Amendment 4

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill - Report (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 4 March 2024.

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Lord Hope of Craighead:

Moved by Lord Hope of Craighead

4: Clause 1, page 1, line 12, leave out “is a safe country” and insert “will be a safe country when, and 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 sections 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, there are four amendments in this group, all of which are in my name and to which the noble Lords, Lord Anderson of Ipswich and Lord German, and the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, very kindly added their names. They are part of a single package designed to address a serious flaw in the working of Clause 1(2)(b), which states:

“this Act gives effect to the judgement of Parliament”—

I emphasise “the judgement of Parliament”—

“that the Republic of Rwanda is a safe country”.

The word I am concerned with is “is”.

As we were reminded on the previous group, the Supreme Court expressed a view about this in November last year. It 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 by reason of refoulement. Your Lordships have been asked to reach a different judgment. In other words, your Lordships are being asked to declare that Rwanda is a country to which persons may be removed from the United Kingdom in compliance with all its obligations under international law, and is a country from which a person will not be removed or sent to another country in contravention of international law.

It is not my purpose, for the purpose of these amendments, to question the right of Parliament to look at the facts again. The facts have changed since November 2022, which was when the facts were found on which the Supreme Court based its view. If Parliament is to make a judgment on a matter of fact of such importance, great care must be taken in the use of language. By its use of the present tense in Clause 1(2)(b), Parliament is asserting that from the date of commencement that is the position now, and it is asserting furthermore that it will be the basis on which every decision-maker will have to act in future. That will be so each and every time a decision has to be taken for ever, whatever happens in Rwanda, so long as the provision remains on the statute book. As the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, said, the answer will for ever be the same. That is the point to which I draw your Lordships’ attention in these amendments. Article 23 of the treaty provides that the agreement will last until 13 April 2027 but that it can be renewed by written agreement, so it may well last a good deal longer and there is no sunset clause in the Bill. That is the background against which I say that a great deal hangs on the use of “is”.

The judgment that your Lordships are being asked to make is crucial to the safety and well-being of everyone, wherever they come from, who is at risk of being removed to Rwanda. Given what refoulement would mean if it were to happen to them, this could be for some a life-or-death issue. The question is whether we have enough information to enable us to judge that Rwanda is safe now and that it will be whatever may happen in future. I do not think so. I do not think I can make that judgment. That is why I have introduced this amendment and its counterpart, Amendment 7.

Amendment 4 seeks to remove “is” from that clause and replace it with “will be” and “so long as”—in other words, Rwanda will be a safe country when and so long as the arrangements provided for in the treaty will have been fully implemented and are adhered to in practice. That would be a more accurate way of expressing the judgment that your Lordships are being asked to make. The point it makes is that full implementation of the treaty is a pre-requisite. The treaty itself is not enough; it has to be implemented. That is what I am drawing attention to. Without that—without the implementation that the treaty provides for—Rwanda cannot be considered a safe country; in my submission, the Bill should say so.

Of course, there must be means of determining whether full implementation has been achieved and is being maintained. That is provided for in my Amendment 7. I have based that amendment on the method that the treaty itself provides: a monitoring committee, the members of which are independent of either Government. We have been told that that committee already exists and is in action, so what I propose should not delay the Bill, and it is not my purpose to do so. I simply seek the security of the view of the monitoring committee. The treaty tells us:

“The key function of the Monitoring Committee shall be to advise on all steps they consider appropriate to be taken to effectively ensure that the provisions of this Agreement are adhered to in practice”.

The Government’s policy statement in paragraph 102 says of the committee:

“Its role is to provide an independent quality control assessment of conditions against the assurances set out in the treaty”.

The Government themselves, then, accept that entering into the treaty is not in itself enough. That is why they had asked for a monitoring committee to be set up, and precisely why my amendments are so important. The treaty must be fully implemented if Rwanda is to be a safe country. The point is as simple as that.

