requisition of services by private actors and companies. He explained his amendment very fully. It may be unfortunate that this overlaps a lot with group 3, as my noble friend Lord Davies has just said, but nevertheless that is where we are. My noble friend asked about representations and what consultation has been done with the trade union movement about who will be asked to play their part in working in these companies. I would be very interested to hear the Minister’s answer to my noble friend’s questions.

On the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Coaker and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones—I will not even attempt the rhetoric of the noble Baroness; it is just not my style—the point, nevertheless, is that the recipient needs to understand what is being said to them and the language must be appropriate. This is a common-sense amendment. It is a simple amendment. I hope that the Minister can indicate that some form of wording can be found in this Bill to ensure that P, who is the subject concerned, understands what is happening to them. We support the amendments in this group.

Photo of Lord Murray of Blidworth Lord Murray of Blidworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My Lords, Clause 7 makes provision for a removal notice to be given to a person and specifies what information this must contain. Each notice must specify that the individual is to be removed under the duty, be clear on their destination and set out a claim period in which to make a factual suspensive claim or a serious harm suspensive claim. That is, of course, suspensive of removal.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, described her Amendment 55 as a probing amendment, seeking to elicit our intentions as to the order in which individuals will be removed from the UK under the duty to remove in Clause 2. The whole purpose of the Bill is to remove persons who satisfy the conditions as soon as practicable. On the day of commencement, we will be dealing with two separate cohorts. First, there will be those who enter the UK illegally on or after the commencement date. Putting unaccompanied children to one side, as we already have debated how they will be considered, our aim will be to process new arrivals as quickly as possible as they arrive. Clearly, the speed with which individuals are removed will depend on whether they consent to a voluntary departure or, if not, whether they make a suspensive claim. Secondly, as we have discussed, the Bill will have a retrospective effect and the duty to remove will apply to those who entered illegally on or after 7 March this year. Where, in the case of this cohort, any asylum or human rights claim has not been decided by the commencement date, we will commence removal action in accordance with the duty in Clause 2, in parallel with the enforcement action that is being taken against new arrivals.

I assure the Committee that the necessary planning is under way to support the effective and efficient implementation of the Bill, which will ensure that we have an integrated and robust end-to-end process from arrival through to removal. This will cover the use of detention, case-working operation, management of appeals and the logistics associated with the returns themselves. I agree with the noble Baroness that development of robust guidance and training will be a key component across all of this. However, while work on implementation is well under way, we should not get ahead of ourselves. First, we must get the Bill on to the statute book in a form that is operable. We cannot be legislating for a scheme that is so full of holes that it is unworkable.

Amendment 55A seeks to probe how the process will operate, should an individual indicate that they do not wish to make a suspensive claim. If an individual notifies the Secretary of State that they do not intend to make a suspensive claim, the person may be removed to the country or territory which they have been given notice of. As the noble Baroness suggests, such notification may be to an immigration officer or a Home Office official. Where it is given orally, it will be duly recorded. I hope that affords an answer to her point.

Amendment 56, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, would set out in statute two additional requirements to the notice, which must be given to the person before they may be removed—that it is provided in a language which they understand and provides information on how to access legal advice. It would be prohibitively expensive to provide translations of decision notices in all possible languages and dialects up front, and there would be a time delay in doing this on an individual basis. It is therefore more efficient to work with interpreters. It is already our current policy to ensure, when serving notices in person, that the contents are explained to the individual in a language which they understand, using interpretation services where required. We also provide information on how to access legal services where relevant.

On the question of legal advice, I reassure the Committee and the noble Lord that, in giving this notice, we will ensure that we also provide information on how to access any legal advice which individuals are entitled to and on how to make a voluntary departure. We will discuss this further in relation to the legal aid provisions, which will come before the Committee in the next few days. Therefore, it is unnecessary to put these additional requirements into the statute.

Amendment 57, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord German, deals with the legal obligations that these provisions place on transport operators. The noble Lords, Lord Davies and Lord Paddick, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and my noble friend Lord Balfe raised the same point. This amendment, as the noble Lord, Lord Davies, pointed out, overlaps with his own group of amendments, which we are debating in the next group. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord German, will be content if I deal with the substance of his Amendment 57 when we reach Amendment 57B.

