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House of Lords

Monday, 17 March 2014.

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Gloucester.

Death of a Member: Lord Ballyedmond

Announcement

2.36 pm

The Lord Speaker (Baroness D'Souza): My Lords, I regret to inform the House of the death of the noble Lord, Lord Ballyedmond, on 13 March. On behalf of the House, I extend our condolences to the noble Lord’s family and friends.

Personal Statement

2.37 pm

Lord Flight (Con): My Lords, last Wednesday, I asked a supplementary question about the Enterprise Investment Scheme. I realised only afterwards that I should have declare my registered interest as the remunerated chairman of the EIS Association. I should like to take this opportunity to make good that omission and to apologise to the House.

Food: Adulteration

Question

2.37 pm

Asked by Baroness Crawley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking in the light of the findings by trading standards officers that a third of recent food samples were adulterated with other substances.

Baroness Crawley (Lab): My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare my interest as president of the Trading Standards Institute.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley) (Con): My Lords, we take the threat of food fraud very seriously. Following the horsemeat fraud last year, we have been working with industry and local authorities to improve our intelligence sharing to target sampling and enforcement better. The sampling carried out by West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service demonstrates the action being taken by local authorities across the United Kingdom to target known problem areas and in response to complaints. The findings are not representative of all food products.

Baroness Crawley: I thank the noble Lord for his reply. However, I do not think it reflects the seriousness of the food adulteration crisis across this country. Reporting of food fraud has increased by 66% since 2009, while the number of samples taken by local authorities has decreased by 26%. Call me old fashioned, but I like my ham actually to be ham and not poultry dyed pink or meat emulsion, whatever that is. I want fruit juice to be just that, and not laced with vegetable oil that is used in flame retardants. Of the 900 samples that were tested by West Yorkshire Trading Standards, one-third were not what they were meant to be. Does the Minister support the Elliott review’s interim report on the horsemeat scandal, which is highly critical of the current enforcement system’s ability to tackle food crime? What are the Government doing about the depletion of trading standards departments across the country, whose job it is to track down organised criminal gangs in the food sector?

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I agree with much of the sentiment behind the noble Baroness’s question. In his interim report, Professor Elliott recognises that the United Kingdom has access to some of the safest food in the world, but we should not be complacent. We are

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working across government, and with the industry and local authorities, to improve our intelligence gathering and sharing, with the aim of improving protection for the consumer. Consumer protection is the key priority for the FSA and local authorities, and enforcement officers are working across areas, targeting those most likely to be at risk. During 2012-13, 86,000 food safety composition and authenticity tests were carried out. The FSA has increased the additional funding it provides to local authorities to support testing to £2.2 million this year.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes (Con): Will the Minister tell us what the definition of “adulteration” is in this instance, and at what level something would be described as just a trace element or ignored in terms of adulteration?

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, casting my mind back to the horsemeat saga, I think we were looking at a threshold of 1%. May I take this opportunity to address another of the range of issues raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley? She referred to the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service. In a six-month period, that trading standards service reported on 873 samples, 331 of which received an adverse report from the public analysts, as the noble Baroness said. However, many of the issues found did not relate to food adulteration. For example, a large proportion were for labelling failures, such as foreign language-only labelling, while others were for exaggerated health claims. Nevertheless, it is true that a material proportion were for fraudulent purposes, such as meat substitution, and the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service is taking action.

Baroness Meacher (CB): My Lords, trading standards officers also very importantly revealed that substances labelled as not fit for human consumption are regularly sold to our young people and children as so-called legal highs. This is not a party-political point, but it is a very difficult area to deal with. In view of the failure so far of our policies to deal with this problem, will the Government’s review of policy in the area of legal highs look at a regulatory system with an enhanced role for trading standards?

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, very important though that subject is, I am afraid it is off the thrust of today’s Question.

Baroness Walmsley (LD): My Lords, does my noble friend agree that if we taught children in school to cook from fresh ingredients, their healthy development would be much less susceptible to food fraud?

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I do agree and that, indeed, is what is happening.

Lord Grantchester (Lab): My Lords, this is fraud on a massive scale. It is made easier by this Government’s changes to the structure of regulation, which weakened consumer protection by fragmenting the responsibilities

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of the Food Standards Agency between different bodies. Will the Government recognise this mistake and revisit the decision?

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord has given me the opportunity to answer that question. I have seen no evidence to suggest that the machinery of government changes had any material impact on the response to the horse meat fraud incident. That incident was fraud on an EU-wide scale and had nothing to do with changes in responsibilities between UK government departments.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland (CB): My Lords, the food chain is complex and long. As the Minister knows, it has been decided not to show all the countries of origin on meat labelling because the costs for small businesses would be too high. So how will consumers know what they are eating when they buy compound meat?

Lord De Mauley: The noble Baroness raises a very complex issue. Consumer protection continues to be the key priority for the FSA and local authorities. In recent years, tackling the problems in the food chain that can make people ill has been a priority. However, sampling programmes have continued to include the sampling of foods for mislabelling and adulteration. Although the number of tests carried out has decreased, enforcement officers are working to target areas most likely to be at risk.

Visas: Health Insurance

Question

2.44 pm

Asked by Lord Leigh of Hurley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have any plans to require visa applicants to have full health insurance.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): My Lords, we have no current plans to do so. The Immigration Bill that is before the House in Committee requires temporary migrants coming to study, work or join family members for more than six months to pay a health surcharge to ensure that they make a fair and proportionate contribution to the NHS commensurate with their immigration status. Overseas visitors will continue to be liable for NHS treatment charges.

Lord Leigh of Hurley (Con): My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister. Does he agree with me that while the health service surcharge is welcome, at £200 it is a little inadequate, given that the National Health Service itself has calculated that the cost of providing services, even to people aged 15 to 44, is £700? More importantly, the proposed health service charge takes no account of a person’s illness, whereas if they were required to obtain insurance before they came to this country, that illness could be assessed and properly

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and fully costed. I am sure my noble friend will agree that it is no coincidence that out of 30 countries that provide comparable health insurance to the United Kingdom, only the UK and Ireland do not require certain migrants to have health insurance, which goes some way to explain the estimated health tourism bill of £2 billion.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, my noble friend to some degree misunderstands the reason for the surcharge, which is, as I have said, to ensure that temporary migrants pay a fair contribution towards the health service. It is not intended to be a full cost recovery but, none the less, it will raise in the region of £2 billion over 10 years. Visitors are not covered by this scheme and they will be liable for full cost recovery, which they may indeed choose to insure against.

Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, I suspect that health insurance for visa applicants would be extremely complicated to administer. Does my noble friend think that there might be something to be said for it if the Government go down the route recently recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee of auctioning about 100 visas a year, with a reserve price of £2.5 million, to get accelerated settlement in the UK? I sincerely hope that they will not go down that route.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My noble friend is tempting me to elaborate a policy into a direction in which the Government have no intention of moving at the present time. There is a review of health service charges going on. Currently the recovery of health service charges is a problem. The health service is not getting the income that it should be getting from health service charges, but my noble friend is right to say that the merit of this scheme covering temporary migrants is that it makes a significant contribution and is very simple to administer.

Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan (Lab): Is the Minister aware that an inquiry is taking place at the moment under the auspices of the Science and Technology Committee to look at the dramatic drop in the number of overseas students engaged in science, technology and engineering subjects, and that one factor that has become quite clearly significant is the intimidatory character of the application of immigration rules, in particular this latest suggestion that there will have to be, over and above a very sizeable visa charge, a charge for health? This is having a deleterious effect on the number of PhD students, whom we desperately need in our institutions and who will make a continuing contribution to the British economy. It is a highly unsatisfactory way of trying to control inflation by imposing unnecessary and, as I say, intimidatory charges on a group of very attractive immigrants for Britain.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: We have missed the noble Lord from our debates on these issues on the Immigration Bill. I assure him that the points he is making have been well made but the Government are quite clear that this does not put us in an uncompetitive position. Even the basic health insurance for a student going to Harvard is $958 and he might expect to pay $2,190 a

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year more if he wants full health cover. In Australia the annual payment would be £300; in New Zealand £325; in Canada £300. The actual cost of students in this respect is estimated by the Department of Health at £700 a year. This is not putting us at a disadvantage in the world market. We have the most excellent institutions here and I wish people would stop talking down our attractiveness as a place to study.

Lord Patel (CB): On two occasions now the Minister has quoted the figure that a student would have to pay as £700. In reality, is it not true that we do not know the level of usage of the health service by students, and that the Department of Health is conducting an audit right now that will determine it?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I have some figures here in front of me. I respect the noble Lord and I think he would agree that we have had some good debates on this issue. The figures say that non-EEA students cost the NHS around £430 million per year, with an average cost per head to the NHS of more than £700 per year. Those are the figures that I am giving the House, and I am assured that they are authoritative.

Lord Naseby (Con): Is my noble friend aware that these proposals are very broadly welcomed? Will he reassure the House that a proper monitoring system will be set up so that we do not reach the situation 12 or 24 months hence where we do not actually know what has happened?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: During the course of the Bill I have agreed to report back to the House on how this particular element of it is working.


NHS: Midwives

Question

2.51 pm

Asked by Lord Harrison

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that a sufficient number of midwives are trained, employed and retained by the National Health Service.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): My Lords, this Government are committed to improving maternity care. That is why we have charged Health Education England with ensuring that training numbers meet service demand. By reducing attrition rates, record numbers of midwives will be available to the NHS. Since May 2010 the number of full-time equivalent midwives increased by around 1,800 to nearly 22,000. A record number of midwives, some 6,000, are currently in training. New midwife training commissions by HEE for 2014-15 number 2,563.

Lord Harrison (Lab): My Lords, given that the Commons Public Accounts Committee believes that there is a shortfall of around 2,300 midwives and that

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the NSPCC has computed that number at 5,000, does the Minister acknowledge that we are beginning to get anecdotal evidence, certainly in Chester in the north-west, of maternity services under real pressure? With regard to maternity services, does he recognise that three out of four such services lack any trained mental health midwives to deal with perinatal mental illnesses, which I am afraid are associated with as many as 10% of all pregnancies? Will the Minister look in particular at the question of the training of midwives, where all too often the perinatal mental health services are left off the agenda?

Earl Howe: My Lords, I agree that in certain parts of the country maternity services are under pressure, but it is encouraging that the ratio of births per midwife has improved nationally. Indeed, since 2010 the number of midwives has increased by 4% and the number of births by 1%. However, the noble Lord is right to attach importance to mental health services. Improving diagnosis and services for women with pregnancy-related mental health problems is one of the Department of Health’s objectives for maternity care. That is why Health Education England has been tasked with working with partners to ensure that pre-registration and post-registration training in perinatal mental health is available to enable specialist staff to be available to every birthing unit by 2017.

The Earl of Listowel (CB): Is the Minister aware of the excellent model of best practice at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where there is a mental health team working hand in hand with the midwives, and how important that is to retention? Is the supervision of midwives being looked at—whether they feel well supported and wish to carry on in the profession because they have a mentor who can support them?

Earl Howe: I thank the noble Earl for bringing the example of the Chelsea and Westminster to my attention. I am sure it is a model of good practice, as I know how good that hospital is. With regard to supervision, the noble Earl is right. This bears upon the whole question of midwife numbers, to ensure that we have enough midwives not only looking after women about to give birth and giving birth, but also to ensure good practice in our hospitals and midwifery units.

Baroness Manzoor (LD): My Lords, I congratulate the coalition Government on two facts. One is that there are many more midwives than there were in 2010. The second, as my noble friend says, is that there are 6,000 more student midwives in training. There is, however, an issue regarding the attrition rates of student midwives leaving before the end of their three-year training. Can my noble friend state what the Government are doing to understand why the attrition rate is as high as one in four students leaving, and whether this information is being collected by exit surveys?

Earl Howe: My noble friend is right to draw attention to the attrition rate. NHS England is focusing on this very closely. It is not always possible to predict the attrition rate because midwives leave practice for varying

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reasons—for instance, to take a career break. It is, however, very important that the motivation of midwives should be maintained. There is a great deal of work going on to ensure that we do not lose highly qualified and skilled midwives from the NHS.

Baroness Wall of New Barnet (Lab): Does the Minister accept that the issue is trying to work out how many vacancies there are? The ratio that is defined in the area depends on the hospital. For instance, Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals, of which I am chair, has 30 births to one midwife, whereas in other parts of London it could be 28 or fewer. What we have tried to do, in looking at whether we should have a lower ratio, is work with the midwives’ associations. I think it is difficult to establish the number of vacancies because that ratio dictates what is paid for.

