Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab): My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 231, to which I have added my name, but I would be more than happy if

3 Feb 2016 : Column 1877

Amendment 234 were to be accepted because I acknowledge that we need to act as quickly as possible to enable family reunion. My noble friend Lady Kennedy of The Shaws talked about the experience of her husband’s family in the 1930s. It was very similar in my own family. My father came as a young man to this country from Nazi Germany in the early 1930s and his parents, my grandparents, were allowed to join him in the late 1930s having escaped to Palestine and then coming to this country, so the question of family reunion has great personal significance for me.

ILPA has provided us with extracts from parliamentary debates in the 1930s and 1940s, and I was particularly struck by a speech by the then Earl of Listowel, who said in 1939:

“There is a common assumption underlying this debate … that these refugees are a common responsibility of every civilised nation, and that each country has to play its part, according to its economic resources and according to its opportunities for offering temporary asylum or permanent refuge, in providing the means of life for these helpless and persecuted people. The question surely that is before our minds first and foremost this afternoon”—

they probably did not go quite as late in those days—

“and is naturally one that confronts every member of the British Legislature is: Is this country really making its rightful contribution?”.—[

Official Report

, 5/7/1939; col. 1026.]

The answer today has to be no. We are not playing our part according to our economic resources when compared with poorer countries in the region on the one hand and richer countries such as Canada and Germany on the other.

While I very much welcome recent government concessions, I fear that they do not go nearly far enough. This is the message of, for example, a statement made by more than 300 eminent lawyers last autumn who, among other things, called for the establishment of safe and legal routes to the UK from both within and outside Europe. One element of that, they argued, would be humane family reunion policies such as allowing child refugees in the UK to be joined by adult family members. This would help avoid the tragedies that continue to occur in the Mediterranean where already this year 149 people have died trying to cross, according to Save the Children. Just this week over 120 leading economists have sent a similar message in an open letter to the Prime Minister.

The British Red Cross writes of heart-breaking cases it encounters of separated families not covered by the existing rules, such as the two Syrian brothers who wanted to be reunited with their mother stuck in a camp in Iraq, having been recently imprisoned in Syria. She was alone with no family and in a second country but did not qualify for family reunion. I know that the Government’s argument is that if refugee children were entitled to bring their parents into the country, it would act as an incentive to send children on ahead to secure leave. But as ILPA points out, these children are not given leave to remain because they are children but because they are recognised to have a claim as refugees. While parents understandably prioritise getting their children to safety, surely it is cynical to believe that they would deliberately put their children in the hands of smugglers to make such a dangerous journey alone as a ploy to get entry themselves. As Save the Children put it, we are talking about:

3 Feb 2016 : Column 1878

“A terrifying push, not an enticing pull”.

It reminds us of children’s rights under the UNCRC to remain with or be reunited with their family.

The Government claim to be the party of the family. In the guidance on the family test, the list of,

“relationships at the heart of family life”,

as it puts it, includes a wide range of family relationships, including extended families. Yet the Government take the most narrow and exclusionary approach to family relationships when it comes to the reunion of a particularly vulnerable group of families. I believe that if the Government were to accept one or other of these amendments, or bring forward their own amendment on Report, this would be widely welcomed.

Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, as my name is to Amendment 234, I will give my story of doctors—I am thinking of the example of the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy—who left the country because of our family visa restrictions. I did some work on family visas in 2013, a year after the current rules were introduced. I felt as if I had almost physically been hit between the eyes when I realised that these rules were applying in situations which noble Lords have described. It is possible for the Government to grant visas on the basis of exceptional, compelling or compassionate circumstances outside the rules. The Minister will recall his Written Answer to my Question that disclosed that the number of applications granted outside the rules was 77 in 2011 and by 2014 had declined to 12.

The basis of these amendments, and the fact that we do not believe that this would be a pull factor, has already been covered. I shall try not to repeat too much of what has been said. I am very aware that it is not sensible to seek to make too many arrangements on the basis of anecdotes and very individual circumstances—hard cases, bad law, and all that. But there are so many stories. The Guardianpublished an article about two British citizens who had been granted refugee status and then become citizens, but could not bring their family members to the UK because of the income threshold that is part of the family visa rules. They are actually living with their wives and children in a camp in Dunkirk. Those who have seen the conditions in that camp will be appalled that that has come about.

9.15 pm

The children at the heart of much of what is being discussed, although not everything, are not being given discretionary leave because they are unaccompanied; they are being recognised as refugees. We talked a little about adult dependent relatives, for whom we clearly believe that the rules should be reviewed and revised in the light of the current situation.

Legal aid is referred to in Amendment 234. The Government said in their response to the consultation on legal aid:

“Applications to join family members are treated as immigration cases, and are generally straightforward because they follow a grant of asylum”.

But the family members we are talking about are outside the UK. They cannot claim asylum—indeed, it would be unlawful to help them to do so. A noble

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Baroness referred to the Lawyers Refugee Initiative. It is worth emphasising the terminology that describes what they seek: a safe, legal route into the UK. Safety and legality are important.

Again breaking my own injunction, I will quote from a letter sent to me from a woman of Syrian origin who moved to the UK with her British husband and young son in 2002. She became a British citizen in 2010 and has not seen her family in Syria since 2011. I will leave it to noble Lords to imagine the description of their circumstances, loss of health, deaths, malnutrition and so on described in the next two paragraphs. She says that she is desperate to get her elderly parents here:

“My husband and I own a house with spare rooms. We both work and have good jobs, more than enough to support them. It is ironic that it is much more expensive for us to look after my parents if they remain in Syria, where extortion is a daily occurrence, or in Turkey, where accommodation is in short supply … And how would I care for them from here? … But there seems to be nothing I can do … I am not a refugee myself, I cannot exercise my EU rights to family life, I can’t apply under the adult dependant route”,

because of the current rules, which she says,

“make this route merely theoretical”—

I agree—

“but I am a proud citizen of this country, hardworking and paying my taxes. Is it too much to ask for me to be allowed to bring my family here to safety, where I can look after them?”.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno (LD): My Lords, I had not intended to come in on these amendments, but I will mention what has happened in a north Wales town in the past month. An eminent Syrian doctor works there and contributes very much to our community. His wife and two younger children are there, but there is one daughter left in Damascus. She just could not get a visa. The mayor of Bangor and others—sorry, I should not have told you where it was—have been pulling out all the stops they can to try to bring this daughter over. She is alone, or she was. I rang the Home Office, trying to get this through and getting refused. I thought, “We’ll keep on at this”, until a fortnight ago I had a telephone call from one of our people in Bangor. She said that this girl is dead. Was it a bomb at Damascus University, or something else? I do not know. It is just that the whole system needs to have such a reform to have a bit of heart in it.

Lord Green of Deddington (CB): My Lords, I am afraid that we are not quite of one mind in this House. I take all the points that have been made and I entirely understand the sympathy that has been expressed for individual cases. However, we have to look at this in a wider context. This, after all, is not the 1930s. We face a refugee crisis in Europe which is absolutely without precedent.

As the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, explained, Amendment 231 refers to an EU directive which the UK opted into in 2013 before the refugee crisis erupted in southern Europe. However, its provisions are not exactly as described in the amendment before us. Article 8 requires that, in the case of asylum applications from third-country minors, the determining member state should be the state in which a family member legally resides, where that is in the best interests of the child. That is fair enough.

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Article 9 goes further in stating that, if an applicant has a family member—unspecified—in another state who is a beneficiary of international protection, that member state should consider the application. That is fair enough.

Article 10 goes further still, stating that where an applicant has a family member in a member state where a first application is pending, then that state is responsible for the applicant’s application. We signed up to that and that is what would happen if people in Europe applied for asylum in Europe and asked for their case to be transferred to the UK. Noble Lords will be aware that a recent court case has underlined that possibility.

However, the suggestions in Amendment 231 go well beyond that EU directive. In paragraph (b) of proposed new subsection (2) the review is widened to consider all British citizens, not just those already granted asylum, and they would all have the right to sponsor family members. In paragraph (c) of proposed new subsection (2) the reviews suggested would consider extending the criteria to a potentially enormous number of relatives of those who have already been granted asylum in the UK. I think it is quite well known that in the last 10 years about 87,000 applicants have been granted asylum or humanitarian protection in Britain. We have every right to be proud of that. However, if each of those had five or six relatives, we would be deciding to admit more than half a million people who would be granted the right to join those who have already been given protection here. Even that is a very conservative estimate. It does not include those granted asylum in earlier years and does not take account of the fact that in some countries families are even bigger than that.

The fact that you have to apply in Europe in order to take advantage of the Dublin convention is a strong argument for saying that this is not the way that we should go. The main effect of going down this road would be to widen Dublin III and massively increase the flow of people into the EU in the hope of benefiting from these changes. That is a very unwise step to take at this time. If there are thoroughly deserving cases—I am sure there are many—they should be considered on an individual basis outside the rules and let us be as just and sympathetic as we can be. But simply to go down the road of widening Dublin III seems not only unwise but extremely untimely.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: We are asking only for a review at this stage—that is all Amendment 231 asks for.

Lord Green of Deddington: Yes, I understand that. I am really pointing to what some Members are seeking as the result of that review—and even that would not be the best step to take at this point.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My Lords, I am aware of the calls from the Refugee Council and the arguments cited in favour of widening the family reunion criteria. I have also listened carefully to the arguments put forward today, and in particular to the personal stories that bring to life the statistics that we are considering.

