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We talked about a piecemeal approach to the simplification Bill, on which I shall say more in a minute. The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill makes specific changes to customs legislation and nationality law. The simplification Bill, which is heading rapidly towards 400 clauses—this is a complex and serious Bill on which people are working very hard all the time, so it cannot be rushed forward—will cover all immigration legislation since 1971 and will not cover the ground again on citizenship.

I have mentioned the importance of training, which was raised by a number of noble Lords. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, mentioned it. It is very important and is very much part of our package. A number of noble Lords understandably felt strongly about citizenship. I reiterate that we have consulted widely on our proposals on earned citizenship, which are generally supported by the public. It is important to reiterate that migration has given and still does give huge benefits to our nation. It is a very positive thing. Having talked to the public, including first generation immigrants and everyone else, 70 per cent think that

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newcomers should earn the right to stay here, 83 per cent think that they should be made to learn English, and 70 per cent agree that they should be penalised on the path to citizenship if they do not follow the rules. There is clear support for what we are doing.

I appreciate the intellectual weight and attention to detail that has gone into many of the points raised. We need a balanced response to the needs of migrants who want to make their home in this country, and the needs of the community in which they wish to settle. That balance is extremely difficult to achieve all the time. The Government believe in a firm but fair system. I know that some people come here because they cannot avoid it, but many choose to do so. We should be proud of the fact that most people choose to stay here. We are firm but fair in this country, and it is only through debate in places such as this that we have achieved that, and it is extremely healthy to do such things.

The system of earned citizenship encourages people with the right values to become citizens. We all know that rights come with responsibilities, and the benefits of British citizenship should be earned. I do not like the expression that people are “compelled” to undertake voluntary service, but I understand why noble Lords feel that that is the case, as people will feel that that is how to get through the system quicker. I think that it is quite a noble objective to get people to be involved. It is a question of how to achieve that. Looking at the design group that has been set up I agree that we need to talk closely, think and maybe articulate better what are the precise requirements. That is right and we will have to do a little better to achieve that. It will be a fairly long negotiation to identify what are recognised as the important things. I know that my noble friend, Lady Quin, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, all picked up on that point.

My noble and learned friend Lord Goldsmith talked eloquently on citizenship. I understand exactly where he is coming from. Again, this is a very small Bill and we have gone for one small piece in it. I think that it is a good piece and something worth doing. It reminds me of how Wellington used to talk about Napoleon. He said that Napoleon's campaigns were like a great team of horses with a marvellous leather harness that fitted beautifully, but when it broke, that was it. Mine, he said, was bits of rope tied together, and when something went wrong, I knotted it and tied another bit of rope in, and that is why I always beat him.

Sometimes, it makes sense to go for a small chunk of something. Great, grand schemes sometimes do not work. That is certainly my experience in life. They do not always work; they can do; but they do not always; and they are very complicated and it takes a long time to set them up. This small focused piece is worth doing.

Dual nationality and passports were mentioned. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, has written to me several times on passports. I am listening. There are some difficult areas there. I think that that overall the UK Passport Agency does well, but some issues need to be looked at closely. The issue of dual nationality and non-British citizens in our Armed Forces and our

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people fighting other armed forces must be addressed, but not in this Bill. As a sailor, if we had fought Trafalgar without people of other nationalities, including French, on our side, the outcome might have been rather different, so that is not new but something that we should perhaps look at a little more closely.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, for her valuable input. I have been very impressed by the quality, diligence and care of the people in detention centres, for example—our people from our agencies—who try really hard to get things right. Those are not easy jobs; they are horrible jobs. Not everyone who is held is a little sweetheart; some of them are very much not that. However, each case, no matter who they are, is a personal tragedy. When you are dealing with personal tragedies, it is extremely difficult. It is only fair that we should remember that the people who work there are ordinary British people working jolly hard and trying to do their best and, generally, they are and they do very well.