Earl Howe: The noble Baroness is quite right. Helping commissioners to reduce unwarranted variation in service delivery is one of the key roles of the maternity and children strategic clinical networks, as I am sure she is aware, which are being established and supported by NHS England. Clinical commissioning groups are responsible for commissioning maternity services locally, but they work with local authorities and in conjunction with provider partners to give assurance that processes and service specifications are in place which ensure that midwifery staffing is appropriate for the locality.

Lord Turnberg (Lab): My Lords, the number of births has gone up by 25% in the past 10 years. The vacancy rate among midwives is about 11%. That is the long-term vacancy rate. There seems to be a problem with recruitment and retention. Despite the figures that the noble Earl has cited, we are in some difficulty.

Earl Howe: The noble Lord is right. We recognised that issue at the outset of the Government, which is why we were determined that the number of midwives in training should be increased. It is now at a record number of 6,000. The number of trained midwives is increasing—that is, full-time equivalent midwives practising in the NHS rather than just on the register. We are heading in the right direction, but there is a long way to go.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB): Will the Minister assure the House that the report from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists on the unique learning environment of the labour ward has been addressed in the curricula and the learning environments by HEE? That report highlighted bullying by some senior midwives of junior and student midwives and of medical students, which was making the learning environment particularly difficult and stressful and accounted for some of the high attrition rates.

Earl Howe: The noble Baroness raises the extremely important issue of bullying. Bullying is not to be tolerated in any environment in the NHS. I am not aware of the extent to which Health Education England has factored that particular point into its plans. I would be amazed if it had not, but I will write to the noble Baroness with an answer.

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Baroness Wheeler (Lab): My Lords, does the Minister accept that the Public Accounts Committee report on maternity services was pretty damning, not just in terms of midwife shortages but on the lack of overall government accountability and strategy for maternity services, the increasing clinical negligence bill and substantial regional and demographic inequalities and variations in maternity care. What are the Government doing about this and when can we expect a coherent plan in response to these issues?

Earl Howe: The noble Baroness is right: the PAC raised a number of very important issues, many of which we agree need close attention. I have already mentioned the work that we are doing to improve recruitment and to reduce variation in the quality of services around the country. This requires more than just government; it requires all the arm’s-length bodies with an interest to pull together and, of course, local commissioners to do their bit as well.


Consumer Interests: World Consumer Rights Day

Question

3.01 pm

Asked by Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to promote consumer interests in the United Kingdom to mark World Consumer Rights Day on 15 March.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Viscount Younger of Leckie): The Government are tackling the issues that consumers care most about head on. We are bringing in strong reforms through the Consumer Rights Bill to give greater clarity to goods, services and, for the first time, digital content. On World Consumer Rights Day, my department, Citizens Advice and Ofcom highlighted issues around mobile phones. We received excellent press coverage, which helped to increase awareness and to inform people where to go to get help.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab): My Lords, it was 52 years ago that President Kennedy said that every consumer should be protected against misleading adverts and unsafe and worthless products, and that consumers should be told how much interest they are being charged. Given that payday loan companies continue to charge excessive interest rates and that the Government have abolished the National Consumer Council, have allowed living standards to fall and have introduced a Consumer Rights Bill which, despite what the Minister says, consolidates rather than adds rights, what are the Government going to do to honour President Kennedy’s ambition?

Viscount Younger of Leckie: My Lords, well informed, confident consumers are vital to building a stronger economy. Our plans will mean that consumers can be

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confident of their rights in everyday situations and that businesses will spend less time working out their legal obligations when they get complaints from customers. Since 2011, we have streamlined and brought coherence to a landscape that was previously confusing and therefore inefficient for consumers.

Lord Wrigglesworth (LD): My Lords, one issue which concerns many consumers and no doubt many in this House is the state of many of our pubs and the number of closures that are taking place. Does my noble friend not agree that many such institutions have come out of the tyranny of the brewers—I am sure that we can exclude Young’s brewery from that—into the even worse tyranny of highly geared pubcos? Will the Government take action to stop the exploitation of tenants by pubcos and the closure of some 26 pubs every week?

Viscount Younger of Leckie: My Lords, the Government value the pub industry and recognise the important contribution that pubs make to the fabric of local communities and to jobs and growth in the wider economy. We recognise that there are serious concerns about the relationship between pub-owning companies and their tenants. This is why we have published our consultation on a statutory code and an independent adjudicator for the sector: to enshrine the core principle that a tied tenant should be no worse off than a free-of-a-tie tenant. I cannot comment on the final proposals in advance of the government response to the consultation.

Lord Tomlinson (Lab): Does the Minister accept that the rather optimistic Answer that he gave about consumer protection contrasts acutely with the Answer given earlier by the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, to the first Question asked by my noble friend Lady Crawley? I invite him and the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, to get together to make sure that we have an across-government policy so that both are telling us the same story.

Viscount Younger of Leckie: I regret that I was not in my place when my noble friend Lord De Mauley answered the Question, but I will take note of the noble Lord’s point.

Lord Whitty (Lab): My Lords, I think that the Minister will agree that consumer rights and consumer interests are best served by having strong consumer bodies. In this country, as a result of the statutory instrument passed last week, that will now mean primarily Citizens Advice, and we wish it well in that task. However, will the Minister take this opportunity to respond more clearly to questions raised in the debate on that statutory instrument? First, does the redesignation by ONS of Citizens Advice as a public body in any way threaten its charity status, its independence or its ability freely to campaign? Secondly, will the Minister set out more clearly the totality of grant in aid from BIS to both Consumer Focus and Citizens Advice over the past five years, so that we can see clearly what resources are available in the new consumer landscape?

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Viscount Younger of Leckie: My Lords, the answer to the noble Lord’s first question is no, but I would like to take this opportunity to clarify that Citizens Advice is a well recognised and trusted brand, which is why we took the decision to transfer the Consumer Direct service to it in 2012. We are establishing Citizens Advice as the publicly funded advocate for consumers. It will now be much clearer where the consumer should go to get help, and a faster and better-quality service will come forth to give consumers greater peace of mind.

Baroness Hussein-Ece (LD): My Lords, what can be done about the plague of cold callers on consumers, including vulnerable people, who are constantly harassed by calls selling anything from car insurance to PPI—you name it, they want to sell it to you? Vulnerable people, including older people, are being absolutely plagued by that. I speak as someone whose 80 year-old mother receives four or five calls every day trying to sell her something. It appears that nothing can be done about it.

Viscount Younger of Leckie: There are some steps that consumers can take themselves—but, having said that, we are looking at this very closely. The first port of call, as I said, would be Citizens Advice. It will be in a much better position in future to give proper advice on that particular point.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton (Lab): My Lords, will the Minister please go back to the supplementary question asked by my noble friend about payday loans? He responded that the ideal solution was well informed, well educated consumers. Surely, people who are under stress and in poverty ought to be protected from such rates of interest, rather than rely on the consumer to be able to investigate at a time of great stress in their lives?

Viscount Younger of Leckie: The noble Baroness is correct. Payday loans remain an issue, and we continue to liaise with colleagues in the Treasury to take steps to resolve that important issue.

Lord Grantchester (Lab): In asking my question earlier today, I should have declared my interest as a milk producer. I regret my omission and apologise to the House.

Medical Act 1983 (Amendment) (Knowledge of English) Order 2014

Contracting Out (Local Authorities Social Services Functions) (England) Order 2014

Motion to Approve

3.08 pm

Moved by Earl Howe

That the draft orders laid before the House on 30 January and 12 February be approved.

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Relevant documents: 21st and 22nd Reports from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, 31st Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, considered in Grand Committee on 11 March.

Motion agreed.

Legislative and Regulatory Reform (Regulatory Functions) (Amendment) Order 2014

Regulators’ Code

Motion to Approve

3.08 pm

Moved by Viscount Younger of Leckie

That the draft order and code laid before the House on 22 January be approved.

Relevant document: 20th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, considered in Grand Committee on 11 March.

Motion agreed.

Income Support (Work-Related Activity) and Miscellaneous Amendments Regulations 2014

Occupational and Personal Pension Schemes (Automatic Enrolment) (Amendment) Regulations 2014

Financial Assistance Scheme (Qualifying Pension Scheme Amendments) Regulations 2014

Motion to Approve

3.09 pm

Moved by Lord Bates

That the draft regulations laid before the House on 22 January, 3 February and 5 February be approved.

Relevant documents: 20th, 21st and 22nd Reports from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, 29th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, considered in Grand Committee on 11 March.

Motion agreed.

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Water Bill

Order of Consideration Motion

3.09 pm

Moved by Lord De Mauley

That the amendments for the Report stage be marshalled and considered in the following order:

Clause 1, Schedules 1 and 2, Clauses 2 to 4, Schedules 3 and 4, Clause 5, Schedule 5, Clauses 6 to 37, Schedule 6, Clauses 38 to 44, Schedule 7, Clauses 45 to 48 Schedule 8, Clauses 49 to 74, Schedule 9, Clause 75, Schedule 10, Clauses 76 and 77, Schedule 11, Clauses 78 to 80, Schedule 12 Clause 81.

Motion agreed.

Immigration Bill

Committee (5th Day)

3.09 pm

Relevant documents: 22nd Report from the Delegated Powers Committee, 8th and 12th Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and 6th Report from the Constitution Committee

Clause 39: Appeals against penalty notices

Debate on whether Clause 39 should stand part of the Bill.

Lord Rosser (Lab): My Lords, immigration is a welcome and important part of British life. Our country’s success over the years owes much to the people who have come here from across the world and made it a better place. However, immigration can add to some of the existing pressures on communities, not least in the fields of housing and employment. The Bill, however, does not include any of the measures which we have been calling for and which would address some of these pressures.

Amendment 67 aims to end the practice among some recruitment agencies of excluding local workers. Many recruitment agencies are a great asset to the communities they work in, helping employers to find employees and potential employees to find work. However, there has been an issue whereby some employment agencies have effectively been taking on only foreign workers and excluding British people from their books. Over the past two decades, there has been significant growth in agency employment—a 500% increase between the mid-1980s and 2007. Migrants are now overrepresented within agency work, particularly at the lower end, with migrants from the EU’s A8 accession countries of 2004 constituting the largest single group of agency workers.

In certain sectors, such as the meat and poultry processing industry, there are examples of British workers facing difficulty registering for work, with some agencies supplying only migrant workers, generally eastern European nationals. While it is not illegal for agencies

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to choose to recruit from particular countries, any refusal to register an applicant because of their nationality is unlawful under the Race Relations Act and a breach of the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act licensing standards. The Equality and Human Rights Commission conducted a survey in 2010, and found that a third of agencies confirmed that they had acted unlawfully in sometimes supplying workers by judging which nationality the processing firm would prefer, or by responding to direct requests, often basing their actions on stereotypes about the perceived dependability of particular nationalities.

The idea that in core sectors of our economy some recruitment agencies should exclude local people, and make a virtue of being able to offer cheaper, more flexible, and allegedly more compliant staff than those available locally, is surely wrong. It is not fair on UK workers who as a result do not have the opportunity to compete for jobs, and it is not going to help us rebuild our economy. The only way action can be taken is for an individual to bring a discrimination case through an employment tribunal, or for the Equality and Human Rights Commission to bring about a compliance order, since recruitment agencies are not legally prevented from acting in this way. We need to strengthen the law so that agencies are not able to operate exclusionary practices—formally or informally—and then enforce it properly, with prosecutions of agencies that flout the law.

Amendment 69 includes provision for a realistic minimum fine for employing illegal immigrants. Illegal migration can lead to exploitation of migrant labour, unacceptable working conditions and undercutting of legal employment. That is not good for either the migrant or the domestic economy. It is against the law to employ illegal immigrants. There is a maximum fine for doing so, but it appears that there is no minimum fine set by legislation. The number of businesses fined for employing illegal immigrants has halved since 2010. UK dairy farms that have recently been found guilty of using illegal labour hired through gangmasters, where workers were being housed in poor accommodation previously used by animals and paid £400 to £500 less than the minimum wage each month, received a civil penalty amounting to £300 per worker. Our amendment would enable the Secretary of State to give an employer who is in breach of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 a notice requiring the employer to pay a penalty of a specified amount which does not exceed the prescribed maximum and is not below the prescribed minimum.

