Amendment 6

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill - Committee (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 8:10 pm on 12 February 2024.

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Lord Hope of Craighead:

Moved by Lord Hope of Craighead

6: Clause 1, page 1, line 12, leave out “is a safe country”, and insert “will be a safe country when, and only so long as, the arrangements provided for in the Rwanda Treaty have been fully implemented and are being adhered to in practice.”Member's explanatory statementThis amendment, read with new subsections 1(7) and 1(8), seeks to give effect to the proposition that Parliament cannot judge Rwanda to be a safe country until the Rwanda Treaty has been, and continues to be, fully implemented.

Photo of Lord Hope of Craighead Lord Hope of Craighead Judge

My Lords, I have four amendments in this group: Amendment 6, 14, 20 and 26. They are all part of a single package. They are designed to address, in a slightly different way, the points that have been debated in the two previous groups. In a way, we are on very familiar ground, because we have covered the ground in considerable detail, particularly in the exchanges with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart, at the end of the last group.

I take the Committee directly to the wording of Clause 1(2)(b). That clause states, as we know, that the

“Act gives effect to the judgement of Parliament that the Republic of Rwanda is a safe country”.

I am concerned with the word “is”. By way of preamble, I am not speaking entirely for myself in being unduly troubled by the fact that the Government are asking your Lordships to reverse the finding of the UK Supreme Court of 15 November last year. The court said that there were:

“substantial grounds for believing that the removal” of claimants

“to Rwanda would expose them to a real risk of ill treatment, as a consequence of refoulement”.

In other words, it was not a safe country as defined for the purposes of the Bill by Clause 1(5).

However, that finding was based on the evidence which was before the court. Indeed, that was evidence which was before the Divisional Court a year before in 2022, as the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Blidworth, reminded us. In a sense, it was talking about material which has moved on. At least, other things have moved on since the facts were gathered together, which was the basis of that finding. It is important to note that the document which was available at that time was not the treaty but the then memorandum of understanding between the two Governments, entered into in April 2022. That had some quite important differences to what we now find in the treaty.

As all judges know, decisions on matters of fact are open to review if there has been a material change of circumstances. I am very far from saying that there has been a sufficient material change to justify a different finding, but in principle, that finding is open to be looked at again if the circumstances change. Certainly, things have moved on since 2022. As I mentioned a moment ago, there is a new treaty. As for Parliament taking upon itself the responsibility of making the judgment referred to in Clause 1(2)(b), I suggest that one has to be quite sanguine about it and just recognise that there are circumstances where judgments can be looked at again. No judge is going to be particularly aggrieved if people suggest that this should be so.

If I was still in the Supreme Court, I would just shrug my shoulders at this and let Parliament carry on and do what it likes, as indeed it can. The President of the Supreme Court, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Reed of Allermuir, is a Member of this House, but unfortunately, he is disqualified by reason of his office from coming to address us. There is a mechanism by which, if he was unduly troubled, he could submit in writing his views for us to take into account. So far as I know, he has not done that, and I am not greatly surprised that he did not think it necessary to do that.

When I said that Parliament can do what it likes—even if, as is plainly the case here, what it is doing is plainly in conflict with our international obligations and therefore deeply regrettable—it must think very carefully about what it is doing. It must be careful in the choice of words. If it is going to take the place of judges who are very careful in their choice of words when they issue their judgments, it must exercise the same degree of care and skill. That is all the more important in view of the way the Bill gives effect to the judgment. It is surrounded by so many barbed-wire fences, all designed to prevent that judgment ever being challenged in any UK court under any circumstances. This means that the judgment your Lordships are being asked to make is crucial to the safety, lives and well-being of everyone, wherever they come from, who are at risk of being removed to Rwanda.

As I have said many times in this House, words matter. That is why the choice of the word “is” is so important. I suggest to your Lordships that its use here is so wrong, as the exchanges at the end of the last group demonstrated so powerfully. It refers to the state of facts when the treaty comes into force, which, looking at the end of the Bill, is the Bill’s commencement date. It asserts that from that very moment, simply because the treaty is then in force, Rwanda is a safe country.

Furthermore, the use of the word “is” asserts that it continues to be a safe country and must be treated as such by any decision-maker for ever after, whatever has happened and whatever the circumstances, so long as the Act remains in force. I simply cannot, in all conscience, make that judgment. The words “is a safe country” would be fine if one were simply creating a slogan or defining an aspiration, but that is not what we are dealing with. This is legislation that, as Clause 9(2) tells us,

“applies to any decision by a decision-maker relating to the removal of a person to the Republic of Rwanda that is made on or after the … Treaty enters into force”.

It has no regard to the safety of all those who are at risk of removal, wherever they come from, if they are exposed to the risk of refoulement while they are there.

There is a crucial difference between building legislation around a judgment of fact relating to the laws of physics, or propositions about things that have existed for all time and will not change, and what your Lordships are being asked to form a judgment about here. For example, there could be no objection to Parliament basing legislation around a declaration that, in its judgment, the earth is round. That might have startled some people a century or so ago, but not now, as we know it to be true and, furthermore, we know that it will never change. What we are dealing with here is human behaviour: people will have to implement the Rwanda treaty, so one has to be assured that they have the practical ability to fulfil the assurances being given.

I do not for a moment doubt the integrity and good faith of the Government of Rwanda. The parties have committed themselves to clear and binding obligations as to how the treaty is to be secured. They have committed themselves to taking all steps necessary or appropriate to ensure that these obligations can be, and are in fact being, complied with. But when you have to rely on people to achieve those things, there is always a question of whether they will always do what they are told to do, or indeed whether they are capable of doing what they are told to do. That is why the treaty itself provides for a monitoring process to see that what the treaty provides for actually happens.

The implementation of those obligations lies in the future, as do the making and bringing into force of the new Rwanda asylum law—which is not yet in force but nevertheless essential—designed to strengthen the decision-making and associated appeals processes. The Government’s policy statement of 11 January 2024 states that that will happen “in the coming months”, so it seems that it may well not be there when the treaty comes into force. To adopt a phrase used by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart, the arrangements that we are working towards are a goal for something in the future that we cannot be assured will be there or will be achieved by the date when the Act commences. There are also the 10 points noted by the IAC and now very helpfully listed in proposed new subsection (1A)(c) in Amendment 84 from the noble Lord, Lord German, which was discussed in the last group. I am extremely grateful to him, because it illustrates the point that I am trying to make. That is the background to my amendments, which are very simple.

My Amendment 6 would remove the words “is a safe country”, which I submit are wholly misguided. Indeed, it became clear in the exchanges with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart, that it was embarrassing for him that he was trying to assert that the word “is” really means what it says. I would replace it with the words

“will be a safe country when, and only so long as, the arrangements provided for in the Rwanda Treaty have been fully implemented and are being adhered to in practice”.

That is a formula that I would have thought the Government could perfectly well accept, because they believe that the Rwanda treaty is doing what is needed, so they would not be troubled at all by adopting those words. If they did, it would certainly reassure a lot of us who are deeply worried about the reliability of what we were being told. I encourage the Minister to look carefully at my wording and consider whether there is anything to object to. It does not in any way seek to undermine the Bill. It uses the words that any judge would use if he were forming the judgment that we are being asked to make.