My Amendment 7 says:

“The Rwanda Treaty will have been fully implemented for the purposes of this Act when the Secretary of State has … laid before Parliament a statement from the … Monitoring Committee … that the objectives … of the Treaty have been secured by the creation of the mechanisms” that it sets out. If the Ministers say that Rwanda is already a safe country, it should be a formality to obtain the view of the monitoring committee and it should not detain the Government for very long. All I ask is that we should have the security of the view of that Committee to make it absolutely plain before we can make the judgment that Rwanda is, and will continue to be, a safe country. My amendment would then require the Secretary of State to

“consult the Monitoring Committee every three months” while the treaty remains in force, and to make a statement to Parliament if its advice is

“that the provisions of the Treaty are not being adhered to in practice”.

If that is so, the treaty can no longer be treated as fully implemented for the purposes of the Act until the Secretary of State has laid before Parliament subsequent advice that the provisions of the treaty are being adhered to in practice. All that is built around what the Government have provided before in their own treaty: the work of the monitoring committee, on whose judgment I suggest we can properly rely.

Finally, and very briefly, I say that my Amendments 8 and 13 would make the directions to the decision-makers in Clause 2 conditional on full implementation of the treaty.

I should make it clear that I intend to test the opinion of the House on my Amendment 4—and, if necessary, Amendment 7 as well—if I am not given sufficient assurances by the Minister. I will not move my Amendment 8. That is because I do not wish to pre-empt the alternative qualification of Clause 2 proposed by my noble friend Lord Anderson of Ipswich. His Amendment 12, if moved, will in turn pre-empt my Amendment 13. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Conservative

My Lords, I add my tribute to those already paid to Lord Cormack. My particular knowledge of him is that, when I was briefly a Member of the other place, my constituency abutted his and we shared an agent, a Mr Clive Hatton. I learned from the assiduousness with which Lord Cormack worked in his constituency and the importance that he ascribed to it. There was no cause too small nor person too irrelevant that Patrick Cormack was not interested in looking after them and considering them. I learned a lot from him.

I turn to the matter at hand. I shall comment on this group of amendments and, in doing so, pick up on some of the remarks I made in our debate on the Motion from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, on 22 January. I have two points. First, I have listened carefully to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, who, as an extremely eminent lawyer, I have to be respectful of. However, I hope he will forgive me if I have the impression that these amendments, taken together, collectively have the aim of rendering the Bill if not unworkable then inoperable. They are like a line of barbed-wire fences: each time you get through one barbed-wire fence, there is another set of obstacles or objectives to be fulfilled.

I recognise that a number of Members of your Lordships’ House do not like the Bill and do not think its approach is appropriate in any way. I think they are wrong, but obviously I respect that view. Why then are greater efforts not being made to kill the Bill? Because they know such an effort would fail. I do not want to get in the middle of the spat between the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, but such efforts would fail because His Majesty’s loyal Opposition would not support such a move. To wound is fine, but to kill would not be acceptable.

Why, in turn, is that? Because away from the Westminster bubble an overwhelming majority of the British people are appalled by the loss of life in the channel and want it stopped—witness the child of 14 drowning last week—are disgusted by the activities of the people smugglers, and are exasperated, furious or both at what are in large measure economic migrants seeking to jump the legitimate queue. The Bill is currently the only game in town, and to do away with it would be immensely unpopular.

Secondly, I disagree with the continued assertion underlying this group of amendments that somehow Rwanda as a country is untrustworthy unless every single “t” is crossed and every “i” is dotted. In this connection, noble Lords might like to read paragraphs 54 and 57 of the Government’s report on Rwanda dated 12 December 2023. The Ibrahim Index of African Governance, an independent organisation, rates Rwanda 12th out of 54 African countries. The World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report makes Rwanda 12th—the UK, by the way, is 19th. The World Bank scored Rwanda at 16 out of a maximum score of 18 on the quality of its judicial processes. Lastly, the World Justice Project index on the rule of law ranked Rwanda first out of 34 sub-Saharan African countries. Those are points that tend to get overlooked in the debate that we are having, which tends to focus on our domestic arrangements.

That takes me to my conclusion. The concept of the rule of law has featured prominently in our debate on the Bill and no doubt will do so in future. I am not a lawyer, as many Members of the House know, but nevertheless I strongly support the concept as an essential part of the freedoms that we take for granted. As I have said in the past, the rule of law depends on the informed consent of the British people. Without that informed consent, the concept of the rule of law becomes devalued. So if the House divides at the end of this debate, I respectfully say to Members that we need to be careful not to conflate the fundamental importance of the rule of law with what I fear I see in these amendments, which is largely a measure of shadow-boxing.

