A. The Background to the Present Position
1. The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill
completed its Commons stages and received its First and Second
Readings and Committee Stage in the House of Lords by the beginning
of the summer recess. It was the subject of the Seventeenth Report
of this Committee. Its
Report Stage in the House of Lords was due to begin on Wednesday
9 October 2002. On Monday 7 October, the Home Secretary, in an
article in The Times, announced that the Government would
seek to amend the Bill in three ways
by introducing a presumption, which applicants
for asylum would have to rebut, that the ten states about to join
the EU are safe countries where people do not have a well-founded
fear of persecution on the grounds set out in the Geneva Convention
on the Status of Refugees;
by denying support to those applicants
who fail to claim asylum at the earliest possible opportunity
and to give a truthful and credible account of their circumstances
and route of entry to the UK; and
restricting the availability of Exceptional
Leave to Remain to those who 'really need special humanitarian
2. On the afternoon of 7 October, the Parliamentary
Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin) moved a motion
for the marshalling and consideration of amendments.
At this stage, the amendments to give effect to the Home Secretary's
proposals had not been published. The United Nations High Commission
for Refugees had urgently briefed peers on its concerns about
the effect of the proposals on asylum applicants. Lord Dholakia
and Lord Cope of Berkeley asked whether this Committee and/or
the House of Lords Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory
Reform would have an opportunity to consider the amendments.
Several peers asked whether the Bill could be re-committed so
that the new amendments could receive proper consideration.
Lord Filkin and Lord Grocott agreed to consider carefully the
involvement of the Committee, and promised discussions through
the usual channels.
On that basis, the motion was agreed to.
3. At the beginning of the Report Stage on Wednesday
9 October, Lord Filkin announced that the usual channels had agreed
that the Bill would be recommitted in respect of Parts 3, 5 and
8 of the Bill (the Parts to which the major amendments relate).
On Thursday 10 October, the House agreed to a motion to recommit
the Bill in respect of Parts 3, 5 and 8, going into Committee
on Thursday 17 October, with a Report Stage for those Parts of
the Bill on Thursday 24 October.
The Government produced explanatory notes on the proposed amendments.
On 17 October, the amendments were accepted on re-commitment.
4. During the Report Stage on other Parts of the
Bill on 10 October, Lord Filkin moved Amendment No. 45, to introduce
a new clause after clause 59 of the Bill.
This was the subject of much criticism on constitutional, civil
liberties and human rights grounds.
Lord Filkin accepted that the amendment should be withdrawn and
re-introduced on Third Reading, and undertook to ensure that explanatory
notes would be produced.
5. We have examined those amendments which seem to
us to give rise to possible concern on human rights grounds. In
this Report, we comment on the following
the new clauses (now clauses 54 and 56
of the Bill) which aim to deny, or authorise the Secretary of
State to make regulations denying, support to asylum-seekers who
cannot satisfy the Secretary of State that the claimed asylum
as soon as was reasonably practicable after entering the country,
or that they have given a full and accurate account of the means
by which they entered the country and that they are co-operating
with the Secretary of State's further enquiries (paragraphs 7-29);
the amendments which now form part of
clause 92 of the Bill, which introduce a presumption that states
which were about to join the EU were safe countries for the return
of people whose applications for asylum had failed, and reduce
or remove rights of appeal on the basis of a Secretary of State's
certificate (paragraphs 30-40); and
the amendment which was withdrawn on
Report, but is expected to be re-introduced in the same form on
Third Reading, which would appear retrospectively to make people
liable to detention, to the imposition of conditions if not detained,
and to criminal sanctions for non-compliance with those conditions,
regardless of the outcome of a judicial decision (which is currently
under appeal) (paragraphs 41-48).
1 All references are to the latest printed version
of the Bill, as amended on re-commitment in the House of Lords,
HL Bill 115 published on 18 October 2002 Back
Joint Committee on Human Rights, Seventeenth Report of 2001-02,
Nationality, Asylum and Immigration Bill, HL Paper 132,
HC 961 Back
David Blunkett, 'We are a haven for the persecuted, but not a
home to liars and cheats', The Times, 7 October 2002, p.
HL Debs, 7 October 2002, c. 12 Back
ibid., cc. 14, 19 Back
ibid., cc. 17 (Baroness Park of Monmouth and Earl Russell),
20 (Lord Roper and Lord Jopling) Back
ibid., c. 20 Back
ibid., c. 21 Back
HL Debs, 9 October 2002, c. 263 Back
HL Debs, 10 October 2002, cc. 411-412 Back
HL Debs, 17 October 2002, cc. 974-1035, 1047-1057. Lord
Dholakia, at c. 985, considered it unfortunate that this the views
of this Committee were not available in time for the re-commitment
HL Debs, 17 October 2002, cc. 448-449 Back
cc. 449-451 (Lord Renton of Mount Harry), 451-454 (Lord Lester
of Herne Hill), 458-459 (Lord Mayhew of Twysden), 459-460 (Baroness
Carnegy of Lour), 460 (Lord Kingsland) Back
ibid., c. 461 (Lord Filkin) Back