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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Okay, but common language would assume that when one talks about "returns", one means when the Bill returns here. I suggest that the Minister could have said what she meant rather more clearly than was the case.
I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, referred to the need for the Bill to commence as soon as possible and said that the Government would seek the agreement of the Commons to the Bill. Let us hope that the Minister does that. Let us hope that he seeks the agreement of the Commons to that aspect of the Bill as it is sent there from this House.
Before I close, I must thank the many organisations, expert in this area, which have helped to brief us. I thank the Refugee Legal Centre; the Refugee Council; the Commission for Racial Equality; the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants; the Immigration Law Practitioners Association; the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture; the Child Poverty Action Group; the National Association of Citizens' Advice Bureaux; Shelter and various Church organisations. I apologise if I have missed any. I thank particularly Clare Cozens, our researcher, who has been indefatigable in bringing together views and in helping us to decide how to approach the Bill in this House. I am also enormously grateful to my colleagues on the Front Bench, my noble friends Lady Hollis and Lord Dubs. I hope that they will agree that we have been a happy and united team and that we have divided the work between us effectively. I acknowledge with thanks the usual courtesy and forbearance, sometimes, of the two Ministers and the Whip on the Government Front Bench. These would have been extremely unpleasant proceedings without that courtesy and forbearance--and we are grateful for it.
I am not happy that this Bill should pass but, of course, we shall not oppose the Motion in the Lobbies. I believe that this will be a Bill of short duration--not because anybody wants to say before an election that they will repeal this or that piece of legislation--politics does not work that way--but because the remedies which are sought to the problems which have often been wrongly identified in the Bill are inadequate, scrappy, hastily thought-out and are often very damaging indeed. It is a bad Bill.
Earl Russell: My Lords, "at least they are still talking!" There are some contexts--this is one of them--in which that is an encouraging thing to say. I apologise to those concerned with the next business that that is so. We have been attempting to talk across a gulf so wide that parliamentary debate is almost impossible. In those circumstances, I warmly thank the professionalism and courtesy of the two Ministers involved in this Bill, the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.
I should like to thank colleagues on the Opposition Front Bench--the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis of Heigham, and the noble Lord, Lord Dubs--whose experience of this subject is so long. As to my own Bench, I offer the warmest thanks to my noble friend Lady Williams of
I also offer thanks to Carolyn Rampton in our Whips' Office who, not at an easy time, has coped with this Bill with apparently total calm. I am sure she will tell me that appearances are deceptive, but they deceived me. I also join in the thanks expressed by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, to all those from the organisations which have advised us. They have done it with the greatest distinction. I have looked up many of their references and followed them up. It is the strongest academic test of advice, which they have passed with flying colours.
I believe that the noble Baroness misunderstood my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby when she said that the Bill had stirred the conscience of the country. We were not suggesting for a moment that other Bills do not interest the country. But the sense of shock which this Bill has created--I know many hundreds of people personally who share this view--is something that I have not experienced for a very long time. It exceeds that which we felt in relation to the poll tax--and by a very long way.
My father once said that love of England was very nearly the strongest emotion that one could possess. I agree with that. But this Bill has torn away one of the landmarks by which I have identified my Englishness. I grew up during the War in a house full of Germans, many but by no means all of whom were Jewish. There I gained the opinion, which I still hold, that Germans could be very nice people. I grew up in pride at the country's tradition of hospitality to the persecuted from abroad. That is not just a tradition of this century. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, has referred to Huguenot influence in the 16th century. I was reminded of the reply of Queen Elizabeth I when she was faced with protests about their numbers. She said:
I shall not be tempted into answering in detail all the arguments the Minister has just put forward. She can guess what my answers would be. But it is not often that 158 Members of this Chamber vote in favour of an opposition amendment. That indicated a stirring and movement of opinion going far beyond the ranks of those who normally oppose Government business. That welling up of opinion is something that any politically prudent government may be unwise to ignore.