Photo of Lord Carlile of Berriew Lord Carlile of Berriew Crossbench 5:00, 4 March 2024

My Lords, I follow the noble Lord with much respect for his contributions to your Lordships’ House. The proposition made by my noble and learned friend Lord Hope, which I support strongly, is that these amendments seek 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”.

What do the Government say? The Government say that Rwanda is a safe country because the Rwanda treaty has been achieved and, shortly, will be fully implemented. What are they afraid of in these amendments, for they simply seek to provide insurance for the proposition made by the Government about Rwanda?

To answer that question, I invite the Minister to remind himself once again of the report dated 17 January this year from the International Agreements Committee, which was discussed at some length in previous debates in your Lordships’ House. I draw his attention particularly to paragraph 45, which sets out nine

“further legal and practical steps”— that is the term of art used—which are “required under the treaty” and which will make, in the opinion of that committee, Rwanda a safe country that operates the treaty in the way which is intended by its words.

Can the Minister, who has been challenged to this effect before, tell us quite specifically how many of those nine requirements in that paragraph have now been implemented, which they are and, in relation to the ones that have not yet been implemented, when will they be implemented? If the Government’s optimism is such that, as the noble Lord, Lord Murray, said in an earlier intervention, it is enough to go into the Rwandan Parliament and see that the treaty has been ratified—not the requirements in the committee’s report—for that to be a way of regarding the Bill as justified, what is the intellectual basis for that conclusion? I see none: unless these requirements can be demonstrably implemented in full, Rwanda is not a safe country. The insurance policy proposed by my noble and learned friend is exactly what is needed, unless we are told of full implementation.

Photo of Lord Deben Lord Deben Conservative

My Lords, I rise because of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson. He suggested that those of us who have worries about the Bill are in some way wanting to stop anything of this kind. I want to make it clear that I do not have a theological or philosophic objection to the concept that you might have a system to deal with these problems which involved some other country. My problem is fundamentally this: I hope that, in all the years as a Minister and as a Member of Parliament, I never told a public lie—and I am being asked here to tell a lie.

The Government have told us that Rwanda is not a safe place at the moment but is going to be one. Indeed, the Minister himself explained that to us. However, they are asking us to say it is a safe place now. At the same time, the Government are pointing to the Supreme Court and saying it is perfectly reasonable to disagree with it, because the information which we now have makes a decision now different in kind from the one that the court made, because it did not have that information. Evidently, it was perfectly right for the Supreme Court to say that it was not a safe place then, but now we are in a different position. However, the Government have not provided us with any of the evidence which makes that different position tenable.

All the Government have done is said: “We have signed an agreement. That agreement is going through, and we are in the course of ensuring that that agreement is carried through in Rwanda”. I do not much mind how we do this, but what I want to be able to do is to vote to say that Rwanda would be a safe place if all these things are carried through. I want to make sure that there is a mechanism for checking that.

I also want to make sure that, if things should change, we could deal with that—after all, Governments change. Africa has been known to have very significant changes. Indeed, the present Government of Rwanda are a very hopeful change from what they had before. We need to have a mechanism whereby, should the situation alter, we would be able to deal with it. Normally, the courts would be able to deal with it, but the Government have specifically excluded the courts. Therefore, we need to have something of this kind in the Bill. The mover of this amendment is absolutely right in saying that the amendments can all be carried through without holding up the passage of the Bill.

I want to ask my noble friend very directly: given that this is not going to hold anything up; given that he is going to allow himself to tell the truth, instead of not telling the truth and, given that he can allow me to tell the truth, why does he not just allow us to do it? Many of the other issues are of high political and legal concern. This is a terribly simple, basic fact. Will you allow us to say that Rwanda is a safe place, when you can provide the information to allow us to tell the truth? For goodness’ sake, let us tell the truth.

Photo of Baroness Meyer Baroness Meyer Conservative

My Lords, I am standing to tell the truth. As a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, I was also in Rwanda very recently. We had a packed programme. Everyone we met told us that Rwanda is a safe country. This included women’s rights and the LGBT organisation, which told us that that is how they felt. We were also told that Rwanda has the largest LGBT community in Africa. Many people from that community flee neighbouring countries to go to Rwanda because they feel safe.