My Amendments 20 and 26 would qualify the directions that are given to every decision-maker, and to the courts and tribunals mentioned in Clause 2, so that they are qualified to the same effect. My Amendment 14, which is an essential part of the package,

“seeks to provide a means by which it can be determined” whether

“the Rwanda Treaty has been, and continues to be, fully implemented”.

I think that it is the feeling across the Committee that we really cannot just accept the Government’s assurance; there has to be some method of checking that the implementation is taking place and that it will continue to be the case in the future.

Two other means of addressing this vital issue are proposed in this group: in the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lord Anderson of Ipswich, and in Amendment 64 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. So there are three solutions on the table. I am simply putting one forward, with no claim to priority in any way; it is just another solution that I suggest should be weighed up against the others.

My approach—which is, I think, in line with the point that the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, made in his comments on the last group—is not to do something that would have the possibility of delaying the Bill or its implementation, as might happen if one were using the IAC or another outside body as a monitoring committee. I have based my formula on the provisions of the treaty itself, which I would have thought the Government would not complain about because they, after all, have agreed to these committees being in the treaty in the first place.

On the one hand, a monitoring committee made up of eight independent experts is already in existence. I cannot claim to know who they all are but I know that one of them, Harish Salve KC, of Blackstone Chambers, brings to the task many years of experience in public international law and human rights. From what one can see from the description of his career on the website, one can have a good deal of confidence that he knows what he is doing when he is asked to monitor what is going on there. The key function of the committee under Article 15 is to advise on all steps that it considers appropriate to ensure that the provisions of the treaty are adhered to in practice. That is precisely the point on which we require reassurance. The other committee is a joint committee whose role under Article 16 is to

“monitor and review the application and implementation” of the treaty. Then there are the objectives of the treaty, which of course are set out in the treaty itself, listed in Article 2, together with the mechanisms needed to bring it about.

My amendment brings together these three points: the monitoring committee, the joint committee, and the objectives of the treaty itself. It proposes that the treaty

“cannot be considered to have been fully implemented … until the Secretary of State has obtained a declaration by the Joint Committee … after consultation with the Monitoring Committee … that the Objectives … have been secured by the creation of” these mechanisms. It goes on to say that the Secretary of State

“must consult the Monitoring Committee every three months … and must make a statement to Parliament” if the advice of the monitoring committee is that this is not happening. This provides a sufficiently reliable means of ensuring that what I have set out in my Amendment 6 has been and will continue to be achieved. It is relatively simple and I cannot see that it delays anything, because it uses the mechanisms in the treaty itself, which we are being asked to accept as reliable for the purpose for which it is designed.

As I said at the beginning, my four amendments are all part of a package, and they are designed to correct the wholly inaccurate and, frankly, sloppy use of “is”, which should never have been in the clause in the first place if it is going to be a declaration of what our judgment is. I suggest that my words are far better suited to the judgment that the House is being asked to make and to put it into practice. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Anderson of Ipswich Lord Anderson of Ipswich Crossbench 8:15, 12 February 2024

My Lords, I cannot of course surpass the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, in quality but I can at least claim the advantage in quantity: I have seven amendments in this group to his four.

We discussed in the first group of amendments why Parliament is ill equipped to make the fact-specific and time-specific judgment asked of it by the Bill—that Rwanda is a safe country. I suppose that on Wednesday we will look at how this difficulty is compounded by restrictions on access to the courts, which is the most troublesome aspect of the Bill.

The amendments in this group do not provide answers to either of those concerns of constitutional principle. Instead, and very much as a second-best option, at least as far as I am concerned, they accept the proposition that Parliament should be the decision-maker and seek to make something workable out of it. The past few hours have surely served as a warning, following the similar warning delivered by the International Agreements Committee at the end of last year, that this House could not, as the noble and learned Lord put it, in all conscience sign off now or in the near future on the proposition that Rwanda is a safe country. The Minister came very close in the last debate to admitting the obvious—that this is at best a work in progress. If he is as sensible as I think he is, he should be very grateful for the olive branch that is Amendment 6 in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope.

We turn to the question of what Parliament would need in order to make its judgment—the letter promised to the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, will be a welcome start, but it could not of course be enough—and how to ensure that this judgment can be revisited over time. My Amendments 15, 16, 77, 83, 88, 89 and 92 in this group, on which I am grateful for the assistance of the Law Society of England and Wales, are put forward in that spirit of slightly grubby compromise.

Amendment 15 provides for an independent reviewer to review the implementation and operation of the Rwanda treaty and report on it, initially at three-month intervals and thereafter annually. The objective is to produce an impartial report which Parliament can use to come to its own view. I am indebted for that idea to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, a former independent reviewer himself, who signed the amendment but unfortunately cannot be here today. I accept that there are bodies other than an independent reviewer which could give us the expert advice that we need to make the judgment required of us under Clause 1. It may not be realistic to expect the Government to accept the UNHCR or indeed the Joint Committee on Human Rights for that purpose. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, suggests involving the independent monitoring committee established under the UK-Rwanda agreement. There is a good deal of logic in that and it might be a satisfactory solution, so long as its reports are published in full and without interference by the joint committee—the body made up of officials from the two Governments and hence anything but independent—to which the monitoring committee, under the scheme of the treaty, reports. For that reason I see attraction in the approach of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, in his Amendments 64 and 65, which cut out the middleman and require the monitoring committee to report directly to Parliament.

My Amendment 16 provides for what should happen if the independent reviewer should report that Rwanda is not or has ceased to be safe. That report would not be binding on Parliament. We have suggested that the House of Commons should have 28 days to resolve that Rwanda is none the less a safe country, failing which removals to Rwanda would have to stop immediately. I did wonder whether that was overgenerous, but it does at least preserve the accountability of which the noble Lord, Lord Howard, spoke earlier.

Amendments 83, 88 and 89 concern the commencement provision, Clause 9. They provide that the Act, with the exception of the proposed new clause creating an independent reviewer, would not come into force until the House of Commons is satisfied following a report from the independent reviewer that Rwanda is a safe country. Amendment 92 would ensure that the Act expires on the date on which the Rwanda treaty is terminated, subject to any transition provisions.

These amendments or others like them—and there is a good menu of options in this group—give Parliament the tools that it needs to make a judgment that Rwanda is safe. They provide a mechanism for that judgment to be revisited without the need for primary legislation in the event that independent observers find that the situation on the ground has deteriorated. They provide for the Act to be sunsetted in circumstances where the treaty has been terminated. They do not cure the constitutional difficulties of the Bill but they enable the central decision to be made on the basis of evidence rather than dogma, fiction or fantasy. I hope that the Minister agrees that this would be a refreshing change.

Photo of Lord Blunkett Lord Blunkett Labour 8:30, 12 February 2024

My Lords, I speak to Amendment 8 and associated Amendment 72 in my name. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, and to the right reverend Prelates the Bishop of Bristol and the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich for their support. I have also added my name to Amendment 64 tabled by my noble friend Lord Coaker.

