Motion X1 (as an amendment to Motion X)

Illegal Migration Bill - Commons Amendments and Reasons – in the House of Lords at 11:45 pm on 12 July 2023.

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Lord Coaker:

Moved by Lord Coaker

At end insert “, and do propose Amendment 103B in lieu—

103B: After Clause 60, insert the following new Clause—“Organised immigration crime enforcement(1) The Crime and Courts Act 2013 is amended as follows.(2) In section 1 (the National Crime Agency), after subsection (10) insert— “(10A) The NCA has a specific function to combat organised crime where the purpose of that crime is to enable the illegal entry of a person into the United Kingdom via the English Channel (the “organised immigration crime function”).”(3) After section 6 (duty to publish information), insert—“6A Duties in relation to organised immigration crime(1) The Director General must, in addition to other reporting requirements under this Part, make arrangements for publishing information about the NCA’s progress in fulfilling the organised immigration crime function.(2) Reports under subsection (1) must be made at least once every six months but may be made more frequently if the Director General deems it appropriate.(3) Reports under subsection (1) must be submitted to the Secretary of State.(4) Reports under subsection (1) may, if the Director General deems it appropriate, include recommendations regarding potential additional measures in relation to the NCA’s organised immigration crime function.(5) The Secretary of State must, as soon as practicable, lay before both Houses of Parliament—(a) a summary of each report under subsection (1), and(b) the Secretary of State’s response to the report.””

Photo of Lord Coaker Lord Coaker Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Opposition Whip (Lords)

My Lords, before I speak to my own amendment, I would like to say that we very much support the most reverend Primate’s Motion Y1. Contrary to what the Minister has said, it gives us a great and important opportunity to discuss these global issues, which matter so much. Some of you will have listened to Nick Robinson on the “Today” programme—he is brilliant, of course—who highlighted some of the issues that have emerged in various areas of the world. The most reverend Primate gives us the opportunity to do that, and we very much support his Motion.

I do not intend, given the hour, to speak for long to my Motion. In the whole discussion we have had on the Bill, my proposed amendment is the only one that deals with criminal gangs. This is one of the most important ways to tackle the problem of illegal migration. Contrary to what the Minister has just told us, it is part and parcel of what Parliament should be doing—legislating in the face of what the Government themselves have described as a national emergency. The full power of the state is required to tackle this issue. It is only right that Parliament put forward amendments and Motions and ask itself and the agencies that work for the state whether enough is being done. That is what my Motion seeks to do.

To be honest, I could not believe it when the Minister said that there was no compelling reason to do this. In the last few months, I have not heard anything different from the Government about the crisis unfolding across the channel, with hundreds of people—a record number just a few days ago—coming across the channel every day. Frankly, there is every compelling reason to do something to tackle the criminal gangs who are exploiting some of the most vulnerable.

One alternative we have to the Government’s proposal concerns the international nature of the crisis, which the most reverend Primate will no doubt refer to. In my Motion I refer to the need for not only action by the National Crime Agency but international co-operation of law enforcement and police forces across Europe and beyond if we are to tackle this problem. I hope that your Lordships will feel able to accept my Motion, because there is a continuing need to ask the Government whether we are doing enough to tackle and break up the criminal gangs and to get to the really big figures who organise this business on a massive scale and exploit the weakness and vulnerability of people across the continent and beyond. Just by demanding that the Government answer that, we can get some of the answers we deserve. I look forward to the Minister’s reply, and I beg to move.

Photo of The Archbishop of Canterbury The Archbishop of Canterbury Bishop

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bellamy, and to the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for what he said. Like him, I will be brief.

Immigration and asylum, as the long series of debates on this Bill has shown, is an extraordinarily divisive issue. Speaking as someone who has been deeply embedded in east Kent for more than a decade now, I know from experience the extent to which communities are divided and individuals are torn between their desire to do what they know is right and care for those arriving, and their apprehension about the impact on local communities. One understands both those feelings very well.

When this amendment was tabled in its previous form last week, it produced considerable reconciliation and unity across the House. It was agreed that this is a massive, international issue on a generational basis and that tackling it needs profound thinking on a long-term basis. Legislation and strategy must be fitted to the problem, not the problem to the legislation. That is not how it works. For some things we do not debate strategy or have strategy on the face of a Bill, but it is impossible to imagine that we can solve a problem of this kind by taking short-term view after short-term view. It is essential that the solutions, as we go forward, bring together the whole of politics, all sides of both Houses, and unite our country instead of using this as a wedge issue to divide things.

This is a moment of reconciliation and an opportunity for profound long-term thought. This happens with climate change, on which there is legislation about 2050, never mind 10 years’ time; it happens with defence, where documents are produced that look at our proposals out to 2030; it happens with spending plans, where we have three-year committed views on spending because we know that you cannot do it in 12-month sections.

Secondly, this provides accountability. I could not agree more that a legislature is not operational, but it is the place in which the operational Executive is held to account, never mind which party it is. That will be as inconvenient to any other party in government as it is to the current party and there will be moments, if another party is in government, when it will not like it. That is the nature of our constitution. This provides for accountability; Ministers and Secretaries of State must come to both Houses and allow their view of the world to be tested, challenged, informed and improved.

Thirdly, it enables flexibility. The strategy shifts and changes as circumstances shift and change. Most of your Lordships will know Keynes’s remark:

“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?”

Of course we will need to change our mind as time goes on—if the boats are stopped, if new threats emerge to do with migration and if there are new issues.

The 10-year strategy will enable the whole country, united, to understand where we are going, what the sacrifices are and how they will be mitigated. This is not a party-political issue but one in which we must work together: if we work separately, we will fall separately. Finally, it puts us back into leadership globally. Without leadership, we cannot lead as this country should do and as we have so often shown we can. This is an international issue. We have enormous clout. It does not involve only the UNHCR, who I think are among the most extraordinary people I meet, but so many other groups. We need to see how that leadership is being exercised.