Critics also tend to overlook the fact that Rwanda has one of the lowest levels of corruption in Africa and that it is committed to the rule of law. It has more women participating in the labour market than in any country in Africa. The Supreme Court's decision, mainly based on the UNHCR report, failed to take any of those factors into account. The UNHCR representative we met admitted that Rwanda was at the forefront of improving its legal system and Rwanda was a safe country as such, but not safe enough to accept relocated individuals from the UK, as the current system was not capable or experienced enough to deal with them.

I need to point out that this was before the new agreement, in which a lot of the concerns of the Supreme Court have been addressed. She also pointed out that refugees from the UK came from different backgrounds to refugees from neighbouring countries. That comment was in direct contradiction to all the positive attitudes we witnessed. Everyone who we met expressed genuine readiness to accept and welcome the refugees coming from the United Kingdom.

The UNHCR representative’s conclusion, which I found most revealing, was that the UK should accept all immigrants arriving to its shores, rather than sending them off to Rwanda. But it is unrealistic to say that the UK has a responsibility to accept all asylum seekers, particularly if they come to our shores for economic reasons and line the pockets of traffickers. We are one of the most generous countries when it comes to refugees, but we have a responsibility towards our citizens, which includes securing our borders to ensure that no one takes advantage of our system.

Most of the people we met in Rwanda were surprised, if not deeply hurt, by the negative attention their country has received from both Houses and the media. I have to say that I was embarrassed. I felt that we are criticising a country that has had a terrible genocide and, in the past 30 years, has done so much to improve everything. It is so willing to accept new migrants. I was embarrassed. To be honest, Kigali is a beautiful city—I fell in love with it. It is clean, tidy and well organised. It has a young population full of optimism, looking forward to its future. I would not mind living there. I recommend that noble Lords who criticise Rwanda should go there, check for themselves and decide what they think, rather than making observations on hearsay and possibly—

Photo of Lord Cashman Lord Cashman Non-affiliated

The noble Baroness referred to the LGBT situation in Rwanda. Can she indicate to the House which LGBT organisation she met?

Photo of Baroness Meyer Baroness Meyer Conservative

We met the Rwanda Women’s Network, which was very interesting. We also met the Hope and Care Organization, the Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre and My Rights Alliance. They campaign for LGBT rights.

Photo of Lord Cashman Lord Cashman Non-affiliated

I thank the noble Baroness for that and will not detain the House any longer, but it is important to put this on the record. I say this with some knowledge of Rwanda, having been the chief election observer for the European Union in Rwanda in 2008, with subsequent knowledge since. The noble Baroness quoted the Hope and Care Organization, which does do a great deal of work. But I thought your Lordships should be aware of a recent quote. I will not name the individual, for fear of placing anyone at risk—but it is in my records if anyone needs it. It reads:

“Homosexuality is not criminalized in Rwanda, but many LGBTI people keep their sexuality and gender identity secret in an attempt to avoid rejection, discrimination and abuse, which in the long run inevitably denies them their basic human rights”.

Photo of Baroness Meyer Baroness Meyer Conservative

I am not LGBT, so I have no idea, but from the evidence we heard it seems to be a little frowned upon among the older generation or in the countryside—probably like in the United Kingdom. But, in Kigali, the capital, we were told that two men walking in the street holding hands is absolutely fine. This was the report we received.

Photo of Lord Cashman Lord Cashman Non-affiliated

Again, I shall not detain the House, but I shall refer to this situation and the expression of one’s sexual identity in a later grouping—the fifth grouping. I thank noble Lords for their patience.

Photo of Lord Inglewood Lord Inglewood Non-affiliated

Briefly, I shall add a few comments to the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Deben. In his remarks, the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, said—and it is true—that there is a lot of concern and anxiety about the whole issue that we are discussing this afternoon. Probably, in this Chamber, there is nobody who knows less about Rwanda than I do—and I dare say that I am representative of the nation as a whole. The wider world is very concerned about this, and we have been talking about this from the perspective of this Chamber—but if you look at it from the perspective of the wider public, it would be to everybody’s great advantage to have something along the lines of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, are advocating; it would be very helpful in trying to allay wider public concern. It seems to me—and I am sure that we all regret it very much—that, the way the world is now, the fact that the Government give it the thumbs up does not necessarily instil great confidence in the wider public.