I have tabled Amendment 8 for several reasons in relation to what happens to those who would find themselves translated to Rwanda should this Bill become law and should there be time for the Government to find the mechanisms and processes to make it work, which is in considerable doubt. Nothing that I say this evening should be taken as any endorsement whatever for any part of the Bill, because I do not believe that it will work or that it is acceptable in terms of our international conventions.

I take up the point made at the end of the last group by the Minister, when making a gallant effort to defend the Government, that this is about deterrents. The deterrent is Rwanda. The deterrent is the refusal, through the Nationality and Borders Act and then the Illegal Migration Act, to allow people to claim asylum when they reach our shores if they do not come with the appropriate accreditation and passport. As there are no current resettlement routes outside the particular routes for Ukraine and Hong Kong that are currently working, anyone outside those bespoke processes is denied asylum in the UK. The previous Home Secretary and her predecessor both made it very clear that what they were doing here was indicating that someone who came without those papers and processes was illegal. By being illegal they became, in the words of Suella Braverman, a criminal—they therefore broke our values and should not have the right to be processed here but instead should be transferred to Rwanda.

My amendment and the associated Amendment 72, which deals with the treaty requirements, are very simple. Someone who is offshored and can justify their asylum claim by showing that they are a genuine refugee should be allowed back into the country. That was true of the Australian scheme mentioned earlier, which incidentally was about picking people up in the 1,000 nautical miles of sea before people reached Australia and translating them back to the processing company.

The one thing the Australian scheme had in common with the Rwanda scheme is the cost: it ended up at £1 million per individual, which is what we will end up with here. They had that in common.

What the Rwanda scheme does not have in common with the proposition from, I repeat what I said a few weeks ago, the very far-right Prime Minister of Italy, the leader of Brothers of Italy—I do not know whether Members on the Benches opposite accept that she is a genuine right-winger—for offshoring to Albania is that those who are adjudged to be asylum claimants and shown to have refugee status will be transported back to Italy. They have the right to come back to the country that originally transported them out.

I want to make this clear, although at this time of night the message probably will not get across, but I do not believe that Members of the House of Commons understood what they were passing. I do not mean to be patronising, but I just think that they did not take account of the detail; neither did the public. I do not think they understood that it is a one-way ticket. We are not offshoring by any known concept of that process, but showing Rwanda, as I just described, to be a threat. If it is a threat, it is a threat. What is the threat about Rwanda? It is that it is Rwanda.

The Bill is a one-way ticket that, bizarrely, allows asylum to be claimed or not. In the responses at the end—and I gave notice of this at Second Reading—I would be interested in knowing what happens if someone who is not allowed to claim asylum in the UK, having been transported to Rwanda, chooses not to claim asylum in Rwanda. It cannot be presumed that, because they had tried to claim asylum in the UK and were criminalised when denied it, they would claim asylum in Rwanda. Perhaps we could park that and someone can give me an answer.

Let us say that they do claim asylum in Rwanda: they will end up no different from those who have not claimed asylum, because they will be in Rwanda. Sadly, those who have demonstrated their legitimate claim to asylum, and therefore are refugees by every international convention, will be in exactly the same position as those who are adjudged not to be refugees but who remain in asylum. The only two categories among those who can reach the UK from Rwanda are those who are claiming asylum in the United Kingdom as Rwandans, or those who cannot be transported from Rwanda to the country of their origin because it is unsafe and who are allowed back under the Bill. Those are the only two categories. Those who are not allowed back are those who have actually demonstrated their refugee status. This is Alice in Wonderland stuff; it is absurd.

If this is all about sending signals to the traffickers that their business model is broken, we would really be breaking the asylum seekers rather than the organised criminals. They would simply say to people, “If you are going to be transported to Rwanda, but you demonstrate your refugee status, you will remain in Rwanda, just as those who do not will remain in Rwanda”, the asylum seekers will disappear into the ether. Organised criminals are to be dealt with in subsequent groups in Committee. Genuine refugees will find themselves in the hands of organised criminals and part of modern slavery. We know that that will happen, because that is what organised traffickers will tell asylum seekers: “We will give you a telephone number. Ring it, and we’ll find you a job and a bed, and we’ll own you”.

If there is anything moral in how we stop people coming across the channel in dangerous small boats, it is not the morality of sending away the organised traffickers. It is the immorality of encouraging people to disappear into the hands of those same organised criminals.

I am suggesting that—as with Giorgia Meloni, and every other system in the world that has ever existed, as far as I know—those who demonstrate their refugee status, and have been transported from the country they finally reached, should be allowed to come back as refugees. It might not fit the threat of Rwanda that we talked about earlier, and will talk about in subsequent groups, but it would fit our commitment to our international obligations and the human rights of those individuals. If we do not do that, we are developing a concept of the United Kingdom as a country that will not only breach all international conventions that we have signed but our basic morality. That would be demonstrably dangerous for this country and other parts of the world in years to come.

Photo of Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Labour

My Lords, the full incoherence and madness of the Bill has just been exemplified in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett. The many possibilities here are incredible, such as the idea that asylum seekers may well receive the advice that when they get to Rwanda they should not apply for asylum. What do the Rwandan people do then? We should ask ourselves that question: where do you send them back to? To Britain, whence they came—they are not applying for asylum here—or back to France, our great partner in trying to deal with the crime that is emanating across Europe, with which we need to be collaborative, and need intelligence and serious investigation into criminal gangs?

I was rather attracted by the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, that we change the tense and make it about the future: that if Rwanda does become the safe country we are being asked to vote that it is, that we feel it has a legal system capable of making these assessments, and it is properly monitored, and we receive evidence—I have mentioned evidence before—we must be sure of that, and putting it into the future might be rather appealing. The one thing I had concerns about was when the noble and learned Lord said that this would not cause delay. I am hoping that there will be delay.

I do not want to see people being flown to a place in which this great project of modernising and improving the system will take place. If it is going to happen at all, I want it to have happened before we send anybody there. I happen to take the view, unpopular among many, that exporting people and sending them away is part of the problem. We are not doing as Italy’s ultra-radical, proto-fascist leader Ms Meloni is doing, which is asking the Albanians to do on Italy’s behalf what the Italian system would be doing. We are not asking for that; we are sending them there. We are exporting a problem.

I am concerned about the issue of delay and perhaps the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, will respond at some stage. I see him getting to his feet; maybe he can help me.

Photo of Lord Hope of Craighead Lord Hope of Craighead Judge

I do not quite understand the point that the noble Baroness is making. When I talked about delays, I meant the delay of implementing the Bill—putting the various people in place for the monitoring to take place. The fact is that the committees I mentioned already exist. The distinction is between that situation and setting up new independent monitoring, which will take time. That is my only point, but of course I appreciate that all the time that is necessary should be taken to be absolutely sure that implementation has been achieved. That is a different question.

Photo of Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Labour 8:45, 12 February 2024

So the delay we were talking about is delay in the implementation of this legislation. I remind your Lordships of an example of that. The Human Rights Act passed in 1998. The point was made at the time that it would not come into operation until 2000, because it was accepted that there would have to be considerable training and learning before it could possibly take effect in the courts in a sensible way. We had to make sure that decisions would be made in a way that complied with that Act and the European convention. We recognised that, if you want to create change of that sort, there have to be concomitant changes in systems, training, lawyering and judging.