3.15 pm

Amendment 70 would bring other categories of work, which the Secretary of State would specify, under the scope of the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004. Research from charities, academics and trade unions suggests that hundreds of thousands of migrant workers are routinely underpaid and overworked in jobs across the UK on farms, in care homes, in hotels and the hospitality sector, on construction sites and in the provision of cleaning services. Often employed by labour providers or gangmasters, many of these workers will have little idea of UK employment rights such as the national minimum wage, let alone the leverage to

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be able to claim them. I have already mentioned the example of the dairy farms that were found guilty of using illegal labourers hired through gangmasters and were fined just £300—less than they saved by employing one illegal migrant for a month. Despite the fact that the agency sector in the UK has quadrupled since 1994, a high percentage of employers now use subcontractors. There is no effective government regulation of the majority of UK labour providers. In government, we established the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, which does important work to improve health and safety standards and prevent the exploitation of workers in the agricultural, horticultural and shellfish-gathering industries. We have tabled this amendment as the Government should launch an immediate consultation on the further areas and categories of work and employment that should come under the scope of the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004.

Finally, we have tabled a general amendment that would require the Government to produce an assessment in the 12 months following Royal Assent on the impact of European immigration to the United Kingdom, with specific reference to non-compliance with and enforcement of four Acts of Parliament: the National Minimum Wage Act 1998; the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004; the Equality Act 2010; and the Housing Act 2004.

The National Minimum Wage Act set a minimum wage for young people and full-time employees and was a welcome and necessary addition to employment legislation. However, since the general election, as I understand it only two people have been taken to court for paying below the legal limit per hour and just three have been referred to prosecutors. Research by the Low Pay Commission suggests that in certain sectors of the economy, particularly those which employ significant numbers of immigrant workers such as food processing, hospitality and cleaning, the minimum wage is often not enforced. Employers are using a variety of means to side-step the rates. These include: restaurants assuming that staff will receive a certain sum in tips and deducting that cash from their pay packets; employees being wrongly classified as volunteers and thus not entitled to a wage; companies charging staff for uniforms or benefits in kind such as accommodation or transport; and the payment of cash in hand so that hours and wages go unrecorded. The Government’s response is, frankly, simply not adequate. There is inadequate enforcement of the legislation and the Government need to do more to enforce labour market laws so that poor employers cannot get a competitive advantage over law-abiding and responsible employers by taking on immigrants at extremely low wages.

I have already referred to gangmasters. The Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 introduced regulation and licensing of those who seek to recruit workers to supply to particular industries. There is anecdotal—and, indeed, some stronger—evidence from reputable sources that gangmasters are recruiting predominantly from eastern European citizens. They come to this country with the prospect of employment and find themselves

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subject to people who operate under the auspices of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority but also, potentially, illegally.

The Equality Act 2010 brought together a range of legislation passed under the previous Government that outlawed discrimination on a number of fronts, including recruitment on the grounds of race or nationality.

The Housing Act 2004 strengthened measures on houses in multiple occupation and the registration of landlords, among other associated matters. Again, though, there is evidence that regulations made under the Housing Act 2004, particularly those covering houses in multiple occupation, are not being adhered to by a number of individuals who deal with migrant labour from the wider European community. We have also been faced with cases of what are known as “beds in sheds”. Many immigrants coming to the United Kingdom bring enormous benefit to community life: they are neighbours, friends and upstanding members of the community. However, many are exploited by unscrupulous landlords. Some choose poor accommodation because it is all that they can afford. We need to stop those landlords who exploit migrant workers with overcrowded, overpriced accommodation. This is also bad for local communities and leads to undercutting of local workers, too. We need a proper register for private sector landlords.

It is important that we seek to address the abuses of migrants in the fields of employment and housing by those who seek to exploit such people for their own personal ends and financial benefit. The effect of that exploitation is also to create uncertainty and disharmony within communities among the existing resident population, who feel that their often already difficult position is being further undermined and made less secure as a result. I simply conclude by saying that I hope that the Government will respond positively to the measures which I have outlined.

Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, I have given notice of my intention to oppose the question that Clause 40 stand part of the Bill but, as I hope the Minister knows, this a way of probing the provisions in Clause 40 and of asking, simply, what the problem is with Section 18 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, which the clause would amend. In the Public Bill Committee, the Minister, Mr Harper, said:

“it can be difficult to recover the penalty”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, Immigration Bill Committee, 12/11/13; col. 317.]

I can see that Section 18, as amended, would make it easier for the Secretary of State, but that does mean that the recipient of a penalty is not going to be able to raise a defence. This is not a straightforward, simple debt. It seems that the very fact that it is not a fixed penalty indicates that there may be a range of circumstances in which the penalty is imposed, and some of those may involve mitigating circumstances.

Lord Avebury (LD): I should like to ask a couple of questions about Clause 40. The Immigration Minister’s faux pas over the “wealthy metropolitan elite”, such as his predecessor who employed a cleaner from Nepal

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without checking that she had leave to remain, highlighted the inconsistency of people in senior positions of the Government being happy to employ non-EEA citizens themselves while desperately hanging on to the vain objective of reducing net immigration to below 100,000. That target was never within the realms of possibility and it should be scrapped, recognising that most components of immigration and all of emigration are outside the control of government. As the UK is doing relatively well compared with other European countries, we are an attractive destination for skilled workers from the rest of the EEA, and as my right honourable friend Vince Cable pointed out, we are benefiting from their contribution to our economy and in particular to the revenue from direct and indirect taxation that they bring.

However, we are right to deal with irregular migration from outside the EEA, and in particular the 500,000 of those irregular migrants who were lost by the UKBA and are still scraping a living in low-paid jobs—a few of them as cleaners and nannies. My question about Clause 40 is whether increasing the fines on employers who fail to check the credentials of their workers is going to be the answer. Can the Minister say whether the existing powers are being used to their full extent? In November 2012, when Tesco was found to have employed 20 non-EEA students for three times the number of hours allowed, the supermarket was fined £115,000, compared with the maximum of £200,000. In August 2013, the BBC found that since the original power to impose fines on employers was enacted in 2006, two-thirds of the £80 million fines imposed remained uncollected. The Home Office said that some fines might have been reduced or cancelled on appeal, or that some employers could have gone out of business or could have been asked to pay by instalments. How does making the penalty recoverable as if it were payable under an order of the county court, or the equivalent in Scotland or Northern Ireland, increase the probability that the money will be recovered? Can the Minister be sure that increasing the fines will not simply reduce the proportion of money that is recovered?

The Earl of Listowel (CB): My Lords, I will briefly raise a concern that came to my attention when I was a member of Sub-Committee F of the European Union Committee some time ago. I heard from employers’ organisations in this country that they were very keen to have loose immigration policies. That was very understandable from their point of view. They would recruit migrants who were well educated and motivated and they might have felt that many of our population were not so motivated or well educated. I was concerned that there were not incentives for employers to train up, support and develop young people in this country, that those young people would just go on to benefits, and that a vicious circle would go on through the generations. I was therefore very pleased to hear the Prime Minister David Cameron say recently that his intention is to improve the education system—he feels that that is going a long way in the right direction—and to reform the welfare system so that more young people go into employment and there is not so much pressure on employers to recruit from abroad. It is

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tragic that so many young people waste their lives. I wanted to voice my happiness at hearing the Prime Minister express that commitment to our young people.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for ending this part of the debate by giving me a chance to say that he is quite right to pick up on the Prime Minister’s commitment in this area. What is interesting about the speeches made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and by my noble friends is that they, too, echo the sentiment on this issue within Government at this time. As I reply to the debate, noble Lords will pick up the messages and echoes of that. Of course, some of what we have been talking about lies outside the provisions in the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, would like to include certain provisions in it, but I hope I can persuade the Committee that what noble Lords seek might be best done through a comprehensive package of measures based on the work that is now going on.

Clauses 39 and 40 amend the existing legislation governing the sequence for objecting and appealing against a civil penalty notice for employing illegal workers and how we may recover penalties where an employer fails to pay. My noble friend Lord Avebury was particularly keen to know how that would work. I will come on to that. Currently, an employer can exercise their right to object to a civil penalty and appeal simultaneously, consecutively or alternatively. Frankly, this is wasteful and unnecessarily expensive for all. Clause 39 simply requires an employer to raise an objection before a formal appeal. The objection process provides a fast and efficient means of reviewing penalties and can negate the need for an appeal to the court altogether. I am sure that noble Lords will see that as desirable.

3.30 pm

The objection process is a meaningful one. In 2013, the Home Office issued 1,821 civil penalty notices. Employers raised objections in 646 cases, 24% of which resulted in the penalty being reduced or cancelled, so employers were able to raise mitigating circumstances. Raising an objection is free to the employer and fast. Employers have 28 days from the date of the civil penalty notice to lodge an objection and the Home Office has a further 28 days to respond. At the end of this process, an employer may still formally appeal to a court if they are dissatisfied with the outcome of the objection process.

Clause 40 changes the way civil penalties for employing an illegal worker are enforced. It allows an outstanding penalty to be enforced as though a substantive judgment had already been issued by the relevant court in England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. This change will eliminate the need for the Secretary of State first to make an application to the court for a substantive order for payment. This will make it much easier to take action against rogue employers who refuse to pay their penalties. The change will not affect the employer’s rights to object or appeal upfront against a civil penalty, as I have already explained.

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On Amendment 67, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, the Government are committed to protecting the rights of UK workers. I note that this is the seventh consecutive quarter in which we have seen a large rise in the employment of UK nationals and a smaller growth in the employment of non-UK nationals. Under this Government, employment levels have risen by 1.3 million, of which 78% is accounted for by UK nationals. Under the previous Government, in the five years to December 2008, when the financial crisis occurred, more than 90% of the increase in employment was accounted for by foreign nationals. However, I recognise that there is a problem with a small number of unscrupulous employment agencies that source labour exclusively from overseas, particularly eastern Europe. While I am sympathetic to the intentions behind this amendment, I note that it would not achieve its aims. An agency could evade its scope simply by signing up a single UK resident as part of a recruitment process. We agree, however, that more should be done to tackle these types of unfair recruitment practices. Ministers will actively consider how best to protect British workers from this type of discrimination and we will seek to bring forward proposals shortly.

I understand that Amendment 68 is intended to provide more information about the impact of large-scale EU migration since EU enlargement in 2004. However, as noble Lords will know, the Government are already ahead of the amendment’s intentions. At the Home Secretary’s request, the Migration Advisory Committee is already looking into this, and related issues, as part of its review commissioned last September into migrant employment in low-skilled work. It will report back in May. We will not therefore have to wait 12 months after Royal Assent to get a report on this issue, which will inform government for the future.

We are also already taking action to prevent abuse of our public services and benefit systems by migrants, including EEA nationals. We have introduced a three-month delay before a European jobseeker can claim benefits, and a tougher six-month test to assess whether claimants have a genuine chance of finding work. The Government have also issued new statutory guidance to make sure that local authorities set a residency requirement before a person qualifies for social housing.

We are also taking tougher action against the abuse of the national minimum wage. From 7 March, the financial penalty increased from 50% to 100% of total underpayments owed to workers, and the maximum fine was increased from £5,000 to £20,000. The Government also plan to legislate at the earliest opportunity so that employers will be given penalties of up to £20,000 for each individual worker, rather than as the maximum for all abuses. I trust that this will have the Committee’s support.

I turn now to Amendment 69. This Government are already taking action to strengthen the existing civil penalty scheme for employers of illegal workers, following a full review and public consultation last year. We are increasing the maximum penalty per illegal worker from £10,000 to £20,000. We have also published new, tighter proposals on mitigating factors

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that could reduce the penalty where employers actively co-operate with enforcement officers. These will be set out shortly in a new statutory code of practice.

Perhaps I can now address the concerns expressed by my noble friend Lord Avebury on this matter. What are we doing to increase the deterrent impact of the civil penalty scheme? This Government are committed to taking tough action against rogue employers. To improve the deterrent impact of the civil penalty scheme we are doubling the penalty to £20,000 per worker, doubling the current starting point for the calculation of a first-time penalty to £15,000 per worker, and narrowing the criteria under which an employer can be issued a warning notice rather than a financial penalty. It has been too easy for rogue employers to evade paying a penalty.

The Immigration Bill will therefore also simplify and accelerate the enforcement of civil penalty debts in the civil courts. We are working with the Insolvency Service to ensure that, where appropriate, directors are considered for disqualification action where they have employed illegal workers and wound up their businesses to evade penalties. It is therefore not necessary to prescribe a minimum amount in primary legislation, as we have indeed set tariffs at a level a great deal higher than previously.