I was deeply distressed, since we had had exchanges about Clause 8, that the noble Baroness once again suggested that we on these Benches were doing anything whatever to support racketeers. It is difficult enough to conduct civilised debate on a Bill of this kind without inferences of that type. My noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby has made a number of practical suggestions on the point, which I am sure she will be happy to repeat if the Minister does not remember them. We believe that the clause will do far more harm to race relations than to racketeers. The noble Baroness may not believe that opinion to be correct or even rational, but however misguided we may be in holding it I ask her to withdraw the remarks that she has just made. I will be very happy to give way if she rises to do so. If she does not, I regret that I must take the matter further.
It is also my belief--which I know is not shared by the noble Baroness--that the bulk of this Bill contradicts our international legal obligations. I believe that Clause 1 infringes Article 3 of the UN convention. I believe Clauses 2 and 3 infringe Article 33, and possibly Article 32. I believe that Clauses 4 and 5 infringe Article 31(1). I ask the House to be wary of Government attempts to redefine the word "lawful" to try to argue that those who enter to claim asylum are entering unlawfully. That would have the effect of attempting to disapply the UN convention for the majority of asylum seekers. I believe that such an attempt is prohibited by Article 31(1). I hope that the case will be argued in some judicial forum. I believe that Clause 6 does not infringe any legal obligation whatever, which is not to say that I like it. I believe that Clauses 7 and 8 will lead to many breaches of the Race Relations Act. I believe that Clause 9 infringes Articles 21 and 23 of the UN convention and Article 27(3) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. I believe that Clause 10 infringes Article 24 of the UN convention and Articles 27(1), 27(3) and 26 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. I do not expect the noble Baroness to agree with that, but the record of the Home Office in predicting the reaction of the courts should not encourage it to have confidence.
Lord Renton: My Lords, first, I say how much I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Russell, in the tributes which he paid to my noble friends Lady Blatch and Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, did so too. I, in turn, should like to give credit to those Members of the Opposition Front Benches who, although with a great
Having sat all through yesterday and today without saying a word, but having taken a small part in some of the earlier stages of the Bill, perhaps I may say that the Bill seems to me to be a piece of history vividly repeating itself. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, this country was invaded by thousands of British overseas subjects who had a right to come here. We were proud of what was then the ancient tradition of allowing British subjects of all kinds, of all races, from all over the world, to come to live in this country if they wanted. They were of course mainly economic migrants. Many of them were sad people.
At that time, I had for three years responsibility for the Immigration Department of the Home Office. Just to give one example, I remember in 1961 that I went to Southampton to see the arrival of a large ship containing over 1,000 immigrants from the Caribbean. It was cold, and they were ill-clad. They were obviously sad people. They were people of both sexes and all ages. I was sorry for them. I wondered what we should be doing about that, but the problem was that in that year 100,000 such people came to this country. The government of the day could not let that go on. So we had to have the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962 which I had some part in piloting through another place.
That Act was as passionately opposed as this Bill has been, both by the Socialist Party and by the Liberal Party of the day. The Socialist Party voted against the Bill 42 times and threatened that if it were returned to power it would repeal it. But of course it did not and could not repeal it. Indeed, it strengthened it, because while it was in power there was a large incursion of East African Asians. It felt quite rightly that something had to be done about that.
I say that in order to put the Bill into its proper context. I find this a somewhat nostalgic occasion. Of course we feel sorry for those millions of people in Africa, Asia, the Balkans and elsewhere who are being oppressed and even tortured in their own countries. Of course if vast numbers of them came here, we would have to change our honourable and humane principle of granting asylum to all such people. But the Bill does not do that. What it does is to ensure that the very considerable numbers who do come here and claim asylum are entitled to it--that, in sum, is what the Bill does--and do not use it merely as an excuse to stay here.
Of course we feel sorry in many cases, not just for the genuine asylum seekers but for the many others. The right reverend Prelates and both main opposition parties have a perfect right to pursue what they consider to be a very good cause. But they have no responsibility for the outcome of the various proposals that they make for changing the Bill.
I heard recently on the radio that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, for whom I have great respect and find so friendly, was making a plea to relieve child poverty, of which, by the way, we have much less than we had some years ago.
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