So I would certainly want to see evidence of more than four days of training. The International Bar Association is involved in training lawyers and prosecutors around the world in relation to, for example, coercive interrogation, as we politely call it, to prevent the torture of people who are arrested and to make sure that, to comply with the rule of law, we do not use those kinds of practices to extract confessions in our systems of law around the world, because we have learned that confessions extracted in that way are never reliable. Training takes place, but we all recognise that four days of training does not produce the goods. Two sets of four days of training, as we have had so far in Rwanda, do not create a change in the culture.

We are talking about something much more substantial and meaningful in changing systems. I remember, because I was in the radio studio with him at the time, when the Supreme Court’s judgment came out and Lord Sumption and I were asked, on the “Today” programme’s podcast, about the effects of it and the Government’s response that they were going to pass a Bill in which they said that the country was safe. He was absolutely shocked and said it would be disreputable to do such a thing. Why did he say that? He said it himself on the programme: it is the systems that are problematic here. The outcome of refoulement is a result of inadequate systems. To change them would be a substantial challenge, and not one that can be completed in a matter of months. The story is that somehow the evidence on which this was based was outdated, but we must have evidence of substantial change before we can possibly consider the Bill as an acceptable one to put through this House.

I certainly cheer on the amendment from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and any other amendments that may come forth that will delay this, but we know that this is really about an election that is coming up, in which this has become a very heated issue. There is a desire on the Prime Minister’s part to fulfil Ms Braverman’s dream: that she will see a flight go into the air to Rwanda, carrying on it some of these asylum seekers. That is the dream; that is the election flag that has to go up the flagpole. All I can say is that it would be unfitting, inappropriate and unworthy if this Parliament passed the Bill for that reason.

Photo of The Bishop of Lincoln The Bishop of Lincoln Bishop

My Lords, I rise to speak because I suspect I am in a minority as one of the very few Members of this House who have had direct contact with Rwanda, having had 10 years’ engagement with the diocese of Kigali, the capital city, and the great joy of visiting the country and seeing life outside in the countryside. One of the most moving things of my nearly 40 years of ministry was praying at the national memorial for the holocaust in Kigali with a local bishop who had lost so many members of his family. He was still so distraught that I had to find the words for our prayer together.

I put on record that I have come across so many wonderful Rwandans who would be hugely great examples to us individually of the practice of forgiveness and trying to make life beautiful again after a terrible tragedy. I can think of one instance where I met a priest; most of his family had been murdered, and in an act of forgiveness he took the murderer of his loved ones into what was left of his family, because he felt there was a requirement upon him to demonstrate and show forgiveness in this terrible situation.

It is also true, in my experience, that Rwanda has done a remarkable job in developing its economy. I was going to say it was a “tiger economy”—that is perhaps the wrong fauna for the Great Lakes region, but there have been real strides forward in their economy. Of course, people have been very eager to support their President because he has largely delivered to them peace.

It is also my direct experience, relating to what the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, said, that the institutions of civil society remain substantially undeveloped. It seems to me that, although we may agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and might want to say that Rwanda could in the future be a third-party partner in dealing with these issues, I would strongly say that that day has not yet come.

Of course, I am not in principle against the idea of third-party partnerships; it is very interesting what we hear about Italy. It seems to me that what is required is a real, dedicated commitment to a partnership among western nations in seeking to see how this could be done effectively and generously towards those whom we categorise as criminals, many of whom have suffered dreadful trauma and persecution in their homeland, which is the only reason they have taken the risk and put themselves in the hands of these dreadful criminal gangs.

It is also very important that we take account of the fact that, if we are going to even think about the prospect of sending people to a third-party country, there has to be a guarantee, as evidenced in Amendment 8, that people have a right to return and establish their claims here. If this is not allowed, it is simply a case of our throwing the problem away. That seems to me to be simply immoral, and not something that we as a nation should be contemplating.

We need to look very carefully again at putting this burden on the people of Rwanda and how we might think much better about working together with other nations in developing a pattern that will help us, in the longer term, cope with huge further migration through climate change, which we have not even contemplated yet and which will affect us very deeply.

Photo of Baroness Butler-Sloss Baroness Butler-Sloss Chair, Ecclesiastical Committee (Joint Committee), Chair, Ecclesiastical Committee (Joint Committee)

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate, with his fascinating and personal knowledge of Rwanda, and the very useful advice he has given us this evening. I have put my name to the seven amendments set out by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, and I do not intend to refer in great detail to any of them, particularly at this time, because I would like to get home before midnight, if that is possible, and I am in the last group.

Shortly, the points I wanted to make are these: it is obvious that Clause 1(2)(b) is out of kilter with Clause 1(3). You only have to read Clause 1(3) to see that the Government of the Republic of Rwanda has “agreed to fulfil”—that seems to me to be partly in the present, but almost certainly partly in the future. In the treaty, which we pored over in the debate that I listened to and did not speak in—I thought enough people had spoken—the 10 requirements that we discussed are clearly not all fulfilled. The right reverend Prelate points out—and he knows; he has been there—that the structures are not all yet in place.

The noble and learned Lord the Minister made a brave effort to say that Rwanda is safe and, following discussions, will be safer. That is splendid wording, but it does not really work in this House, when we look at the fact that the Government want this House to say, despite our vote on the treaty debate, that Rwanda is safe when it patently is not. Speaking as a former lawyer as well as a fairly long-term Member of this House, I cannot believe that any Government are asking us to say that something is what it may well be—and for the sake of Rwanda, if it really wants our refugees, I hope it will be —when, quite simply, it is not there yet. Right around the Committee, we have all been saying that from the first few words, so how on earth can the Government expect the House to agree to a phrase that the,

“Act gives effect to the judgement of Parliament”—

Parliament including us—that Rwanda is safe?

I very strongly support what has been said by my noble and learned friend Lord Hope of Craighead. It seems to me that to some extent, subject to issues of modern slavery to which we will come in another group, the Bill could be partially redeemed by two points. One has been set out by the noble and learned Lord in Amendment 6, and the second is set out in the various amendments headed by my noble friend Lord Anderson of Ipswich about an independent reviewer. If you had the twin of “will be” when it is ready, and an independent reviewer to assist the Government to say that at least the requirements in Clause 1(3) and the 10 requirements in the treaty have been met, then I have no doubt that the Government could say, “Now we can send people to Rwanda”. However, I plead with the Government: I cannot believe that they are really expecting us to say that that which is not safe is safe at this stage.

Photo of The Earl of Kinnoull The Earl of Kinnoull Deputy Chairman of Committees, Convenor of the Crossbench Peers

My Lords, I am not sure that my noble and learned friend should call herself an ex-lawyer. That was very good indeed.