I turn now to the question of gangmasters and Amendment 70. I understand and share the concern that we should take effective action against exploitative working practices. The Gangmasters Licensing Authority is one of a range of current responses to the problem, focusing on abuses in the agricultural sector in particular. As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, this is not the only sector where contract labour suppliers operate. The Committee will be aware that the Government are currently considering the functions and form of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, through a triennial review announced in Parliament in September 2013. We hope to publish that review shortly. It would be more helpful to return to this issue when we have the review’s findings, and to look at the Gangmasters Licensing Authority’s role alongside wider regulatory safeguards for workers.

I hope I have shown that the Government are very active in this area. I hope, too, that this has reassured the Committee that the amendments tabled by noble Lords are unnecessary, and that Clauses 39 and 40 should form part of the Bill.

Lord Rosser: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply and all other noble Lords who contributed to this debate. The Minister said that the type of sentiments I expressed in my contribution were not dissimilar to those of the Government. However, I still am not sure whether the Minister is anticipating, in any of the areas that I have covered, bringing anything back to this House before Report. He made a comment about formulating proposals shortly but I am not clear whether that meant in time for Report. It would be extremely helpful if he could clarify that point.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, to give matters proper consideration, it is unlikely that we will return to these matters on Report. However, legislation, including

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the Slavery Bill, is likely to come before this House. There will be other opportunities where a change may occur that does not require primary legislation and which can be effected through secondary legislation. I have indicated that a work programme is going on in this area and I hope that noble Lords will accept that our objectives very much reflect the thinking that lies behind the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser.

Lord Rosser: I thank the Minister for that response, although I am a bit disappointed that, apparently, nothing will come forward before Report. I am sure one point he would accept is that the world can be full of good intentions and measures that intend to be taken, but it is also about, first, whether those intentions are taken and in what form that counts and, secondly, if they are taken in an appropriate form, the extent to which they are enforced. That is one of the issues I raised in relation to the minimum wage and how effectively it was being enforced. Obviously, that issue no doubt will be discussed on other occasions.

I am not sure whether I should be pleased with the comments that the Minister made about the Gangmasters Licensing Authority on the basis that more areas of work might be coming under the terms of that authority or whether I should be concerned because perhaps a look is being taken at the powers and scope of that authority, and they might be diminished in the future. Perhaps he will give me an assurance that no one is looking in any way at diminishing the power and scope of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority in the light, I thought, of his reference to a triennial review.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I am happy to respond immediately to that request. As noble Lords will know, the triennial review looks at all public bodies and their effectiveness. The truth of the matter is that the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, despite comments that have been made in debate, has been remarkably effective at regulating a difficult area of exploitation. There are other areas which the noble Lord mentioned and we are looking to extend the role of the GLA or a body which can perform that function, without prejudging the issue, in such a way as to make sure that we cover more ground and not less. The powers will be adequate to ensure that the same sort of regulation that occurs in the agricultural sector occurs elsewhere where exploitation takes place.

Lord Rosser: I thank the Minister for that response. I will leave the matter in that context. Obviously, I will want to read carefully what the Minister has said in response and to look at the extent to which the specific concerns that we have raised in the amendments in this group are or are not being addressed by the work that the Minister has said that the Government are already undertaking. I know he agrees with me that, if we are to have a reasoned debate on immigration in this country, we need to address the concerns to which immigration can contribute, although not cause exclusively or solely, in housing and employment through exploitation of migrants by people who are not entirely scrupulous in their intentions and motives. Our doubts at the

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present time concern the extent to which this Bill, and the measures contained in it, will promote such a reasoned debate, certainly in employment and housing, hence the amendments in this group.

I thank the Minister for his reply and I will read carefully what he has said. I thank all other noble Lords who have contributed to this debate.

Clause 39 agreed.

Clause 40 agreed.

Amendments 67 to 70 not moved.

3.45 pm

Amendment 71

Moved by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

71: After Clause 40, insert the following new Clause—

“Permission to work

After section 3(9) of the Immigration Act 1971 insert—

“(10) In making rules under subsection (2), the Secretary of State must have regard to the following.

(11) Rules must provide for persons seeking asylum, within the meaning of the rules, to apply to the Secretary of State for permission to take up employment and that permission must be granted if—

(a) a decision has not been taken on the applicant’s asylum application within six months of the date on which it was recorded, or

(b) an individual makes further submissions which raise asylum grounds and a decision on that fresh claim or to refuse to treat such further submissions as a fresh claim has not been taken within six months of the date on which they were recorded.

(12) Permission for a person seeking asylum to take up employment shall be on terms no less favourable than those upon which permission is granted to a person recognised as a refugee to take up employment.””

Lord Roberts of Llandudno (LD): My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 72 first, as that will explain why Amendment 71 is also necessary. Our progress as humanity has always been a continuous struggle to overcome discrimination and inequality. One can name Wilberforce, Lincoln, Pankhurst, Gandhi, Mandela and so many others who have contributed to ensuring that nobody suffers because of discrimination. All people are of equal value. The struggle continues. People are people wherever they are, and should be treated with respect and dignity.

However, there are some failed asylum seekers who cannot be returned home. At this moment, there are about 3,000 such people living in the United Kingdom. They cannot work. They have no access to benefits and would, in many cases, be destitute were it not for support from government and voluntary agencies. This Section 4 support from the Government is entirely separate from normal asylum support for people whose claims are pending. Under Section 4, a person will receive £5 per day, or about £36 per week. Out of this, they must pay for food, clothing, toiletries and other essential living needs. We are glad that housing and utilities are provided separately.

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In April 2012, 779 of these 3,000 people were children and they are discriminated against in certain ways. For instance, the use of the Azure card is restricted to a list of certain shops and these are often the most expensive. So many of the smaller and less expensive stores, such as Aldi and Lidl, which could provide far more for those with Azure cards, are not included in the list. Whatever happens to my amendment, I hope that the Minister will at least tackle that issue, so that those places where people can get better value or a greater quantity for their money—including corner shops as well—can be considered.

Amendment 72 would allow for people totally trapped in the UK to survive. They would escape the absolute poverty to which Section 4 condemns them. It would also save taxpayers millions of pounds. To deny a person the right to work is to deny ourselves the contribution that that individual can make to our society. Our coalition partners speak of hard-working families. I would urge the inclusion of those whose one aim is to be a hard-working family. Last December, there were 23,000 of them who had the ability to earn a living. Can anything be more demoralising than having skills that you are not allowed to use, a family you are not allowed to support, or a country to which you would willingly pay your taxes, if only you were allowed? What evidence does the Minister have that the period before an asylum seeker can apply for a job would in any way be a threat if it were reduced from 12 to six months? What conversations have been taking place with the 12 European Union countries that have much lower limits than the UK? Why have we not signed up to the EU reception conditions, which reduce to nine months the period for which asylum seekers can be excluded from the labour market? That is not quite six months, but it is coming down.

Amendment 71 would allow those who have been waiting six months for a decision to claim the right to work. In December last year, the number of those waiting was 6,249, excluding dependants. We have a real opportunity here. We could reduce the burden on the taxpayer because asylum seekers who are able to work will no longer need to be supported by the benefits system. After all, we are living in times of austerity. Instead of being dependent, these people could contribute to the economy through taxes and consumer spending.

There is an understandable worry here in Parliament that allowing asylum seekers to work will blur the boundaries between asylum and economic migration. However, I suggest that a strong asylum system, which makes the right decisions the first time around, need have no fear of such a blurring of boundaries. I am sure that economic migrants making a spurious claim in order to access the UK jobs market would not be able to put in a claim credible enough to have the UKBA scratching its head for six months. An asylum claim with no real basis should not take six months to be rejected.

History shows that when new arrivals come to the UK, they contribute substantially to job creation in our country. A week ago tomorrow, the Centre for Entrepreneurs published a report entitled Building our Businesses, Creating our Jobs. Here, as in the United

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States, 60% of the top technology businesses were started by migrants. The next figure really astounded me: in the UK, 456,073 migrant entrepreneurs, representing 155 countries, started many of our industries. Our economy owes so much to migrants who are misunderstood and even reviled in some quarters—and it has always been so. In 1938 the

Daily Express

ran the headline: “German Jews Pouring into Britain”. These folk, who were escaping the Holocaust, were responsible for more than 50% of the new industries that helped the south Wales valleys to defeat the great depression at that time. We shall miss out in 2014 by denying their successors the right to work.

I should like an assurance from the Minister that the Government support the idea of the equality of all people. I should also like to see the evidence, if it exists, that other nations suffer because they allow asylum seekers to work after six months or sooner. Lastly, does he accept the fact that nearly 500,000 immigrants have been responsible for new businesses in the United Kingdom? The Bill can either continue the progress that I mentioned previously—helping a person to find his feet and grasp his opportunities—or it can be a backward step by keeping those who would enrich our communities idle and hopeless. When the time comes, I urge the Minister to support this amendment.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, for tabling these amendments. I was pleased to add my name to them, not least because I was a member of the parliamentary inquiry into asylum support for children and young people, and I helped to launch a Freedom from Torture report called The Poverty Barrier: The Right to Rehabilitation for Survivors of Torture in the UK. Also, on a personal note, the noble Lord referred to the Express headline about German Jews pouring into this country. My father was one of those German Jews.

I shall start with the right to work. It is a human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and incorporated into human rights law as part of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which recognises,

“the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work”.

After the Second World War, TH Marshall wrote that in the economic field, the basic civil right is the right to work. The importance of this right, or rather the lack of it, for individual asylum seekers is brought out movingly in the report to which I have referred. The parliamentary inquiry talked about how asylum seekers who are not able to undertake paid work lose skills, how they are not able to provide a role model for their children, and the impact on their self-esteem, self-confidence and mental health. All this has a damaging effect on their children. According to the Freedom from Torture report:

“Many questionnaire respondents, and most participants in client focus groups, highlighted the importance to them of having permission to work while their asylum claim is decided as a means of supporting themselves and being self-reliant. Indeed, the lack of permission to work for asylum seekers was a major theme of

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discussion and the key change that focus group respondents called for, although they also recognised that many torture survivors are not well enough to work”.

The weekend before last, noble Lords may have read in the Guardian an interview with six refugees or asylum seekers with professional backgrounds. One of them was a senior government adviser from the Ivory Coast now living destitute in Birmingham. The article says:

“But for the moment, what makes her unhappy is the enforced idleness: the UK Border Agency stipulates, in emphatic capitals, in correspondence with her, ‘You are NOT allowed to work’”.

It goes on:

“‘Work is health,’ she says, taking off her glasses and rubbing her eyes. ‘I started working when I was 21. I am an active person. When you have nothing to do, you look on your situation and start to think. You say to yourself: “What am I doing? What will become of me?”’”.

If we were professional people who were forced to leave our home and seek asylum in another country, how would we feel if we were not allowed to contribute to the country that we wanted to make our new home?

Much of government social policy, whichever party is in power, is premised on the principle that paid work is the primary responsibility and the most important contribution that people make to society, summed up, as the noble Lord said, in the mantra of “hard-working families”. However, successive Governments deny asylum seekers the opportunity to make such a contribution for a whole year, even though the evidence shows that it helps integration. Home Office research shows that delayed entry to the labour market can cause problems even when refugee status is then granted, leading to high levels of unemployment and underemployment. It would appear, therefore, that the Government work on the assumption that asylum seekers will not be granted refugee status, so it does not matter to this society what the long-term effects of enforced idleness are. I hope I am wrong, and would be grateful if the Minister could disabuse me, but that is how it comes across.

As the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, said, the Government argue that to allow asylum seekers the right to work would blur the distinction between economic migrants and asylum seekers, and act as a pull factor. However, we are not calling for an immediate right to work: there would still be a six-month delay. In 11 other European Union countries, in both northern and southern Europe, asylum seekers are permitted access to the labour market after six months, or sometimes even less, of waiting for a decision. In all of those countries, except Sweden, fewer applications for asylum were received than in the UK, which does not suggest that it acts as a pull factor. The lack of impact on the number of applicants is confirmed by a recent study of OECD countries. If we do not allow the right to work, the danger is that asylum seekers who end up in the shadow labour market will face the kind of exploitation referred to earlier by my noble friend Lord Rosser.

I fear that Governments are often timid with regard to the rights of asylum seekers for fear of public opinion. However, surveys by the IPPR and the British Social Attitudes survey show that there is public support for allowing asylum seekers the right to work. The

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Joseph Rowntree charitable trust, in an inquiry into destitution among asylum seekers a few years ago, said:

“Overwhelmingly, giving asylum seekers the right to work was the favoured solution identified”,

by those who gave evidence.