Amendment 57A seeks to test the drafting of Clause 7(8), where it refers to a vehicle being

“specified or indicated in the direction”.

A direction “specifying” a ship, train, aircraft or vehicle may refer to a particular ship et cetera scheduled to depart at a specified date and time, whereas a direction “indicating” a ship may be a more generic item, for example, specifically or simply referring to a flight to depart that day rather than to a particular flight. Moreover, I point out that the drafting here is drawn from and reflects long-established terminology used in Schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971.

I will deal briefly with Clause 9. It simply makes a number of consequential amendments to existing immigration legislation to ensure that it works smoothly. There is no contradiction alongside the new provisions for removal in the Bill.

To respond to the noble Lord, Lord German, persons served with a removal notice will have eight days to submit a suspensive claim beginning from the day that they were given such a notice. We will come on to Clause 54 in due course; as I have already said, it provides for free legal advice for those issued with a removal notice. To answer the noble Lord, Lord Bach, persons subject to the duty to remove will have access to advice.

Photo of Lord German Lord German Liberal Democrat

I was interested in two stages. The Minister has talked about when the notice of removal is issued. Presumably there is also a statement of inadmissibility when you have arrived, because it takes some time to prepare the document or whatever the detail is for a removal certificate or notice. Is there an earlier notice? If so, is that the place where people can seek advice?

Photo of Lord Murray of Blidworth Lord Murray of Blidworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I do not have the answer to that at my fingertips but, if I may, I will revert to the noble Lord with it. I suspect that the availability of legal advice will be drawn to the attention of individuals at the earliest possible time, but I will check that point and come back to the noble Lord.

In conclusion, the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, made some valid points on which I will further reflect. I hope I have at least gone some way to respond to the probing amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. On that basis, I ask whether she is content to withdraw her Amendment 55.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Chair, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Justice and Home Affairs Committee

My Lords, it is Committee stage and, as the whole Committee knows, that is what I will do.

On this amendment, the Minister said, possibly twice, that things will be done “as soon as practicable”, but we know that not very much is practicable. It sounds like a parallel, idealised—well, it is not ideal to me but it may be in the Government’s mind—universe where all is possible. On the previous group, my noble friend referred to being somewhere within the wizardry of Oz. I do not know who is which character, and perhaps it would be inappropriate to speculate. However, the point about uncertainty in the minds of the individuals concerned is serious, which is why I made it earlier.

I do not think the Minister answered my question on Amendment 55A about whether notification can be given by a representative of the individual and whether that has to be a legal representative or could be a support worker from an organisation in the sector. Is he able to respond to that now?

Photo of Lord German Lord German Liberal Democrat

I also asked a question to which the Minister did not reply, about a person escaping from South Sudan via Kenya. Kenya would be treated as an unsafe country because it is in Schedule 1. Could the Minister respond to that when he has a moment?

Photo of Lord Murray of Blidworth Lord Murray of Blidworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I apologise for not answering the noble Baroness’s question. Yes, is the answer; representatives could be provided in that way.

To reply to the hypothetical situation that the noble Lord referred to about someone from South Sudan travelling via Kenya, it would depend on the facts of the specific case and whether the conditions were met. It is perhaps not directly relevant to the debate we are having on this amendment, but I am happy to consider that hypothetical in more detail and write to the noble Lord.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Chair, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Justice and Home Affairs Committee

To be absolutely clear, is the Minister saying that notification can be given via any representative and that they do not have to be qualified in a particular way?

Photo of Lord Murray of Blidworth Lord Murray of Blidworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 6:15, 7 June 2023

That is certainly my understanding. If the situation is any different, I will let the noble Baroness know.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Chair, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Justice and Home Affairs Committee

I think that is quite important, as it matters how these things work in practice. Having said that, and as I indicated, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 55 withdrawn.

Amendments 55A to 57A not moved.