Photo of Lord German Lord German Liberal Democrat 5:15, 4 March 2024

My Lords, I start by saying to the noble Lord, Lord Deben, that I have come to the same conclusion about these amendments, but perhaps from a different perspective. As noble Lords know, these Benches voted against the Bill in principle, but that does not mean to say, having not won that argument, that we will not support changes to the Bill in ways that mitigate the problems that we still see with it.

It is worth reminding the House of the decision that we took on the treaty—that we would not recommend the treaty being signed until certain conditions were in place. As noble Lords know, from the Standing Orders of this House, that that was a resolution of this House and is the view of this House. These amendments are simply seeking to amplify and recognise the decision of this House that is in place at present. If it is not in place, we are going to be asked to do that fictionalising thing, which is to change our minds from what we said before—that we need to see those conditions in place before we can see Rwanda as safe—simply because the Bill is before us.

This group of amendments recognises that we need to have those conditions in place before the consideration that this House has already given can be reversed. I must say to the noble Baroness, Lady Meyer, that “safe” in respect of a country is not about the beauty of the country or the nature of its people; it is about the structures and the systems that it has in place to meet its obligations, including the obligations for refugees that we have laid out.

Given that the courts have given a decision of fact on the safety of Rwanda, it is deeply problematic that the Government want this Parliament to overturn its own decision and declare the opposite. We think that they would be better off going back to the courts to review the evidence and coming to a finding of fact, if they believe that the situation has changed. As the United Nations council responsible for public affairs said in its announcement last Friday, this Bill will

“unduly limit judicial independence by requiring judges to treat Rwanda as a safe third country now and in the future, regardless of any evidence to the contrary before them”.

It is clear that the terms of the treaty have not been met; that is what this House says, and that is the resolution of this House. They need to be met before the requirements of the treaty are satisfied. The mechanism by which the Government are asking Parliament to declare Rwanda safe is the treaty. The Minister confirmed in Committee that the safeguards outlined in the resolution of this House were not yet in place but were being worked towards. In Hansard for day one in Committee, 12 February, my noble friend Lord Purvis asked whether we could pursue the issue that the Minister had mentioned. He said:

“If the Rwandan Government are ‘working towards’ putting safeguards in place, that means they are not currently in place. Is that correct?”—[Official Report, 12/2/24; cols. 64-65.]

Hansard says that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart of Dirleton, replied, “It must do”.

This afternoon, letters have been delivered to Members who took part in these debates. I apologise for having to look on my phone, because these letters which relate to Committee of this House on the Bill were delivered by electronic mechanisms only after we had started discussing Report. That is not the way this House should be treated. If we want the evidence on which we can make decisions, we should have it in time to be able to make further progress. Anyway, I have to turn my phone sideways because it is very small writing, but I will do my very best. It says in a paragraph about whether these matters are in sight:

The UK and Rwandan Governments will continue to work closely together to implement all the measures under the treaty and prepare to operationalise the partnership”.

So quite clearly, the facts required by this House are not there at present. I like to cite the analogy from the noble Lord, Lord Purvis. It is like saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are going by plane and we are working towards making the plane safe”. If you think about it, that is where we are at the moment. Would you get into that plane? Probably not. You would be foolish to do so—but, if you did get into it, you would have no guarantee that it would be capable of flying and not dropping out of the air.

So these amendments are clear that we must put the conditions in place. They have already been agreed by this House. We have made it clear that the conditions we as a House place on the treaty are to be adhered to, and that the conditions and procedures must be adopted to satisfy the House both before and after deportations can take place. They are sensible. They are what the House requires in order to fulfil the requirements of the decision we took on the matters of the treaty. I support.

Photo of Lord Lilley Lord Lilley Conservative

My Lords, I do urge noble Lords to use some common sense. It is inconceivable, if this Bill is enacted, for the first few months—regardless of whether all the conditions of the treaty have been implemented—that Rwanda, under the full spotlight and glare of international publicity and the attention of the press, will not implement carefully and considerately or that it will refoule anyone that we send it.