On the question of destitution, the parliamentary inquiry of which I was a member found that the current asylum support system is forcing thousands of children and young people who are seeking safety in the UK into severe poverty. We were shocked to hear of instances where children were left destitute and homeless, entirely without institutional support and forced to rely on food parcels or charitable donations. This cannot be right.

4 pm

The Freedom from Torture report that I mentioned shed light on this. It stated:

“Several clinicians interviewed for the research said that in their experience when survivors of torture are made effectively destitute, this can lead to deterioration in their mental health and/or to an increased risk of suicide. It can also have a long term impact on their ability to recover from their past trauma, even after they are no longer in destitute circumstances. One clinician said: ‘I think it’s profoundly exhausting to survive destitution, and if you’re in that situation for a long time—when there’s no hope, there’s no certainty, there’s no activity that’s meaningful—it’s then very hard to believe that you have a right to contribute to society, that you’ve got something you can offer’.

When asked to comment on how they have felt in their own words, people described feeling desperate about the lack of control over their lives, knowing that their difficulties are exacerbated by inadequate diet and consequent weakness, chronic pain and poor sleep”.

I will quote from one person in the study, who said:

“There is one animal that I envy so much in this country and it’s the pet dog. When I see people with pet dogs and see how they are taken care of in homes, fed and everything, I compare myself with them and cannot measure up. I lose hope in living. I envy the dog”.

All parties are committed to the eradication of child poverty, yet somehow the children of asylum seekers do not seem to be part of this commitment and no one seems to care about the poverty that they experience. Common humanity and human decency must make us question this situation, but also, as the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, explained, Still Human Still Here estimates that it would actually save money to abolish the parallel support structure of the Azure card system. This point was made by Julian Huppert MP in the Public Bill Committee, and the Minister agreed to look into it and report on his conclusions. Can the Minister report to this House the Minister’s conclusions after looking at the question of whether money could be saved by abolishing this parallel support structure?

Finally, I would like to turn again to the Joint Committee on Human Rights report and its inquiry into the treatment of asylum seekers back in 2006-07. It said:

“We consider that by refusing permission for most asylum seekers to work and operating a system of support which results in widespread destitution, the treatment of asylum seekers in a number of cases reaches the Article 3 ECHR threshold of inhuman

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and degrading treatment. … We have seen instances in all cases where the Government’s treatment of asylum seekers and refused asylum seekers falls below the requirements of the common law of humanity and of international human rights law”.

Before I joined the Committee, it said:

“The policy of enforced destitution must cease. The system of asylum seeker support is a confusing mess. We have seen no justification for providing varying standards of support and recommend the introduction of a coherent, unified, simplified and accessible system of support for asylum seekers, from arrival until voluntary departure or compulsory removal from the UK”.

The policy has not ceased, but these amendments are an attempt to end this shameful state of affairs.

Baroness Williams of Crosby (LD): My Lords, my name, too, is attached to this amendment, and I very strongly support what my noble friend Lord Roberts and the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, have already said on this matter.

We have a very strange system in this country, under which an increasing amount of public expenditure sustains asylum seekers and people who are in detention but we do not enable ourselves or them to take any adequate steps to reduce that burden of public expenditure, nor to give the moral and responsible possibilities that detainees and asylum seekers very badly need. The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, put it very well: there is nothing more demoralising than stopping people from working and at the same time keeping them under various kinds of restraint and control.

I am a patron of the Gatwick detention centre. It is one of the most successful detention centres, for the straightforward reason that it has a very substantial group of volunteers who continually meet and talk to asylum seekers and others in order to sustain morale. They would certainly support what my noble friend Lord Roberts said about the steady demoralisation that occurs with every month that passes, when somebody is unable to contribute to their own family or their own well-being, or to find ways to work.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, said, it really is not necessary. We are one of the few countries that creates such a long wait before somebody is given permission to work. In the course of that long wait, the sense of responsibility—the sense of obligation to the society where one is—begins to melt away, to the point where people become totally demoralised and have no strong sense at all of where their future lies or how they can make it better than it is at present.

There are two major motivations for asylum seekers. One is primarily individual: the woman who is escaping from something like female genital mutilation or the young man who is homosexual in a society that is passionately opposed to that. Those are individual motivations. But there are also among asylum seekers some who are seeking what one can describe only as universal values: the Aung Sang Suu Kyis and Nelson Mandelas who are seeking asylum because of what they have done in their own societies. Some of the finest people I have ever come across are asylum seekers who have fought for democracy in a tyrannical state or fought for freedom of speech in a state that does not permit it. We are constantly missing the contribution that they can make.

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We all respect the very great commitment of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, to trying to make things better for people in this situation. I hope that he will call on the Home Office to reconsider whether this strange policy of expensive detention followed by very long periods of almost complete loss of hope on the part of those who are detained or who are asylum seekers can be addressed in a more constructive way. The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, put it very well: it is really hard to believe that the combination of extreme poverty and detention is the best way we can find to deal with people who are genuinely seeking asylum.

I hope very much that the Home Office will consider softening its present policies somewhat in order to enable genuine asylum seekers to have the opportunity to work and to support their families on more than £5 a day. None of us would find it very easy to live on that kind of sum, let alone sustain and keep families and children on the tiny amounts of money that are made available by the state. Noble Lords referred to charitable contributions, and there are some charitable contributions. I can think of much better reasons for those charitable contributions to sustain the children of asylum seekers than because their parents are unable to work to sustain them themselves.

The Earl of Sandwich (CB): My Lords, I, too, pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, for bringing this amendment back and for making a powerful moral case, and to the noble Baronesses, Lady Lister and Lady Williams, for supporting him.

This is not a new amendment. This amendment has been around a long time. We have waited a long time. The right reverend Prelate will remember that Christian Aid and the churches were backing this as a major campaign, and we have seen it again and again in different incarnations throughout various immigration Bills. Governments of both parties have decided more or less to ignore it. When I was on the Independent Asylum Commission, we recommended it. Governments do not like it because of the administration involved. This Minister may see this old chestnut coming back and may be able to address it in a new way. Perhaps he will consider the argument about assimilation that was made by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts. Genuine asylum seekers who want to belong to our society should be given encouragement after a minimum period, which in this amendment is six months.

The Minister heard the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, make the point about the motivation of young asylum seekers and how quickly they adapt, while the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, reminded us of the terrible phrase “enforced idleness” in that Guardian article. Surely if we recognise the contribution of migrants and asylum seekers, we should open up opportunities early on and increase the chances of their integration in future.

I am also sympathetic to Amendment 72 with regard to bail proceedings. Asylum seekers suffer a lot while awaiting bail, and as patron of the visitors at Haslar in Portsmouth I recognise very much what the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said about the people who work with asylum seekers knowing about this. We must listen to them, because £36 a week is not a great deal.

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Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab): My Lords, in this debate there seem to be two conflicting policy desiderata in play. Judging by the very powerful speeches that have been made, lateral thinking seems to be required. The two pieces of policy analysis, pro and against, seem to be mutually exclusive, but I would hope that before the Bill is enacted some thought could be given to some sort of halfway house. That might seem to be a rather facile thing to say. However, there seems to be too much polarisation in the way in which this is being argued. Obviously, I cannot anticipate what the Minister will say in his response, but at the moment this seems to be a case of two ships passing in the night. On a point of such sensitivity, I hope that this does not continue quite in that form.

Lord Dubs (Lab): My Lords, as has been said, this issue has been with us for a long time. I still find it hard to understand why we persist in saying to people, “You will be destitute because we want to make your life uncomfortable in the hope that you’ll go away”. I cannot think of any other reason why we have this policy. Surely it is humiliating to people who have skills and could contribute to our society for us to say to them, “No, you may not do that”. If any of us were in that position, what would we do? Would we be destitute or would we work illegally? I suspect that we would work illegally, and there are of course jobs like that to be found.

I do not recommend that people work illegally but I do recommend that people should not be put in the position where they have very little choice. This is a very unhappy situation for people. There would be no cost to public funds; indeed, if people had a job that would benefit public funds because they would pay national insurance and income tax. No Chancellor of the Exchequer needs to be frightened of this. This is a point of simple humanity. For heaven’s sake, let us change the present policy.

Lord Hylton (CB): My Lords, I support both amendments and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, on tabling them. I am very impressed by the generosity of the British public in supporting both detainees and asylum seekers in many different ways—for example, the detainee support groups attached to almost every detention centre.

Regarding Amendment 72, is it the case that individuals have not been able to get to bail hearings simply because they are in extreme poverty? Bail hearings are one way of reducing the number of people in detention—and a good way, I suggest. The British public have shown their generosity by their willingness to provide bail in such cases.

Earl Attlee (Con): My Lords, as the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, pointed out, this is not a new issue. I am fairly sure that I have answered Oral Questions on it, and I do not recall experiencing any difficulties with the whole House. I would be happy to answer another Oral Question on this issue.

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4.15 pm

Amendment 71 would radically change existing permission-to-work arrangements for asylum seekers, allowing permission to work where the asylum claim is still outstanding after only six months instead of 12 months. It would also remove the caveat that the delay must not be of the asylum seeker’s own making and would lift all restrictions on the type of employment available. This is not sensible. The policy of this Government and their predecessor on permission to work ensures a clear distinction between economic migrants and those seeking asylum. It protects the resident labour market and discourages abuse of the asylum route by economic migrants at the expense of those with genuine protection needs. Asylum seekers are also provided with support and accommodation while we determine whether they need our protection and until they have exhausted the right of appeal. Anyone granted refugee status is immediately granted the right to work.

I sometimes wonder if my noble friend Lord Roberts believes in immigration controls at all, but, judging by our previous debate, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, certainly does. I accept that legal migrants make an important contribution to our economy, but we are talking about asylum seekers and failed asylum seekers.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, referred to people interviewed by the Guardian who have no right to work. The people interviewed were failed asylum seekers who had been refused and should leave the UK. She also referred to victims of torture. I find it hard to imagine a genuine case in which they would be refused asylum. I accept that there may be cases where the facts are difficult to determine.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: I hope the Minister is not suggesting that the survivors of torture who were interviewed in the study were not somehow genuine. These are people who had been seen by clinicians who were convinced that they had been through a terrible time. The trouble is that their status takes time to sort out. Even if they are eventually given refugee status, sometimes the worst problems begin then because they have not been prepared for it.

Earl Attlee: I did accept, in the last words I said, that some cases from certain countries can take a long time to determine, but in the case of the failed asylum seekers, they have failed to convince the courts that they have a good case.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, does my noble friend not recognise that there are probably hundreds of thousands of failed asylum seekers who cannot be returned to their countries of origin and who are left destitute in this country because they are unable to work? Does he not think that in those cases, such as the refugees from Iran who are not accepted back by their country of origin, it is ridiculous to allow them to fester here for years without work?

Earl Attlee: My Lords, they are failed asylum seekers, and it is their choice to stay in the United Kingdom.

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Lord Avebury: No, that is not true. I am sorry, my Lords. I was talking about the people who cannot return to their countries of origin and whom the Home Office recognises are stopped from returning to their countries of origin by reasons of the decision of their state. In the case of Iran, for example, there are thousands of asylum seekers who are prevented from returning to their country of origin because the state will not allow them to.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I accept that there are some people in the class that my noble friend describes.

My noble friend Lady Williams talked about supporting a family on £5 a day—I cannot recall exactly what she said—but the payment levels for asylum seekers with children are much higher. A family with two children receives approximately £170 per week. Accommodation is also provided, with utilities—electricity and gas—provided free.

Amendment 72 would make the support given to failed asylum seekers and persons on bail, known as Section 4 support, the same as the support given to asylum seekers—Section 95 support. This is inappropriate, as the types of assistance are different and serve different purposes.

The support that we provide to asylum seekers enables us to meet international obligations. However, there are no obligations routinely to assist failed asylum seekers, the vast majority of whom can reasonably be expected to avoid the consequences of destitution by returning to their own countries—although I am mindful of my exchange with my noble friend Lord Avebury. Exceptions are made only where there is an unavoidable obstacle preventing the person’s immediate departure; for example, if they are too sick to travel, need time to obtain a necessary travel document or have made further submissions relating to their asylum claim. These arrangements ensure that the individuals do not suffer inhuman or degrading treatment contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights as a result of being left homeless or without support.