At Second Reading, I said that we live in a constitution that is akin to a three-legged stool, with Parliament, the Government and the judiciary in a balance between those legs. I think it is very important to realise how key to our constitution that stool really is. Clause 1(2)(b) represents grit in the relationship between those legs: the requirement that this House enters into a judgment that many in the House feel is very wrong, a judgment which is everlasting. At Second Reading, my noble friend Lord McDonald of Salford very eloquently spoke about the political risk within Rwanda at the moment. The judgment is largely in a vacuum, because a number of questions have been fired at the Minister about where we are with safety. That is very difficult for our House to do and is grit. That represents further grit because of course it will be something that the judiciary has to take account of when it comes to determine anything under the Bill.

That is why I find the amendment package that my noble and learned friend Lord Hope has put together so very attractive. I hope the Government will look at it for the reason of logic alone and for a second reason, because the second half of my submissions at Second Reading were to do with the Salisbury/Addison convention. That is a convention about creating a smooth relationship between two of the legs of that stool. Indeed, we are here tonight because of that convention: we are working late, sitting extra late tonight, in order to speed things through because part of that convention deals with speed of consideration.

I do hope the Government will think of the convention in relation to how the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, has expressed the amendments and the provisions in the Bill that represent grit in the relationship. We have a convention that is all about promoting a relationship, and we have a Bill before us that is all about putting grit in the relationship. This has to be thought of in terms of the convention.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green 9:00, 12 February 2024

My Lords, each and every amendment proposed to this Bill shows the sheer nonsense of it. We are being forced by this Government to deny reality. We are being forced to create an enduring piece of legislation that states the proposition that Rwanda is “conclusively” safe, which cannot be rebutted even by conclusive proof to the contrary. This is Alice in Wonderland; it is complete and utter nonsense.

I have signed Amendments 6, 20 and 26 in the name of the learned Lord—I am sorry, it is very late—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. I have tucked myself under his coat-tails because they are incredibly sensible amendments. They at least require the Rwanda treaty to be given effect and to remain fully implemented for the Act to have effect.

However, even with that, I am not sure that we can legislate that Rwanda is conclusively safe, so my Amendment 93 would go further. It would require the whole Act to be scrapped on the day that the Secretary of State is presented with evidence that Rwanda is not conclusively a safe country. Noble Lords might call this a wrecking amendment; I would call it a huge dollop of sanity in the mad world of this Bill. Surely the Minister and all other noble Lords should support this. Why would anyone want a piece of legislation to exist on the statute book with a key provision that

“Every decision-maker must conclusively treat the Republic of Rwanda as a safe country”, if Rwanda is not conclusively safe? Rwanda is either conclusively safe or it is not. If it is conclusively safe, why do we need legislation to force decision-makers to treat it as such? If it is not conclusively safe, why would we force decision-makers to treat it as though it is? This clause is either pointless or plainly false. I struggle to see how this Bill was ever written. Did lawyers really write this Bill? I cannot believe that anyone is going to defend it when it is so patently stupid.

Photo of Lord Inglewood Lord Inglewood Non-affiliated

My Lords, I rise just to say that I entirely agree with those who have said that we should look carefully at the direction of travel suggested by the amendments from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, and encourage the Government to do the same.

It seems to me that the Government have got themselves into a pretty strange position. In proceeding with what they want to do, they have given themselves a binary choice: either legislate a fundamental untruth or find a way of establishing a system that will bring about and give confidence on the safety of Rwanda. If they do not want to do the former—and they should not—they must investigate ways of doing the latter.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Labour

My Lords, I shall first address the remarks of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln. Speaking entirely for myself, nothing I say is intended to cast any aspersions on the state of Rwanda, the suffering that it has gone through or the plight in which it currently finds itself. I found his remarks incredibly moving. The Supreme Court made clear that it was not a lack of good faith that had led Rwanda to be in the position that it is in; it was just that Rwanda did not have a system that could properly deal with the analysis of asylum claims in a way that would be acceptable to the commitments that we as a country have made to asylum seekers.

I agree very strongly with what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, said: that Clause 1, in so far as it says that

“Rwanda is a safe country” is not right, and it would be wrong for us as a Parliament, or as the House of Lords, to agree to that which we know is wrong.

May I address the four alternatives that are now before the House as a means of trying to deal with that? First, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, has proposed that one can give effect to the provisions of the legislation only if the joint committee, set up under Article 16 of the recent Rwanda-UK treaty, says that the agreement is being complied with, and that committee would have to act on the advice of the monitoring committee. In principle, that sounds quite a good idea. As the noble and learned Lord acknowledged, one should recognise—I do not say this in a disparaging way—that the joint committee is just the two Governments.

If it is the joint committee alone, that gives no additional assurance. Because the UK Government want to do this come what may, it is hard to imagine that the Rwandan Government are going to say that they are not complying with a treaty which they say they are complying with and have committed themselves to complying with. If it was only the joint committee under Article 16, that would not provide much protection, I say with some respect.

The amendment proposed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, says that the joint committee has got to act on the advice of the monitoring committee. Only if the monitoring committee positively advises that the agreement is not being complied with will the joint committee of the two Governments be prevented from giving the advice that it wants to give. I have no idea how this monitoring committee will work. It will presumably be 50:50 on each side. If it is paralysed, I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord’s proposed requirements would then be satisfied. If the joint committee was not getting positive advice one way or the other, it would still be able to give the assurance that one gives. Could that be dealt with by a number of tweaks? It might well be possible.

Subject to those points, I can see attraction in what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, is saying. The only other point I have on his proposal is that the Minister appears to escape any duty at all. Should we not have it so that the Minister is subject to judicial review on the decision he takes about whether to implement the treaty?

Photo of Lord Hope of Craighead Lord Hope of Craighead Judge

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, for his comments on the significance of the joint committee. I would introduce it only at the beginning. For the future, it is entirely a matter for the monitoring committee to advise on whether the system is being fully implemented, once it has started up. One could remove the joint committee altogether and just have it rest entirely on the monitoring committee; that would be very close to the position of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, and indeed that of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. We are working towards a solution of some kind, but I welcome very much the helpful comments of the noble and learned Lord.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Labour

I am grateful. The other proposal, which my noble friend Lord Coaker has put his name to, as well as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, is to get the monitoring committee to decide. Then one of the only wrinkles would be: how does this monitoring committee work? It would require a positive assertion by the monitoring committee that the terms of the agreement are being broken. If the committee cannot get that, for example because it is deadlocked, then this potential Act would be given effect to. That is the second alternative.

The third alternative is the proposal by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, that there be an independent reviewer. If that reviewer says it is not safe, this potential Act would be given effect to, as I understand it, only if there is a resolution by the House of Commons saying that it is safe. That has some attractions, but I am not attracted to it at the moment. First, the House of Commons has already shown its willingness—not because its Members are dishonourable people but because they are whipped by the Government, who have a significant majority—to pass a Bill that uses the word “is”. Secondly, surely such a resolution has the same vice as the Bill: one is asking Parliament to sit in judgment on the question of whether Rwanda is a safe country, and that is an inappropriate activity for Parliament.

I am in favour of one or other of the proposals of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, in Amendments 15 and 16, or the monitoring committee—subject to my anxiety about how it would work. I strongly submit that we should not let the Minister off the hook; he or she should be subject to judicial review.