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We recognise that families may become fragmented due to conflict and persecution, and the speed and manner in which asylum seekers often flee their country of origin. Our policy already allows immediate family members of those with refugee leave or humanitarian protection who formed part of the family unit before the sponsor fled their country to reunite with them in the UK. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that the minimum income threshold of at least £18,600 would not apply where a refugee is sponsoring their pre-flight spouse or partner to join them here.

British citizens are also able to sponsor their spouse or partner and children under 18 to join them under the family rules, providing they make the appropriate entry clearance application and meet the relevant criteria. The rules have been in place since July 2012 and reflect our obligations under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Where an application fails under family reunion provisions, our policy also requires consideration of exceptional or compassionate reasons for granting a visa outside the rules. This caters not only for extended family members of refugees where there are exceptional circumstances but for family members of British citizens who are unable to meet the financial requirement rules.

Our policy is more generous than our international obligations require. Some EU countries require up to two years’ lawful residence before a sponsor becomes eligible and impose time restrictions on how quickly family members must apply. Additionally, there are specific provisions in the Dublin regulations, which the noble Lord, Lord Green, referred to, to unite unaccompanied children who claim asylum in another member state with their parents or other relatives, where they can take care of the child and it is in the child’s best interests to bring them together. We granted more than 21,000 family reunion visas between 2010 and 2014. Numbers are likely to increase in line with the numbers of recognised refugees in the UK.

Our policy prevents children with refugee status in the UK sponsoring their parents to join them. This is a considered position designed to avoid perverse incentives for children to be encouraged or even forced to leave their country and undertake a hazardous journey to the UK. As Save the Children pointed out, many children are feared to have fallen victim to people traffickers. Allowing children to sponsor their parents would play right into the hands of traffickers and criminal gangs and go against our safeguarding responsibilities.

I know that this point has been raised; we frequently discuss unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. We also know that one of the key concerns of the International Organization for Migration and the UNHCR, our partners in the Syrian vulnerable persons relocation scheme, is that the best interests of the child are often served by keeping the family unit together in the region rather than providing an incentive for them to undertake a hazardous journey. It is also the reason why the Syrian vulnerable persons relocation scheme takes family units from the region. That is the specific intent: bringing families together to the UK.

We have talked about this country’s great generosity. Many of the wonderful stories in the media have been of families from Syria arriving together. They have

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been pre-cleared and immediately have access to welfare and the right to work. Accommodation has been provided for them. It is an outstanding scheme, which we can all be very proud of. We do not believe that widening the criteria to include so many additional categories of people is practical or sustainable. We must be very careful not to inadvertently create a situation which encourages people to undertake the hazardous journey.

With regard to the British Red Cross, with which we work very closely, we have already accepted recommendations it made in its report Not So Straightforward: The Need for Qualified Legal Support in Refugee Family Reunion, published on 9 July, around simplifying the application form and providing consistent, accessible guidance. We are improving our guidance to caseworkers and redesigning the application form to ensure that applicants better understand the process and what is required of them.

9.30 pm

In relation to Calais, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, the UK is contributing £7 million to help with the relocation of migrants away from the Calais centre, where the conditions are so appalling. There is a day centre adjacent to that where migrants living in the area can receive legal advice, including on family reunion.

The rules on Dublin have been explained. I suppose that what we are saying is that we have looked at this carefully and we think that families should be kept together in the best interests of the child. In the case of the Middle East, it might often be best to keep families together in the region rather than locating them here. We have provisions under the Syrian vulnerable persons schemeand are working with the Red Cross to ensure that people understand the current rules under Dublin which they are entitled to exercise. There are exceptions for very difficult cases so that we can be as receptive and sensitive as possible. We therefore do not feel the need for either of these amendments at this stage.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate: the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, my noble friend Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich, my noble friend Lady Lister, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, and the noble Lord, Lord Bates. These are serious matters where refugees need to be treated fairly and compassionately. The amendment in my name is only asking for a review while that in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, goes a bit further but is specific as to who it would apply to. I hear what the Minister has said and I will reflect on that. I may return to this issue on Report but, at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 231 withdrawn.

Amendment 232

Moved by Baroness Hamwee

232: After Clause 38, insert the following new Clause—

“Families of British citizens and other persons with leave to remain

(1) The Secretary of State shall, within six months of the passing of this Act, amend the Immigration Rules regarding any

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person who satisfies the conditions in subsections (2) and (3), in the ways specified in subsection (4).

(2) The first condition is that the person is applying for—

(a) entry clearance to the United Kingdom,

(b) leave to remain in the United Kingdom, or

(c) indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom.

(3) The second condition is that the person is applying as the non-European Economic Area national partner or dependent child of a person who is—

(a) a British Citizen,

(b) present and settled in the United Kingdom, or

(c) in the United Kingdom with refugee leave or humanitarian protection.

(4) Immigration Rules shall specify that, for a person who meets the conditions in subsections (2) and (3)—

(a) the minimum annual income requirement shall be—

(i) for a partner, the equivalent of one year’s salary (net of tax and national insurance contributions, and allowing for four weeks’ holiday) at the rate of the national minimum wage in effect at the time,

(ii) for one child in addition to the partner, the additional sum of £2500,

(iii) for each further child, the additional sum of £2000, and

(b) subsidies and financial support (including the value of accommodation provided) shall be applied towards the calculation of income.”

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, Amendments 232 and 234AA are in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Paddick. They stay on the issue of family visas, although not necessarily in the context of the refugee crisis. My noble friend Lord Teverson is going to remind us about “the party of the family” and marriage in the current context.

As I mentioned, I was involved in work on the impact of the family visa rules that were introduced in 2012. The situation has not eased since. In a search for a solution, my own thinking has developed only as far as, “These rules will not be changed until a Cabinet Minister’s son falls in love with a woman from Costa Rica and wants to bring her to live here”.

The rules apply to refugees; they apply to people who are far from being in a refugee situation. They are academics and businesspeople: people from a wide range of backgrounds and in a wide range of situations. It has to be said that many of them would bring a great deal to this country. A comment that I have heard from so many people who, because of the rules, are unable to live as a family in this country is: “I am a British citizen and I pay tax. Why is this happening to me?”. Families are separated and children are not living with both parents as a result of these rules, which must have an impact on a child’s development.

There are situations where, if the rules were not as they are, savings would be made for the state. I remember a gentleman from a low-earning area with a 17 year-old daughter, from his first marriage, with developmental problems. He married for a second time, to somebody really dodgy—a teacher from Canada, and because he could not meet the threshold, he could not sponsor her to come here. I understand that a lot of spouses are being refused visitor’s visas now, because it is not believed that they will leave at the end of a visit. In the case of the couple I have just mentioned, the last I heard was that she was detained when she arrived here

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and was in Harmondsworth. She had to stay over two or three nights because her physical reaction to what was happening to her meant that she was not well enough to be returned.

The financial threshold in place is beyond the means of something like half of the British population. The provisions which we are proposing in subsection (4) for the income requirement are, instead of £18,600,

“the equivalent of one year’s salary”.

I have spelled that out a little by saying,

“for a partner … at the rate of the national minimum wage”.

Then there are figures, which I accept are arbitrary, that would allow for children and for third-party support, because there are many examples of where families would help. The amendment says that,

“subsidies and financial support … shall be applied towards the calculation of income”.

The cost of the application is also of course an issue. During the debate on the last group of amendments, I read out a letter that I had just received. Because my name has been associated with some work on this, I quite often get letters and emails from people asking me to help and telling me of their situations. I will read just a little from the most recent, which came from a gentleman yesterday. A British citizen who had been living in Argentina, he came over here to a job. His wife and three year-old daughter were in Argentina, and when he tried to bring them over, he discovered the problems. He says:

“I understand the importance of doing everything by the books and would be ashamed to do it any other way. The difficult situation for me to understand here is how, being a British Citizen, should I have to wait for nearly a whole year without seeing my wife and daughter”.

He says that it is,

“unexplainable to a 3-year-old … All the thousands of pounds paid can be made with hard work but the time lost is never coming back”.

The second of our amendments refers to adult dependent relatives. As I said in the previous group, that route has now become more or less theoretical. The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, mentioned the gain to this country from two daughters of a refugee qualifying as medical practitioners. The story I have to tell, which I dare say the Minister has heard me tell before, is of a woman who could not bring her elderly parents over from Singapore. She was a consultant in the NHS, so she decided she should go there to look after them. Her sister, also a senior person in the NHS, thought it was unfair to leave all the burden on her sibling and went out as well, and then the husband of one of them, also a consultant in the NHS, went out to join them. Those are three senior people lost to the NHS because we cannot somehow sort this out.

I am very aware of the time; I am also aware that I am not bringing any new points to the Committee because, by definition, they are not new: this has been going on since 2012. That does not diminish the importance of the matter, and I beg to move.

Lord Teverson: My Lords, I speak to my Amendment 239A, and I very much agree with all the points that my noble friend Lady Hamwee just made.