The reason for having all the things in the treaty is for the period after the initial spotlight has been turned off and attention has waned. Then, it is important to have all those considerations in place; it is not initially. No one could really imagine that we will send someone out and within a few weeks they will be sent by Rwanda to some unsafe country. It will not happen. We know it will not.

But it is very important that we get this happening soon, and that we not only use common sense but are merciful, because the longer we delay, the more people will come across the Channel and the more people will die.

Photo of Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Shadow Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister would care to comment on whether he agrees with the analysis from the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, of the status of this Bill we are debating. The noble Lord said it was inconceivable that there would be any refoulement and that it is okay to proceed without the various recommendations in place. In the longer term, they would need to be in place—because it was in the longer term, I think, that he was suggesting that there might be justification in the suspicions that have been raised. I think that was the point the noble Lord was making.

I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for tabling these amendments and for his constructive communication before doing so. In Committee there was clear interest in developing a mechanism to ensure that the terms of the treaty are and continue to be adhered to. I hope the House will see that there is value in how he has integrated these ideas into these amendments. Amendments 4 and 7 together provide a clear framework for ensuring the ongoing safety of Rwanda, rooted in the terms of the treaty the Government have negotiated. I will not say any more, because the noble and learned Lord set out the terms of his amendments very clearly.

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 their contributions. The partnership between the UK and Rwanda is rooted in a shared commitment to develop new ways of managing flows of irregular migration by promoting durable solutions, thereby breaking the existing incentives that result in people embarking on perilous journeys to the UK. We saw again only last week how perilous those journeys are, as my noble friend Lord Hodgson noted. The UK and Rwanda share a vision on the need for the global community to provide better international protection for asylum seekers and refugees, emphasising the importance of effective and functioning systems and safeguards that provide protection to those in most need.

Noble Lords will know that Rwanda has a long history of supporting and integrating asylum seekers and refugees in the region, for example through its work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to host the emergency transit mechanism. It has also been internationally recognised for its general safety and stability, strong governance, low corruption and gender equality. My noble friend Lord Hodgson noted this, and my noble friend Lady Meyer gave her very welcome perspective on her recent visit. I say gently to the noble Lord, Lord German, that I heard a great deal in her comments about structures and systems.

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, has explained, these amendments seek to allow Parliament to deem Rwanda to be safe only so long as the arrangements provided for in the Rwanda treaty have been fully implemented and are being adhered to in practice. The UK Government and the Government of Rwanda have agreed and begun to implement assurances and commitments to strengthen Rwanda’s asylum system. In advance of agreeing the treaty, we worked with the Government of Rwanda to respond to the findings of the courts by evidencing Rwanda’s existing asylum procedures and practice in standard operating procedures relating to and reflecting the current refugee status determination and appeals process.

Amendment 7 imposes a duty on the Secretary of State to obtain a statement from the independent monitoring committee confirming that the objectives specified in Article 2 of the treaty have been secured. This is unnecessary; the Government will ratify the treaty in the UK only once we agree with Rwanda that all necessary implementation is in place for both countries to comply with the obligations under the treaty. We have assurances from the Government of Rwanda that the implementation of all measures in the treaty will be expedited, and we continue to work with the Rwandans on this. The legislation required for Rwanda to ratify the treaty passed the lower house of the Rwandan Parliament on 28 February and it will now go to the upper house, as my noble friend Lord Murray noted in the debate on the previous group. Once ratified, the treaty will become law in Rwanda. It follows that the Government of Rwanda would then be required to give effect to the terms of the treaty in accordance with its domestic law as well as international law.

The Bill’s provisions come into force when the treaty enters into force. The treaty enters into force when the parties have completed their internal procedures. These amendments therefore confuse the process for implementing the treaty with what is required for the Bill’s provisions to come into force. The Bill builds on the treaty between the UK and the Government of Rwanda signed on 5 December 2023. It reflects the strength of the Government of Rwanda’s protections and commitments given in the treaty to people transferred to Rwanda in accordance with the treaty. Alongside the evidence of changes in Rwanda since summer 2022, published this January, the treaty will enable Parliament to conclude that Rwanda is safe and the Bill provides Parliament with the opportunity to do so. I say to my noble friend Lord Deben that that is the truth.