Of course, one has great sympathy with what the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, said. However, our attitude—although it sticks in the gullet—nevertheless has to be to try to make this Bill work. My own view is that, if you are going to do offshore processing or deportations to safe countries, the one thing you have to be sure of is that you are acting in accordance with the law.

What makes this Bill so discreditable is not necessarily the policy, which people can disagree with, of offshore processing in third countries, but trying to do something like that in breach of the law. We should be working to get to a point where we are acting in accordance with the law.

Photo of Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Crossbench

I agree with the noble and learned Lord, but I would like to say a word in defence of the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich. Mine is the louche, unlearned name on the otherwise very learned list, alongside the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile.

We would be in a different situation if the independent reviewer, in a reasoned public document, put forward the case that the country was not safe—that refoulement was happening or could happen and there were not adequate systems to stop it. Here, we are talking about the difficulty of working out what it will be like when the treaty is in operation. Then, the reviewer would be presenting the House of Commons and Secretary of State with a report which, let us say, is critical. Then, it would be more difficult for the House of Commons to conclude that it did not care about the evidence. If there was such evidence, unlike the present situation, the House would have to say, “We reject the evidence”. I therefore stick with my louche support for the learned amendment.

As for the other learned amendment in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, I understand it and it seems to have much merit. It has two possible downsides. First, the monitoring committee works for the joint committee, which is strange when you think about it—you might think it should be the other way around. It would therefore be very important, as the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, said, that the monitoring committee’s reports be published in full.

The second possible downside is the composition of the committee. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, spoke about one member of the committee. Another member is Alexander Downer. That seems to me to be a bit of a downer. This is a man who is chairman of Policy Exchange and who invented the Australian scheme. This is the man who pressed hard for push-backs—actually shoving the little ships off to Papua New Guinea—which is something our Royal Navy has always refused to contemplate. The committee has to be comprised of persons independent of both parties. I am not quite sure how independent Mr Downer is of the Government.

My name is also on nine amendments, I have to tell the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, and on the amendment to which the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, spoke. I see some attraction in the Blunkett scheme. If the Government are convinced that the system in Rwanda is fair and convinced that asylum seekers are given a fair hearing and assessment, why should we not accept that, if they are given asylum status, they should come here? The beauty of this is that he is turning offloading into offshoring. The distinction is one that some of us in the House have not always seemed quite to follow.

What we are proposing with Rwanda is something that has never been done before—there is absolutely no precedent. We are telling these people, “We are transporting you to Rwanda and you may, if you want to, seek asylum in Rwanda, but you can never seek asylum in the United Kingdom and, indeed, you can never come to the United Kingdom”. They may have decided to make for this country because they knew our language and had family and connections here. In addition to their escaping from persecution, fear, war and famine—and they will not be given asylum status anywhere unless they are escaping from those things—they may have chosen to come here because they have a reason for doing so. They probably do not have the same connections in Rwanda. The largest number of asylum seekers who come crossing in small boats come from Afghanistan and Syria, two countries with quite close links to the United Kingdom and not very close links with Rwanda.

I am against offshoring. It is unkind and cruel, and it makes it more difficult to provide legal advice and advice on age assessments, to make age assessments and to give psychological support if it is necessary—and these people may be fleeing from terrible persecution. I am against it, but I do not think that it is illegal, and it certainly is not unprecedented. What is unprecedented and illegal is what we are proposing to do. If we were to convert offloading to offshoring, I still think that it is undesirable, but it is not illegal.

I see that the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Blidworth, is in his place, so I would just like to explain why I say that what we are proposing is illegal. At Second Reading, he accused me of a misperception when I said that offloading our asylum seekers to a third country would breach international law. I maintain that it does, and I cite the UNHCR, which in its January memorandum said that

“the UK-Rwanda asylum partnership runs counter to the fundamental principles of global solidarity and responsibility-sharing that underpin the international refugee protection system. It shifts responsibility for identifying and meeting international protection needs from the UK to Rwanda … By entrenching responsibility-shifting, the treaty remains at variance with the spirit and letter of the Refugee Convention”.

Photo of Lord Murray of Blidworth Lord Murray of Blidworth Conservative 9:15, 12 February 2024

I thank the noble Lord for giving way. Does he agree that the divisional court in the Rwanda proceedings upheld the principle of remote, third-country processing—that it was lawful in UK law—and that decision was upheld in the Court of Appeal and was not appealed further to the Supreme Court? So I think the noble Lord would agree that it is unquestionably and entirely lawful.

Photo of Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Crossbench

It is a breach of international law. The noble Lord made the same point when we had the same debate at Second Reading. It is at variance with the refugee convention and with the European Convention on Human Rights Articles 2, 3 and 13. It may be that in the UK domestic courts it is not seen as a problem; it certainly does not seem to be seen as a problem by the noble Lord, Lord Murray. For me, it is a problem. For a country which purports to support the international legal system, it should be a problem.

Photo of Baroness Chakrabarti Baroness Chakrabarti Labour

My Lords, I do not think the Committee needs to apologise for an element of repetition and even circularity in contributions on the various groups, because that is the nature of the Bill before us. It is a relatively short Bill, but its provisions are interconnected, as are the different approaches that Members of the Committee have taken to amend them.

Let us take stock for a moment, because we have been on a bit of a stream of consciousness. Members of the Committee have expressed different opinions about whether offshoring per se is acceptable. To my mind, the exchange we have just heard reveals that we do not currently have legal authority in the UK that says that processing asylum claims in another country is unlawful. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Blidworth, on that, but I have to say that my instincts are with the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, on the fact that this is going to be debated for many years to come and we have not had higher court determination of it. It is a debated point internationally. That is a point we can put aside for the moment. There is another question in this Bill, about what is and what might be in the future.

I think that most Members of the Committee have either agreed or even reluctantly conceded that what is is a little different from what we are working on and what might be in the future, which then takes us to how we change the future and how we evaluate changed facts in the future. Then, under the scheme of what is before us, there is first the question of the treaty and then the question of the Bill before us that the Government propose to make an Act. I think there is some considerable support for Amendment 14, which says that the treaty—which is currently a very important trigger in the Government’s scheme, because it is the treaty coming into force that makes the Act come into force—needs to have been effectively implemented, so that facts change on the ground in Rwanda before even the treaty that is the current trigger for the Act can come into force. I certainly agree with that. There are different approaches in the amendments as to how that should be measured, but I think it is just logical that until the treaty, as suggested by your Lordships’ International Agreements Committee, is effectively implemented, even under the scheme of the Bill as drafted, the Act should not come into force.

Then we have a range of amendments offered in subsequent groups about what commencement should look like in the Bill, and later we will have very important debates about judicial oversight and not ousting the jurisdiction of both domestic and international courts.

Photo of Lord Horam Lord Horam Conservative

I have two points. First, to correct the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, there is precedent in the Australian situation, in that, under the Australian rules, the Government of Nauru make the decisions, with assistance, training and support from the Australian Government. The Rwanda situation is exactly the same. We are trying to bring in training, support and assistance to the Rwandan Government, so the two examples are exactly the same. Australia’s, which has been working successfully for 10 years, has all-party support and is hugely successful. If I may repeat the point I made earlier in the day, there is a great prize here: if we can get genuine agreement on this subject, there is the prize of having a proper, whole immigration policy which the whole country can support, not just this Rwanda business.