It is quite obvious to all of us that we live in a global society. We welcome that, we participate in it and encourage it. We study abroad, we work abroad

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and we are proud that Britain is an outward-looking nation. As part of that, our sons and daughters and other relatives go out as students, to work and for leisure to other parts of the world—we are not just part of the European Union. It is quite appropriate in February, the month of St Valentine, to say that they occasionally fall in love—I expect that some Members of the House have come across that—and get married. All too often, when deciding to take that step, they do not think about the practicalities. They do not think about the fact that they might not be able as a couple, as a family—in future, as a larger family—to live back in the United Kingdom because of that decision.

As my noble friend said, I have made that point before, so I too shall be brief. It seems to me fundamental, perhaps more so to those on the Benches opposite than anyone else, that family life is sacrosanct. Subject, clearly, to the legal restrictions in the Marriage Act and elsewhere, which we all accept, a British citizen should have the right to marry whom they want, and then be able to live with their spouse or civil partner back in their home in the United Kingdom, should they wish. That right should not be discriminated against by income; in effect, that discriminates against certain ages, those in certain parts of the country or in certain occupations more than others, and perhaps on gender as well. People should have that freedom. If anything should be the birthright of us as proud citizens of the United Kingdom, it should be that. That is the simple thing that my amendment tries to achieve. That was all swept away in 2012, during the period of a coalition Government— unfortunately, as far as I am concerned.

Since I have got involved in this issue, I can name all sorts of instances of people affected by this who have come to me on the internet. Most recently, there was a young man whose family live near me in Cornwall and who is working for a British company out in South Korea. He has married a Korean national and is unable to come back. He earns a lot of money out there, and she is very capable as well, but because of the rules they cannot come back together. That is completely wrong. There are an estimated 33,000 people in that position.

This problem does not make a huge difference to migration figures, but if the Government ever introduce a British Bill of Rights, please make this right No. 1. I ask the Minister to look at this again, think about the principles that the Government espouse so well in this area, listen to that rhetoric and correct analysis about the centrality of the family and family life, and change this policy area so much for the better in the Bill.

9.45 pm

Lord Bates: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, in particular. Raising our sights to talk of love on day 4 of the Immigration Bill in Committee at quarter to 10 at night sends the mind wandering. It is good.

We welcome those who wish to make a life in the UK with their family, to work hard and to make a contribution, but family life must not be established here at the taxpayer’s expense and family migrants must be able to integrate. This is fair to applicants and to the public. That is why the coalition Government

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introduced the changes to the Immigration Rules in July 2012. These amendments would seriously dilute those reforms.

Amendment 232 would require the Secretary of State, within six months of Royal Assent, to amend the minimum income threshold requirement for sponsoring a non-EEA national partner and any non-EEA national dependent children to settle in the UK. This is set at £18,600 a year for a couple, with higher thresholds if children are also involved. It reflects advice from the independent Migration Advisory Committee on the income that means a family settled in the UK generally cannot access income-related benefits. The amendment would reduce this to the level of the national minimum wage, or around £12,100 a year on the basis it describes. The amendment would also reduce the increments that apply if non-EEA national children are also sponsored. It would allow third-party subsidies to be counted, though it cannot ensure these will be sustained.

Amendment 232 would therefore significantly undermine the proper impact of the minimum income threshold. A couple with income equivalent to the national minimum wage can still access income-related benefits and tax credits, so a minimum income threshold set at the level suggested would not be sufficient to prevent burdens on the taxpayer once the migrant partner reached settlement and had full access to welfare benefits. It would also provide less support for the migrant partner’s integration in society. That is simply not an adequate basis for sustainable family migration and integration in future.

Amendment 234AA in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, would require the Secretary of State, within six months of Royal Assent, to amend the entry clearance rules for non-EEA national adult dependent relatives. The route for adult dependent relatives was reformed because of the significant NHS and social care costs which arise when adult dependent relatives settle in the UK, notwithstanding the intention of the sponsor here to look after them. The new rules do not provide a route for every parent or grandparent to join their adult child or grandchild in the UK and settle here. It is not intended that they should do so. The route now provides for those most in need of care but not for those who would simply prefer to come to live in the UK.

Amendment 239A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, would remove nearly all the requirements of the family Immigration Rules for spouses and civil partners of British citizens. This would undermine our system for family migration. Understanding basic English and being financially independent help to ensure that the migrant is able to integrate and play a full part in British society. We want to see family migrants thriving here, not struggling to get by. The courts have upheld the lawfulness of these requirements, finding that they strike a fair balance between the interests of those wishing to sponsor a non-EEA national partner to settle in the UK and of the community in the UK in general. The family Immigration Rules we reformed in the last Parliament are having the right impact and helping to restore public confidence in this part of the immigration system. In light of this, I hope that the noble Baroness may feel able to withdraw her amendment.

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Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, what better way of integrating can there be than living with a British citizen? I am genuinely quite puzzled about that. The arguments are financial ones; this is the price of family—or, indeed, the price of love. I do not think that the central, fundamental point is being addressed. As for restoring confidence, that is not the experience that I have from the many representations from and on behalf of British citizens who say that we are taxpayers as well—if that were necessary to support the argument. Of course, I am not going to seek to press the point or prolong the debate now, but it is one that we will keep coming back to.

I am very glad that my noble friend Lord Teverson sought to make the argument on a more elevated plane than I have, by addressing the central philosophical point, which is very important. Although I deplore the phrase—and I have told my noble friends to chuck me off the Front Bench if I ever use it in this Chamber—are marriage and family not among the British values? I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 232 withdrawn.

Amendment 233 not moved.

Amendment 234

Tabled by Lord Hylton

234: After Clause 38, insert the following new Clause—

“Family reunion: persons with international protection needs

(1) Rules made by the Secretary of State under section 3 of the Immigration Act 1971 (general provisions for regulation and control), shall, within six months of the passing of this Act, make provision for—

(a) British citizens and persons settled in the UK to be enabled to sponsor their children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, spouses, civil or unmarried partners, or siblings, who are persons registered with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees or with the authorities responsible for the protection of refugees in the State in which they are present, to come to the UK on terms no less favourable than those under rules made under that section which apply to family members of persons recognised as refugees, save that it may be provided that those sponsored shall have no recourse to public funds; and

(b) applications for refugee family reunion from the children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, spouses, civil or unmarried partners, or siblings of persons recognised as refugees or who have been granted humanitarian protection in the United Kingdom.

(2) An order shall be made by the Lord Chancellor under section 9(2)(a) of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (general cases) in respect of family reunion for the persons described in subsection (1) within six months of the passing of this Act.”

Lord Hylton: I have spoken to this amendment, and I thank those who supported it and mentioned it favourably. I give notice that it is a subject to which I am pretty certain we will have to return at Report.

Amendment 234 not moved.

Amendment 234A

Moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool

234A: After Clause 38, insert the following new Clause—

“Conditions for grant of asylum: cases of genocide

(1) A person seeking asylum in the United Kingdom who belongs to a national, ethnical, racial or religious group which is,

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in the place from which that person originates, subject to the conditions detailed in Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, shall be presumed to meet the conditions for asylum in the United Kingdom.

(2) The adjudication of whether the group to which the person seeking asylum belongs meets the description specified in subsection (1) shall be determined by a Justice of the Supreme Court after consideration of the available facts.

(3) Applicants for asylum in the United Kingdom from groups designated under this section may submit their applications and have them assessed at British missions overseas.”

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, in moving the amendment, I thank those noble Lords, from all sides of your Lordships’ House, who encouraged me to table it, and especially the co-signatories, my noble friend Lady Cox, the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson of Winterbourne, and the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean. The amendment provides a presumption that a person will be granted asylum when a judge of the Supreme Court has determined that a group to which that person belongs is, in the place from which that person originates, subject to genocide. The presumption will operate in the UK but, in addition, applicants would be able to apply at British consular posts overseas. Genocide is defined in Article 2 of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as follows:

“In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group”.

Just one week ago, in Strasbourg, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution condemning the actions of Daesh/ISIS in the Middle East as genocide. The resolution, “Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq”, states that ISIS,

“has perpetrated acts of genocide and other serious crimes punishable under international law”.

The resolution unequivocally states that the actions that ISIS has committed are genocide, and was passed by 117 votes for and just one against. While we have been considering Day 4 of the Committee stage of this Bill, the European Parliament has been debating and will, tomorrow, vote on a similar resolution to that of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, identifying the plight of minorities such as Yazidis and Christians as genocide. This is a view also shared by 75 Members of your Lordships’ House and another place, who wrote to the Prime Minister just before Christmas urging her Majesty’s Government to declare events in Syria and Iraq as a genocide. In that December letter to the Prime Minister, the signatories said:

“There is no doubt in our minds that the targeting of Christians and other religious minorities by Daesh falls within that definition”.

Signatories include the former chief of staff, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie, and the former head of MI5, the noble Lord, Lord Evans. The letter urges

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the British Government to seek agreement at the United Nations that we should name things for what they are. The letter insisted:

“This is not simply a matter of semantics. There would be two main benefits from the acceptance by the UN that genocide is being perpetrated”.

The first is that those responsible would one day face a day of judicial reckoning, and the second is that it would require the 147 states who have signed the convention to step up to the plate and,

“face up to their duty to take the necessary action to ‘prevent and punish’ the perpetrators”.