We also use Section 4 to provide accommodation to persons released from immigration detention on bail. The provision of accommodation in this instance is solely to avoid the person being unnecessarily detained through lack of a suitable bail address. Section 4 cases are provided with a weekly allowance to cover their essential living needs provided they move into accommodation supplied by the Home Office. Existing legislation explicitly prevents the allowance being provided in cash.

My noble friend Lord Roberts referred to the limitation as to the retailers involved. In my personal experience, supermarkets provide better value for money than many corner shops. The value and flexibility of the allowance is rightly less than the allowances provided under Section 95. Section 4 support is a temporary fix for people who are not asylum seekers and in nearly all cases need to make arrangements to go home.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, referred to the situation in other European countries. She will be aware that these countries have different legal systems and that this country is a very attractive destination.

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In answer to my noble friend Lady Williams, I fear that I will be unable to recommend to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State that she change the policy, for reasons that I have given. In light of these points, I hope that my noble friend Lord Roberts will agree not to press his amendments.

Lord Macdonald of River Glaven (LD): Before the Minister sits down, will he respond directly to the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, that the purpose of the present policy is to make life in the United Kingdom so unattractive for these vulnerable people that they leave?

Earl Attlee: My Lords, no. The purpose of the current policy is to deter economic migration, because people would be able to come here, claim asylum and after a while be able to work. With this policy, we can deter economic migration through the asylum route and therefore properly determine the genuine cases.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: Will the Minister answer my question about the assurance given to Julian Huppert by the Minister in the Commons that he would look into the suggestion that it could be cheaper to have one asylum support system rather than two separate systems? Perhaps I may point out on the “corner shop versus supermarket” issue that not everyone has a supermarket in easy walking distance and that asylum seekers would not have the money to get to the supermarket.

Earl Attlee: The noble Baroness may make a valid point about the supermarket and the corner shop, but we are talking about operational details here. I will write to her if there is anything that I should add on that point. She may be right that to do what she suggests might make for a more economic system, but it would have the undesirable effect of encouraging a flood of economic migrants through the asylum route, which is why this Government and the previous Government have adhered to the current policy.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, perhaps I may add markets to the mix of supermarkets, corner shops and all the rest of it. The noble Earl might find that they are the cheapest of all, but cannot be accessed. I also put into the noble Earl’s mind, perhaps for the future, the therapeutic value of being able to work.

Earl Attlee: The noble Baroness makes an extremely important point. I am well aware of it, which is why asylum seekers are able to do voluntary work.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, I remind the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, of an answer he gave me some months ago when he said that the intention was to make it very uncomfortable for asylum seekers to stay here and to work here. If he looks it up in Hansard, he will remember that comment.

Do the Government accept the equality of people in this sphere? Do they accept that a child is a child, whether they are Welsh or Scottish—well, I must not

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say that after last Saturday? Children and families need respect. Is not this refusal to allow the parents to work after six months denying children and others that very status in society? Another question that I asked the Minister was: how many conversations have taken place with those European countries that allow asylum seekers to work after six months or less? Have the Government asked for the comments or experience of those countries? If they manage it, why cannot we?

Is not the whole issue that if we say no for another 12 months, it adds to the cost and to the listlessness and helplessness of a person who wants to work but is not allowed to work to support his family? I also ask that that list of Azure card shops should be expanded. If he or others go to those shops, they will see the difference in prices. A person who has £5 a day or £36 a week would find it far more comfortable to support the family in low-cost shops. Also, when will we sign the European reception directive, which other countries have signed but we have not?

Having said that, we will again return to the issue at Report. I am sure that, by that time, the Minister and others on every side of the House will see the reasonableness of what we are asking for now. With that caveat, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 71 withdrawn.

Amendment 72 not moved.


Clause 41: Grant of driving licences: residence requirement

Amendment 72A

Moved by Baroness Hamwee

72A: Clause 41, page 32, line 34, at end insert “unless that person has made a claim for asylum which has not yet been determined by the Secretary of State or has been refused and an appeal against that refusal is pending.

( ) “Claim for asylum” has the same meaning as in section 94 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (interpretation of Part VI).

( ) An appeal is pending for the purposes of this section when it is pending under section 104 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (pending appeal).”

Baroness Hamwee: I will speak also to Amendments 72B to 72G. The amendments take us to the clauses on driving licences. The first amendment, similar to one which I moved in respect of bank accounts on Wednesday, would allow people seeking asylum whose claim has yet to be determined—that is, there has not been a decision or an appeal is pending—to be able to drive. The period for which asylum seekers can wait is often considerably more than six months. I mention that in this context because non-EEA nationals are required to have six months’ leave to apply for a British licence.

I am concerned about the people in question seeing skills gradually tail away, not having the opportunity to integrate, not being able to volunteer—we have just been told that that is important, and indeed it is—to use their skill as a driver in a voluntary capacity.

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4.30 pm

On Wednesday the noble Earl said—in the context of bank accounts—that it was not the policy intention to prevent people in this position from opening a bank account, and that the restriction would apply only to people who had exhausted all their appeal rights and are liable to removal. I therefore move this amendment in the hope that he can confirm that the same will apply to driving licences.

Amendments 72B and 72E, which are both about the revocation of a driving licence, essentially make the same point. Amendments 72C and 72F, one relating to Great Britain, the other to Northern Ireland, would create a right of appeal against a decision that the residence requirement had not been met. My concern is that, given the changes to the appeals provisions earlier in the Bill, the current provisions, which extend leave during the period for appeals and during the period they are pending, will not apply. The nomenclature for appeals has changed, and the provisions on which they bite will be repealed. I do not know whether this is an oversight or there is some tidying up here that the Government might feel they need to look at.

Finally, Amendments 72D and 72G remove the prohibition on a judge or sheriff dealing with the matter considering the merits of the refusal of leave. The Home Office’s human rights memorandum says that this measure about licences is partially intended to have a deterrent effect on those who are in the UK unlawfully. The bundle of notes we have been given—I think it is about licences—talks about the dire consequences, which seems a rather inflammatory term in these circumstances. However, perhaps I had better not go there and instead ask the Minister: if the deterrent effect is only a partial reason, what are the other intentions?

Lord Avebury: My Lords, Clauses 41 and 42 prevent a person who is not lawfully resident in the UK from applying for a driving licence, and allow the Secretary of State to revoke the licence of a person who already has one, if he is not lawfully resident—meaning that he requires leave to enter or remain and does not have it. Under existing law, since March 2010 a person must have leave to remain in the UK for at least 185 days, ruling out the vast majority of unlawful residents—as indeed it should, because the possession of an identity document would help them to stay in this country when they are not entitled to. Asylum seekers, and those appealing against refusal of asylum, should not, however, be lumped in with illegal entrants. As long as their applications are not fully determined they are here lawfully; however they would be caught by the 185-day rule. Most asylum seekers do not have cars, obviously, but for the few who do there is no reason that they should not continue to drive.

May I also ask about failed asylum seekers, a point I raised with my noble friend Lord Attlee in the previous debate? They cannot be sent back to their country of origin for one reason or another: generally it is because the country of origin refuses to accept them. I gave the example of Iran. My noble friend Lady Williams is also muttering in my ear about the many refugees from Zimbabwe who were stopped

17 Mar 2014 : Column 35

from returning to their country of origin for many years, with the full approval of the Home Office. Is the discretionary leave granted to them longer than 185 days? Would they be classified as lawfully resident? If they are allowed to work, as some of them are, it could be a severe disadvantage if they are not able to drive. As my noble friend the Minister will be aware, there are tens of thousands of people indefinitely stranded here because their country of origin—I named Iran and Zimbabwe but Somalia is another example—either cannot or will not accept them. Although their not being able to drive may not be the largest problem that they face, the Minister would send a glimmer of light into their lives if they could apply for a licence.

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, I have just a couple of questions on this group. The noble Earl may recall that at Second Reading, one thing that I said we would do in examining the Bill was, first, to look at the evidence base for bringing proposals forward and the workability of the measures proposed and, secondly, the impacts—including the unintended consequences. I would find it quite helpful if the noble Earl could say something about the reasons why this clause on driving licences has been brought forward.

On the point about the revocation of driving licences I would presume that someone who is in this country, even if they do not have a legal right to be here, is taking quite a responsible attitude if they have a driving licence. It means that they would probably have insurance. If that driving licence is then revoked, their insurance will also be revoked. Does that not cause a significant problem for other drivers on the UK’s roads if they are involved in an accident with a car whose driver, because of the revocation, has no licence at that point and whose insurance will have been revoked as well? It would be helpful to hear whether any thought has been given to that.

In terms of looking at the problems on our roads for those who are not entitled to be here, if the noble Earl were to do a straw test of members of the public I think the issue causing them the most concern would be that of foreign cars being in this country for what is obviously longer than the six months that they are entitled to be before they are reregistered. Their drivers commit numerous offences on the roads, knowing full well that no one is going to track them down or do anything about it. The Government are taking action to bring us into line with the Irish Republic on driving offences but no action seems to be being taken regarding other countries. Can the noble Earl comment on why that matter is not being dealt with while that of driving licences is? That would be helpful in trying to understand the purpose of this clause.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, perhaps I might say a few words about Clause 41. The ability to drive in the UK is an important aspect of the quality of life for many UK residents and a privilege extended to many lawful migrants. A UK licence is used not only to drive but to secure employment and a range of services, as often it is used as proof of identity. There is no reason why the privilege of a UK driving licence should be extended to migrants who come to the UK only for short periods, have no leave or are here unlawfully. The EU

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directives in this area already require member states to ensure that applicants for licences are normally resident in the state of application. Those who come to the UK only for short periods of less than six months, those who have no leave and those who are illegally present in the UK should not be able to obtain a UK driving licence. This has been the Government’s policy since a Written Ministerial Statement on 25 March 2010 by the then Secretary of State for Transport, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. This policy has been adopted by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and the Driver and Vehicle Agency in Northern Ireland.

It is equally wrong that migrants who have obtained a UK driving licence and then overstayed their leave in the UK should be able to continue using that licence. There are no current powers to remove this privilege. Clause 42 will remedy this: it will provide a new power to revoke a UK driving licence held by a licence holder who is unlawfully present in the UK. It will also create a criminal offence to fail without reasonable excuse to surrender a revoked driving licence.

I turn to the amendments tabled in respect of Clauses 41 and 42. Regarding Amendments 72A, 72B and 72E, asylum seekers should not be able to obtain the advantage of a UK driving licence until granted leave. This would encourage economic migrants to misuse the asylum system to the detriment of genuine asylum seekers. I fear that I can be no more helpful than I was for the previous amendment. Driving is indeed an ideal route to employment for migrants, but only when they have acquired the right to be here. My noble friend Lord Avebury again raised the issue of failed asylum seekers who cannot go home. It may be a difficult issue, but it is not a good reason for agreeing to open the floodgates to encourage asylum seekers.

The Government do not intend to seek blanket revocations of driving licences and asylum seekers complying with the immigration process who already hold a licence will not generally face this sanction. Refugees will be able to obtain a UK driving licence provided they meet the relevant requirements.

On Amendments 72C and 72F, the grant of a licence is currently, and will remain, an administrative process. A person refused a licence on the grounds that they do not satisfy the residency requirements may make representations to the Home Office or reapply for the licence with the relevant proof of identity. Allowing a right of appeal direct to the courts against a decision not to issue a licence will simply drive up costs for all involved.

Turning now to Amendment 72D and 72G, an appeal against a decision to revoke or grant a licence is not the appropriate place to consider the merits of an immigration claim. This should be done via an immigration route for which appropriate appeals mechanisms already exist. It is not appropriate to allow a court hearing an appeal to consider a change of circumstances following revocation. For the affected person, the easiest and cheapest remedy is to apply for a new licence having obtained the necessary immigration leave.

The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, talked about the difficulty of a motorist having no licence, resulting in the motorist having no insurance either. I agree with

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the circumstances described. The police will not necessarily detect this by checking the automatic number plate recognition system, under which uninsured drivers can be detected; I have seen that happen. I accept that it will be detected only if the police actually stop the motorist in question, but that is an unintended consequence and there is little that can be done about it.

Baroness Smith of Basildon: I thank the Minister for that helpful explanation. Does this not then fall into the category of unintended consequences? The noble Lord says that the only time it will come to light is if the police stop the vehicle for some other reason. That is not the only time it will come to light. If that driver is involved in an accident in which they are at fault, the other driver will be unable to claim any compensation or on their insurance. The UK driver, going about their lawful business, will be disadvantaged by such a policy.

Earl Attlee: I agree with the facts as described by the noble Baroness. She will of course be aware of the Motor Insurers’ Bureau scheme, which provides cover where someone has an accident with an uninsured motorist.

