Mr. Carmichael: I should tell the House that, barring anything earth-shatteringly revealing being said by the Minister on these amendments, it is my intention to divide the House on amendment No. 34 and, with your leave, Madam Deputy Speaker, on amendment No. 37.
Unfortunately, time is short, and I know that other hon. Members wish to speak. I am keen to hear the words of honeyed sweet reason that I know will drip from the Minister if he is given the opportunity. So, if I may seek the indulgence of the House, I shall assume a greater degree of prior knowledge of the provisions of article 1(F)(c) of the 1951 Refugee Convention than had originally been my intention.
I have chosen to focus on amendment No. 34 because it seeks the removal of clause 51. The other amendments relating to that clause seek to achieve much the same end, but by taking rather more circuitous routes. I suggest that amendment No. 34 is by some significant measure the most straightforward and, if I may venture to say so, elegant way of dealing with this issue.
I cannot think of another example in which the discretion of the courts in construing articles in a convention has been fettered in the way set out in clause 51. The clause purports to define article 1(F)(c) of the convention, which concerns exceptions based on
In a briefing to me, the ILPA pointed out that the 1951 convention is an international convention in respect of which the international jurisprudence and UNHCR statements are relevant. The ILPA put it to me:
As ever, the Government seek to go much further than is necessary. The definition they want to import is much wider than is either necessary or desirable. I draw the attention of the House to clause 51(1)(b), which speaks of
It is apparent from that, surely, that the definition employed by the UNHCR handbook is already very wide. The only limitation that seems to be in place is that the act complained of should constitute a crime. However, even beyond that exceptionally wide definition the Government seek to go.
That, again, is the view of the ILPA. The Minister might say, "They would say that, wouldn't they?" He might also say that if the Liberal Democrats are agreeing with the ILPA, that is equally unsurprising, but I must bring it to the attention of the House that that is the view not only of the ILPA and the Liberal Democrats, but of the UNHCR. If the House will indulge me for a few minutes, I would like to refer to a few of the objections that the UNHCR has brought to our attention.
"bearing in mind the interrelationship between the three subsections of the provision, it is important that Article 1 F be interpreted and applied holistically. As presently drafted, Clause 51 is a piecemeal attempt to interpret one subsection of a provision which should be read as a whole and in context. UNHCR is concerned that the adoption of Clause 51 will result in a skewed and imbalanced application of the exclusion clauses in the UK. In its stead, UNHCR would recommend that the UK government consider the incorporation of Article 1 F in its entirety into domestic legislation. Such a measure would ensure that the exclusion clauses are considered in context and on a strong legal footing."
"terrorist-type acts (as defined in relevant international conventions) may qualify as excludable acts under Article 1 F if they reach an appropriate level of gravity to warrant denial of protection. This does not mean, however, that any act labelled as 'terrorist' per se should automatically trigger exclusion under article 1 F. The fact that there are serious reasons for considering that an individual has committed acts described as 'terrorist' in nature should trigger consideration of the exclusion clauses but may not in itself generally constitute sufficient evidence to justify exclusion. Each case will require individual consideration, taking into account the unique circumstances of each individual, their acts, motivation and risk on return. In this regard, UNHCR wishes to express serious concern over the current proposal in clause 51 to automatically link acts defined in the Terrorism Act 2000 with an excludable offence under Article 1 F(c) of the Refugee Convention."
I am grateful to the House for its indulgence in allowing me to read that out, which is not my normal practice. It is important, however, to get the point across. If the Minister is not minded to listen to us, to which I have become accustomed over recent months, or
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even to the ILPA, surely such clear and unambiguous condemnation from the UNHCR should give the Government pause for thought.
Clauses 52 and 53, which concern the deprivation of citizenship and right of abode, would, as drafted, introduce a ground that continued enjoyment of citizenship or right of abode was not conducive to the public good. That, of course, is the test applied in relation to deportation or exclusion