There is now clear evidence that this genocide includes assassinations of church leaders, mass murders, torture, kidnapping for ransom, the sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women, forcible conversions, the destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries and Christian artefacts and theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity alike. The caliphate has made public statements taking credit for the mass murder of Christians and expressing its intent to eliminate these minority communities and other groups, such as homosexuals, from its territory.

The Government response thus far seeks to avoid the duty set out in the convention stating:

“It is a long-standing Government policy that any judgements on whether genocide has occurred are a matter for the international judicial system rather than governments or other non-judicial bodies”.

This is a frustrating and circular argument. Which international courts and judges should decide, on the basis of what process and in considering what evidence? What steps are the Government actually taking to ensure that those courts do indeed urgently consider the matter and reach a conclusion? On 16 December in Parliamentary Answer HL4327, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns said:

“We are not submitting any evidence of possible genocide against Yazidis and Christians to international courts, nor have we been asked to”.

As for referring this matter to the International Criminal court she told me:

“I understand that, as the matter stands, Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor, has determined not to take these matters forward”.—[Official Report, 16/12/15; col. 2146.]

If no one is willing to name this for what it is or to take this forward then the genocide convention becomes nothing more than window dressing and is an insult to the intention of the original drafters and ratifiers as “never again” inevitably repeats itself over and over again.

Meanwhile, people are being ruthlessly targeted, and so is their culture and history. Last week, we learned that ISIS has obliterated Mosul’s ancient, stone-walled monastery of St Elijah, dating from the sixth century, where monks had etched “chi rho”, the first Greek letters of the word “Kristos”. This attempt to eradicate memory has been accompanied by the obliteration of those whose beliefs do not comply with theirs. Last year, 200 Assyrian Christians in the Khabour river valley were kidnapped and jihadi websites showed graphic executions of some of the group, warning that others would be executed if the ransoms remained unpaid. Last August, the ancient Saint Eliane monastery

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in central Syria, which was founded more than 1,500 years ago, was destroyed by ISIS and dozens of Syriac Christians were abducted. Last year, a UN report said that ISIS continues,

“to deliberately and wantonly loot and destroy places of religious and cultural significance … which ISIS considers as un-Islamic. Generally, these sites are looted before being destroyed”.

Along with the Yazidi community, Christians have been told to convert or die. Children have been seized, propagandised and indoctrinated with jihadist ideology. That UN report warns that the situation continues to deteriorate, saying:

"UNAMI/OHCHR continues to have grave concerns for the welfare and safety of those held in ISIL captivity”.

The United Nations report states that that ISIS is holding 3,500 slaves hostage, mainly women and children. It said that ISIS has committed acts that,

“amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide”,

against minority groups, and that ISIS’s “systematic and widespread violence”, including beheadings, shootings and burnings, was “staggering”. Mass graves honeycomb part of the region. In a recent Parliamentary Answer HL4065, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, told me:

“We are aware of reports that mass graves have been discovered … at least one of which was allegedly booby trapped by Daesh”.

Murder is accompanied by other horrors. An estimated 5,000 young Yazidi women and girls have been abducted by ISIS, suffering horrific and prolonged sexual abuse. They were imprisoned for months on end, beaten, burnt and exposed to daily rape and torture. Horrifyingly, some of those victims were as young as nine. Sadly, some girls have taken their own lives in desperate attempts to escape the horrors of captivity.

10 pm

A few weeks ago I chaired a meeting here that was attended by the Archbishop of Aleppo. We were told how, in a village outside Aleppo, ISIS cut the tops off the fingers of a 14 year-old boy because his Christian father refused to convert. They then crucified the boy and killed the father. At a meeting organised by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, a former Yazidi MP, speaking here, said that she could not understand why the West had not declared these events a genocide and why we had remained silent. Hillary Clinton says that although she was reluctant to use the term “genocide” a few months ago to describe the IS atrocities, there is now “enough evidence” for her to use that word to denounce the murders of religious minorities by the jihadi group. Mrs Clinton said:

“What is happening is genocide, deliberately aimed at destroying not only the lives but wiping out the existence of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East in territory controlled by ISIS”.

The amendment is designed to focus the debate, rouse our consciences and provide some practical help. I heard yesterday from Assyrian Christians who had been told that it may take up to six years to process their asylum applications. Many Christian refugees in Lebanon are not even registered with UNHCR, too fearful even to go into the camps. In the context of continuing threats to their security, impoverishment, lack of access to work or schooling and no hope of a home, these delays are undoubtedly contributing to

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the decision of many to undertake the hazardous journeys that we have been discussing during our proceedings, and undoubtedly many more will follow in their footsteps. Given that the Weidenfeld Fund, Mercury One and Operation Safe Havens are able to process applications and do the necessary security clearances—to a higher standard than UNHCR—in a matter of weeks, such delays are completely unacceptable. The late Lord Weidenfeld’s decision to create a special fund to assist Syrian Christians should inspire us all to do more. Although the noble Lord, Lord Bates, said in a Parliamentary Answer to me only yesterday:

“We recognise the plight faced by vulnerable women and girls in the region, and particularly Yazidi women who have escaped following enslavement by ISIS”,

and although the Government detail the significant sums of money that they provide for humanitarian relief, the reality is that Yazidis and Assyrian Christians have simply not been prioritised.

I urge the Government to collect the evidence—the names; the dates; the photographs of atrocities; the numbers killed, tortured, abducted or sold into sexual slavery; the accounts of forced conversions; the churches, shrines and manuscripts destroyed—and to trigger the process of bringing the perpetrators to justice and to name this for what it is. Words matter. History proves that once the word “genocide” is used to designate heinous and targeted crimes against sections of humanity, as in Yugoslavia or Cambodia, it is followed by swift international action to stop those atrocities. The Khmer Rouge prosecution continues and includes charges of genocide against the Cham and Vietnamese people, so there are precedents.

The amendment would ask a Justice of the Supreme Court to examine the evidence and make a determination. It would provide a process and duty to act. It would then ensure that victims of genocide were given priority in asylum applications. This is not about numbers, nor about those who threaten the security and ideals for which this country stands. Many suffer, but this is about those who have been singled out and our duty under the genocide convention to protect them. I commend the amendment to the Committee, and I beg to move.

Baroness Cox (CB): My Lords, I support the amendment, to which I am a signatory. Last week, my noble friend Lord Alton and I presided over a hearing here in Parliament, where we heard graphic accounts of genocide and crimes against humanity from Yazidis and Christians from Syria and Iraq. Their first- hand testimonies were accompanied by supporting statements from relief organisations and charities working with these beleaguered communities, including Canon Andrew White, the courageous Anglican vicar of Baghdad.

Some 100 years after the Armenian genocide, these contemporary events are a continuation of a systematic campaign of annihilation which was planned by one caliphate, abolished in 1924 by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey but continued by another caliphate under the guise of the Islamic State—Daesh—today. Mass graves, beheadings, rapes, forced conversions, lootings and confiscation of property, are, sadly, nothing new. Nor is our failure to respond adequately to acutely vulnerable minorities.

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This amendment is not about the misplaced free-for-all mistakenly promoted by Germany and now being urgently reassessed: nor is it about quotas or the unseemly bidding war about how many people any particular country has taken. Instead, the amendment focuses on a particularly vulnerable group of people now being subjected to genocide and argues that their asylum claims should be prioritised. Our first priority should always be those who have been singled out because of their religion, ethnicity or race. Although many people have been caught up in this suffering, we have particular obligations, as my noble friend highlighted, under the provisions of the Genocide Convention, to these minority groups. We also know that those who have been targeted do not represent a security threat to the United Kingdom and that, unlike for other categories of people, there are no countries in the region where they will be secure in the long term. They have nowhere to go.

In November I and my noble friend wrote to the Prime Minister, urging him to give priority to the most vulnerable—these minorities and children. We welcomed his decision to take vulnerable groups from holding countries such as Lebanon and Jordan, but we also pointed out that many of those fleeing from genocide have been too frightened to enter the camps and were living in informal settings, often without any help being given by UN agencies. In December, I was also a signatory to the letter sent to the Prime Minister—which my noble friend referred to—signed by 75 parliamentarians from both Houses and all sides, urging Her Majesty’s Government to name this genocide for what it is. So far, HMG have failed to do so—but, last week, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe declared that the treatment of Christians and Yazidis is indeed genocide.

Our colleagues in the House of Commons have been equally clear. I share with the House the wording of the all-party Motion tabled last week by a group of MPs in another place, which stated that,

“this House is appalled by the beheadings, crucifixions, shootings, burnings, other murders, torture, rape and extensive violence being perpetrated by Daesh or IS against Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq on the basis of religion and ethnicity; observes that this disgusting behaviour clearly falls within the definition of genocide as determined by the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide; notes the recent report from the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq,

Protection of Civilians in the Armed Conflict in Iraq

, which concludes that Daesh is holding approximately 3,500 slaves, mostly women and children in Iraq, primarily from the Yazidi community, and describes Daesh’s systematic and widespread violence as staggering, concluding that these acts amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and possibly genocide; and calls on the Government to use all its influence at the UN to create a stated consensus that genocide is indeed being perpetrated so that the provisions of the Convention can urgently, legitimately and effectively be invoked and implemented”.