Baroness Smith of Basildon: Can the noble Lord assure me that the Government have been in contact with the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, and that it would in fact cover those kinds of circumstances, where the Government withdraw a licence and therefore insurance from somebody who had been insured?

Earl Attlee: My Lords, the situation is no different from that of a young tearaway motorist who loses their licence because they are banned, and then continues to drive without insurance. It is just another category of someone who is driving illegally.

I have listened carefully to what noble Lords have to say, but I have to stand my ground and hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw her amendment in due course.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, can the Minister tell your Lordships how many asylum seekers who failed their appeals but are left here because of their inability to return to their country of origin there are? Can he say for what period they are granted temporary leave to remain? Is it more or less than 185 days?

Earl Attlee: My Lords, the noble Lord is asking me a detailed question about failed asylum seekers who cannot go home. I will gladly write to him with full details.

4.45 pm

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, on the first of my amendments the noble Earl said that he could not be any more helpful than he had been previously on the same issue in a different context. I thought that he had been quite helpful, so I suppose that I had better go back and reread that.

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Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am terrified to think of what I might have done.

Baroness Hamwee: The Minister might have added to the list of items for Report. I will look at what he has said. For the moment, I will say only that I very much regret the turn that the language of the debate has taken this afternoon, with floodgates, and the conflation of asylum seekers and economic migrants. However, we are not debating that, so I will not test the Committee’s patience by taking that further. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 72A withdrawn.

Clause 41 agreed.


Clause 42: Revocation of driving licences on grounds of immigration status

Amendments 72B to 72G not moved.

Clause 42 agreed.

Clauses 43 to 47 agreed.

Schedule 4 agreed.

Clause 48: Extension of scheme to Scotland and Northern Ireland

Amendment 73 not moved.

Clause 48 agreed.

Clause 49 agreed.

Schedule 5 agreed.

Clauses 50 to 54 agreed.

Schedule 6 agreed.

Clauses 55 to 58 agreed.

Schedule 7: Immigration advisers and immigration service providers

Amendment 73A

Moved by Baroness Hamwee

73A: Schedule 7, page 94, line 38, at end insert “(including the waiver of all the fee in the case of an applicant which is a charity or non-profit making organisation)”

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, this is a short amendment, which asks a short question. Schedule 7 deals with immigration advisers and immigration service providers and includes paragraphs about fees for registration. Paragraph 3(2)(b) will write into the legislation provision for the waiver of all or part of a specified fee in particular cases. The Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill indicates that the Government “plans”—that is the word used—to use the power to require the Immigration Services Commissioner,

“to waive the registration fee in relation to advisers who do not charge for their services”.

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My amendment would put in a waiver in the case of an applicant which is a charity or a non-profit making organisation.

Of course, I do not disbelieve what is in the Explanatory Memorandum, but I would like to have the assurance in the legislation that the small charities and non-profit making organisations, which I suspect limp from one week to the next—I do not say that at all disparagingly—and could use a great deal more funding than they have, can know that they will not be charged for registering to give the advice which many of them so helpfully give. I beg to move.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I hope that on this occasion I can delight my noble friend Lady Hamwee on this amendment.

Amendment 73A seeks to define the organisations which will benefit from an exemption from paying a registration fee to the Immigration Services Commissioner. I can assure the Committee that there is no intention to add a financial burden to charities, voluntary organisations or other non-profit making organisations that offer immigration advice and services.

The Government understand that if these organisations were to be charged a fee, these measures could restrict the ability of such organisations to provide services and this would have an impact on the availability of free immigration advice for those not able to pay. The intention is to continue the principle of exempting advisers who do not charge a fee for services from paying the OISC a registration fee. The discretion conferred on the commissioner in the original clause in the Bill will be consistent with the discretion that currently exists in determining exempt status.

The current application process for exemption requires the commissioner to examine the type of organisation, its status as a non-profit making organisation and its charging policy. The actions will continue to be carried out and will be part of the new registration application process.

Subject to parliamentary approval, the Government will lay an order, as provided by paragraph 3 of the schedule, to specify that those organisations which do not charge for services will not have to pay fees when they apply for registration or reapply for registration. The Government do not want the Act to include a definition of organisations not required to pay a fee because such a level of detail is not necessary for this legislation and such definitions could be open to interpretation in a manner not intended. I hope I have satisfied my noble friend and that she will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. When I see the statutory instrument, I may be delighted. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 73A withdrawn.

Schedule 7 agreed.

Clause 59 agreed.

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Clause 60: Deprivation if conduct seriously prejudicial to vital interests of the UK

Amendment 74

Moved by Baroness Smith of Basildon

74: Clause 60, page 47, line 40, at end insert “, and

(c) the court gives the Secretary of State permission under subsection (4B).

(4B) This subsection applies if the Secretary of State—

(a) makes the relevant decisions in relation to an individual in a case which falls within subsection (4A);

(b) makes an application to the court for permission to make an order.

(4C) The application must set out how the deprivation is conducive to the public good and how the person, while having that citizenship status, has conducted himself or herself in a manner which is seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom, and of the islands, or any British overseas territory.

(4D) The function of the court on the application is—

(a) to determine whether the relevant decision of the Secretary of State is in accordance with the law, and

(b) to determine whether to give permission to deprive a person of citizenship in a case which falls within subsection (4A).

(4E) In a case where the court determines that a decision of the Secretary of State in relation to the conditions set out in subsection (4A)(b) is not in accordance with the law, the court may not give permission under this section.

(4F) In any other case, the court may give permission under this section.”

Baroness Smith of Basildon: My Lords, Clause 60, on deprivation of citizenship, is very important and far-reaching. There are two groups of amendments on this issue. I shall make my main remarks on this group and make a couple of comments on the second group.

Clause 60 amends Section 40 of the British Nationality Act 1981 to enable the Secretary of State to deprive someone of their citizenship even if that would make them stateless, but only if the citizenship has been gained through naturalisation and the Home Secretary is satisfied that the deprivation is, in the words of a government new clause introduced by her in the House of Commons,

“conducive to the public good because the person, while having that citizenship status, has conducted him or herself in a manner which is seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, 30/1/14; col. 1026.]

Currently, the law allows the Home Secretary to deprive a person of their citizenship status for two reasons: first, if the person acquired it using fraud, false representation or concealment of a material fact; or, secondly, if the Home Secretary is satisfied that, in doing so, it is conducive to the public good and that the person would not be left stateless as a result. Clause 60 seeks to amend the second condition to, in the words of a Minister in the other place,

“ensure that individuals who are a serious threat to this country cannot retain citizenship simply because deprivation would leave them stateless”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, 11/2/14; col. 259WH.]

I question the word “simply” in that context. It would be helpful if the Minister could clarify whether there are any other areas of law in which we have different categories of citizens.

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I know that everyone in your Lordships’ House without exception wants to do all they can to protect citizens from a potential terrorist threat and activity at home and abroad, and, indeed, recognises that we have international obligations in this regard as terrorism is a global threat. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, is aware of the seriousness of the issue before us today. She recognises that depriving an individual of their citizenship,

“is one of the most serious sanctions a state can take against a person”,—[

Official Report

, Commons, 30/1/14; col. 1038.]

and we agree with that. This clause was tabled just 24 hours before Report stage in the other place, with no prior consultation, let alone explanations or agreement, and a very truncated debate. Parliament has had little opportunity to scrutinise this measure, which has massive consequences and implications both for the individual and for the state, and for other countries.

We have tabled Amendments 74 and 79, which add a permission stage. Effectively, the Secretary of State would be required to seek permission from the court before making an order. I readily admit that the drafting is not perfect; we are not wedded to any specific wording here. However, we need a response from the Minister on the principle of oversight.

Clause 60 is a response to the judgment about Hilal Al-Jedda by the Supreme Court, which clarified that the Secretary of State could not withdraw citizenship from an individual if this would leave them stateless. For the Government to do so would lead to one of two scenarios. The first is that a former citizen would remain locked in the UK, unable to leave, work or receive any support, but the Government would still have obligations to that individual. In January last year, the Department for International Development published guidance on how a stateless person could apply for leave to remain in the UK.

The second scenario is that the former citizen, whom the Government consider to be engaged in actions prejudicial to UK interests, is left stateless in another country. I would be very interested to know what discussions the Government have held on this proposal with other countries, such as the USA or Germany, which have not given themselves the power to make other citizens stateless. The fight against terrorism is international and global. What are the implications for national and international security of allowing terror suspects to be loose and undocumented in whatever country they happen to be in when their citizenship is revoked? A number of issues arise from this clause. First, what will be the process for making an order under this clause? The Minister, James Brokenshire MP, has said that the process will,

“involve extensive research and understanding of an individual’s previous behaviour, any potential human rights issues and the threats that they pose to the UK. Officials from the Home Office and other Departments are consulted before the information is reviewed and a final decision made by the Home Secretary”.— [

Official Report

, Commons, 11/2/14; col. 259WH.]

The information provided by the department also suggests that the welfare of any children involved would be a consideration. Can the Minister provide further information or clarification on the specific grounds the Secretary of State would consider? Will the Home Secretary be able to take political considerations

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into account? Will she consult her Cabinet colleagues, for example, or will this decision be made on the advice and information from the security services? Obviously, with such a serious issue, there must be absolute certainty about the decision-making criteria. Accurate, factual information and risk assessments are of paramount importance.

I wonder whether the noble Lord could help me understand a particular case from 2011, which was brought to my attention by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. It is the case of Y1. The witness statement from the deputy director of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, on behalf of the Home Secretary, stated that the security service considered that Y1,

“presented a substantial risk to UK national security”.

He added that there was clear information that depriving Y1 of British nationality was conducive to the public good. However, he also stated that although they considered that Y1 presented such a risk, they also believed that,

“his detention had reduced the immediate risk he posed and judged that there may be more options for controlling that risk if Y1 were in the UK”.

That is a direct quote from the witness statement that was presented to the court. I read that as the security services wanting Y1 to be in the UK so that they can monitor his activities. They would be unable to do so if he were outside the UK and stateless. Following Y1’s appeal to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, the judges reported that:

“Ultimately, the Home Secretary rejected the advice of the Security Service on the ‘management’ issue. Following consultation with other senior Ministers, the decision to deprive”,

him of citizenship “was made”.

I do not raise this to question the Secretary of State’s judgment, but I seek clarity on the process. That is why I added my name to the amendment in the next group, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. Amendment 79C would require guidance to be published on the process to be followed. It seems to me that we need far more information on how the Secretary of State will make a decision.

5 pm

Secondly, I turn to the definition of the phrase “seriously prejudicial”. In the Commons, Theresa May replied to this question by saying that it would “be understood”. The Minister has provided more detailed information but where would that higher test of “seriously prejudicial” be set out and who will apply it? The Government have also said that it would apply to a very limited number of people and that the power would be used sparingly. James Brokenshire said that,

“only a small number of individuals are deprived of their citizenship … since 2006, 27 people have been deprived under these conducive powers”.—[Official Report, Commons, 11/2/14; col. 260WH.]

I have never considered that few people being affected by a power makes it less important to consider its implications. It would be helpful to have far more precise information. How many of those 27 people were in the UK when their citizenship was withdrawn and they were made stateless? How many were outside the UK at the time the decision was made? That is an

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example of the kind of information that it would be helpful to have to understand a little more about the Government’s motives and reasoning behind this clause.

Again I am grateful to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has identified 15 of those cases where the person was overseas at the time. It has also shown that the use of these powers has gradually increased under this Government. Until about 2010, there was roughly one case a year in which someone’s citizenship was withdrawn. Since then the number of cases has increased to five in 2010, six in 2011 and eight in 2013. I do not know whether the Minister can comment on that.

When citizenship has been withdrawn from citizens who are overseas, is the country which admitted that individual in good faith on a British passport consulted or advised at any stage or even notified after the withdrawal of citizenship? When our amendment was discussed in the Commons, the Home Secretary, said:

“I will be willing to consider them and, if necessary, address them further in another place”.—[Official Report, Commons, 30/1/14; col. 1040.]

“Another place” refers to your Lordships’ House. We are grateful for letters and meetings that we have already had but would like far greater engagement from the Minister today.