Photo of Lord Deben Lord Deben Conservative

I accept everything the Minister says, but it is all about what will happen in future. He is asking me to accept that what will happen in future has happened now. That is the only argument. He would not ask me to do that in any other circumstances. Can he explain why I have to do it now?

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 5:30, 4 March 2024

My Lords, I have been extraordinarily clear on this subject. As I said, the Bill provisions come into force when the treaty enters into force. The treaty enters into force when the parties have completed their internal procedures, and these amendments therefore confuse the process for implementing the treaty with what is required for the Bill provisions to come into force.

Photo of Lord Clarke of Nottingham Lord Clarke of Nottingham Conservative

My noble friend says that it will confuse it; it is actually perfectly straightforward. If everything happens as smoothly as he says it will happen—and I hope it does, because I do not object to the safe country policy that is being pursued if we can find a safe country—the monitoring committee will presumably confirm that it has happened. Why is he resisting it, except to save the Secretary of State having to send a letter asking for the monitoring committee’s principle? Why is this amendment a threat to the Government’s stated policy?

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

I say to my noble friend that I am about to come on to the workings of the monitoring committee in great detail, if he will bear with me.

I turn to the points raised with regard to introducing a duty on the Secretary of State to consult with the monitoring committee every three months during the operation of the treaty. The committee is independent of both the UK and Rwandan Governments. It was always intended to be independent, to ensure that there is a layer of impartial oversight of the operation of the partnership. Maintaining the committee’s independence is an integral aspect of the design of the policy, and, as my noble and learned friend Lord Stewart of Dirleton set out, the treaty enhances the monitoring committee’s role.

The committee will ensure that obligations to the treaty are adhered to in practice and, as set out in Article 15(4)(b), it will report to the joint committee, which is made up of both UK and Rwandan officials. As per Article 15(4)(c) of the treaty, the monitoring committee will make any recommendations it sees fit to the joint committee. Therefore, these amendments are both unnecessary and risk disturbing the independence and impartiality of the monitoring committee.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Labour

I apologise for interrupting the Minister. Could he confirm to the House that the Minister, which I assume means the Secretary of State for Home Affairs, will not seek to bring the Bill—the Act—into force until he is satisfied that all the provisions of the treaty have been implemented and are being properly operated?

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

I think I have already answered that. The Bill provisions come into force when the treaty enters into force, and the treaty enters into force when the parties have completed their internal procedures.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Labour

Sorry for interrupting again, but that is not quite an answer to my question. Could the Minister give the House an assurance that the Home Secretary will bring the treaty into force only once he is satisfied that the treaty’s provisions have been implemented and it is operational?

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

My Lords, I disagree. I am afraid that is an answer to this particular question. I think it is. To assure noble Lords further, the joint committee met on 21 February to discuss implementation and readiness for operationalisation and, as set out in the published terms of reference for the joint committee, minutes will be produced after each meeting for agreement by the co-chairs.

The monitoring committee will undertake daily monitoring of the partnership for at least the first three months to ensure rapid identification of and response to any shortcomings. This enhanced phase will ensure that comprehensive monitoring and reporting take place in real time. As I set out in earlier debates, during the period of enhanced monitoring, the monitoring committee will report to the joint committee in accordance with an agreed action plan, to include weekly and bi-weekly reporting as required.

During the enhanced phase, the monitoring committee will place particular emphasis on monitoring asylum procedures, asylum case assessments, and any asylum decisions made in this timeframe. The monitoring committee will ensure that decisions are objective and based on a legally sound foundation in accordance with international laws and convention.

The following minimum levels of assurance have been agreed by the monitoring committee for the enhanced phase: two visits to the UK to see the selection process; observing two boardings and two disembarkations; observing three induction sessions; weekly visits to accommodation and reception centres; monthly visits to health and education facilities; observing education and language training sessions; observing interviews and appeal hearings; reviewing the process and paperwork for all individuals relocated to Rwanda in this phase; monitoring the status of people relocated to Rwanda, captured through the quarterly reporting process and visits to resettlement areas; reviewing a sample of at least 25% of complaints, including all serious incidents; investigating all complaints received directly; and interviewing on a voluntary basis a sample of one in 10 relocated individuals at various stages of the process.