Photo of Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Crossbench

I hate to cross swords with the noble Lord, but I am afraid that what he is saying is factually incorrect. The Australian hearings in Nauru are for asylum in Australia. The hearings that the Rwandans would carry out in Rwanda for people who came here would be for asylum in Rwanda.

Photo of Lord Horam Lord Horam Conservative

The people who are being investigated in Nauru want to go to Australia. Similarly, the people who will be investigated in Rwanda want to come here. The situation is exactly the same.

Photo of Baroness Chakrabarti Baroness Chakrabarti Labour

Within that debate about processing and offshoring is a question as to whether, if you succeed in your asylum claim when you are processed over there, you then stay over there or come back to the country from which you are sent. That is a crucial debate that is being fudged here.

Photo of Lord Horam Lord Horam Conservative

The situation here is exactly analogous to that in Australia, which has been working successfully for 10 years.

The other point in this debate, in reference to the interesting amendment from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, is the importance of the monitoring. I agree with him and the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, that the more transparent and obvious this is, the better it will be for everyone. Fundamentally, we cannot expect the law to do everything. We all know that there are many laws which are not adhered to in practice. It may go wrong on the ground floor in a way that lawyers, for all that has been said in the treaty, are not aware of until it is too late. You therefore need a strong monitoring committee whose information is available to this House and the general public, because you cannot do it any other way. The law cannot encompass what may happen in future.

That is a crucial point from this debate. I would have thought that my noble friend the Minister could accommodate the relative transparency of the monitoring committee, which has independent people on it. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, may not like some of them because they disagree with him, but the committee is none the less independent. Precisely because of that, it will have people of differing views. The Government should look at that in response to the tone of this debate.

Photo of The Bishop of Southwark The Bishop of Southwark Bishop

My Lords, I will speak in favour of this group, particularly Amendments 6, 14 and 20, but I wish to avoid the circularity, as the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, was saying, that has been inevitable on something so interconnected.

The Home Secretary has said that

“we will not operationalise this scheme until we are confident that the measures underpinning the treaty have been put in place; otherwise, the treaty is not credible”.

This set of amendments enables this approach, so if the Government are not willing to accept these amendments, can the Minister explain how they will ensure that the obligations of the treaty—to quote the treaty itself—

“can both in practice be complied with and are in fact complied with”?

This is an even more pertinent question since any recommendations arising from the monitoring arrangements in the treaty are non-obligatory. To take just one example from the Government’s own evidence pack, a new asylum Bill is required in Rwanda before an assessment of the implementation of the treaty can be made. When will this legislation be published and will it be, to use the official term, fully operationalised before any flights take off?

Much wisdom has been articulated in this Chamber today. I urge the Government to listen and act accordingly.

Photo of Lord Coaker Lord Coaker Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Opposition Whip (Lords) 9:30, 12 February 2024

My Lords, my Amendments 64 and 65 seek to address the problem that all noble Lords have been seeking to address: Clause 1(2)(b), which basically says that Rwanda is a safe country. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, was quite right, when moving his Amendment 6, to point out that the word “is” is absolutely fundamental to the meaning of the Bill and is why there is such a debate among your Lordships.

The Government are stating that Rwanda is safe, but all the evidence points to it perhaps becoming safe in the future or, in the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart, “working towards” being safe. That is not the same as “is” safe, which is the fundamental dilemma. I say to the Government that if something is completely and utterly wrong—such as the use of the present tense when it should be a future tense—it does not matter what you do, you simply cannot answer the questions that are being put. Two and two has to make four, yet the Government are arguing that two and two is three. It is ridiculous, it is nonsense, and it will not stand up.

I do not mind if my Amendments 64 and 65 are not legally watertight. I accept that. I am not sure the amendment in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, is the best amendment, though I am sure it will be legally watertight. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, has proposed an independent reviewer. There can be a debate between us as to which is the best option, and there may be other, better options. I would prefer that the whole Bill was opposed and defeated, but we have said we are not going to block or delay it. I know it is disappointing to some, but that is the reality of where we are.

What we are seeking to do, therefore, is to work with others to mitigate the impact and improve the Bill. However, the Government’s response so far has been to say that all the criticisms are not correct and Rwanda is safe because we are legislating to say it is; the rest of the debate and the very reasonable points that are being put forward are dismissed. I am sure when the Minister replies, he will—unless I am mistaken —have a brief which says that the monitoring committee has established in Article 15 of the treaty and there is no need for any of this to be included.

That way lies a legislative impasse. We are asking the Government to listen to what is being put forward. The real question of the debate is not whether Amendment 6, 16 or 64 is better, but what are the Government going to do in response to the legitimate criticisms being made? We want some sort of mechanism to understand how the Government are going to implement the treaty and ensure that implementation is successful. What happens if it is not? What happens if the obligations are put forward but not achieved?

The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, asked: if Clause 1(2)(b) is right, why do you need Clause 1(3)? The Minister could not answer her question because Clause 1(3) sets out the future obligations on Rwanda, whereas Clause 1(2)(b) says that there is no need for those obligations because it is already safe. The Bill contradicts itself, as the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, pointed out. However, all the Government say is that we are wrong and they are right and so they are going to carry on. That is no way to legislate. The Government want their Rwanda Bill, so they are going to get their Rwanda Bill. The least they can do, however, is listen to what people are saying and make the Bill make sense and actually do what it says it will.

As for my Amendment 64, I am perfectly willing to look and see whether other amendments are better or whether there is a better way of doing this. The real question is: are the Government simply going to dig in and refuse any amendment or appeal to them to make the Bill more logical than it currently is? I say to the Minister that we will have to come back to this on Report. It is clearly important for us, in deciding how we do that, to hear what the Government have to say.

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for speaking in this group, and in particular the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for his introduction.

The UK and Rwanda entered into the migration and economic development partnership with a commitment to develop new ways of managing flows of irregular migration by promoting durable solutions, and so breaking the existing incentives that make people embark on dangerous journeys to the UK. The UK and the Government of Rwanda have a shared vision regarding the necessity for the global community to enhance international protection for asylum seekers and refugees, underlining the importance of effective and operational systems that provide protection to those most in need.

This partnership is part of a suite of measures to tackle illegal migration and builds on wider collaboration with Rwanda on many shared issues. As I have set out previously, we have assurances from the Government of Rwanda that the implementation of all measures within the treaty will be expedited. The treaty itself will follow the usual process with regards to scrutiny and ratification. I say to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln that I am afraid I cannot improve on that, and I will continue to defer to the Home Secretary.

I would like to provide reassurance to noble Lords that the treaty enhances the role of the previously established independent monitoring committee, which will ensure that obligations under the treaty are adhered to in practice and will be able to take steps to address any concerns at an early stage. Therefore, the Government argue that the amendments in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, are not necessary, although I of course take his points about words. As the noble and learned Lord said, the Bill reflects the strength of the Government of Rwanda’s protections and commitments given in the treaty to people relocated to Rwanda in accordance with the treaty. It addresses the point made by the Supreme Court that Rwanda’s systems could be strengthened, on the basis of the facts before the Supreme Court at the time.