We must have rules and we must have a system. The immigration simplification Bill, which, as I said, is already moving towards 400 clauses, is where that needs to be addressed. I could not agree more that it would be really nice if it was here now, but there are some things, especially in Part 1, that we need done as quickly as possible. It would be very nice to have that now, but people are working on it very hard and it is not that easy to do. There has been too much legislation. There are other areas where we should rationalise legislation. That is what we intend to do and are trying to get at.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked about leave to remain and probationary citizenship. As I said, there is strong public support for the idea of requiring newcomers to pass through a period of provisional and probationary citizenship. My noble and learned friend Lord Goldsmith spoke eloquently on that and said that the word probationary was quite attractive in that sense.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, is the noble Lord going to say anything about the points raised on all sides concerning support given to people on probationary citizenship and the fact that they will not be eligible for certain services?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I was not going to go into any great detail on that. Perhaps I may get back to be noble Lord in writing on that one, because I am trying to whisk through rather quickly. I probably have something written here, but I have been rather sifting through.

Is it discriminatory to require newcomers to support themselves while they have limited leave to remain here? They need to spend only one year as a probationary citizen before becoming eligible for citizenship. I emphasise again that those granted refugee status will be eligible for benefits as soon as they are granted that status.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, talked about active citizenship and the impact on volunteering. We are very aware of

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the need to talk to volunteer groups—I touched on that before. That is an important area that we need to clarify a little more.

I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Morris, who asked about free healthcare. The proposals do not affect migrants’ access to healthcare. Access to free healthcare is not directly linked to particular immigration categories; it is based on ordinary residence in the UK, so they will get it.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, asked about earned citizenship and the impact of the new system on access to benefits for migrants who are already here with leave. Under our proposals, the earliest that a person on the work route to citizenship will be able to qualify for full access to benefits will be six years. For those on the family route, it will be three years. We believe that it is right that full access to benefits should be withheld until a migrant has earned the right to British citizenship, which is what our proposals achieve.

I will clarify the position on probationary citizenship. It is a further period of temporary leave, and it is right that someone should have full access to benefits only once they have completed the journey to citizenship, but I should make it clear that refugees will continue to have access as soon as they are granted that status. We believe that that is reasonable.

The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, mentioned English and asked what the requirement means. Migrants meet the English requirement by completing an ESOL—English for Speakers of Other Languages—course and demonstrating progression from one ESOL level to the next. Those on ESOL entry level 3 or above take the life-in-the-UK test.

I welcome the House’s quiet assent to the Bill’s provisions on the nationality aspect of British servicemen and their children. Indeed, it is a bit of a pleasure to get support from the whole House, if only on one of the clauses.

A number of noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Smith of Clifton, Lord Patten and Lord Sheikh, spoke very eloquently about the common travel area. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, supports this. All I would say is that we are not abolishing it. We have made clear the value that we attach to the political, economic and social benefits of the common travel area. The noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, felt that we were abolishing it, but we are definitely not doing so. We have reviewed, and we will keep under review, the practical operation of the common travel area to ensure that we maximise the protections there. We have had long debates with Ireland, or the Republic of Ireland; clearly, I have to be careful what I call it. I might once have referred to Great Britain rather than the United Kingdom, but as I have actually served on the border in that part of the United Kingdom I am very well aware of how it is part of our nation.

There was mention of the difficulty of showing a Lords’ pass to get across the border and the fact that it did not work. When I visited a prison to look at extremism and radicalisation in prisons, I found that a Lords’ pass would not get me in there either. One of the warders said, “I think we’ve got a few of you in here, however, my Lord”, so I discovered that they had recognised it. Someone mentioned that there is a difference

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between being in Schengen and out of Schengen. There is no doubt at all—indeed, it is quite clear to us—that Ireland is being used, particularly in serious crime and trafficking, as an access route into the rest of the United Kingdom. We cannot aim to have an impregnable defence. I go back to that harness made of ropes and knots; we have to do this a bit at a time, and we have to do what is achievable. This is achievable, and we are doing it. We are well aware of the sensitivities. When people travel from Northern Ireland to this country, a lot of airlines already ask for some form of visual ID. It is a question of exactly what that is. We have for years used the intelligence base to look for things when people and traffic come from Northern Ireland. Indeed, we used it extremely successfully in the 1980s, so it is not new to us. It can make all of us, including those in Ireland, safer because people will not try to come in through that route.