We should commend our colleagues, such as Mrs Fiona Bruce MP, the chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, who tabled that Motion, and we should give legislative force to an appropriate response to those who are suffering so grievously. This is urgent, as Christianity and ancient religions such as Yazidism are being wiped out in the Middle East.

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Last week’s hearing took place on Holocaust Memorial Day. Among those who participated was Major General Tim Cross. He has said:

“Crucially, the various minorities in the region are suffering terribly. There can be no doubt that genocide is being carried out on Yazidi and Christian communities—and the West/international community’s failure to recognise what is happening will be to our collective shame in years to come”.

He also pointed to the irony that while we are neglecting our duty to protect these minorities we have been opening the door to others who may threaten the very fabric of our society.

Major General Cross quoted the Lebanese Prime Minister, who told David Cameron that he believed that for every 1,000 migrants entering Europe illegally there are at least two extremists—inner-core jihadis—which means that around 16,000 IS fighters have probably entered Europe over the last year or so. While we have been doing this, we have failed to protect those to whom we have a specific duty under international law. Major General Cross said:

“Our dilemma is how we separate ‘values’ and ‘interests’”.

This amendment offers us the opportunity to uphold our values, especially our belief in the rule of law, while also protecting our interests.

If we are not prepared to respond to the victims of genocide, we must seriously ask whether we should remove our signature from the 1948 convention on the prevention and punishment of genocide. What is the point of being a signatory if we are not prepared to accept the obligation—to see, to judge and to act? If we do not take such obligations seriously, as the amendment urges us to do, it fundamentally undermines that convention.

To remind noble Lords of what our obligations are, the convention makes it clear that genocide is not a random killing of individuals but a systematic killing or serious harming of people because they are part of a recognisable group. That group may be,

“national, ethnical, racial or religious”.

The treaty identifies acts committed with intent to destroy that group,

“in whole or in part”.

The convention also covers within the term “genocide” a range of other acts already highlighted by my noble friend.

In short, international law is clear and undeniably covers the many horrors unleashed by ISIL/Daesh in the Middle East—and, I may point out, by Islamist extremists in other countries, including several African states such as northern Nigeria and Sudan, both of which I have visited in the last two months and where I saw comparable horrors and atrocities perpetrated.

If an international law, defined by treaty, is being flouted, and if hundreds of thousands of innocent people who are entitled to rely on the protection of that law are being killed, and millions are being driven from their homes, it is absolutely incumbent on the signatories to that treaty to take action to ensure that it is enforced. Sadly, however, to date the issue has not been high on the agenda of the leaders of more than 100 nations that are signatories to that convention.

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The convention is specific. The signatory nations may honour their commitments either by acting alone or by calling on the United Nations to prevent and punish genocide. That provision is hugely important in sending a clear message to the perpetrators of these dreadful acts: it warns them that they will be punished. So how can officials argue and give ambiguous replies that we can do nothing until others act? From the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi leaders after the Second World War to the more recent trials for genocide perpetrated in Rwanda and Bosnia, a very clear message should go out to all those involved in these evil movements of genocide. The message should be: the international community will, sooner or later, come for you. You will be found, you will be captured, you will be tried in accordance with the convention and you will be punished proportionately to your offence. And, as this amendment insists most importantly, we will care for those whom you target in these unspeakable ways.

I urge our Prime Minister and our Foreign Secretary to utter that one word, “genocide”. By using it in relation to the carnage befalling the Christians, Yazidis and other minorities in the Middle East, Her Majesty’s Government would be sending a clear message to ISIS and other groups that there will be a reckoning for their despicable actions.

In conclusion, Britain punches far above its weight in world diplomacy and international relations. We must ask our Government to have the courage to speak the right word to the international community and to follow the word with appropriate deeds. This amendment is an opportunity for us to do just that. At the very minimum, I hope that the Minister will undertake to go back to the Home Secretary and other ministerial colleagues and weigh these arguments with great care between now and Report.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con): My Lords, I apologise for not having taken part in any of the proceedings on this legislation. Quarter past 10 at night in the middle of the week seems, perhaps, not the best moment to set forth on this matter. However, I am ashamed to say that until I was briefed by a friend, Mr Graham Hutton, chairman of the Aid to the Church in Need, about the position of Christians in Syria and Iraq, I was wholly ignorant of the extent of the atrocities that are occurring.

10.15 pm

I do not wish to detain the House by repeating examples that have been given by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox. Both of them are held in the highest regard in this House but, if I may say so, particularly the noble Baroness, who seems to put herself in harm’s way on behalf of people in trouble all over the world and to provide us with an authoritative account. So I say to my noble friend the Minister: throw away the brief from the Home Office and go back to the department and tell it what has been said this evening. I am certain that, despite the media coverage and the information that is available, people in this country have no idea of the extent of the horrors that are being perpetrated against Christians.

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In Syria, 56% of Christians have left during this conflict. The point about them is that they are not just fleeing civil war, they are fleeing persecution, and there is nowhere for them to flee to. If they go to the UN camps, they find themselves in fear and in danger because they are a minority there and subject to persecution. If they do not go to the official camps, they are not eligible under the Prime Minister’s programme to be brought to this country. So they have no place to go and wherever they go they live in fear. The magnitude of this catastrophe is enormous. I am told that, prior to 2003, there were 60,000 Christians in Mosul, and now there is none. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, has described the appalling atrocities that are going on day after day to people, including women and children, simply because they are Christians.

I do not wish to repeat the arguments about the 1948 convention on the prevention and punishment of genocide, except to say that it does say that genocide is the systematic killing or serious harming of people because they are part of a recognisable group. These people are being persecuted because they are Christians, and that is a recognised group. As has been pointed out, the importance of designating this as genocide is that it will enable us to take action and give these people sanctuary quickly and effectively as they need it.

I am told there are people who say that we cannot be seen to be discriminating in favour of Christians. Why not? This is a Christian country, and these people are in trouble because they are being discriminated against because of their religion. I say to the Minister that the plight we have heard of this evening is of fellow Christians, some of whom speak in the language of our saviour and who have been there since the birth of Christ himself. They are being driven out of their lands and horribly persecuted. We should not pass by on the other side. If it is impossible for the Government to adopt the suggestions contained in this amendment of recognising genocide for what it is, then at the very least they need to come up with some ideas as to how a safe haven can be provided for those Christians and how they can be helped by us, a Christian country with a historic record of being there for those in need.

When I studied history at university, I could never really understand how it was that the Nazi persecution of the Jews was allowed to go on for so long and that people were either unaware or unwilling to take action. In those days, there was at least the excuse that people might not know because communications were difficult. We know what is going on in Syria and Iraq daily, from the internet and the videos and the information provided. Even at this late hour, I hope that the Minister will take on board what has been said on this amendment and, if he cannot accept the amendment, that the Government will take some effective and urgent action to deal with those Christians, our brothers and sisters, in Syria and Iraq.

Lord Dubs (Lab): My Lords, anyone who went to any of the events connected with Holocaust Memorial Day just a few days ago will know that people said in 1945, “Never again”. Then we had serious tragedies and genocides in Bosnia, South Sudan and elsewhere. We keep saying that it must never happen again but it still does. I found the arguments put by the three

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Members of the Committee who have spoken to the amendment very powerful. They are in the spirit of the commitments made on Holocaust Memorial Day—“Never again”. They are saying that because it is still happening we have to do something about the victims. I very much support the amendment.

Lord Marlesford (Con): My Lords, the Government should be rather ashamed that this debate is necessary. It has taken the whole consideration of the Bill on to a different plane from all the other amendments that I have listened to. It is so terrible that so-called diplomacy should be unable to do what is right. I have been deeply shocked that the Government, in being asked to give priority to Christians among the 20,000 Syrians who we are to admit during this Parliament as refugees, have said that they cannot do so because they cannot discriminate. The whole concept of refugees and asylum is discrimination. It is giving succour to those who need succour. I will go no further except to say that if the amendment were to come back to the House at Report and the Government resist it, they would be overwhelmingly and humiliatingly defeated.

Lord Judd (Lab): My Lords, apart from all the powerful arguments of support that have been put forward, the speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, is one that we must all take particularly seriously. No one in this House has put their own life more on the line on issues of this kind than she has, and she has consistently done that with great courage. When she comes to us and says, “Please take this one step that would help, in terms of all that I have experienced”, we must take that seriously. I also feel very deeply that there is a real crisis in credibility with populations across the world. Governments speak with great rhetoric about these issues, but sometimes fail to provide the practical evidence that that rhetoric adds up to anything. Here is a chance to demonstrate that we mean what we say.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, from these Benches I support the amendment. When I first started going to ceremonies to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, what struck me most were the current examples that were used and of which we were reminded. Each year a theme is chosen and it is salutary to realise how topical those themes are. This is topical. There are many groups of people who are the subject of the treatment which has been described, and it has been notable during debate on this Bill how many noble Lords have referred to the experiences of their families. We may not be directly related to the people who are in such a situation, but as noble Lords have pointed out, we are all part of that one family.

Lord Wigley (PC): My Lords, I had not intended to intervene in this debate either, but having listened to the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Forsyth, and others, I cannot help but raise a voice on behalf of the Christian community. We are to a greater or lesser extent Christians in this country. We may not be very good Christians, but the idea that we cannot intervene on behalf of a Christian community because we might be discriminating strikes me as being absolutely

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unacceptable and appalling. I hope that the Government will take close notice of that and think about this serious issue.