Amendment 14 in particular would impose a requirement for the joint committee for the migration and economic development partnership to provide a declaration to the Secretary of State confirming that the mechanisms specified in Article 2 of the treaty have been implemented. Without such a declaration, the effect of the amendment would be that the treaty could not be regarded as fully implemented. This is unnecessary. We have assurances from the Government of Rwanda that the implementation of all measures within the treaty will be expedited.

I turn to Amendments 15, 16, 77, 83 and 88 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, and Amendments 64 and 65 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. The monitoring committee is independent of both the UK and Rwandan Governments. It was established under the memorandum of understanding that originally underpinned the partnership. The treaty enhances the monitoring committee’s role. Article 15 of the treaty provides that the UK and Rwanda must establish and maintain a monitoring committee for the duration of the term of the agreement. This means that both parties are obliged to ensure that the monitoring committee continues in operation for the life of the agreement, and this obligation is binding in international law.

The Government have already established robust reporting mechanisms. The monitoring committee’s terms of reference and enhanced monitoring plan are available publicly on GOV.UK. They set out that, during the period of enhanced monitoring, the monitoring committee will report to the joint committee, which is made up of both UK and Rwandan officials—as set out in Article 15(4)(b)—in accordance with an agreed action plan, which will include weekly and bi-weekly reporting as required.

It would be helpful to go into more detail on this. The treaty includes enhanced provisions to provide real-time independent scrutiny of Rwanda’s asylum procedures, aimed at preventing the risk of mistreatment contrary to Article 3 of the ECHR before it has the chance to occur. This addresses the findings in the Supreme Court proceedings that under the previous arrangements, as set out in the memorandum of understanding, the work of the monitoring committee would necessarily be retrospective.

In addition, the new provision of the monitoring committee’s own complaints system will allow relocated individuals and their legal adviser to make direct and confidential complaints regarding any alleged failure to comply with the obligations in the agreement. That enhanced phase will ensure that monitoring and reporting take place in real time, so that the monitoring committee can rapidly identify, address and respond to any shortcomings or failures to comply with the obligations in the agreement, identify areas for improvement, or urgently escalate issues prior to any shortcomings or breaches placing a relocated individual at risk of real harm. That will include reporting to the joint committee co-chairs within 24 hours in emergency or urgent situations.

As per Article 15(4)(c) of the treaty, the monitoring committee will make any recommendations to the joint committee that it sees fit. The monitoring committee will otherwise produce a formal written report for the joint committee on a quarterly basis over the first two years of the partnership, setting out its findings and making any recommendations. Following notification to the joint committee, the monitoring committee may publish reports on its findings as it sees fit. At least once a year, it will produce a summary report for publication. We consequently consider these arrangements, which have been carefully agreed with the Government of Rwanda and will be binding in international law, to be sufficient to ensure continued compliance with all the terms of the treaty.

Finally, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, for his Amendments 8 and 72. Clause 1 sets out the obligations to which the Government of Rwanda have committed under the new treaty. The proposal in these amendments does not reflect the arrangements under the treaty. Requiring persons whose claims are successful in Rwanda to be returned to the UK would be against the spirit and intention of the treaty and the partnership. Those relocated to Rwanda are not intended to be returned to the UK, except in very limited circumstances.

It is the Government of Rwanda who will grant refugee status to those relocated to Rwanda through the treaty, which will underpin the migration and economic development partnership, not the UK Government. The grant of refugee status in Rwanda does not confer on that person any rights in the UK, as would be the case for any other person granted refugee status in Rwanda who had not been relocated from the UK. Anyone who wishes to come to the UK in future would have to apply through legal routes—through a work or family route. However, there would be no guarantee that they would be accepted.

As my noble friend Lord Murray of Blidworth noted, relocating asylum seekers to a safe third country to process their claim is compliant with the UK’s obligations under the refugee convention, as confirmed by the High Court and the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court did not disturb that finding.

Photo of Lord Blunkett Lord Blunkett Labour

Perhaps the Minister will answer two very simple questions. First, where else in the world have people been offshored but actually offloaded, as opposed to having the process completed and their refugee status acknowledged in the country they have reached? Secondly, what happens if people do not claim asylum in Rwanda?

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Under the terms of the Bill, a person will be relocated if they have made a protection claim—that is, an asylum claim—in the UK. But, to be clear, we can also remove those who do not. On the other point, we have heard a very lively debate on other examples from around the world; I am afraid that I am not an expert on those examples, so I am not able to opine further.

Photo of Lord Hannay of Chiswick Lord Hannay of Chiswick Crossbench

My Lords, I was living in hope that the Minister would respond to my comments. On an earlier group he declined to answer my questions about the compatibility of what is being proposed by the Government with the criteria set out by this House some weeks ago, with a majority of 43, as being necessary to have been operationalised and in effect before Rwanda could be considered a safe place. Will he now take the opportunity to work his way through those 10 points? I am of infinite patience, but he said that he would do so on a later group. Can he now do so, please?

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am afraid that I will not at this precise moment, but I again defer to the Home Secretary, who made his views very clear on operationalising the Bill.

As my noble and learned friend Lord Stewart of Dirleton set out earlier in the debate, Rwanda has a strong record of welcoming asylum seekers and looking after refugees, and it has also been internationally recognised for its general safety and stability. Those relocated to Rwanda will be given safety and extensive support, as detailed in the treaty. I am grateful to the officials in the Government of Rwanda for all their efforts, particularly for the provisions for real-time and comprehensive monitoring of the end-to-end relocation and asylum process for individuals relocated under the partnership. I hope that I have at least been able to go some way to responding to the amendments from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and that, on that basis, he is content not to press them.

Photo of Lord Hope of Craighead Lord Hope of Craighead Judge 9:45, 12 February 2024

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this very interesting debate. I am particularly grateful to those who have offered some support to my Amendment 6, which seeks to reword the clause with the word “is” in it, substituting words that are far more in keeping with certainly what I think the majority of the Committee has been discussing throughout the proceedings this afternoon. I am very disappointed with the Minister’s reply, because he simply brushes it aside as not necessary. However, anybody who listened to the debate with care would see that it is absolutely necessary to change the wording of that clause, and we will certainly have to come back to it on Report. As for the various options, we have a menu. I think those of us who have put forward suggestions as to how the matter might be regulated will think carefully as to where we go from here, but we will certainly come back to it on Report.

My only other point is that I was very taken with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, about whether the House of Commons appreciated the significance of offloading people to Rwanda, and particularly those who, when they reach there, do not claim asylum. It is a horrifying situation, with these people just cast adrift in a country which, as the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, said, probably has no connections with what they were looking for—and indeed, they probably had a variety of good reasons for coming to the United Kingdom. It is a deeply disturbing situation and I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, will pursue the matter a little further, because it really illustrates the harshness of the measure that we are being asked to consider. Having said all that, I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 6 withdrawn.

Amendments 7 and 8 not moved.