A number of noble Lords were very interested in the restriction on studies. The provision in the Bill is a relatively limited measure. It ensures that a student who has been sponsored by one institution when they enter to study must seek permission if they wish to change their institution and sponsor. The noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, pointed out very clearly that education has been used by a lot of people as a way of getting into this country. It is not too much to ask the university, other educational establishments and the people involved to do this.

I am aware that there are other, smaller issues. We should perhaps deal with them in Committee. For example, clearly if someone comes to study architecture or medicine, the course will last longer than the maximum four years’ leave granted. We are committed to keeping the performance of sponsoring education bodies under review. We will do that as it goes on. If the system is working well and we feel that there needs to be a change, something can be done. Certainly it is a change that I would have hoped would be made in the future. We can talk later in more detail on other issues relating to studies. I was grateful for the very balanced remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick. Again, we should perhaps discuss costs in Committee.

Clause 50 relates to judicial review. I am always wary of calling myself a simple sailor but not when it comes to raising my head above the parapet among all the judges on this. I was taught by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, that there are superior and inferior judges but as far as I am concerned, if you are in court and there is a judge there, he is a judge. Clearly there is a lot of difference between all these. There are a lot of implications that need to be looked at in detail. What is quite clear is that the senior judiciary are very supportive of the clause and the supporting legislation. The responses of the president of the Queen’s Bench, the Master of the Rolls, the Senior President of Tribunals and others to the consultation on immigration appeals are available on the UK Border Agency’s website. We believe that this provision will assist, if an Asylum and Immigration Tribunal case is transferred, but I understand the complexities of the other questions asked not just by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, but also the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. I am glad to

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say that the noble and learned Baroness had a slightly different view; it was nice to feel that there was a bit of support for it. The complexities will have to be addressed in Committee and there will need to be further discussion on the key points mentioned.

I have pages and pages of briefing on Clause 50 but I will not deal with it now as I think we ought to do that in Committee.

Many noble Lords were very interested in Clause 51, on children. I was very grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, for thanking us for getting this clause into the Bill. I am rather proud that we did. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, pointed out that a lot of it was the work of the party opposite; even so, it is right and good that it should be in there. I am very aware that a number of good questions still need to be answered. We need very clear guidance and training for all our people. I hope that everyone in the House agrees that it is a huge step forward.

I thank the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for his very fulsome praise of what we have invested in children over the past few years. I think it is impressive. We would be very happy to facilitate a meeting between the UKBA’s children’s champion and the noble Earl or anyone else. My officials will seek to arrange that before Clause 51 is discussed in Committee, if it would help.

Trafficking of children is a most appalling thing, and we are very committed to ensuring that we become a hostile environment for it. During the passage of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004 the criminalisation of trafficking for non-sexual exploitation, including of children, was discussed and legislated for. I believe that this is an area where we can have even more focus; it is very important. We have tried very hard, but there are still things that can be done, and that will merit further discussion in Committee.

On Clause 53, the noble Lords, Lord Wallace and Lord Patten, asked whether the Bill covers all six parts of the United Kingdom. Clause 53, on extent, sets out that, as reserved matters, immigration, customs and nationality will apply to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and that the same provisions may be applied to the Crown dependencies—the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands—by Order in Council. I hope that that answers that specific question.

The noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, asked about training officers in Scotland. HMRC and immigration officers in Scotland are well used to working with Scots law and receive appropriate training on the workings of the Scottish legal system. I was appalled to hear that we have not done proper consultation. I apologise for that and I will go and kick someone later on. Having been—well, not the victim—luckily part of the Scottish education system and having received the tawse for the first time at the age of five for my mother’s inappropriate doing of the cross-stitch on some sewing done at home, which was spotted, I know exactly how harsh things can be up there at times.

There was a lot of mention of Zimbabwe, which, clearly, is very important, although not really, I feel, a part of what we are discussing now. It is well worthy of

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discussion and it is a great worry. The Prime Minister will come back soon with the answer that he said he would, which is all I can say on that matter.