Lord Bates: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for his moving speech. He spoke with his typical passion, and the way he presented the arguments and the accounts he gave have certainly had a great effect on me. I think that he has done a great service to the Committee by drawing the plight of Christians in the Middle East to our attention. My noble friend Lord Forsyth invited me to tear up my speech before he had actually had an opportunity to hear it, and of course he invited me to do it while I am currently enjoying the privilege of the company of the Chief Whip, who perhaps is little worried that I might take my noble friend’s advice.

I feel very strongly about this. We cannot be anything other than moved by the brutality and evil that we are seeing unleashed in the Middle East by Daesh. I have seen something of the situation for myself on a personal visit to Zahlé, which is the capital city of the Bekaa Valley and a Christian community. I am acutely aware of the pressures to which people are subject out there. However, I cannot accept that this Government are not doing everything they can; we are leading the way. We are in the week—tomorrow, I think—when the Prime Minister will host a conference on Syria here in London, just across the way. He will urge other people to step up to the mark. A DfID report pointed out that Britain is paying more than its fair share. It recognised that we are paying 226% of our international obligation in terms of cash to support people in the region. We are hosting the event and acting diplomatically by urging for a solution to the crisis, and of course we are also acting militarily in the region.

We need to put on the record some of these points because I think some myths are arising within the Christian community, and I say this very carefully as a member of that community. Some myths are emerging about where the discrimination occurs. We are not saying that Christians will not be considered but that they will be considered on an individual basis, and the criteria we are looking at, particularly within the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement scheme, include women and girls at risk, those in need of serious medical care, and the survivors of torture and violence. Of course, in all the accounts we have heard about, they would certainly seem to be people who would qualify under that definition by what they have suffered and what they have experienced when they present to the authorities rather than by a general description. That is the central case we have put. At the moment, the basic principle is that applicants for refugee status must establish their need for protection on an individual basis, and for that reason we do not think that putting this to the Supreme Court is necessarily the right way. We believe that under the current rules, we have the ability to help the people who are in need.

We also need to put on the record at this point that the people who are actually suffering the greatest brutality at the hands of Daesh are fellow Muslims in the region—and the Yazidis, the Kurdish groups, that are there as well. They are suffering, too, and our

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prime driving force when providing international humanitarian protection, which is what it is, is on the basis of need. That will continue to be our position.

I am very happy to meet noble Lords who have an interest in this area, with officials, to ensure that our system is sufficiently sensitive to understand what is happening on the ground—and the accounts of the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and the experiences of the Bishop of Aleppo. We want that understanding so that it can inform our decision-making and ensure that our system is correct and appropriate. I reiterate that those Christians who are female, at risk of persecution, survivors of torture and/or violence are exactly the people that our systems of humanitarian aid in the region and our systems of relocation to this country are designed to help.

10.30 pm

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I am grateful to my noble friend. I entirely accept what he says about Muslims being subject to horrors as well as Christians, but could he deal with the point that the problem for Christians is that they cannot go to the official camps because they fear for their safety, because, once again, they are a minority? Is there any possibility of creating some kind safe haven? That in itself may create a further security problem for them. The genocide point is that it would enable immediate action to be taken.

Lord Bates: Certainly, the situation is that we would take families from within the camps and from the surrounding areas. It is not exclusively from the camps; it is those who are identified as being in greatest need. The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, raises an interesting point on the camps. I shall certainly feed that back to the department and seek some reassurance, and perhaps write to him and other noble Lords on what protections are arranged in the camps where DfID and others are involved to be sensitive to the needs of Christians.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: I thank my noble friend Lady Cox, the noble Lords, Lord Forsyth, Lord Dubs, Lord Marlesford and Lord Judd, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee and the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, for their contributions to the debate and for supporting the amendment. I thank the Minister as well for the characteristic way in which he has tried to deal with the arguments that have been raised during our debate.

He mentioned the conference that will be taking place tomorrow. Last week I attended a briefing that was hosted by Justine Greening, the Secretary of State at the Department for International Development. Throughout the presentation, not once was the position of minorities mentioned. I specifically raised that at the end of the presentation and the Secretary of State was helpful in her response, but it was not a presentation about events on the ground; it was about money being provided in humanitarian relief and aid. Important though that is, it is not the subject of the amendment and it is not the subject of my concern. I pay tribute to the Government for what they have done by way of humanitarian aid and I agree with them that countries such as Germany, which is co-hosting the conference, need to do more on that front and that we need to

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tackle these problems at source. Until we rectify some of the reasons why people are being driven out of their homeland, we will continue to see this exodus of biblical proportions.

The Minister and I are on the same page on that. I agree with what the Government are doing in that respect, but money and aid are not the same as recognising what is happening on the ground as a genocide. That is why I cited the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe last week. We will see what the European Parliament decides today, but other national Parliaments, the 75 Members of both Houses, and the Motion referred to by my noble friend in the House of Commons last week say something altogether different, which is why the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, said he was ashamed that this debate was necessary at all. So am I in many respects; we should not need to be debating this.

The Supreme Court is different from the Government. It is one step aside. If there is no evidence to demonstrate that there is genocide then the Supreme Court would say that. The Justices of the Supreme Court would make that determination and nothing further would have to happen. But if it decided that there was a prima facie case of genocide, then it would kick-start all the other things that need to happen, especially the special status that would then be given to those groups who had been targeted. Yes, they include Christians, but not Christians alone. They would be prioritised because they are victims of genocide. That would be the reason.

I am grateful for what the noble Lord said about meeting those of us who proposed the amendment tonight. I welcome that and certainly I would be happy to take part in discussions between now and Report, but it is important that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Justice and DfID, which the Minister referred to, are also part and parcel of that discussion. I know that some of the pressures against doing something on this issue have come from other departments.

We were told during this brief debate that we should recognise the magnitude of this catastrophe, but people had no idea of the scale of what is happening. There cannot be decent societies in the Middle East without plurality, diversity, tolerance and respect. Surely those have to be the reasons why we put this at the very top of the agenda. I have said before that Einstein’s definition of insanity is simply doing the same thing over and over again. Whatever military campaigns we have, however necessary it may be to engage in military action, will not fundamentally change things on the ground. What marks us out as different from organisations such as ISIS is our belief in the rule of law. Surely this goes to the very heart of what it means to believe in the rule of law and to uphold conventions that we are signatories to and which impose on us a duty to protect and to prosecute.

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, but I also give notice that I intend to bring this back on Report if we are unable to make appropriate progress.

Amendment 234A withdrawn.

Amendment 234AA not moved.

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Schedule 9: Availability of local authority support

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Stedman-Scott): I remind the Committee that if Amendment 234B is agreed to, I will not be able to call Amendments 234C to 234F by reason of pre-emption.

Amendment 234B not moved.

Amendments 234C to 234F

Moved by Lord Bates

234C: Schedule 9, page 125, line 30, after “person” insert “in England”

234D: Schedule 9, page 125, line 31, after “paragraph” insert “4, 5 or”

234E: Schedule 9, page 125, line 39, after “person” insert “in England”

234F: Schedule 9, page 125, line 40, after second “paragraph” insert “4, 5 or”

Amendments 234C to 234F agreed.

Amendment 234G

Moved by Lord Bates

234G: Schedule 9, page 126, line 24, at end insert—

After paragraph 2 insert—

“2A (1) Paragraph 1(1)(g) or (ga) does not prevent the provision of support or assistance under a relevant provision to a person to whom paragraph 1 would otherwise apply by virtue of paragraph 7B if—

(a) conditions A and B are satisfied in relation to that person, and

(b) condition C, D or E is satisfied in relation to that person.

(2) In sub-paragraph (1) “relevant provision” means—

(a) section 23C, 23CZA or 23CA of the Children Act 1989,

(b) regulations under section 23D of that Act, or

(c) section 24A or 24B of that Act.

(3) Condition A is that—

(a) the person has made an application for leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom, and

(b) where regulations made by the Secretary of State require that the application must be of a kind specified in the regulations for this condition to be satisfied, the application is of that kind.

(4) Condition B is that—

(a) the application is the first application for leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom that the person has made, or

(b) where regulations under sub-paragraph (3)(b) require that the application must be of a kind specified in the regulations for condition A to be satisfied, the application is the first application of that kind that the person has made.

(5) Condition C is that the application has not been determined or withdrawn.

(6) Condition D is that—

(a) the application has been refused,

(b) the person could bring an appeal under section 82(1) against the refusal (ignoring any possibility of an appeal out of time with permission), and

(c) if the person brought such an appeal, it would not be one that, by virtue of section 92(6), would have to be continued from outside the United Kingdom.

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(7) Condition E is that—

(a) the application has been refused,

(b) the person has appealed under section 82(1) against the refusal,

(c) the appeal is not one that, by virtue of section 92(6), must be continued from outside the United Kingdom, and

(d) the appeal is pending within the meaning of section 104.

(8) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (3) the Secretary of State may by regulations provide for circumstances in which—

(a) a person is to be treated as having made an application for leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom (despite not having made one), or

(b) a person is to be treated as not having made such an application where the Secretary of State is satisfied that the application made is vexatious or wholly without merit.””

Amendments 234H to 234L (to Amendment 234G) not moved.

Amendment 234G agreed.