If this Motion passes this evening or if I have eloquently persuaded the Minister to stand up and say that he has changed his mind—I am not that hopeful—there are, of course, other ways of doing it. Before we come back for the next bit of ping-pong, I would be very happy and open to talk about alternative, but solid and dependable, ways of achieving the same ends for our country: reconciliation over this issue, accountability for this and future governments, flexibility in strategy, and leadership in the world. There may be other ways, and I am very open to those. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Blunkett Lord Blunkett Labour

My Lords, as someone who rarely goes to bed after 11 pm, I will be incredibly brief. I will comment on both propositions and give my support to my noble friend Lord Coaker and to the most reverent Primate.

We reached an agreement with the French 21 years ago that tackled organised criminality, not its victims. For a time, it was successful. The business model changed, and we must change with it. The National Crime Agency, working with its counterparts in France, could do a similar job, with the Government negotiating with the Government of France. We could pay for a licensing scheme in France that would make it a criminal offence for anyone to purchase, transport or sell a boat without a licence. Our agencies and theirs could then work together to tackle the organised criminal fraternity, who are bringing such misery.

In support of the most reverend Primate, if we ever needed a long-term strategy of 10 years rather than 10 months, one geared not to a general election but to solving a problem, and to dealing with it internationally, on a long-term basis, we need it now. That is why this House should support both propositions.

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

My Lords, today the Government heralded a reduction in the vacancies in the social care sector. This was achieved mainly through the arrival of 70,000 overseas workers in the last year, while the Bill tries to stop 45,000 people desperately seeking sanctuary in the UK. We on these Benches support Motions X1 and Y1. In a Bill devoid of any measures that target people smugglers, Motion X1 is the very minimum required. It is remarkable that stopping the boats is one of the Prime Minister’s five priorities, and yet it is not one of the Home Secretary’s strategic priorities for the National Crime Agency.

The most reverend Primate has made a compelling case in Motion Y1. The Government have set out in legislation the need for a climate change strategy. But, again, on one of the Prime Minister’s five top priorities, there is no need to set out in legislation the need for a strategy in relation to the movement of refugees and human trafficking. How can the Minister possibly say that that is a consistent position for the Government to take? We on these Benches will support both these Motions if the noble Lord and the most reverend Primate decide to test the opinion of the House.

Photo of Lord Bellamy Lord Bellamy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice 12:00, 12 July 2023

My Lords, if I may I will first deal briefly with Motion X1 and the National Crime Agency. It is important to remind the House that the Government have a dedicated multi-agency task force on organised immigration crime, which includes the NCA. The task force is committed to dismantling organised immigration crime groups internationally, including the criminal networks which facilitate people smuggling. In partial response, at least, to the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, the task force is active in 17 countries worldwide, working with partners to build intelligence and prosecution capability.

The Government’s position, and indeed the position of the House of Commons, is that there is no need for further legislative measures to support the effectiveness of the National Crime Agency. That is the reason why the Government cannot support Motion X1. As regards Motion Y1, no one could have listened to the speeches tonight without recognising the power and sincerity with which they were made. The Government are all for reconciliation and accountability; that is a matter, in the Government’s view, for the normal political process. The House of Commons’ view, as expressed very recently and by a substantial majority, is that Amendment Y1 is unnecessary, although I am sure the sentiment behind it is shared by all of us.

Photo of Lord Coaker Lord Coaker Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Opposition Whip (Lords)

My Lords, I thank those who have spoken in this brief debate. I thank my noble friend Lord Blunkett for his support and one or two of the ideas he brought forward, which highlight the point I am trying to make. That I have tabled an amendment has caused my noble friend Lord Blunkett to put before your Lordships the idea of licensing the boats. That may be a good idea, there may be better ideas or there may be additional ideas, but at least that was an idea that came forward.

The Minister himself has given the House a couple of facts about 17 countries working together; that has never come up in our discussions on the Bill. We need to continue to ask questions of the Government and to keep making demands of them; through that, public policy will be improved. The very least we can do is for at least one part of the Bill to concentrate on the criminal gangs who are causing such misery, rather than on the people who suffer misery at the hands of those gangs. That is the purpose of my amendment, and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for his support.

I finish with reference to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. How refreshing it is to have a contribution which talks about how to deal with a common problem facing humanity, whatever our views or wherever we come from—actually looking at what we might do to come together to solve that common problem rather than seeking to divide us, as sometimes happens.

I finish with this: we either try to solve this problem as one country—where one country believes that it can solve the problem by tightening up its borders and pulling up the drawbridge—or we recognise that across the continent and the globe countless millions of people are moving and the number who are going move in the future is probably going to increase. Some of the poorest countries in the world take in more refugees than many of the richer countries. All that needs to be discussed, debated and looked at—not just in a debate in Parliament but over a period of time in which people can contribute. That should include not just people in the legislature but members of the public, organisations and people from different parts of the globe.

I thought that the most reverend Primate’s contribution was refreshing and is to be welcomed. I hope that as well as supporting my own Motion your Lordships see fit to support the Motion in his name. It deserves support. It allows us to look forward, up and out, rather than inward. For that, we are in his debt. I look forward to all of us supporting his Motion. I wish to test the opinion of the House on Motion X1.

Ayes 157, Noes 114.

Division number 9 Illegal Migration Bill - Commons Amendments and Reasons — Motion X1 (as an amendment to Motion X)

Aye: 155 Members of the House of Lords

No: 112 Members of the House of Lords

Aye: A-Z by last name

Tellers

No: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Motion X1 agreed.