The published terms of reference are accompanied by a detailed monitoring plan—as agreed by the monitoring committee—which was published on 11 January. These documents provide a comprehensive and transparent framework for the operations and procedures of the monitoring committee, starting from the immediate departure period of the first cohort of relocated individuals and including the details of the enhanced initial monitoring phase.

The plan provides an overview of the monitoring committee’s specific activities, monitoring techniques, and the personnel involved. It also outlines reporting procedures—

Photo of Lord Hannay of Chiswick Lord Hannay of Chiswick Crossbench

I am most grateful to the Minister, who has given us a great deal of new information about the monitoring committee. But all he has told the House demonstrates that the monitoring committee is extremely well placed to provide the Government the information they need to act as in my noble and learned friend’s amendment. What is holding them back? The fact of the matter is that the monitoring committee has no means of reporting to this Parliament, but the Government do. That is what this amendment suggests is the right thing to do.

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

I hear what the noble Lord says, but I have answered this in considerable detail now.

Photo of Lord Clarke of Nottingham Lord Clarke of Nottingham Conservative

The more detail the Minister gives about the virtues of the monitoring committee, the stronger his argument is in favour of the amendment proposed to this House by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. The briefing he has been given is totally contradictory to the conclusion that he is trying to invite us to reach.

Noble Lords:


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

My Lords, as set out in the monitoring plan, the monitoring committee will ensure that there is a daily presence of the support team on the ground through the initial enhanced phase. For the enhanced phase, a minimum of two monitoring committee members will be actively engaged in the monitoring.

Implementation continues at pace, including of the support team for the monitoring committee and the new appeals body. I put on record my thanks to all officials, including those in the Government of Rwanda, for all their hard work in implementing the treaty and delivering the crucial partnership. The partnership is one important component of a much broader bilateral relationship. We co-operate closely with Rwanda on a number of issues, including the Commonwealth, climate change, education, trade, governance, and conflict issues, and delivering a successful and long-standing development partnership.

To conclude, we have agreed and begun to implement assurances and commitments to strengthen Rwanda’s asylum system. These assurances and commitments provide clear evidence of the Government of Rwanda’s ability to fulfil its obligations generally and specifically, to ensure that relocated individuals face no risk of refoulement. I therefore respectfully ask the noble and learned Lord—

Photo of Lord Carlile of Berriew Lord Carlile of Berriew Crossbench

Before the Minister sits down, I return to the question I asked him earlier: will he now tell the House which of the nine provisions highlighted in paragraph 45 of the International Agreements Committee’s report are now completed?

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

My Lords, as has already been discussed, the lower house of the Rwandan Parliament passed its treaty ratification only earlier this week. As I have just tried to explain, implementation continues at pace. I do not yet have the very specific information the noble Lord requires, but, as I have also explained, we will not implement until all the treaty obligations are met.

I therefore respectfully ask the noble and learned Lord to not press his amendment, but, were he to do so, I would have no hesitation in inviting the House to reject it.

Photo of Lord Hope of Craighead Lord Hope of Craighead Judge

My Lords, I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I do not want to take up time by going over the issues all over again, but I want to pick up two points made by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts.

First, I think the noble Lord suggested that my amendments were treating Rwanda as a country that is untrustworthy; I absolutely refute that. When I introduced the amendments in Committee, I made it absolutely clear that I do not, for a moment, question the good faith of Rwanda, and I remain in that position. I absolutely understand that both parties to the treaty are treating each other on that basis. I am certainly not, in any way, questioning the good faith or commitment of Rwanda to give effect to the treaty; what I am talking about is implementation.

Secondly, I think the noble Lord said that my amendment would make the Bill unworkable. I simply do not understand that. I cannot understand why relying on the word of the monitoring committee in any way undermines the effectiveness or purpose of the Bill. For those reasons, I wish to test the opinion of the House.

Photo of Lord Geddes Lord Geddes Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

I must advise the House that, if Amendment 4 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment 5, due to pre-emption.

Ayes 282, Noes 180.

Division number 2 Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill - Report (1st Day) — Amendment 4

Aye: 280 Members of the House of Lords

No: 178 Members of the House of Lords

Aye: A-Z by last name


No: A-Z by last name


Amendment 4 agreed.

Amendments 5 and 6 not moved.