Amendments 234M and 234N not moved.

Amendment 234P

Moved by Lord Bates

234P: Schedule 9, page 127, line 23, at end insert—

“Seventh class of ineligible person: primary carer without leave to enter or remain

7C (1) Paragraph 1 applies to a person in England (“P”) if—

(a) P is the primary carer of a British citizen (“the relevant British citizen”),

(b) the relevant British citizen is residing in the United Kingdom,

(c) the relevant British citizen would be unable to reside in the United Kingdom or in another EEA State if P were required to leave the United Kingdom,

(d) if circumstances were not as mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (c), under the Immigration Act 1971 P would require leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom but would not have such leave, and

(e) P is not an asylum-seeker.

(2) Paragraph 1 also applies to the dependant of a person to whom that paragraph applies by virtue of sub-paragraph (1).

(3) In making for the purposes of this Schedule or regulations made under it a determination as to whether sub-paragraph (1)(c) applies in relation to P, a person may rely on—

(a) a document of a kind specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State, or

(b) information or guidance provided by the Secretary of State for the purposes of such a determination.”

Amendment 234P agreed.

Amendment 234Q not moved.

Amendments 234R to 234W

Moved by Lord Bates

234R: Schedule 9, page 127, line 28, after “7B(1)” insert “or 7C(1)”

234S: Schedule 9, page 127, line 32, leave out “or D” and insert “, D or E”

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234T: Schedule 9, page 128, line 8, at end insert—

“( ) Condition B is that—

(a) the person could bring an appeal under section 82(1) (ignoring any possibility of an appeal out of time with permission), and

(b) if the person brought such an appeal, it would not be one that, by virtue of section 92(6), would have to be continued from outside the United Kingdom.”

234U: Schedule 9, page 128, line 9, leave out “B” and insert “C”

234V: Schedule 9, page 128, line 14, leave out “C” and insert “D”

234W: Schedule 9, page 128, line 18, leave out “D” and insert “E”

Amendments 234R to 234W agreed.

Amendment 234X not moved.

Amendment 234Y

Moved by Lord Bates

234Y: Schedule 9, page 128, line 26, at end insert—

“( ) The Secretary of State may make regulations providing for arrangements to be made for support to be provided to a person (“P”)—

(a) to whom paragraph 1 applies by virtue of paragraph 7B(1) or 7C(1), and

(b) who it appears to a person specified in the regulations may be destitute,

until a person by whom support may be provided under arrangements by virtue of sub-paragraph (1) is able to determine whether such support should be provided to P.”

Amendment 234Y agreed.

Amendments 235 to 235B not moved.

Amendments 235C to 235F

Moved by Lord Bates

235C: Schedule 9, page 129, leave out lines 9 and 10 and insert—

“( ) who would otherwise be eligible for support or assistance under section 23C, 23CZA or 23CA of the Children Act 1989, under regulations under section 23D of that Act or under section 24A or 24B of that Act,”

235D: Schedule 9, page 129, line 11, leave out “(b) who is not a relevant failed asylum seeker,”

235E: Schedule 9, page 129, line 12, leave out “or C” and insert “, C or D”

235F: Schedule 9, page 129, leave out lines 13 to 23

Amendments 235C to 235F agreed.

Amendments 235G and 235H not moved.

Amendments 235J to 235M

Moved by Lord Bates

235J: Schedule 9, page 129, line 33, at end insert—

“( ) Condition B is that—

(a) the person is destitute,

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(b) the person could bring an appeal under section 82(1) (ignoring any possibility of an appeal out of time with permission), and

(c) if the person brought an appeal under section 82(1), it would not be one that, by virtue of section 92(6), would have to be continued from outside the United Kingdom.”

235K: Schedule 9, page 129, line 34, leave out “B” and insert “C”

235L: Schedule 9, page 129, line 40, leave out “C” and insert “D”

235M: Schedule 9, page 130, line 2, at end insert—

“( ) The Secretary of State may make regulations providing for arrangements to be made for support to be provided to a person (“P”)—

(a) to whom paragraph 1 applies by virtue of paragraph 7B(1), and

(b) who it appears to a person specified in the regulations may be destitute,

until a person by whom support may be provided under arrangements by virtue of sub-paragraph (1) is able to determine whether such support should be provided to P.”

Amendments 235J to 235M agreed.

Amendment 236 not moved.

Amendments 236ZA to 236ZE

Moved by Lord Bates

236ZA: Schedule 9, page 130, line 31, leave out “or 7B” and insert “, 7B or 7C”

236ZB: Schedule 9, page 131, line 1, at beginning insert—

“(1) Paragraph 16 (orders and regulations) is amended as follows.

(2) ”

236ZC: Schedule 9, page 131, line 1, leave out from “In” to “after” in line 2 and insert “sub-paragraph (2)(d)”

236ZD: Schedule 9, page 131, line 3, at end insert—

“(3) In sub-paragraph (3) after “2(1)(d) or (e)” insert “or 2A(3)(b)”.”

236ZE: Schedule 9, page 131, line 3, at end insert—

In Schedule 3 to the Immigration Act 2014 (excluded residential tenancy agreements) after paragraph 8 insert—

“8A An agreement under which accommodation is provided to a person under arrangements made by virtue of paragraph 10A or 10B of Schedule 3 to the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (support for certain persons who are otherwise ineligible for support by virtue of that Schedule).””

Amendments 236ZA to 236ZE agreed.

Schedule 9, as amended, agreed.

Clause 39: Transfer of responsibility for relevant children

Amendment 236ZF

Moved by Baroness Hamwee

236ZF: Clause 39, page 41, line 17, after “may” insert “, having consulted the Secretaries of State with responsibility for children and for communities and local government,”

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Baroness Hamwee: My noble friend Lord Paddick and I also have Amendments 236ZG, 236ZH and 236ZJ in this group standing in our names. The noble Lord, Lord Wigley, will be glad to know that we have not cut out his amendments on the position of the devolved Administrations.

Clause 39 is a relatively new clause drafted by the Government to address the situation of certain local authorities coping with very large numbers of children—the relevant children for the purposes of the clause—who are in need of care, supervision and protection in the current circumstances. These amendments are essentially probing. I preface my remarks by saying how much I understand the dilemma that both local authorities and central government are facing in trying to address all this. I know that they are working together to try to find the best arrangement.

Amendment 236ZF is not traditional drafting, and I do not defend it in that way, but it deals with the regulation-making power about arrangements under this clause, which provides that the Secretary of State may make further provision by regulations, as is usual. I know it is normal to refer simply to the Secretary of State but there are clearly a number of Secretaries of State who should have a role in these arrangements. I rather doubt that the Secretary of State for the Home Department should be the one taking the lead. I appreciate that that is not necessarily implicit in the way that the clause is drafted. The amendment refers to consultation with:

“Secretaries of State with responsibility for children and for communities and local government”,

who clearly are involved, and I would be grateful if the Minister could explain how the situation is being addressed across government.

Clause 42 allows the Secretary of State to prepare a scheme to transfer responsibility from one local authority to another. Amendment 236ZG would provide that:

“Before finalising the scheme, the Secretary of State must consult the local authorities to which the scheme relates”.

I am sure we will be given assurances about this. We tabled this amendment because we are instinctively unhappy about the notion of a Secretary of State having a power of direction over local authorities. Clearly, the best way to deal with these problems is through discussion and coming to arrangements, compromises and so on by the local authorities concerned. Again, I seek some reassurances from the Minister about the Government’s approach.

Amendment 236ZH would provide that the scheme for the transfer should,

“specify the provision of resources”.

We are talking about a very resource-intensive exercise. The Local Government Association is being very moderate in its language referring to this but clearly it is a concern for local authorities. Indeed, it is because of the strain on Kent in particular that the Government have now produced these proposals.

We tabled Amendment 236ZJ to seek assurances that the points raised in a proposed new clause on the best interests of the child will be carried through into guidance and practice, even if they are not spelled out in the Bill. These issues are already in guidance in respect of other situations and provide that the child’s best interests are considered in any decision to move a

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child to a different local authority. They spell out some of the factors that would weigh against the child being moved, such as having lived in the initial authority for some time, having family members or other relationships in the first authority, that the processing of the child’s asylum or immigration application has started, that a legal representative in the first authority has been instructed, and that the child is established in education there. Regard should also be had to,

“the availability of legal advice and representation … in the second authority”,


“the availability of services in the second authority to meet the religious and cultural needs of the relevant child”.

As I say, these issues are well understood and in guidance relating to other situations. I look forward to the Minister giving assurances. They should not be very difficult to give, particularly on that last amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Wigley: My Lords, I wish to address myself to Amendments 237 and 238, which are linked with this group. I apologise—I almost interrupted a little earlier when I thought that we were rushing forwards in a way that had overtaken my amendments.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred to the Secretary of State having power of direction over local government. My concern is with the implication of Clause 43: that the Secretary of State may have powers of direction not just over local government but over the national Governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. If we are indeed to have the respect agenda to which the Government have made much reference over recent months, then in so doing there should quite clearly be a question of prior consent before that is taken on board.

Amendment 237 would insert the words,

“if consent to such application has been granted by the National Assembly for Wales, the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly respectively”.