In response to the Constitution Committee’s report, the Government said that one problem with a permission stage—the process that we propose—was that,

“it is unclear how the court could act impartially”,

if any appeal, if not already given permission, was brought back to them. That is slightly ironic given that the Minister has been arguing the opposite in relation to the new administrative review process under Clause 11 on visa appeals. That review would be by the same body, which under that clause would be the caseworkers. He does not consider that that would create a conflict. Therefore, I am unclear why the response to the Constitution Committee is that the courts dealing with the issue would create a conflict. The Government were arguing against that in principle and are now arguing for it in principle.

The Government have confirmed that a person deprived of their citizenship has a full right of appeal and that grounds for appeal would include both the legality of the action and the merits of the Secretary of State’s decision. James Brokenshire has also confirmed that, before issuing a deprivation order, the Secretary of State must notify the person of the decision to make the order, set out the reasons for it and tell the person of their right to appeal. Will the Minister clarify how that will work when the person is outside the country? I believe that, at Second Reading, my noble friend Lady Kennedy gave a very powerful and disturbing case about a person who did not receive that notification and could not be contacted by those who had interceded and had seen the letter from the Government. What happens if the individual cannot be contacted?

In today’s Independent, there is a report about a young man who did not receive any notification because he was out of the country. It was only when he got to the airport to return to the UK that an official from the UK Government was there to ask for his passport.

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The Government must have known that he was out of the UK to be able to meet him as he was trying to leave the country he was in at the time. I would like to know the mechanics, how they work and how the Government intend them to work if a person has a certain amount of time in which to appeal but does not receive, or know of, the letter within that time. What would happen to the family or dependants of someone who has been deprived of citizenship? Again, in response to the Constitution Committee, the Minister said that the Government would not take deprivation action against family members on the basis of their relationship with the person being deprived of citizenship. However, the question goes wider than that. What would happen to any child left behind in the UK?

I turn now to what happens to those who have had their citizenship removed. This is important because we are dealing with people whose activities the Government say are of concern to us, or who may be a danger. The Government have clarified that this power could be used against people whether or not they are in the country, and whether or not they could acquire another nationality. I have been reading the comments from James Brokenshire, the Minister in another place, and I still remain somewhat confused. He said that the Government

“would seek to remove that individual from the UK once they have acquired another nationality”.—[

Official Report,

Commons, 11/2/14; col. 261WH.]

What happens to those who cannot acquire another nationality? How can we remove somebody who has no passport, no travel documents and no country to go to? Where would they go, and what would happen if they then stayed in the UK? James Brokenshire said, in the event that they remained in the UK, that they could be granted limited leave “possibly” with conditions, as the UK would have certain international legal obligations under the UN convention. This was expanded on in the Constitution Committee:

“We would expect anyone deprived of British citizenship under this new provision to attempt to resolve their nationality issues with their country of origin/birth”.

I think the Minister has to understand that it will not always be possible to do this. However, the Minister said:

“This is an entirely reasonable expectation before they could apply for leave as a stateless person. For those living in the UK, we may grant another form of immigration leave, depending on the person’s circumstances”.

Does that not mean that we have people who are stuck here, whom we cannot deport and to whom we have obligations, but no charge has been brought against them? How does that help ensure that national security is protected? What happens if someone is in another state when that decision is taken? What would be the obligations of that state? One of the things that has concerned me is our relationship with those states who then admit somebody in good faith on a British passport, but that passport and that citizenship is then withdrawn?

Guy Goodwin-Gill, a professor at Oxford and an expert on this area, has written that:

“Any state which admitted an individual on the basis of his or her British passport would be fully entitled to ignore any purported deprivation of citizenship and, as a matter of right, to return that person to the United Kingdom”.

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How would that scenario impact on the UK’s relationship with that state? What discussions would there have been with other countries on this issue? Has there been any consideration of the possible impact on UK passport holders?

In recent years, there has been a renewed worldwide push to encourage nationality laws that reduce statelessness. Will the Minister say how many other countries have powers to make citizens stateless? Which do and which do not? There are many unanswered questions on this clause—on the purpose, the practicality and the impact. I have raised some of those questions today. I hope that the Minister can provide some more information and evidence on the workability and implications on this clause because there are very serious consequences and considerations to be taken into account.

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Lab): My Lords, my noble friend mentioned that I raised this issue at Second Reading with great concern about the consequences. As a result, I have received communications from a number of different, eminent international lawyers. One of them, Guy Goodwin-Gill, is a senior research fellow of All Souls, Oxford, Professor of International Refugee Law at the University of Oxford and a barrister. He and others take a very different view of this from that of the Government. The proposal to allow the Secretary of State for the Home Department to deprive a naturalised individual of his or her citizenship not only risks damaging the United Kingdom’s international relations, but also risks leading to breaches of international obligations and engaging the UK’s international responsibility. Moreover, deprivation of citizenship is not a viable alternative to the responsible prosecution of alleged criminal conduct. Citizenship is not a privilege, but a protected legal status. It is why, for example, the United States, Germany and other countries, would not, under any circumstances, contemplate removal of citizenship. The answer to behaviour that we do not like and consider to be criminal is to prosecute it.

Deprivation, with all its consequences in the modern world, is equivalent to a penal sanction of the most serious kind, but imposed without a criminal trial, without a conviction, without close and open examination of the evidence, and without an effective opportunity of defence, contrary to the requirements of due process. From the perspective of international law, in particular, the re-introduction of previously repealed statutory provisions on deprivation resulting in statelessness is arguably inconsistent with Article 8(3) of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. The deprivation of citizenship resulting in statelessness will engage the United Kingdom’s international responsibility where it violates the rights of other states. Just as my noble friend has asked, I also ask: what do other states make of our intention to do this? It is inconsistent with the United Kingdom’s other international obligations. As a matter of international law, the United Kingdom has no right to deport a person whom it has made stateless to any state which has not expressly agreed to admit the individual; nor does it have the right to refuse to readmit a former British citizen who has been deprived of his or her citizenship while present in another country. Deprivation

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of citizenship may engage a variety of European convention rights, and a person deprived of their British citizenship does not cease to be within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom for the purposes of those rights.

Deprivation of citizenship is potentially inconsistent with obligations accepted by the United Kingdom under many different treaties dealing with terrorist acts, in particular, the obligations of investigation and prosecution in the fulfilment of which every other state party has a legal interest. Deprivation of citizenship will likely expose the conduct of the United Kingdom to close and critical scrutiny whenever a former British citizen seeks international protection from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or as a stateless person or convention refugee.

I wonder whether the Government have given proper consideration to the implications of this step. The proposal to allow the Home Secretary to deprive citizens of their status, even if it renders them stateless, is ill considered. Recent experience suggests that considerable wastage of public money is likely to result from attempts to defend the indefensible, for deprivation itself touches on just too many legal issues. Considered as an internal act, it is by no means clear what deprivation can achieve that the criminal law cannot. The criminal law is the proper process.

In addition, considerable harm will be caused to the United Kingdom’s international relations. The United Kingdom has no right and no power to require any other state to accept its outcasts and, as a matter of international law, it will be obliged to readmit them if no other state is prepared to allow them to remain. Likewise, and in so far as the UK seeks to export those who are alleged to have committed terrorist acts, it is likely to be in breach of many of those obligations which it has not only voluntarily undertaken, but which it has actively promoted around the world up to now, for dealing with international criminal conduct. We cannot speak with forked tongues on this.

Although the current state of international law may permit the deprivation of citizenship resulting in statelessness, at least in its internal form, certain limitations on this competence none the less follow when the act of deprivation takes on an external or extraterritorial dimension which, as we can see from the number of cases, is how we tend to apply it. We apply it to people who are abroad. In light of the above considerations, this implies among other things that no order of deprivation and no cancellation of passports or documents attesting to citizenship should be permitted with regard to any person not physically present in the United Kingdom, but that is precisely how the Government intend to use it. No person deprived of their British citizenship should be removed or threatened with removal unless another state has formally agreed to admit that person and the person concerned is willing to go to that state. These are the problems that faced President Obama with regard to some of the persons being held in Guantanamo Bay.

No order of deprivation should be made unless full account has been taken of family considerations, including the best interests of any children and their status in the United Kingdom. Due process requires an effective remedy and meaningful review of any

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order of deprivation. In particular, this requires that an appeal or review has suspensive effect, particularly in view of the concerns which courts have expressed regarding out-of-country appeals.

5.15 pm

My client, the one I referred to at Second Reading, was in another country, and it was his parents who were told to inform him that he had lost his citizenship and had 28 days within which to appeal, even though he was in a place where there was no embassy and no method by which he could easily do it. He crossed a border in order to make the appeal and was immediately lifted by the Djibouti secret police, which, without any due process whatever, kept him in containment, interrogated him and told him that the British authorities had washed their hands of him. Then, deprived of any human rights safeguards or protections, he was handed over to United States agents in Djibouti, who, in turn, interrogated him. Hooded, he was transported without due process, extradition or any other safeguards to the United States of America.

Statelessness matters because it so often renders someone without access to their rights and to the kind of support that people deserve when facing these kinds of processes. If the power to deprive of citizenship is to be retained, it should be limited to those cases in which the individual in question already possesses another effective nationality. They have to have that nationality before the removal of their British nationality. The better solution is that deprivation of citizenship is an entirely inappropriate response to alleged criminality or threats to security given its significant law implications. That is the view signed off by this very eminent professor at Oxford.

I do not know who is advising the Government, but all I would say is that when one rehearses this set of arguments among international lawyers, at home or abroad, people are appalled. We have a system of law of which I am normally proud, but I have to say that this will be a source of shame to all of us if we proceed as the Government intend.

Lord Pannick (CB): My Lords, I have added my name to several of the amendments in this group and have also indicated my opposition to Clause 60 standing part of the Bill. I share the concerns eloquently expressed by the noble Baronesses, Lady Smith of Basildon and Lady Kennedy of The Shaws. It is a matter for considerable regret that the United Kingdom, which has played so significant a role in the battle to reduce statelessness, should now, if the Government have their way, condone the creation of statelessness, even for people who have damaged the public good. Such people should be put on trial, punished if there is evidence of criminal offences and deported if there is a safe country to which they can be sent. However, to deprive them of nationality and thereby render them international outcasts is simply indefensible.

I share the views of the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, about the international law implications of what is proposed, but wish to focus on the practical consequences of what the Government are suggesting. Does the Minister accept—this is the crucial question—

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that if British citizenship is removed from a person in this country on public-good grounds, with the result that they are rendered stateless, it will make it much more difficult to remove that person to another state? Other states are less likely to accept entry by a person who is stateless than one who enjoys British citizenship. Does the Minister therefore accept that, far from contributing to national security, the exercise of Clause 60 against persons in this country will positively damage national security by making it more difficult to remove people who are a danger to the public good?

For this reason, it seems highly likely that Clause 60 will in practice only ever be used against people who are living abroad. Does the Minister agree that, if we strip a person of British citizenship while they are abroad, thereby rendering them stateless, there is a real danger that the country that admitted them temporarily will take urgent steps to remove them back to this country, since it will not wish to be responsible for a stateless person? It is surely highly likely that the United Kingdom will be told by the country where such a person is living that it admitted that person temporarily only because the individual had a British passport. The foreign country will surely say that, now that the passport has been taken away, the United Kingdom can have that person back. There will then be a dispute with the foreign state—and some such states are our allies—about our duty to re-admit someone who was admitted to it only because they presented a British passport that has now been revoked.

The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, has already referred to the opinion of Professor Goodwin-Gill that the United Kingdom would have an obligation in international law then to re-admit such a person. Even if there is a dispute about international law, this Government are plainly going to face considerable pressure from foreign states to re-admit such people to this country. I would be grateful for the Minister’s views on this: does he agree that Clause 60, far from assisting us to deal effectively with people who threaten the public good, will handicap this country, whether the person is here or abroad when the revocation of citizenship takes place?

Although I have added my name to a number of the amendments in this group, which I see as probing amendments, the problem with all of them, whether to secure judicial control or introduce a test of proportionality, is that they will still allow for the removal of citizenship, even though statelessness will result. My current view is that Clause 60 is so fundamentally flawed, so in breach of international law and so damaging in its practical consequences for the security of this country that it should be removed from the Bill. I am happy—and I am sure that noble Lords who have spoken and will speak in this debate are too—to meet the Minister in the short period of time before we return to this subject, as inevitably we will on Report this month, to see whether there is a possibility of making real progress on this very troubling matter.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: My Lords, Amendment 76A in my name is, like Amendments 75 to 78 to which I have added my name, designed to mitigate the

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worst effects of Clause 60. However, like the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and my noble friend Lady Kennedy, my preference is for Clause 60 not to stand part of the Bill, and we have heard very powerful reasons for why it should not do so.