The noble Lord, Lord Patten, mentioned the Olympics. There has been a lot of talk about the Olympics. We have done a huge amount of work and now have a fully costed plan, which will go to the NSID Cabinet committee in the next few weeks. We are well ahead of any other nation at this stage, half way between getting the bid and doing the event. It fits in and slots in well with our CONTEST strategy. We are still within the £600 million, which will be hard work but we will manage it. We are well placed on that. It is not really a part of this Bill, but I throw that in as an aside.

I thank all noble Lords for their contributions at this Second Reading.

Lord Morris of Handsworth: My Lords, will the Minister consider writing to those who have taken part in this debate with a copy placed in the Library on the human rights compliance issues?

Lord West of Spithead: Absolutely, my Lords. We will look at Hansard and will try to write on all of those issues. If there is anything that we do not manage to cover, perhaps noble Lords will let us know. That will be helpful because it will give a good run-in for my team before Committee stage.

This has provided an important opportunity to consider the main themes and issues of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill. As I have said, it is a very small focused Bill with about 50 clauses, but it includes some important things. We need to get going and crack on with Part 1 especially and some other areas are important as well. I very much look forward to working with your Lordships and to taking advantage of all your knowledge and experience, which has been shown today, as we look at the detail of all this in Committee.

Lord Griffiths of Burry Port: My Lords, does the Minister recognise the commitment to taking a look at how this Bill will impact on those undocumented people who are already here, especially in terms of earning citizenship, probationary citizenship and all the rest of it?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, my noble friend raises a good and important point, which I mentioned to the Whip on the Front Bench. I will make a commitment to do that.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning Act 1997 (Amnesty Period) Order 2009

Copy of the Order
2nd Report from JCSI

Motion to Approve

9.48 pm

Moved By Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

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Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I regret that the hour is so late. The order before us needs to be debated this week and I judged it to be more convenient for most noble Lords to take the order this evening rather than tomorrow, but I apologise.

We recognise that the absence of a completion to the decommissioning process has stretched the patience of this House to the limit. So in bringing before you a proposal to extend the scheme for a further year, the Government accept that we need to demonstrate the seriousness of our intent and the grounds for believing that actual decommissioning will result on this occasion when it has not previously. What is not in doubt is the common purpose in this House to secure an effective and lasting transition from the violence of the past to the society of the future, where illegal arms will not hold back communities because of the fear and potential for violence that they bring. The question is: what is the most effective way of bringing that about?

The decommissioning process is not and never has been an alternative to vigorous police action against those who hold illegal weapons, whoever and wherever they are. In moving forward, it is really important that we should once again show a common purpose, show that the pressure to act is shared across this House, and show that the consequences of not acting will be clear. To achieve this end, we are proposing a different approach from that taken on the other occasions that extensions have been brought before this House.

While we are debating an order which will extend the amnesty until 9 February 2010, I want to be clear what the Government intend. The Independent International Commission on Decommissioning has been asked to make a report to the British and Irish Governments in August 2009 and to report the extent to which they believe significant progress has been made. We do not consider significant progress to be about words or meaningful discussions. While these may be necessary steps, they are not now sufficient. We have established and watched with admiration the work of the IICD. The commission will be looking to secure progress on multiple fronts and we need to be able to reach a reasoned judgment based on the IICD’s advice in the autumn.

Let me also be clear how we would proceed if the IICD advised us that the threshold for substantial progress had not been made. We would bring before the House a new statutory instrument which would set a new date for the closure of the amnesty scheme, much sooner than the February date provided for in this order. We would do that as soon as is practicable after the return of the House from the Summer Recess. These are practical and workable measures to ensure that this House can be assured that we will not take our eyes off the decommissioning ball. I understand that there may be Members who are asking why we believe that things will be different as a result of this extension, given previous disappointments. In response, I make it clear that progress is already being made, that the IICD is working to secure positive outcomes, and that while we know that nothing can be assured, it has told us that in its view the engagement taking place currently is of a different order and nature to that which has been the case hitherto.

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