I would have thought that was basic common sense. I would also have thought that this is the way in which the Government would have wanted to act. The provisions in these amendments may be covered elsewhere, in some way which I have not picked up, but if they are not I suggest strongly to the Government that some such provision should be built in. In any case, to what extent have the Government had any discussions with the Governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland with regard to the implementation of these provisions? I would be very interested to know that.

I should emphasise that the question of children’s policy has been uppermost on the agenda of the National Assembly for Wales. Our Children’s Commissioner was among the first in these islands and a lot of attention has been given in public policy to ensuring that children are uppermost in our thoughts. I have no doubt at all that the National Assembly for Wales—and, I am sure, the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly—wants to play a constructive and positive role in helping in these circumstances. But it should be by partnership, not by direction, and I would be very interested to hear the Minister’s response on that point.

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Lord Bates: My Lords, first, there was a letter of 24 November which I think will answer a lot of the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. It went to all council leaders and was on the dispersal of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, and it was jointly from the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Education and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. In fact it set out, as the noble Baroness requested, what financial support was available and encouraged local authorities to participate in the scheme. I will make sure that she gets a copy of that letter and that it is also sent to other members of the Committee.

These amendments raise important issues concerning Clauses 39 to 43. These provisions are intended to underpin new arrangements for the transfer of children, which we are developing together with the Local Government Association, the Department for Education and the Department for Communities and Local Government. We know that the crisis in Syria and events in the Middle East, north Africa and beyond have seen an unprecedented increase in the number of migrants. Many of them are arriving in the UK, particularly in Kent. There are now 900 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the care of Kent County Council, nearly 300 of whom have been placed with other local authorities. This has placed significant pressure on the council and its children’s services, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, acknowledged.

I thank all those in Kent for the excellent response which they have shown. The Government are clear that wider arrangements need to be made to support the county and ensure that unaccompanied asylum-seeking children get the support they need and are appropriately safeguarded. Additional funding has been made available to the local authorities which take responsibility from Kent County Council for caring for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

We hope that the new transfer arrangements will remain voluntary. However, Clauses 39 to 43 will underpin those arrangements in England if necessary. Clause 39 introduces a new power to make it easier to transfer unaccompanied migrant children from one local authority to another. Clause 40 will enable the Secretary of State to direct local authorities to provide information about the support and accommodation provided to children in their care. This will inform the new transfer arrangements. Clause 41 will enable the Secretary of State to direct the provision of written reasons as to why a local authority refuses to comply with a request to accept responsibility for an unaccompanied migrant child from another local authority area.

Clause 42 will enable the Secretary of State, if necessary, to require local authorities to co-operate in the transfer of unaccompanied migrant children from one local authority to another. Clause 43 will enable regulations subject to the affirmative procedure to make similar provision in relation to Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland for the transfer of unaccompanied migrant children. I will come back to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, in a moment.

Amendment 236ZJ would make detailed statutory provision for the use of the new powers. I agree with much of the thinking behind the proposed new clause,

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which raises several issues for which the new arrangements will need to make provision and which will need to be taken into account. But we do not consider that it would be helpful to make such provision in the Bill. Many of the issues on which we are currently working with the Local Government Association and others are designed to provide the optimum arrangements for both local authorities and the children concerned.

We agree that issues such as proper continuity in the process for considering the child’s asylum claim or immigration application will need to be addressed, as will the continuity of the social care and educational provision made for them. Any regulations made or any scheme prepared by the Secretary of State to underpin the new transfer arrangements will need to provide clarity as to roles, responsibilities, timescales and other relevant factors. This will be the focus of the continuing joint work with the Local Government Association and others. We think that it is right to retain flexibility within primary legislation to allow that work to continue and to arrive at solutions which meet the needs of the children and of the local authorities that will be responsible for their care.

Amendments 236ZF and 236ZG require consultation across government and with local authorities before regulations are made under Clauses 39 to 42. I am happy to give assurances that such consultation is continuing. Amendment 236ZH requires that a scheme under Clause 42 should specify the provision of resources. I am happy to give an assurance that funding arrangements will remain integral to the work of developing and implementing the new transfer arrangements.

Amendments 237 and 238, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, would require the consent of the devolved legislatures before regulations under Clause 43 could be made, subject to the affirmative procedure, making similar provision in relation to Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland for the transfer of unaccompanied migrant children. This important issue was raised by the Constitution Committee in its report on the Bill. Immigration is a reserved matter and the transfer of migrant children is not an area in which Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland have legislative competence. Their consent is not required for the UK to legislate in this area. However, we have been liaising, and will continue to liaise, with the devolved Administrations to see how the transfer arrangements, which we hope can be voluntary, might be extended to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We will continue to work closely with them on these issues, but we are clear that we must make statutory arrangements if necessary.

Lord Wigley: Will the Minister reflect on the fact that although the power may be reserved for the transfer of children, the responsibilities and the powers associated with those responsibilities to undertake safeguarding and to look after those children rest, almost entirely, in Wales with the National Assembly, in Scotland with the Parliament, and in Northern Ireland with the Assembly—and to the extent that it is devolved to local authorities, with local authorities? Therefore, is it not sensible to have written into the Bill that such consultation should take place in advance?

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Just landing it on the National Assembly without any prior consultation, seems, to say the least, to be cavalier. Is that the way in which co-operative politics should be working?

Lord Bates: I do not think that that would happen; it is certainly not what is intended. We intend that there should be full consultation with the devolved Administrations on these matters, and we hope that a voluntary scheme can be arrived at. I make the general point that we all agree that Kent, in particular, is bearing an unfair share of the burden of caring for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. We often hear in this House many fine words from local authorities but, so far, only six or seven out of 440 have stepped up to be part of the scheme on a voluntary basis. That is why we want to include this provision. It would be wonderful if more local authorities in Wales and in England came forward to take some of these children about whom we have talked so much tonight as being in need and share the responsibility, but if they do not, it is important that the Secretary of State has this power.

11 pm

Lord Teverson: I ask the Minister on a practical basis and in a positive way what channels the Government recommend that individual families who want to help should use.

Lord Bates: There will be a national register for those who want to help, in particular, with Syrian children. That is being brought together. That is a different arrangement. The children and families who we are currently taking from Syria are in acute need, often medical need, or have suffered violence. They are not those who would be most suitable for a room in someone’s home—they need particular attention. Further down the line, as we continue to help people fleeing that dreadful situation, we will want to take up those offers that have been generously made from charities, individuals and churches. That is why the national register is being put together, and it will be overseen by Richard Harrington, who is the Minister responsible for the Syrian vulnerable persons scheme.

Lord Wigley: I am sorry to come back on this, but the Minister referred to the fact that only a handful of local authorities have come forward. I happen to know, because I am active with the refugee committee in my home town of Caernarfon, that Gwynedd County Council has been trying to help in this regard. Gwynedd County Council and other local authorities in Wales come under the National Assembly for Wales. There may well be a systematic breakdown here because of a lack of consultation with the National Assembly, the Scottish Parliament, et cetera, which are the interface with local authorities in those countries. Will the Minister look at this between now and later stages to ensure a systematic approach so that everybody is brought in and those with good will and a wish to help are facilitated to undertake exactly that help?

Lord Bates: Yes, that is something that I am happy to undertake to do. To clarify the situation, the six local authorities I referred to were just for the Kent

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dispersal scheme. It is invidious to single out particular local authorities. I was making the more general point that it would be wonderful if more local authorities came forward. We certainly want to ensure that the generous offers made, to which the noble Lord referred, are fully explored, so that help can be provided where it is offered.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, it might be invidious, but I am going to do it, although in a related context. On the call for local authorities to assist with providing accommodation for refugee families, I am ashamed that the leader of my local authority of Richmond upon Thames explained that it was not possible to assist because it is not a housing authority. I think that that is using technical language which could be applied very widely across the country, but has not deterred others.

The statement from the Local Government Association on the current position, issued especially in response to the calls for admitting 3,000 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, starts by calling for the programme to focus on family reunification, which takes us back to debates we just had. The statement refers to the current financial arrangements for taking on full Children Act responsibilities and funding the leaving care support. It says that these are currently due to expire at the end of March. The statement was dated 27 January and I would guess that the Minister has no further news about that—he shakes his head. Clearly that is worrying the LGA and it must worry us all. Of course, I agree that reaching a consensus and partnership—the word I was struggling for before—is the most important way of addressing this. As I have said before in this Chamber, the costs would be considerable. There is the shortfall in the number of foster carers. Whatever the number of altruistic people who offer to take children,

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there is no avoiding the cost of support for them in undertaking an extremely difficult job in looking after these children. The LGA also says that a regional approach to resettling refugees rather than a case-by-case model controlled centrally would be more effective in utilising the funding for local authorities to support resettlement.

The Minister answered Amendment 236ZF but I do not think he said whether those factors will be included in guidance. Given the hour, I will not ask him to continue—but he made a sort of semaphore indication that he will write on that point. I am grateful for that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 236ZF withdrawn.

Clause 39 agreed.

Clauses 40 and 41 agreed.

Clause 42: Scheme for transfer of responsibility for relevant children

Amendments 236ZG and 236ZH not moved.

Clause 42 agreed.

Amendment 236ZJ not moved.

Clause 43: Extension to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

Amendment 236A to 238 not moved.

Clause 43 agreed.

House resumed.

House adjourned at 11.09 pm.