Motion A1 (as an amendment to Motion A)

Illegal Migration Bill - Commons Reasons – in the House of Lords at 10:15 pm on 17 July 2023.

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Baroness Chakrabarti:

Moved by Baroness Chakrabarti

At end insert “, and do propose Amendments 90F, 90G and 90H in lieu—

90F: Leave out Clause 1 and insert the following new clause—“IntroductionIn interpreting this Act, regard shall be given to the United Kingdom’s obligations under—(a) the 1950 European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;(b) the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees including the Protocol to that Convention;(c) the 1954 and 1961 UN Conventions on the Reduction of Statelessness;(d) the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;(e) the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking Human Beings.”

90G: Clause 4, page 6, line 7, at end insert “if the court seized of the application refuses permission or interim relief or dismisses the application.”

90H: Clause 52, page 54, line 3, at end insert “without giving reasonable notice to the Secretary of State so as to allow representations as to why, notwithstanding ongoing proceedings as to the legality of a decision to remove the person, they should nonetheless be removed.””

Photo of Baroness Chakrabarti Baroness Chakrabarti Labour

My Lords, I remind noble Lords that this Bill was not a manifesto commitment at the last election; it is rather the extended version of a populist slogan for the upcoming one. That distinction is even more constitutionally significant when the Executive propose to expunge the age-old common law jurisdiction of His Majesty’s courts to issue interim relief in expulsion cases, the judicial practice of considering international obligations, and the Human Rights Act 1998 duty to interpret legislation compatibly with convention rights and freedoms where possible.

Noble Lords, and in particular the noble and learned Lords, Lord Hope and Lord Etherton, rejected the Government’s suggestion that the previous amendment to Clause 1 offended our legal traditions. None the less, we have softened it still further, removing references to “acts and omissions” and intended compliance only in the spirit of dialogue with the other place. Now, it merely requires that those interpreting this measure give regard to the human rights treaties mentioned. Without this amendment, an eventual illegal migration Act 2023 could become effectively exempt from the European Convention on Human Rights under domestic law as soon as its provisions are brought into force.

Again, in attempted dialogue with the other place we have clarified the amendment to Clause 4 to ensure that the duty to remove—so central to the Government’s scheme—is revived the moment a first instance court dismisses an application unless permission to an appeal court is granted. Without this amendment, the duty to remove applicants would continue, even where our higher courts are still considering the safety of a third country such as Rwanda.

The amendment to Clause 52 has been tightened to provide that courts must not only attempt but ensure that they give reasonable opportunity to the Secretary of State to object before granting interim injunctions preventing removal. Without this amendment, no British court would retain its common law power to prevent removal, despite grave risk to a person subject to ongoing legal proceedings. Noble Lords will remember that the Government have already taken the power to ignore Strasbourg interim relief under Clause 53.

In summary, without these amendments, the Government could argue a power, or even a duty, to remove new arrivals—potentially even as we rest this summer—before the Supreme Court hears the Rwanda test case in relation to past arrivals this autumn. That is what is at stake: one of the gravest executive power grabs and abrogations of the rule of law in living memory. That is why the, yes, unelected but more independent Chamber should exceptionally stand firm to protect the constitutional role of our courts and the rule of law.

In a state of sadness and some disbelief that things have come to this in our beloved land of rights advancement, from Magna Carta to the post-war settlement, I beg to move.

Noble Lords:

Front Bench!

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green

I would just like to say, if I may, that I am surprised that the Government do not like this amendment. Quite honestly, it strengthens the Bill when it comes to legal procedure, and they would have fewer legal challenges to all their cases if it goes through. They should welcome it, particularly if there is no conflict with international law, as the Minister told us earlier, in order to restore certainty. The Government should support this amendment.

Noble Lords:

Front Bench!

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

My Lords, I am speaking for these Benches.

The noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, has eloquently explained why these amendments are necessary to uphold key rule of law and constitutional principles. Quite honestly, in the Minister’s argument about Amendment 90F, on regard being had to international obligations, he keeps regurgitating this idea of backdoor incorporation. That was thoroughly demolished by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, last week—let us remember that he was Deputy President of the Supreme Court—when he said:

“This a pure interpretation provision, and it is entirely consistent with the way the courts approach these various conventions … I support the amendment because it is entirely orthodox and consistent with principle”.—[Official Report, 12/7/23; col. 1817.]

That was about the previous version, and as the noble Baroness explained, the new version is even more about reinforcing the interpretation. Quite honestly, the Minister’s argument holds no water.

Since the Government have been unable to vouch for the compatibility of the Bill with the European Convention on Human Rights because it is too novel and untested to evaluate, we need this safeguard in the Bill to ensure that the Government are kept to the straight and narrow.

The other points about the jurisdiction of the courts are straightforward rule of law issues. Is it the courts or the Executive who will have the final say on what happens to people, whether they are deported, detained or safe? It should be the courts.

Noble Lords:

Front Bench!

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

My Lords, I support my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti’s Motion A1. We believe it to be a very important Motion.

The only comment I will make in response to the Minister’s opening remarks on the passage of the Bill in the other place is this. We have always said that the Government have a right to get their legislation, but this place also has a right to put forward amendments and to ask for revisions and consideration. It does not help us to believe that this place receives proper consideration of its amendments when the Minister in the other place announced at the end of last week, even before proper consideration, that no concessions would be made with respect to what this House is proposing. That is not the way for business to be conducted. This place has a proper constitutional role to play, which includes sometimes saying to the Government that they should think again, and even sometimes saying it twice.

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

My Lords, I simply cannot accept the proposition advanced by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti. As the House will remember from the last occasion, a court always has regard, if possible, to the international treaties binding the United Kingdom, as was made clear by Lord Dyson in the Supreme Court in the Assange case.

The noble Baroness’s amendment is simply unnecessary, and, in addition, it would have the effect of changing the constitutional relationship of our law and international law. I am afraid, therefore, that I cannot accept her proposed Motion. I invite noble Lords to vote against it in the event that it is not withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Chakrabarti Baroness Chakrabarti Labour

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords. I have moved Motion A1 and I ask noble Lords to approve it.

Ayes 200, Noes 217.

Division number 1 Illegal Migration Bill - Commons Reasons — Motion A1 (as an amendment to Motion A)

Aye: 198 Members of the House of Lords

No: 215 Members of the House of Lords

Aye: A-Z by last name

Tellers

No: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Motion A1 disagreed.

Motion A agreed.