Amendment 91

Part of Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill - Committee (3rd Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 11:45 pm on 19 February 2024.

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Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Labour 11:45, 19 February 2024

My Lords, I strongly support the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford in moving the amendment. We have gone through, in some detail, the question of when this Bill is going to become law and whether it will become law before the changes are effected as a result of the new treaty.

Noble Lords will remember that the Home Secretary is asking us to bear in mind the key part of his evidence that the position has changed since the Supreme Court judgment: namely, the treaty for the provision of an asylum partnership, which was laid before this House in December. Obviously, it is only when the provisions of that treaty are implemented that the position will have moved on from what the Supreme Court found, because the Home Secretary quite rightly is not challenging the finding of the Supreme Court; he is saying the position will change when the treaty is given effect to.

Obviously, this House is very sceptical of what Ministers are saying about when the treaty changes take place. Earlier in the afternoon, Ministers were unable to identify when the law in Rwanda would be changed to give effect to it. Ministers were not able to tell the Committee at all when the monitoring committee was going to recruit a support team, independent experts were going to be appointed to advise the first instance body, and all the other things set out in paragraph 19 of the International Agreements Committee report. We have no idea at the moment whether this Bill will be brought into force before the changes envisaged by the agreement and therefore the place will then become safe, so I am very surprised the Government are willing to go ahead with it before the changes are implemented.

That is the beginning. As far as the end is concerned —as this amendment is concerned with—Ministers will be aware that the agreement that gives effect to the changes, which remedies the problems identified by the Supreme Court and accepted as problems by the Government, ends on 13 April 2027, unless the agreement is renewed. I assume, though I invite Ministers to confirm, that if the agreement with Rwanda is not extended beyond 13 April 2027, it is the Government’s intention that the Rwanda Bill will come to an end. If that is not the position, how on earth could the Government contend that Rwanda continued to be a safe country after 13 April 2027?

In any event, the possibility of changes of circumstances are something that Parliament should be able to debate. The two-year sunset clause the right reverend Prelate is proposing is a means by which that debate could take place. Everybody who has debated the Bill in this House agrees it is a very grave thing that the Government are seeking to do by promoting the Bill. The idea that it is a permanent state of affairs that can never be looked at again without the consent of the Executive promoting another Bill is an inappropriate way to deal with it.

For all those reasons, I submit that this Committee should agree to the amendment proposed by the right reverend Prelate. However, I am extremely interested to know what the answer is to the position if this agreement with Rwanda is not extended beyond 13 April 2027.